Business

Tom Kirschner is the new executive director of the San Juan Island Chamber of Commerce

Tom Kirschner is the new executive director of the San Juan Island Chamber of Commerce. He succeeds Vernadel Peterson, who resigned effective Oct. 15 to become promotions manager of the Lifeline program at Providence Centralia Hospital.   - Richard Walker
Tom Kirschner is the new executive director of the San Juan Island Chamber of Commerce. He succeeds Vernadel Peterson, who resigned effective Oct. 15 to become promotions manager of the Lifeline program at Providence Centralia Hospital.
— image credit: Richard Walker

Tom Kirschner is the new executive director of the San Juan Island Chamber of Commerce.

He succeeds Vernadel Peterson, who resigned effective Oct. 15 to become promotions manager of the Lifeline program at Providence Centralia Hospital.

Kirschner's priorities: Support member businesses on the island and help them improve their bottom line.

"My goal is to get out and meet, in person, every chamber member, and then focus on businesses that are not members. My goal is to strengthen the chamber and build it to a level that generates a decent level of satisfaction for member businesses — are they just writing a check, or are they getting something from that investment."

His biggest concerns: "Parking. We live here, but if I was a visitor coming here, and I took my car, and I parked downtown and went shopping and had lunch, I more than likely can't do that in two hours. We have to address this issue again in 2011."

Things the chamber does well: "The 'Shop Locally' campaign," he said. "It's terribly important. If you don't shop here, it's not going to be here."

Kirschner knows all too well what local businesses are going through. He has been in marketing and sales since the 1970s. About three-and-a-half years ago, a company he represented downsized him out. His investments soured, and he sold his house in Redmond and retreated to his home on the west side.

"I needed to get out of the house and put my business skills to work again," he said. "Someone suggested I apply for (the chamber position), and I thought that it would be perfect for me."

The San Juan Island Chamber of Commerce has more than 350 members, according to board President Julie Corey.

According to a letter posted on the chamber website, Kirschner serves on the board of the local Rotary Club, and is the Rotary Foundation chairman and Concours d’Elegance chairman. He also volunteers on the Library Art Committee and has been involved in the Mentoring Program.

"My business background is in sales and marketing, and as a former small-business owner, I plan to use that experience to better serve the needs of Chamber members," Kirschner wrote. "I look forward to meeting you all in the coming months to confirm your level of satisfaction with the Chamber, and to get as much input as possible into what you the members expect from your Chamber membership. I want to make sure that you are receiving the benefits you expect and that your membership dues are adding value to your business."

Kirschner jumped into his job, helping with the Tree Lighting Ceremony and the Holiday Decorating Contest.

"I look forward to this opportunity, and working with the Chamber members. I will be available to address both compliments and complaints, and whatever issues you may wish to discuss."

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