New chamber director plans to get down to business

Sue Moaulim brings experience to the Winters Chamber of Commerce in her new role as Executive Director

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The Danish-themed Southern California city of Solvang has more in common with Winters than one might think on first glance, according to the new executive director of the Winters Chamber of Commerce.

In an interview with The Express last month, Sue Moaulim said Winters shared a uniqueness with Solvang, which was a major factor in her decision to take the position.

“When I actually went to Winters and I drove in, I thought ‘This is so darn cute.’ It looked like there was really a pride in the community and people were excited about it,” Moualim said. “Winters is a great place because you may be a stranger, but you feel like you’ve been there a long time—because that’s the way people treat you.”

Moualim said she hopes to change the culture of the chamber and get down to business serving the Winters business community and said Chambers of Commerce serve an important purpose of using the collective power of businesses to advocate for members with local government bodies.

“We’re the voice for business in town,” Moualim said. “We want to make business successful. We try to bring businesses advocacy, education, engagement–whatever they need because ultimately that’s going to help on our economic development front, it’s going to bring in more taxes and it’s going to help the community as a whole.”

“I think I can be a benefit to the chamber and economic development there. I’ve done enough and I’m community-minded enough to bring a lot of tools to the table.”

Moualim, a longtime business woman, changed paths from running a manufacturing business to a retail jewelry store in the Santa Ynez Valley in the mid-2000s, where she established herself as a leader in the business community.

Before she became the director of the Solvang chamber of commerce, she had already founded a highly successful annual harvest celebration—Scarecrow Fest. What started as a city-wide competition scarecrow design competition now incorporates five cities in the Santa Ynez Valley. Scarecrow Fest is held during October—a notoriously slow month for the region—and attracts visitors to businesses that might usually be overlooked.

Moualim said the Scarecrow Fest was an accomplishment that led to the Solvang chamber offering her the position of director.

“When the executive director left the chamber, they came to my door because I was the most active in town,” Moualim said. “They knew I was talking to all of the businesses.”

Moualim has been active in her community outside of the chamber role, and she served as an honorary commander at Vandenburg Airforce Base near Solvang. Though she said honorary commanders are typically not very active, she used her position to help bridge the gap between service members and their families on base and the wider community.

“You have to realize I’m not a normal person,” Moualim said. “Typically what an honorary commander does is they shadow a commander, but the commander doesn’t call them very much. Basically they don’t do a whole heck of a lot.

By involving members of her squadron in volunteer opportunities, including operation as a host city of the Special Olympics, Moualim said the communities integrated. ”Now when one of my squadron members walks through town–people know them. It’s going to help a lot when people are no longer in the service and are trying to assimilate into the community.”

Acknowledging that she’s still new to Winters, Moualim said she didn’t have specific plans for the chamber yet, and would focus on shifting the perception of the chamber as ineffective.

“What I really want to work on is getting the chamber to get down to the business of the chamber,” Moualim said. “We want to bring value to our membership, which I think is lacking at the moment. I think the chamber is there, but it’s not really doing what it’s supposed to be doing. We want to be the resource for what you need in your business.”

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