Judy Hector takes reins of chamber
The new executive director for the Union County Chamber of Commerce says her goals include more involvement in political decisions affecting small business owners, and improved communication with the membership.
New Hand at the Helm: Judy Hector of La Grande was recently named executive director for the Union County Chamber of Commerce. She replaced Judy Loudermilk, who resigned last spring. - The Observer/BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH
Judy Hector, who stepped into the director’s position Aug. 25, said in a recent interview she believes the chamber has a duty to participate in the political process, sticking up for small businesses.
“We need to get louder. I think we need to step up and be the voice of business in Union County,” she said.
In addition, Hector said she hopes chamber members will keep in touch with her, letting her know what they think on a gamut of issues. Opening the lines of communication — and keeping them open — is a top priority.
“I’m saying call me, e-mail me, stop by and see me. We really need to communicate. I want to hear from our members,” she said.
Hector said one of her first orders of business is to learn what the membership and the community at large think about the chamber and its role in the community.
Recently, she posted a questionnaire, for members and non-members alike, on the web. The results, she said, will be used to compile a business plan for the chamber.
“I want to find out what the perception of the chamber is, what people think of what we are currently doing, and what they think we ought to be doing,” she said.
Hector feels the survey is a vital tool and she hopes for a high rate of participation. People wishing to take it can do so by going to http://www.zoomerang.com/Survey/thankyou.zgi?p=WEB2289Y6ZTCF7 .
Hector is married to Ed Alexander, one of the many workers recently laid off by Boise Cascade. She said that’s one reason she is acutely aware of the community’s current economic struggles.
Conversations with chamber members also tell her Union County is feeling a pinch.
From chamber membership, she is hearing more than a little anxiety expressed over economic conditions.
“There is a lot of apprehension,” she said. “It’s kind of scary. Tourism is down everywhere, retails sales are down. Small retailers are wondering if they can hang on and whether things will be better this Christmas. I feel like people are saying ‘Help me.’ ”
Hector was raised in La Grande, graduating from the local high school in 1983.
She went on to Eastern Oregon University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in business economics in 1990. Later, she earned a master’s in business administration from the University of Phoenix.
After graduation from Eastern, Hector lived respectively in Helena, Mont., where she worked in publishing, and in Boise, where she tried her hand at freelance marketing.
Later, in Oceanside, Calif., she served as the vice president of marketing for a software company. During that time, she also was active in the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce.
She moved back to Union County in 2005, and for a couple of years owned and operated the Brown Bag Market on Adams Avenue.
After the Brown Bag went out of business, Hector took a job as the regional manager for Tidbits of Northeast Oregon.
Tidbits is a light reading publication carrying local advertising. It is placed in local restaurants and other business establishments.
Hector said she enjoyed her job but in the end didn’t find it fulfilling enough.
“It was the same kind of work I did for the Burns Time-Herald, just after I graduated from Eastern,” she said. “It wasn’t very challenging for me.”
Judy Loudermilk, Hector’s predecessor at the chamber, resigned in April. Hector thought of applying then, but put it off because she had started the job with Tidbits.
“I didn’t feel like it was right to ditch it,” she said.
But after some soul searching, she decided she might be a good fit for the chamber, and cast her hat in the ring. The board agreed she was the woman for the job.
“We had made an offer to someone else, then had to withdraw it,” Chamber President Warren Gilstrap said. “When we went through the second round of interviews, it was clear Judy was the person we wanted.”
Gilstrap said he likes what he’s seen of Hector’s work.
“She’s a good communicator and willing to make changes. She’s articulate, thoughtful, passionate about the community,” he said.
Hector said that so far, she is enjoying her new job.
“I like it. I’ve only been here a month but it’s like a favorite sweatshirt or an old pair of shoes. It’s really comfortable,” she said.