Business

Graves takes the reigns at Silverdale chamber

"Mary Graves is not afraid to roll up her sleeves. The new director for the Silverdale Chamber of Commerce, only a week into the job, is pledging to get to know the chamber members and work with them on retention.Graves is the chamber’s third executive director in five months. Sharon Zerr left her post as chamber director on Aug. 1 after two years to pursue her home business, CommuniCreations. She is credited with stabilizing the chamber’s financial health. Former Hospice of Kitsap County spokeswoman Deborah Horn replaced Zerr on Aug. 9, only to leave barely a month later. The chamber board and Horn declined comment on her departure, and would only explain that it was abrupt.Regardless of the chamber’s troubled past few months, Graves said she is pumped and ready to get to work. “Silverdale is definitely on the cusp of great things. I was involved with the Silverdale chamber as a neighbor when I worked with the Kingston (Chamber of Commerce),” she said.Before coming to Silverdale, Graves worked in North Kitsap in several capacities over the past decade. She started out with her own welcoming service, the New Neighbor Guide, and through that was appointed to the Poulsbo Chamber of Commerce board of directors.“At that time I knew every person in town and then some,” Graves said.About five years ago, the beleaguered Kingston Chamber of Commerce asked Graves to rebuild their organization. At the same time, it offered her the doorway to one of her greatest victories.“Within three months of that first year, I found that the chamber was in dire straits and I had to shut the chamber down and write new articles and bylaws,” Graves said. “Then we had the ferry demonstration in 1997.”As executive director for the Kingston Chamber, Graves lobbied hard to get foot ferry service to the village and won. “It was a landmark to have had that happen considering the legislation budget ... was not considering Kingston for anything,” she said.Having only worked at the Silverdale Chamber for a week, Graves was mum on what the biggest challenges would be for her on its turf. But she did say that membership retention and recruitment would be a focus in her early days here.“I certainly want to reestablish some connection with the membership to let them know we are looking at some central promotions and marketing,” Graves said. “They are not forgotten.”Graves said she is also preparing for the contingency of Silverdale cityhood. “I understand the chamber is the political arm for any community zoned as a village, particularly because Silverdale doesn’t have its own port that could stand also as an economic arm.”"

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