The Greater Westhampton Chamber of Commerce has elected a new Board of Directors, and it plans to continue promoting the local business community with the help of some new initiatives.
Sarah Mendenhall-Luhmer, an East Quogue resident and part owner of Mendenhall Fuel Inc. in the hamlet, will serve as president for the next year after being elected by board members two weeks ago. She is in the middle of her first two-year term on the board, and this marks her first time serving in an elected position for the group, which currently boasts 157 members.
Ms. Mendenhall-Luhmer will be joined on the executive board by newly elected Vice President Michael Lennon, the owner of Pine Barrens Printing in Westhampton Beach, and Treasurer Roberta Shoten, the operations and development associate for the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center.
“Our goal is to continue on with the events that the chamber is known for,” said Ms. Mendenhall-Luhmer, who replaces Dwayne Wagner, of Dwayne Wagner Law Offices in Westhampton Beach, who served as president for one year and no longer serves on the board. “We also have a couple of new ideas because we want to continue our efforts to help our members.”
She said she hopes the chamber, which made headlines last fall after canceling its annual Halloween parade, a decade-long tradition in Westhampton Beach, due to financial issues, can start rebuilding its image. (The chamber reversed course after fielding complaints from upset merchants and parents, though it was forced to later cancel the event due to Hurricane Sandy.)
“Our hope is that our events are always big and successful,” she said. “There are always other factors that come into play, but we do what we can.
“We are, of course, hoping for a big year, with a huge turnout to events that are really positive for the community,” she continued. “We are going to work really hard on our end.”
Rounding out the nine-member Board of Directors are: Ellen Cea, the director of tenant and community development for Rechler Equity Partners LLC, which has offices in Westhampton Beach; Tracie Glover, owner of TNT Daycare in Remsenburg; Paul Heiselman, store manager of the TD Bank in Westhampton Beach; Joseph Musnicki, owner of Ocean Spray Pools and Spas, which has offices in Westhampton; Elyse Richman, the owner of the Shock stores in Westhampton Beach; and insurance agent Brian Silk with the State Farm branch in Westhampton Beach.
This year, Ms. Mendenhall-Luhmer, who is 32, said the chamber hopes to improve on its relationship with both the Westhampton Beach School District and the Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing that is stationed at Gabreski Airport in Westhampton. She said both will help the group extend its presence in the community.
At the high school, the chamber specifically hopes to be able to work with the Business Advisory Committee, a group dedicated to giving high school students opportunities for career guidance through local connections and events. Ms. Mendenhall-Luhmer said one new board member, Ms. Glover, serves as adviser of the high school club and will help the two organizations work together in the future.
Over at Gabreski, a new job fair with a focus on placing veterans with local businesses is now in the works, officials said, and the group hopes to have it up and running in the next few months. Both Mr. Lennon and Ms. Mendenhall-Luhmer are excited about the new fair, explaining that while the event will be geared toward veterans, all community members are welcome to attend.
Board members are also working on a new campaign to encourage people to shop locally. Although they do not have specifics yet, officials said the goal is to encourage those who normally shop at chain department stores and the outlets shops to bring their business to the East End’s mom and pop stores. The chamber’s goal is to promote businesses in Remsenburg, Speonk, Westhampton, Westhampton Beach, Quogue and East Quogue.
“I am excited about the new board and to have some fresh blood,” Mr. Lennon said. “We have the opportunity to move forward with these new initiatives. We are hoping to reenergize the whole idea of having people shop locally.”
Members will place additional focus on current chamber-sponsored events, those that they consider to be community staples. They include the Mary O. Fritchie Art Show, the annual fall and spring art shows, the Halloween parade and Easter egg hunt, and Winterfest, an event held each December in downtown Westhampton Beach that features a variety of holiday activities, such as horse-drawn carriage rides.
The new board also plans to add a few new twists this year, according to Ms. Mendenhall-Luhmer.
“I am excited to be a part of the chamber,” she said. “They do a lot of good work in the community. I think it is important for people to stand up and take part in things in order to see them through and happen.
“It is a great community- and business-based organization to give people the opportunity to grow and be entrepreneurs,” she continued.