In the two years Bob Kavanaugh has been the executive director of the Union County Chamber of Commerce, membership in the organization has doubled — but he insists the credit for that must be shared with his board.

Kavanaugh is stepping down from his position at the end of this month, and he’s confident the board will keep up the momentum.

“The organization can only be as good as its leadership,” he said about the Chamber’s board. “This is the perfect opportunity (to step down). We’re at a strategic standpoint. (The chamber organization) has to be board driven.”

Karrine Brogoitti, president of the Chamber and publisher of The Observer, said Kavanaugh will continue to serve on the board after his exit.

“(He) is still very much committed to the Chamber’s mission and vision and has asked to stay on,” she said. “He’s interested in helping to finish out some large projects and initiatives, as well as helping with our events and banquets.”

There will also be four new members coming on in January. The strategy going forward to keep up the momentum the organization has had over the last two years will be unique to the board’s new makeup.

Kavanaugh announced late last week that he was leaving the Chamber. He told The Observer he will be joining Old West Federal Credit Union, which has branches in La Grande, John Day and Burns and soon in Union.

Kavanaugh, who took the position of Chamber director in February 2017, spent 12 years in the banking industry.

The board is now actively looking for his replacement, Kavanaugh said. There are at least three viable candidates being considered, with more being added.

“I don’t want people to think it’s all been me,” Kavanaugh said about the Chamber’s recent growth and success. “We’ll find the right person. The board and I have no intention of losing the momentum.”

Brogoitti commended Kavanaugh on the work he’s completed over the last two years.

“Bob has succeeded in laying the foundation of a strong organization and I’m confident that we’ll find the right person to carry on that mission,” she said.

That “right person” will have a challenge on his or her hands stepping into the director’s position. Kavanaugh said the director needs to care about the vitality of the business community and must be willing and eager to openly communicate with the county’s business owners.

The new director will be at the forefront of the Chamber’s mission to fill empty buildings with thriving businesses, build the county’s tourism industry and promote the Blue Mountain Conference Center.

There have been many economic development
success stories during
Kavanaugh’s two years at the Chamber, and he believes it’s only going to get better.

“I don’t think it’s ‘if’ we grow, but ‘when,’” he said. “People will figure out what we have to offer. I want to make sure there is growth (and) I’m excited to be a part of it.”

Kavanaugh’s last day will be Dec. 31.

“I am excited to work with Old West,” he said. “I feel good about them. They have a high level of integrity.”

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