Fred Wright is the new executive director of the Lacey Chamber of Commerce, a former executive at several Washington businesses. He replaces Tony Salas, who recently announced he was leaving the chamber to run his own business in Skagit County.
Salas will work through the end of the month, while Wright’s first day is March 19.
The two will work together during the transition and then Wright will introduce himself to the chamber on April 3.
Lacey chamber forums are held during the first Wednesday of every month, chamber board president Lowell Gordon said.
The chamber received 25 applications for the open position, Gordon said Wednesday. The hiring committee cut that to nine, then interviewed six people for the job, followed by two finalists. The job pays a maximum of $50,000 a year, plus benefits.
For the final interviews, the two candidates had to prepare a 30-minute presentation, providing performance benchmarks for the chamber at 90 days, 180 days and at a year, he said. Gordon was impressed with Wright because he introduced some “new, fresh ideas” during his presentation.
Prior to the chamber, Wright, 58, was the president, general manager and founder of Ridge Racing School in Shelton. Before that he was the president and chief executive of The Driver Training Group in Redmond, and previous to that, he was the president, chief executive and co-founder of Who’s Calling Inc. of Kirkland, an “industry leader in call tracking and marketing analytics technology,” according to Wright’s resume.
Wright said Wednesday he was drawn to the chamber job because he has always had an interest in getting involved with a community organization.
“It’s an opportunity to help lots of business people in a community that is excited about what it is doing,” he said. “I hope to help it be more successful.”
Salas got to say goodbye to the chamber membership at his last forum on Wednesday. Salas took over in July 2011, a challenging time for the chamber because the previous executive director, Jenny Thorsell, later pleaded guilty to stealing $17,000 from the chamber over a three-year period.
Salas said from the start he set out to stabilize and then grow the chamber membership, eventually growing it to a high of 358 members from 262 members. He also set out to develop programs for the membership, including “think chamber first,” a program designed so that chamber members would tap the services of their fellow members.
“I’m really proud of the culture we developed,” he said.
Salas, a veteran business owner, is now set to run a business called Rely Local in Skagit County, which provides marketing and advertising services to locally owned businesses.
Lowell checked off a number of things Salas had accomplished during his tenure, including the South Sound Barbecue, and said he leaves with a “high degree of class.”
“He’s been great to work with,” Gordon said.
Salas’ advice to Wright is to “listen to the membership,” and to make sure the chamber is “delivering the correct value to its members.”
Salas said he was excited for the chamber, and that it’s ready to move on to the next level and shine.
“I’m really excited for its future,” he said.