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Highland Chamber Of Commerce Names New Executive Director Pt. 1

When we last spoke with Josh Umar, he was preparing to leave his full time position as Youth and Business Resource Coordinator at The Highland Center for a more idyllic life of farming, fishing and philanthropy. But, as we all know, the best laid plans of mice and fishermen, sometimes go astray.

“Well, as of June 18th, I am going to be the new Executive Director of the Highland County Chamber of Commerce.”

So, what’s the reason for the change, Josh?

“I have a lot of passion for the county. This is my home now, and when an opportunity came up to take on a leadership role in an organization that is as important to the county as the Chamber is, and as important to its members as the Chamber is, I felt like, given the skill set that I’ve developed, and the relationships that I’ve built in my time at The Highland Center, I mostly wanted to do it because I think I can do a great job, not just for the Chamber, but for the county as a whole. So, I’m really looking forward to it.

“I have seen, since I moved here three years ago how hard people work, at their farms and at their businesses, and I appreciate that very much. And they’re going to see the same work ethic in me, at the Chamber. So, I’m really looking forward to it, and I’m going to bring a good deal of passion. And I think it will be fun.”

He talked about the new office organization.

“So I’m going to be in the office, sort of 30 – 32 hours a week every week – obviously more during festivals and things like that. And Dorothy Stephenson, the current Executive Director, is going to step back into a much more limited marketing role. And, I think right now, that’s going to be what we go with. We currently have also an events coordinator. Nicole Frye is also going to be there for a while helping out, and I think between the three of us, we’re going to be a lot more focused and efficient than we have been.

“One of the reasons I think I got the job is my ability, not only to build relationships like people have seen out of me in my time as Youth and Business Resource Coordinator at The Highland Center, but I think I was hired because of my ability to sort of plan and prioritize and bring a sense of focus to the work that I do, and juggle a lot of different priorities successfully, and I hope to bring that same approach to the Chamber.”

Along with a change of directors, the physical location of the Chamber may be changing as well.

“Well, right now, we’re on Main Street, above the craft store. There’s been some discussion of moving back to the historic home of the Chamber, which is inside of the Highland Center, and I would like to see that happen, but I need to make sure that is in the best interest of Chamber members, before we make that decision. And it’s going to be one of the things that I have to deal with and decide in my first few weeks as Executive Director, and I hope to be able to make an announcement soon, one way or the other.”

In part two of this story, Mr. Umar talks about his thoughts on the role of the Chamber, and future plans under his leadership.

Story By

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Scott Smith

Scott is the News Director for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan, and also is a member of the boards of the Highland-Bath Farm Bureau , Highland Chamber of Commerce and Highland Sheep and Wool Association. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

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