Walla Walla Chamber names new director

David N. Woolson will take over the lead of the business organization on Monday.

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A Walla Walla native who built a career in law, entertainment and media will make his next appearance as the president and chief executive officer of the Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce.

David N. Woolson has been selected from a pool of candidates across the Pacific Northwest to lead the local business organization, the Chamber announced this morning. Woolson begins in his new role Monday and will relocate to the area with his wife, Lynn, in the near future.

Woolson, who succeeds Dave Warkentin in the Chamber's top spot, brings more than 20 years of senior management experience to the position. He most recently served as CEO of the Metropolitan Exposition Recreation Commission in Portland, where he provided strategic leadership and operational oversight of the Oregon Convention Center, Portland Center for Performing Arts and the Portland Expo Center. He oversaw a $40 million annual budget and led 550 employees who put on more than 2,000 events and performances each year, according to the announcement.

Warkentin's resignation at the Chamber earlier this year opened a door for Woolson's return to the area.

"I have wanted to get back to the Walla Walla area for some time now if the right opportunity arose," he said in the announcement. "I believe the Chamber of Commerce will allow me to use my experience and hopefully contribute to the efforts of promoting Walla Walla as a great place to live, visit and do business."

Woolson's history with businesses of all sizes makes him "ideal" to lead the Chamber, said John Tombari, chairman of the organization's board of directors, in this morning's announcement.

"David's executive experience in leading both small business and large organizations will benefit the Chamber as the voice of business in the Walla Walla Valley," Tombari said in the release. "David's leadership, diverse experiences and pasion for developing community relationships will be invaluable. It will enable the Chamber of continue to play a leading role both on the regional and statewide level with regard to public policy as well as business and community development. We are very excited to have him on board."

An accomplished public speaker, lobbyist and attorney, Woolson grew up in Dayton, earned his undergraduate degree in television management from Eastern Washington University and a law degree from Gonzaga University.

Before his position at MERC, he was president of Big Catch, a talent and business affairs company that specialized in celebrity negotiations, rights acquisitions and clearances, and music publishing and licensing. During the 1990s he served as executive director of the Oregon Film & Video Commission and recruited a record level of film and television into Oregon. He also served as a senior executive and attorney with top Hollywood studios, including Paramount Pictures, Orion Pictures and Dick Clark Productions.

The Chamber's CEO position has been open since the end of May, when Warkentin was hired to lead the Chamber in Chandler, Ariz. Under his tenure, membership at the Walla Walla Valley Chamber doubled from 400 members to more than 800. The organization also hired a public policy analyst and increased its lobbying efforts at the state level.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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