SEQUIM — Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce representatives and civic and business community leaders jammed into the Sequim Visitor Center late Tuesday afternoon to welcome Shelli Robb-Kahler, the chamber’s new executive director.
It’s been an experience in familiarizing so far for Robb-Kahler, 49, who started work Monday after the chamber board announced March 22 it had hired her.
“My focus all week long and next week is to meet with all the different committees of the chamber,” Robb-Kahler said in between chatting with those congratulating and welcoming her.
Robb-Kahler, 49, is a Sequim native who had worked for First Federal for more than 29 years before she was laid off about a year ago.
She was studying at Peninsula College to become a medical assistant when the chamber’s top executive position opened.
She jumped at the opportunity and was one of four interviewed for the position.
Chamber board President Christy Rookard, who manages the North Sequim Avenue First Federal branch, said Robb-Kahler will shadow Vickie Maples, who leaves the chamber director post April 15, for the next two weeks.
Maples, the chamber’s executive director for two years, agreed to help her successor through a smooth transition.
“They are trying to get time alone to go over things,” Rookard said Tuesday.
“We’re going to let her get her feet on the ground first” before involving her in meatier issues facing the business and tourism organization, Rookard said.
After she was hired, Rookard said Robb-Kahler has “unique” business experience that includes executive management, financial, communication and networking skills.
Robb-Kahler, who started out as a teller at First Federal in Port Angeles, later opened and managed the Sequim branch in 1981, a building now vacant at Sequim Village Center on West Washington Street.
She was the vice president and business development officer at First Federal when she was laid off.
In that position, she was responsible for the retail “face” of First Federal as the local, homegrown savings and loan is presented to the community.
She oversaw about 120 employees in First Federal’s retail division.
Robb-Kahler served on the Clallam County YMCA board for four years and was for many years involved in the United Way of Clallam County.
She also organized the Sequim Irrigation Festival’s Kids Day events for seven years.
In her new job, she will be responsible for about 450 chamber members and will be based at the chamber’s visitor center, 1192 E. Washington St., where she will supervise about 100 volunteers and an office staff that helps run the facility.
Robb-Kahler said she already had some fun with chamber staff, board and volunteers Monday night — a bowling challenge at Olympic Lanes on East Washington Street in Sequim.
The bowling alley is a new chamber member.
“What a great way to welcome them into the chamber,” Robb-Kahler said.
She lives in Sequim with her husband, Marty. They have two sons, Brady and Colin.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Jeff Chew can be reached at 360-681-2391 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.