Mary Ruth Snyder’s cumulative background suits her well in her role as executive director for the Campbell River Chamber of Commerce. Image supplied

Chamber’s new ED hopes to influence positive relationships in Campbell River

‘The greater community is only as strong as its pieces,’ says Mary Ruth Snyder

Just over two weeks into her new position as executive director of the Campbell River Chamber of Commerce, Mary Ruth Snyder was diving head-first into a busy season. Faced with the search for a nearly new board of directors and organizing a calendar for the city’s business community, the former journalist was feeling optimistic.

“We are literally on the precipice of the abyss,” she says. “The good abyss. You ever see the movie?”

She’s referring to the 1989 James Cameron underwater sci-fi flick, The Abyss.

“You think it’s kind of scary all the way through and you think this is going to be really bad and then you get literally to the last three or four minutes of the movie and they finally discover what is it they’ve been searching for thinking it’s going to be this horrendous monster,” she says. “It turns out to be this luminous energy source that just lifts everybody and they’re like ‘ahhhh.’ That’s what I feel like.”

Snyder, who’s been a Campbell River resident for the last two years – and living on Vancouver Island for nearly 30 years – took over for former Chamber of Commerce CEO Colleen Evans in late August. She’s been at the helm of a team of new directors keen on positively influencing the direction of the city’s business community. Their motto: New E.D. New Board. New Era.

Snyder knows she has some big shoes to fill.

“I’m a bit intimidated because my predecessor did an amazing job for a decade,” she says. “But everybody seems very excited and welcoming and it’s been really great. There’s momentum.”

Corby Lamb, the Chamber’s president says Snyder was a good fit to replace Evans as she has “extensive experience in non profits” and a professional attitude. He believes this attitude “will make prospective members comfortable that the Chamber is on the right track.”

The post is a culmination of a lifetime of learning and will utilize all the skills that Snyder has developed over many years in the communications, non profit and hospitality industries.

Snyder grew up in a small Southern Ontario town. Her father owned the community’s men’s clothing store and her mother was a kindergarten teacher at the local school.

The importance of being involved in the community featured heavily in Snyder’s upbringing. Her parents were involved in Kinsmen and Kinettes; they were part of Rotary.

“I love community engagement,” says Snyder. “It’s in my blood.”

She worked in her father’s shop until her mid-20s learning how to run a successful small business. But she’s also worked in the food and hospitality industry, in event planning, in the non profit sector and in communications.

Her most recent roles include more than one year as Executive Director for the Comox BIA and nearly seven years with Shaw Communications.

Snyder is “old school.”

“You can not beat face to face conversations,” she says. While she understands social media and its role in today’s society, being in the same room as the person you’re conversing with rules as king.

It’s a theme for the Chamber’s new board and their busy calendar. They want to create as many opportunities for businesses and groups to meet in person as possible.

Snyder really did hit the ground running. In her first five months as executive director, she organized an AGM (where the new board was elected), held a strategic planning session with that new board, hosted an all-candidates debate for the North Island-Powell River MP candidates, held a Mix and Mingle networking evening and organized the chamber’s annual holiday gathering.

The new board is truly a cross-section of the community. It features local Indigenous leaders, representatives from local industry, non profits and the arts community, and young small business owners.

“We are going to have a very busy calendar,” says Snyder. “One of the things that we have talked about so far is just providing as many opportunities as possible for people to come together and talk.”

By creating these opportunities, Snyder hopes to see the different communities that operate within Campbell River come together in collaboration.

RELATED: Campbell River Chamber opens nominations for 2019 Business Awards of Distinction

“It’s just finding ways to be inclusive of all the communities and not operate in a silo,” she says. “The greater community is only as strong as its pieces.”

She offers the Elk Falls Suspension Bridge as an example. Now a tourist destination, the bridge was a joint effort of five organizations working together to “make something brilliant happen.”

“That’s what I strive for,” she says. “Working with other entities to make really cool stuff happen.”

She feels like Campbell River is just on the cusp of reaching its potential.

“Campbell River is very vibrant and I just want to see it grow and I’m very excited to be a part of that,” she says. “I’m just really looking forward to digging in and getting to know everybody.”


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