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Tofino - Long Beach chamber searching for new executive director

Jen Dart is moving on after serving Tofino’s business community for a decade
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Tofino Long Beach chamber of commerce executive director Jen Dart met with Courtenay - Alberni MP Gord Johns in August to discuss local business issues. Dart had taken the chamber’s helm from Johns in 2014 after Johns left to run as the NDP’s Courtenay-Alberni MP candidate. (Gord Johns Facebook photo)

The Tofino Long Beach Chamber of Commerce is searching for a new executive director.

Jen Dart is moving on from the position after serving the chamber for a decade.

“There’s been a lot of change during my tenure and our membership has grown a lot. There have also been incredibly challenging times, including COVID and just this past summer that have been unlike any of my previous experiences in this role,” Dart told the Westerly News via email.

Dart, who worked for the Westerly News as a reporter from 2005-2010, recalled working as a freelance writer and editor before joining the Chamber in 2013 and assisting its then executive director Gord Johns.

She spent roughly six months as the chamber’s communications and membership services assistant before taking the helm from Johns after he resigned in June of 2014 to run as the NDP’s Courtenay-Alberni MP candidate in the federal election. Johns won the seat in 2015 and continues to hold it.

She noted her past decade of service to the town’s business community carried positives and negatives as she navigated the small town chamber through busy waters.

“The pros are that you know everyone, so you know exactly who to go to with questions and for help. I think you work more effectively when you’re familiar with the people and the landscape you’re in, but I also have learned a lot about Tofino and its business community during my time,” she wrote. “One of the cons is not being able to ‘turn it off,’ so you get asked questions in the Co-op and on the street about work, but I think that’s pretty common in small towns in general.”

She added that the chamber is in “awesome” shape and she is confident its success will continue after her departure.

“I feel great about the organization as I step away, both in the state of our membership and our board of directors,” she wrote.

“We have an amazing board of volunteers, and I would encourage anyone who’s interested in being part of the board to get in touch with us. I will be connected to the Chamber for a time after I finish as ED, helping out with a project or two, so I hope to see it continue to thrive.”

She suggested the value of local chambers is being recognized more and more and that recognition is allowing for a departure from “a membership dues-only based model.”

“Because of the important role played by Chambers in communities, the government is starting to recognize the need to have them around and providing some program and other funding directly to Chambers,” she wrote. “I hope this continues, because they play such a vital role as organizations, especially in a small town.”

She added the chambers provide essential opportunities for local businesses to connect.

“Small business owners are busy people with a lot going on. The Chamber organization supports them at other levels—in their communities, to potential customers, and also represents their interests to government and other organizations,” she wrote. “They provide the link between individual businesses and the wider world they operate in. It’s intangible in a lot of ways, but essential.”

She added that connecting business owners with their local communities and beyond is an important key towards chambers staying relevant in an increasingly online world.

“We’ve had a lot of success in bringing the challenges and opportunities facing Tofino’s businesses to the attention of local, provincial and federal leaders,” she wrote. “Tofino is a place that acts as a bit of a bellwether in the tourism world and eyes are on us. That means we have the opportunity to effect change for the better for local businesses and small businesses in general. We are also looked to because of the high quality of the businesses and organizations that operate here—I think they are models in many ways. It’s been a real pleasure to work with so many of them.”

The chamber is currently seeking applications for a new executive director and more information can be found at avemployment.ca.

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Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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