Chamber executive director stepping down

Monday, December 4, 2017 - 07:36

After a year and a half as executive director of the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce, Dana Thorp-Patterson is going back to school.

Thorp-Patterson said Monday she’s accepted a job at Rogue Community College in Oregon, where she’ll be tasked with building the college’s workforce development program.

“It’s kind of an unexpected deal,” she said. “It just turned out to be too good to pass up.”

Thorp-Patterson took over in May 2016 after longtime executive director Susie Gorski retired and moved to Washington. The new job is more in line with her previous career path, said Thorp-Patterson, who worked in higher education before coming to the chamber.

“It’s just a great opportunity,” she said.

Thorp-Patterson will stay on with the chamber through mid-December, which will allow her to see the group’s Dec. 1-2 Merry Merchant Munch and Winter Wonderland events through completion.

After that, there’s not a ton going on for a couple months, she said, and next year’s budget is already done.

“There’s a little bit of lag time,” she said.

Thorp-Patterson — who is originally from Southeast — has family spread across the Pacific Northwest, and said she plans to visit Alaska often.

“I have loved Eagle River and Chugiak,” she said. “This community just is absolutely heartwarming and it’s going to be difficult to leave.”

The chamber’s board of directors is currently searching for a new candidate, and Thorp-Patterson said she’s confident the board will be able to find a strong replacement.

Whoever that person is, she said they’ll have great guidance in the form of a manual Gorski left before retiring. The document was instrumental in learning the new position, Thorp-Patterson said, and should allow whoever takes over to step in and quickly get the lay of the land.

“Anybody would be able to walk in and pick that up and not skip a beat,” she said.

Thorp-Patterson’s departure represents the second big personnel change at the chamber; last month, the chamber’s other staff member, special events coordinator Merry Braham, left after more than three decades with the organization.

Thorp-Patterson said she thinks the chamber is in good shape going forward, and plans for 2018 are coming along well, she said.

“I’m sad to be leaving the chamber, but I think we’re on the brink of doing some really great stuff,” she said.

Thorp-Patterson said new chamber president Colin Fay and past president John Sims are leading up the search for her replacement.

Email Chugiak-Eagle River Star editor Matt Tunseth at editor@alaskastar.com or call (907) 205-0082.

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