Samantha Springer, left, and Michelle Walker stand in the lobby of the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center on Wednesday, March 22, 2023, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Samantha Springer, left, and Michelle Walker stand in the lobby of the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center on Wednesday, March 22, 2023, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Springer named new head of Kenai chamber

Springer, who was raised in Anchorage, said she’s lived on the Kenai Peninsula since 2021

Samantha Springer is taking the helm of the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center as the organization’s new executive director. Springer took over the position on Monday and replaces Brett Perry, who left the chamber last fall after about six months on the job.

During an interview with the Clarion on Wednesday, Springer, who was raised in Anchorage, said she’s lived on the Kenai Peninsula since 2021, when she moved to the area with her husband, who owns a local fishing guide service.

“I love the vibe down here,” Springer said. “It’s completely different. Everyone is so nice and it just feels like it’s big enough, but it still has that small town vibe.”

Springer said she most recently worked as an area manager for Pepsi and is bringing a marketing and sales background to the executive director position. She said she started looking for a job that would allow her to be more involved with the community and said she talked with former director Brittany Brown about the position.

“(Brown) was like, ‘I think you’d be a really good fit for it,’” Springer said. “She gave me the rundown.”

Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center Membership Coordinator Michelle Walker said that, in hiring a new executive director, existing staff were looking for someone with leadership qualities. A leader, Walker said, is something she thinks the chamber has been lacking since Brown left the organization in the beginning of 2022.

“I see a lot of … similar qualities in Samantha (as in Brown) and it excites me because I saw that same future — wanting to grow, wanting to get bigger, do more events, be more involved with our community,” Walker said. “That’s exactly what the chamber needs and I think that our future is bright.”

Looking ahead, Springer said building a community with permanent businesses in Kenai will be just as important as trying to bring more tourism into the city. She’d also like to collaborate with other chambers of commerce in Alaska. Boosting the chamber’s presence on social media, starting a lecture series for local businesses and more events and programming are also ideas Springer said she has for the chamber moving forward.

“At this point, there’s a lot of potential,” Springer said.

In the immediate future, Springer said she’ll be inventorying businesses who are currently chamber members, businesses that have left the chamber and businesses that could become chamber members. Walker added that the chamber is also prioritizing radio advertising in a new way to help get the word out about what the chamber does.

When she’s not at the chamber building, Springer said she can be found reading a book, fishing on the river or spending time with her two children. She said her door is always open to people with ideas about what the chamber can be doing or with suggestions for possible events or speaking engagements.

Nodding to the Kenai chamber’s previous struggles with staff retention and other changes, Walker said she’s hopeful for the future under Springer’s leadership and that the chamber is “coming back.”

“All the things that everybody was proud of with the chamber in the past (are) going to be back,” Walker said. “We’re going to be able to be that shining light in our community.”

More information about the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center can be found on the chamber website at kenaichamber.org.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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