The Tuolumne County Chamber of Commerce has named Candice Kendall its next president and chief executive officer.

Kendall has been a page designer for The Union Democrat for the past two years.

A native of Trinidad and Tobago, she has lived in Tuolumne County since 2013.

“I’m like this tourist that’s informing everybody about all the great things in this county,” Kendall said.

Margaret Davis, board chairperson for the chamber, said “I think she will be good. She’s a go getter. She knows about the chamber and knows what it's about, so I think it will be a good move for her.”

Kendall said primary to her agenda was to widen the presence of the chamber in the business culture of Tuolumne County. She intends to host more events and seek out non-dues-based revenue, while adding and retaining membership. The chamber has about 300 members.

“What will make businesses put us in their budget? Everybody is financially constrained,” she said. “We are asking them to pay this fee. Our service needs to be beneficial to them.”

The Tuolumne County Chamber of Commerce, which moved from South Shepherd Street to 197 Mono Way last month, provides services that include education on regulations as well as advocacy on policy changes at the state and federal level.

Kendall said her hope is to provide Tuolumne County businesses (especially the small, few-employee businesses that are often overlooked) with guidance and support to help them grow.

“We want to be out there more. There’s so much more we could do as a group,” Kendall said. “My hope is to utilize the strengths of these different people to help our members.”

Kendall will replace Amelia Harrison, who held the position for about three years. Harrison moved out of state.

Her first job in the area was at the guest services desk for Skyline Place Senior Living in Sonora. She worked part-time at Skyline and the chamber before she opted to take a full-time position with the chamber in 2014.

She was there for two years before moving to the Union Democrat in January 2017.

Kendall said she never imagined she would be leading the organization where she was once a former employee.

In her time since moving to Sonora — Kendall spent eight months in Maryland after moving from lifetime home in Saint Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago — she has had to acclimate to the Mother Lode culture, which she said was unfamiliar at first.

“When I first came to visit Sonora and I didn’t even think places like this existed in the United States. I was kind of enamored by that,” she said. “I really liked the community and the environment. It was an easy decision for me to make, even though after moving here I had a lot of cultural hurdles to overcome.”

Acclimating to Tuolumne County took some time, with Kendall learning quickly about people’s sensitivity to certain subjects and the decorum of rural life.

“It's interesting for me to see the experiences from another side. I feel that it has helped me observe people and pay attention to these differences,” Kendall said.
When first working in the chamber, Kendall said her distance from traditional Sonorans gave her an outsider’s perspective. While in Trinidad and Tobago, Kendall went to and from her day job in Barataria, outside the capital of Port-of-Spain, in a packed transit bus.

She worked for 10 years in the financial department of a Toyota dealership in Trinidad and Tobago.

Though Kendall lived and grew up in the suburbs — which she said was comparable to Sonora — she worked in a city that was congested with commuters and workers.

“Coming here, you feel that difference. Because it's a small community, the friendliness of the people is more similar to what I’m used to,” Kendall said.

While learning what it was like to live in Sonora, Kendall learned the business environment could be improved by magnifying rural and suburban businesses that were not often given a platform.

“It was interesting for me, being like a tourist that was so well informed about the area and being able to share that with others,” she said.

Kendall said a lot of thought went into her decision to apply for the job.

But an interview with a panel of board members confirmed her knowledge of what the chamber represented and how it could grow.

“In that moment I knew I was the one for this position,” she said. “I felt like I would be a good asset to the members, to the chamber and to the board.”

Contact Giuseppe Ricapito at (209) 588-4526 or gricapito@uniondemocrat.com . Follow him on Twitter @gsepinsonora.

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