There is a saying: “If you’ve seen one chamber, you’ve seen one chamber.” Chambers of commerce come in all shapes and sizes, with different goals and purposes.
The St. Tammany West Chamber is a midsize chamber with currently 1,030 members. Of those, five percent contribute 37 percent of our nearly $700,000 annual budget. We are governed by a 25-member Board of Directors that determines our budget and oversees our finances. We employ a professional staff of six, including myself, which work with our volunteer committees and communicate to our members and local citizens.
There is certainly much to be admired, even envied, about living and working in St. Tammany Parish. The quality of life we enjoy is, as in most communities, dependent on our property and sales tax base. It’s true, as we have often heard recently, that we do have one of the highest sales and property tax rates in the state. This makes it difficult to support increasing taxes or even renewing existing taxes.
A big part of the future of our quality of life is in the hands of voters. There are several elections slated for the 2017 calendar, with the first being the March 25 special election to fill the vacant City of Covington Council-at-Large seat, which is open due to the death of beloved and respected longtime public servant Lee Alexius.
Some chambers take their role as the voice of business very seriously and we are one of them. Part of our Chamber’s mission is to increase voter turnout in all elections. Among the ways we hope to make an impact is to inform citizens about candidates and issues.
For this reason, we formed a political action committee (PAC) last year. In its second year, the PAC Board of Directors scheduled interviews with the Covington Council-at-Large candidates, and is sponsoring an “Old Fashioned Political Stump”, enabling citizens to come out and learn about their positions and plans. After careful consideration, the PAC Board is making an endorsement, which will be announced to the media.
The education, experience and collective wisdom of our Board of Directors speaks on behalf of our members. Our PAC Board speaks on behalf of the PAC’s 250 members.
Being a member of any chamber of commerce is a choice by a business that chooses to invest in having a support system that includes a voice of business. Priceless assets are those members who are leaders that choose to get involved, to invest their time, talents and expertise to strengthen the voice of business. All members look to the wisdom offered by these business leaders who take their personal time to research the issues and or candidates and make recommendations to voters. Informed voters that take the time to get informed then vote, are essential to maintaining our first class quality of life.
Early voting is March 11-18 and election day is March 25. In the last Covington election, only 14 percent of registered voters turned out. While there is only one at-large council seat on the special election Covington ballot, it remains an important election. We encourage all citizens of Covington to be in that number of increasing voter turnout.