The Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Board announced today that the organization’s executive director, Teresa Verraes, plans to step down from her leadership post in 2018 to pursue a new career opportunity. The Board has initiated a formal search for Verraes’ replacement and is working with an independent search firm to manage that process.
“I can’t say we are completely surprised by this news,” says Chamber of Commerce board president Robert Birman, executive director at Centrum. “Teresa has been courted by many organizations over the past few years for good reason – she’s a highly-capable leader with great energy and superior interpersonal skills. The board knew this possibility was never a question of if, but when. I am sorry that the time has come now, but the board and I are happy for Teresa and we wish her nothing but continued success. We feel well positioned to continue to grow the Chamber in 2018.”
Verraes joined the Chamber of Commerce as its leader in 2011 at a time when the organization was facing significant hurdles, including a fractionalized membership base and no operating cash reserves in the aftermath of a complex merger process among disparate local chambers of commerce in the region. “We are all impressed by the accomplishments that Teresa has accrued during her tenure with the Chamber,” continued Birman. “She’s managed to grow a healthy cash reserve while waging significant change and growth in the areas of membership, outreach, and community relations.”
Birman and the Board credit the Chamber executive for her willingness to weigh risks in order to grow. Top accomplishments under Verraes’ tenure include the following:
Maintained a steady membership base of more than 400 diverse businesses
Co-creation of the Jefferson County Business Resource Center, a central resource for business relocation, training and start-ups that included the Port Townsend Visitor Information Center and it's vibrant volunteer program
Supported the creation of a Lean Thinking Workshop Series, an ongoing effort to include change as an organizing framework for local community transformation in which more than 124 people and 30 organizations and businesses have participated
Supported the launch of a Young Professionals Network; increasing Jefferson County’s ability to attract and sustain the residency of young people and our next generation of leaders
The elimination of all debt and establishment of a cash reserve fund
The Jefferson County Chamber is recognized as one of the most vibrant chambers in Washington State
“This is a bittersweet moment for me,” confessed Verraes. “I love the Chamber of Commerce and what we stand for, and I love this community. Leading the Chamber has been the greatest professional experience of my life. I continue to believe so strongly in our mission to stimulate a vibrant economy by promoting, informing, connecting, and advocating for local business. The Chamber’s members are my inspiration. We have a strong staff, ambassadors network, young professional association, and volunteers. I feel good about our position. I believe it is the right time for me to spread my wings, take new risks and challenge myself in new ways.” Verraes confided in the Board that she is in discussions to help lead a local start-up organization in Port Townsend. “It is too soon to disclose those details – but I wanted to give our board ample time to identify my successor and plan some training time for this transition,” she added. “It’s the right time.”
Katherine Baril, longstanding member of the Chamber Board, recruited Verraes to the Chamber in 2011. “Teresa is a charismatic and dynamic leader,” said Baril. “She was raised in Jefferson County and was ready to come home. She really was the right person at the right time. Thanks to Teresa’s leadership, the Chamber has grown and we now have the LEAN business planning, Young Professionals Network, a new Business Resource Center and the Chamber membership has notably grown. We are all very proud of her leadership and accomplishments. The Chamber and business community will miss her and we are grateful for the past six years of leadership.”
Port Townsend Mayor, Deborah Stinson, worked closely with Teresa during her tenure and said, "Teresa represents all of the interests of our community with fairness and vitality. She's a trusted partner and I'm grateful for the time we had to work together to advance the interests of our region's business community. Her energy and passion have been key elements in demonstrating that Jefferson County is a place to grow one's business."
The Chamber’s work is in “building business and building community” throughout Port Townsend, Port Hadlock/Tri-Area, and Port Ludlow. That work is accomplished through deep-rooted relationships with The Jefferson County Economic Development Council and City, County and State governments, and by enabling the Chamber and Port Townsend’s Business Resource Center to be a hub for connecting businesses to those who need them and by advocating for change at higher levels when necessary.
The Chamber of Commerce manages the Port Townsend Visitor Information Center and is an active force in all segments of the Jefferson County business community.
The Chamber promotes economic viability on the Olympic Peninsula and beyond and serves as “the voice of businesses” in our community.
For complete information on the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, please visit www.jeffcountychamber.com.