2024-07-12 12:21 PM

Cole Says Her Goodbyes Before Chamber Departure

It has been my great honor to have served as the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce’s Executive Director for the last 17 years. So much has changed since 2004. Falls Church has grown, as has the Chamber which doubled its membership while creating new networking and promotional opportunities, redeveloping the Chamber’s brand and online presence, and establishing the organization as an important partner and resource to local businesses, government, and the community. As many have done during the pandemic, I have decided I am ready for change and, more importantly, that the Chamber is in need of a fresh perspective and new energy.

I owe a debt of gratitude to many. First and foremost, thank you to Dr. Steve Rogers who was the Chamber Chairman. He has been a consistent source of information, ideas, and support. I am grateful for the trust he, along with Architect Paul Barkley, Attorney Mark Werblood, and Clay Café founder Helene Safford, and the Chamber Board at that time put in me all those years ago.

I am also grateful to Nick Benton and the Falls Church News-Press. Nick quickly and easily invited me into his inner circle and offered me the opportunity to write the Business News column for the paper. He has done an exceptional job covering Chamber events and issues while also providing businesses targeted advertising and serving as a Chamber board member and sponsor.

Thank you to everyone who has served on the Chamber’s Board of Directors, especially to those who served as Board Chair and who continued to participate, fund, and volunteer after their service. I am especially indebted to Barbara Benson, the Chamber’s current chair, as she selflessly offered to continue her service an extra year because of the pandemic, only to find herself leading a search committee and hiring a new director. Thank you also to our committee members and to my Chamber colleagues as well. Deb Thompson, Andrea Alder, and Cathy Soltys helped grow and strengthen the Chamber and were wonderful teammates.

Thank you to the Chamber’s loyal annual sponsors including Diener & Associates, Eden Center, Falls Church News-Press, Hilton Garden Inn, The Kensington, New Editions Consulting, the Young Group, Burke & Herbert Bank, Sislers Stone, Dougherty DDS, Beyer Automotive, PNC Bank, Body Dynamics, John Marshall Bank, John Rodock of Baker Donelson, John Marshall Bank, June Beyer Art, and Staples. Our event sponsors have been generous as well – thank you to ROCK STAR Realty Group, Brenda Schrier Photography, Family Medicine in Falls Church, Lemon Lane Consignment, Jefferson Falls Park, and many more.

Thank you to the Falls Church City Council. Over the years, a number of Council members have made efforts to support the local business community, but this current Council is more involved and active in that area than ever. Their attendance at ribbon cuttings , proclamations designating Shop Small Day and Live Local month, efforts to highlight women and minority entrepreneurs, and their personal support of local businesses is noteworthy. Special thanks are due to Phil Duncan for serving as the Chamber’s Council liaison for many years. His participation and has been invaluable.

Thank you to Falls Church City government and school staffs, particularly Marybeth Connelly and Becky Witsman. Both have worked tirelessly to support our business community while also being wonderful resources and advocates. Their insights, guidance, and contributions have benefitted the Chamber in a myriad of ways. Wyatt Shields, Cindy Mester, and Jim Snyder have also been great allies.

Thank you to the many Chamber members who have inspired and motivated me through the years. Falls Church has truly amazing nonprofit organizations and businesses that are exceptionally supportive of them and the larger the community. There are too many to name but I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to have worked with, and gotten to know, the late Barb Cram and Gary LaPorta. Both served on and off on our Board and were consistent sources of help, guidance, inspiration, and manpower. I would also like to thank BioPrep Solutions for guiding us and our members through the pandemic.

Finally, thank you to the residents of Falls Church for supporting our local businesses. Falls Church is so very special largely because of our small business community and their success is largely thanks to you.

I am leaving the Chamber in exceptional hands. Cathy will stay on and Elise Neil Bengtson is the Chamber’s new Executive Director. Elise brings strong experience in nonprofit leadership, including executive director positions with the McLean Chamber and Volunteer Fairfax, that will benefit the Chamber and wider community. I will remain in Falls Church and continue to support the friends I have made through the years and patronize our small business community. I will continue to Live Local and I hope you will too.

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