The Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce has a new president, filling the position left open when Dave Perry retired after more than 11 years.
Kristen Sharp took his place as president and CEO on Halloween. As such, she is determined to welcome all businesses to the organization, no matter the size.
“We want what is best for the community as a whole, and I would say 70% of our members are small businesses,” she said. “(However), we are here to support all local businesses.”
Sharp has a vision for the chamber as the organization moves into the future.
“I think currently the chamber’s got a lot going for it,” she said. “We’ve got a good reputation, and we’re very well known within the business community. What I would like to see — and one of my goals moving forward — is to be more of a known entity within the community as a whole.”
Sharp already has a plan for achieving that.
“One way that I would really like to do it (is) through social media and newspapers,” she said. “We need to put out more information and education regarding different things that are happening, for example, the Oro Valley Marketplace.”
Sharp has been with the chamber for three years, serving as the events director. She has a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education from the University of Missouri and taught high school for two years. When she decided to get her master’s degree, she came to The University of Arizona, where she met her husband. After graduation she went into retail management, working at Abercrombie and Fitch and another store at La Encantada. After that, it was preschool education. Then the job at the chamber came open, and because of her experience teaching, Sharp knew she had the goods.
“Going back to when I was teaching agriculture, I didn’t get to just teach,” Sharp said. “It was also running the agriculture department, which required me to do budgeting. It required me to work with vendors and plan banquets and contests.”
Perry recognized Sharp’s talent and ability, so when he began considering retirement, he also began mentoring Sharp.
“He and I started having, I guess you could call them, transfer-of-knowledge sessions,” Sharp said. “One week we would talk about finances; one week we would talk about membership.”
Because of this, when she officially applied for the job and was interviewed by the chamber’s board, she was ready. Evidently the learning time paid off.
“They unanimously accepted my application,” Sharp added.
What did Perry see in Sharp?
“I certainly saw the character of commitment and hard work,” he said. “I saw someone who has pretty remarkable experience. She used to be a retail manager. She used to be a schoolteacher. She’s had these leadership positions that were different than running the chamber, but I knew it was there.”
Perry is satisfied with her appointment, knowing he stepped down at the right time.
“I think she’ll do a great job,” he said. “There are different questions out there. She’s going to do so much better with digital and social media, which is not my interest.”
Sharp lives in Oro Valley with her husband and two children.