Serving to Improve
Let me start by saying how grateful I am to be member of the Chamber family. I stumbled into Chamber work several years ago and honestly, have never looked back. I am blessed to work for an organization that embraces my being elected and is eager to support where needed to allow me to continue to serve. You might be wondering what could possibly attract a Chamber Professional to run for public office. As I write this I am reminded of a conversation with my President, Steve Roberts, in which we discussed what it was that really draws one to the Chamber profession. We agreed that it was somewhat like being in a service based ministry. At the end of the day, that's what we do - serve our members by working to improve business policies and economic opportunities, therefore improving our communities and quality of life.
A life of service isn't a new concept to me. My parents spent most of their adult life as missionaries; raising my brother and I to understand the importance of helping others. What a wonderful way to grow up! I accredit any and all accomplishments to my parents for giving us a solid foundation full of experiences that has strongly influenced our direction in life.
Working for the West Virginia Chamber allowed me to understand and prepared me to discuss the challenges we face. We are a state full of natural resources - coal and natural gas being the largest of our exports. The continued exploration and harvesting of these resources is vital to our state's economy and plays a key role in achieving energy independence in the United States. The West Virginia Legislature doesn't always embrace these economic opportunities and seems to support the status quo mentality. I remember after one particular frustrating legislative session, walking back to the Chamber office from the Capitol and asking Steve how it was that you could make our elected officials understand that change, growth and progressive economic policies could be of benefit to West Virginia. I will never forget his answer - he said, "you can't change their minds, instead you change the people". That was just the beginning....
In January of 2010, with 2 open seats in my district, I decided to run for the House of Delegates. After a very busy summer, very little sleep and a strong campaign, I was elected in November 2010 as the youngest republican female currently serving in the West Virginia Legislature. While truly honored to have received the confidence of the people of Monongalia County, I quickly realized my life would never be the same.
In West Virginia, we have a part-time citizen legislature that serves a regular 60 day session annually. However, during my first year of service the Governor called us in for an additional 4 special sessions. Like all of you, the West Virginia Chamber always has multiple balls in the air so balancing the demand of legislative service with my Chamber duties was a challenge.
Separation of roles and duties is imperative to continued success (and sanity). Being careful to separate the Chamber from the Legislature, I take a leave of absence for the 60 day regular session and pick back up where I left off as soon as our session has concluded. This wouldn't be possible without the support of my colleagues at the West Virginia Chamber for which I am grateful.
I truly believe you are only as good as the team you are surrounded by. I am extremely grateful to those that surround me; without the friendships and support system, I can honestly say - none of this would be possible. There is no lack of support at home either. My husband has been very patient and understanding of my responsibilities. As I am nearing the end of my first term and currently running for re-election, I am again reminded of the hard work and dedication that my colleagues and friends provide. Words could never express my gratitude. What I can do, is continue the mission they supported me in - working to make West Virginia a place that provides opportunites and a bright future for all.
Amanda is the Director of Business Development at the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce and an ASCP Board Member. She is also an elected member of the West Virginia House of Delegates currently seeking re-election of a second term.