Chamber trio plans to invigorate business and tourism in Wahkiakum

 

August 3, 2023

Diana Zimmerman

Director of Tourism Alysse Weiler, Assistant Chamber Director Dan Lorenzen, and Director of Economic Development Channing Cendana are taking a team approach to promote tourism and local business at the Wahkiakum Chamber of Commerce.

There are some new faces at the Wahkiakum Chamber of Commerce, and with them come new ideas and a new energy for supporting local business, as well as promoting tourism, future events, and economic development.

Assistant Director Dan Lorenzen is the bridge between the last director, Monica Budd, and this new partnership. With nearly one year of experience at the chamber under his belt, he was able to help frame the new team's experience organizing this year's Bald Eagle Days.

Joining Lorenzen are Channing Cendana, who has stepped into the role of director of economic development and Alysse Weiler, who is now the director of tourism.

At one time, Lorenzen was the security manager for the Oregon Zoo. After retiring, he and his wife began to search for a new home. Portland just wasn't the same town he knew growing up. With family still nearby, the pair set a 200 mile radius and landed in Cathlamet three years ago.

"I wasn't planning on working again," Lorenzen said. "Maybe a little security work, but there wasn't any."

He volunteered for Bald Eagle Days. When a job opened up to assist the director, he stepped up to help out part time. He stayed on after Budd left, trying to keep the chamber afloat until they found the right people to step into leadership roles.

"It's fun," Lorenzen said. "It's a job I don't need to do, but I enjoy it. They pay me to do it, so why not. It keeps me busy."

In his spare time he likes to be with his family, including his grandkids.

"They love coming out here," he said. "It's quiet and peaceful, and we don't have the traffic issues. We were afraid they wouldn't want to come out here but we see them more than we did when we lived in Portland."

He and his wife kayak and have done a bit of hiking in Wahkiakum County, an activity that has become beneficial at the chamber, as he can suggest places off the beaten path where visitors can check out the local scenery.

Cendana is also from Portland. His travels have brought him farther west and he says, into increasingly rural communities. He currently resides in west Longview.

The Marine Corps was part of his family history and tradition, and he spent six years serving, four years on active duty and two in the reserves. He saw how wars and conflicts affected loved ones, and acted accordingly.

"I knew going in during a time of war it could impact me mentally," Cendana said. "I thought a good way to balance myself out, my person, my soul, was to be doing social services."

"I was trying to do things that I thought would make me a better person," he added. "If I feel like I'm called to something, if it will make a better person, a better father, I'll pursue it. The Marine Corps gave me a lot of discipline and a lot of structure. I saw a lot of action, but I was still a bit rough around the edges and social services kind of cleaned that up a little bit."

When he got out of the service, he took a job working with kids in foster care. Within one week of employment, he said, everyone got fired, and he went straight into management. Undeterred, he began building the program from the ground up.

Since then Cendana says he has worked in the mental health industry, consulted for small businesses, and done a lot of nonprofit work.

His most recent job required long travel days and time away from his two young children, and that's when he found the job at the chamber, much closer to home.

Weiler has a masters in early childhood education. She spent six years teaching in Kelso, where she grew up. It's also where she met her best friend, who would one day set her up with the man who would become her husband, Wahkiakum County resident Andrew Weiler.

After joining him here, she subbed at Wahkiakum School District, and started working at River Mile 38. She was having a lot of fun, doing social media, and helping with brewery events.

"I realized event planning was pretty fun," Weiler said. "It's been a mental health break from teaching. Teaching is a tough job."

She saw the opening at the chamber, but when she discovered the job was restructured into three positions, she jumped in with both feet.

"It's a good thing," Weiler said. "It's a good job."

Growing up in the Longview/Kelso area, she really didn't have much connection to Cathlamet. The only memory she has of the place is the Wahkiakum High School gym, where she would go to watch her brother wrestle now and again.

She loves it here now.

The trio have been brainstorming about future events, about what it means to add value to chamber membership, how to better serve local businesses, and make the most of Chamber Connect, Chamber Chat, Shop Local, and their Business After Hours programs.

"The community probably hasn't seen anything different from us on the surface right now," Weiler said, "but we are trying to be really intentional. If we start something we want to make sure it is sustainable, we're not wasting our time, and it's useful for the community."

"Quality standards," Cendana added. "We're doing a lot of updating of infrastructure, to make sure we are tooled for the future."

"I think we were behind the times before," Lorenzen said. "I think we've got new blood in here that's going to get us updated."

"Just trust the millennials," Weiler said, laughing.

 

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