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New Chamber president has deep roots in county

Sharpsburg resident Brien Poffenberger's family has lived in Washington County for 300 years. Poffenberger was chosen from among

Sharpsburg resident Brien Poffenberger's family has lived in Washington County for 300 years. Poffenberger was chosen from among

July 13, 2004|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - After a lengthy search that drew 105 candidates, the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce on Monday named Sharpsburg resident Brien Poffenberger as its new president.

If that name sounds familiar, there's good reason. Although Poffenberger grew up in northern Virginia, his family has been in Washington County for 300 years, he said.

He's been a longtime resident himself, and has served as chairman of Sharpsburg's Zoning Appeals Board and as a director for the Sharpsburg Library.

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Poffenberger officially begins work on Aug. 9. He replaces Fred Teeter, who stepped down as president on April 30 after 14 years with the Chamber.

A graduate of the College of William and Mary, Poffenberger also holds master's degrees from the University of Virginia and Georgetown University.

For the past year, Poffenberger has served as director of the Lord Fairfax Community College Small Business Development Center at Fauquier, located in Warrenton, Va.

The center, a joint venture between the college and the federal Small Business Administration, provides business counseling to new and established businesses. He's also held management positions with General Electric and Washington County-based Historic Restoration Specialists.

Poffenberger said he was attracted to the Chamber position because he was looking for a community-based, executive position that matched his skills. As he searched within the county for the right fit, "this was the one that kept coming up," he said.

By the end of the interview process, which included meetings and phone conversations with various members of the Chamber's search committee, "I almost thought it was a collaborative conversation about the direction of the Chamber," he said.

In his new position, Poffenberger predicted he would be "an advocate for the membership, focusing on what the business community needs."

He said he also would be involved in government issues relating to business.

It's too soon to comment on specific goals or directions the Chamber might adopt, Poffenberger said.

The Chamber is conducting a survey of the local business community to determine what its needs are, according to board Chairman Tim Henry.

But "in the sense of a directive, we're not there yet," Poffenberger said.

What he does recognize is that "Washington County is in for a big change," he said, and the Chamber should take a proactive stance.

"I would like people in the business community to feel confident that I recognize that and that the staff here is up to the task," he said.

In selecting a new president, "we were looking for fresh leadership, and someone who could interact well with the membership base and understand its needs," Henry said. "And someone who was a good communicator."

In Poffenberger, the committee saw "somebody who did not have direct Chamber experience but who demonstrated he understood" how it should function in the community, he said.

"Brien seemed to carry a vision with him," said Ed Lough, chairman of the search committee.

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