By this time next month the Williams Lake and District Chamber of Commerce long-time executive director will be onto doing something new with her time.
After 32 years of giving her talents, energy and love to the job, Claudia Blair said it is time to hand over the reins.
“I really don’t want to retire, I think I’m too young, but the reason I’m retiring is because it’s the beginning of the year and it is time I let someone else come in that has fresh ideas,” Blair told the Tribune. “It’s a good time to go because I’m leaving on a good note and things are going well.”
In today’s world there are a lot of changes and somebody new needs to come in and help the Chamber embrace those changes and help make the community and the world a better place, she added.
“I hope that’s what I did when I was here — that I made a difference.”
Recalling last summer’s wildfires that threatened the Cariboo Chilcotin and the subsequent evacuations, Blair said it was gut-wrenching.
“It was hard to see our mayor so emotional. He cared like I cared. I tear up just thinking about it. It was a powerful time in all of our lives and so many people were impacted.”
Blair hopes her replacement will care about the community in the same way and will have the opportunity to take the job on when there are no messes to clean up, and just have fun like she did when she started.
Originally she was going to be finished in January, but it is taking longer to do interviews and select a candidate, Blair explained.
“I wanted them to have all four seasons to go through, because we have things that we do in each part of the year. Right now we are planning for the summer and after that we will plan for the fall.”
The executive director position is a busy one.
“I come in in the morning, think I’ve got my day planned, but that never happens. You have to be totally flexible and change thought patterns very quickly. I have 16 bosses in theory and the chamber has a governance model. The board is made up of volunteers who are willing to give their time. I’m grateful because they help me do my job and help the community be a better place.”
Executive assistant Jaylyn Byer has worked with Blair for 12 years and said she will be sad to see Blair go.
“She has been amazing to work with,” Byer said. “She knows her stuff in tourism and the chamber and is totally supportive of all the staff here, the chamber directors and members.”
Blair’s roots in the Cariboo are deep.
She was born and raised in Quesnel and lived in the Williams Lake area, giving her a foot in both camps, she said.
“Today I got a text from Taylor, who has been working here for 11 years. We sent her to Abbotsford for a trade show to promote the area, which is what I did when I first started. It’s kind of neat to see her doing that now.”
Not sure what she will do next, Blair said her job has had some challenges, but she loved it.
“I have a lot of loves, but I don’t know what I am going to end up doing. I want to stay involved in my community and the region. Tourism is a huge love of mine so whether it will be something in that area I don’t know.”
When she’s not working she loves to fish and cross-country ski.
“Bob, my border collie sometimes comes to work with me now and will continue to be my co-pilot.”