New Vale chamber president ready to embrace change

Jessica Kulm, new Vale Chamber of Commerce president, wants to gather information from the public and local businesses about how to create a more flexible and focused organization. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell).

VALE – Time for change.

That is the main message Jessica Kulm, new Vale Chamber of Commerce president, wants to convey just a month after she was elected to the organization’s top spot.

Kulm wants input from chamber members, local merchants and the public to chart a new course.

Kulm said she “heard a lot of concern from local businesses” about the chamber.

 “They haven’t felt like the chamber has adequately supported them as members,” said Kulm.

Her focus is on the future.

 “I am not exactly sure how things ran before. But we really want to hear from people, the positive, the negative. The more information we get, the better job we will do serving our members,” said Kulm. The first significant change for the chamber occurred with elections last month. Along with Kulm, Alicia McBride, Vale School District superintendent, was selected as the chamber’s vice president and Cynthia Christy, owner of Sumpter Valley Engineer’s Gallery, is the the secretary.

The chamber director is Grace Schuler while the treasurer is Kate Humphrey of Vale Bookkeeping. Other board members include Malinda Castleberry, owner of Mal’s Diner and, Kim Speelman, who works for Field-Waldo INS Agencies, Inc., and Vale resident Lily Manzo Vazquez.

Kulm, McBride and Castleberry are new to the board.

A second change is the time of the annual chamber banquet. Typically held in the spring, Kulm said the banquet is on hold for now.

“They’ve always done it in March, but we wanted to speak to members to make sure we are targeting their needs,” said Kulm.

Kulm also said the chamber board wants to make sure the banquet isn’t competing with other important community events.

“We don’t know what people want and would rather meet with members and reevaluate what we need to do and come up with a game plan,” said Kulm.

Kulm said another idea the board is tossing around involves the annual moonlight madness business event.

Sponsored by the chamber, Kulm said one idea is to extend it to a week.

“And maybe have one night where people stay open but give out deals all week,” said Kulm.

The annual Oregon Trail Days, held during the Vale Fourth of July Rodeo, could also face some changes, said Kulm.

“We could maybe do it a different way. Maybe have it open early in the day and late in the afternoon then in the middle of the day do something to support businesses downtown,” said Kulm.

Kulm said the board would also review the time and place of the monthly chamber luncheon. For now, no luncheons will be held.

Other shifts Kulm said could include showcasing a business each month for promotion, updating the chamber’s website and “putting together a small, informative newsletter.”

Kulm said so far feedback from the public and merchants has been mixed.

“I think people are a little hesitant because it is new. But I think people are positive about the change and I hope that is a trend,” said Kulm.

Kulm said she is excited about the future.

“We are starting over and figuring out how to best change things for the better,” said Kulm.

Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.