Chamber's new director makes her era about connections

PINEDALE – Looking out the car windows as a child, staring at the natural marvels on the way from her Rock Springs home to her grandfather’s home in Driggs, Idaho, there was resolve. Joanie Christie wanted to live in Pinedale.

She had the work ethic to do it, raised by a father in the oil field and alongside a sister that followed suit. She became an entrepreneur as a babysitter and grew to create modest photo business once her kids were small – although she wanted to keep that modest. What Christie found she enjoyed most was helping organize people’s lives. She wanted to help make connections and make lives easier.

Years later, she’s found a way to do that in the place she’d always dreamed of.

Recently, Christie was announced as the new executive director of the Sublette County Chamber of Commerce. She grabbed the baton running, having already made presentations to town councils in the county with aims of continuing the chamber’s purpose with her own ethos included.

“I never wanted to be a boss but I always wanted to be a leader,” she said. “In this, I get to lead. I want to help them be the best person they can be as defined by them.”

She got to know community members during her time at Bank of the West in Big Piney. There, she made connections and learned what businesses in Sublette County needed. She wanted to serve community members then, and she carries that core tenet with her now.

She’s been invested in the Big Piney-Marbleton Development District. She wants to break down any divide between communities in the county. Division is unacceptable – we’re all Sublette County and we can all succeed.

In her presentations to Big Piney and Marbleton town councils, she talked about the evolving business climate. Sublette County’s Chamber of Commerce wasn’t unaffected by that, now having to cover a multitude of industries. But, as she said, fighting change is a futile effort.

“It is our job as residents, elected officials, business owners and landowners to join together with the chamber to guide that change,” she told the councils in a written statement. “By being open to new ideas and prospects that come our way, we will eliminate the all too common reaction to change that manifests as ‘slow down, we’re not ready.’ Let’s foster the relationships with our neighbors and rival football teams to build a great future for our children in Sublette County.”

Christie said she wants to put more emphasis on community development master plans in each community, so each can be on the forefront of the latest innovations and developments.

At its core, the chamber’s mission is defined as: “To create and foster a sustainable business climate in Sublette County.” Christie is continuing that aim through making connections. And those connections, at least sometimes, happen through involvement.

This year the chamber is promoting the Mountain Man Holiday Shop Hop for a month – from Nov. 20 to Dec. 20. People can attain cards with boxes on them to 15 local businesses. Those businesses, which are stretched throughout the county, will then stamp or punch its box out on the card. An attached receipt from those businesses is acceptable as well. If all 15 businesses are accounted for, that person can be entered for a drawing held Dec. 21 at noon for cash prizes ranging from $5 to $200. Christie said she’s at the chamber to answer questions for those who have any.

Another one of Christie’s goals is to help fill the vacancy on the Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors.

“I have a great board of directors that makes this truly workable,” she said. “So I’m trying to get people excited and wanting to fill that one open spot.”

And maybe, in the process, the rest of the county’s business industries can get excited about building for whatever comes next.