Column: A long and productive career honoured

Chamber of Commerce says thank you and farewell to retiring executive director

After more than 30 years of managing the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce, Lynn Whitehouse is retiring.

As was noted at a retirement party for her last Thursday, she touched and changed a lot of lives during that period.

Her friend, well-known speaker Peter Legge, likened her to George Bailey in the classic movie It’s a Wonderful Life, whose influence in a town he stayed in largely out of loyalty was far more than he had ever realized.

In many communities, the chamber of commerce is seen as exclusively a voice for the business community, with little interest in non-profits, social issues or the health of the overall community. That is not the case in Langley.

Whitehouse (#LangleyLynn online) has been key to ensuring that the chamber has a strong connection with non-profits and community events.

Langley is a very giving community, as has been proven again and again, and she has used the connectivity the chamber excels at to boost the profile and ensure the success of innumerable fundraisers for worthy causes.

In doing so, she did not forget the importance of the business community.

She has urged chamber members and boards to take strong stands on many issues, with one of the most recent and most successful being pressure on the federal government to keep the Aldergrove border crossing open for commercial transactions.

The government had all but finalized its decision to turn the crossing into an individual traveller-only crossing, with commercial entries directed to either the Pacific Highway or Huntingdon crossings.

More clearly than anyone else, she saw how that would lessen many advantages held by Langley businesses, and fought back with every means at her disposal.

The Aldergrove crossing offers a direct route to and from the U.S. from Gloucester industrial Park, and is convenient for virtually all Langley businesses. Losing the ability to bring in goods or export through Aldergrove would have been a significant blow, and likely would have had a significant impact on the local economy.

She consistently urged her board to submit resolutions to both the B.C. and Canadian chambers of commerce which would benefit Langley businesses, and to lobby local governments.

One issue that she championed was mobile business licences for tradespeople — something that has been adopted by an increasing number of municipalities in the Lower Mainland, and is a massive benefit for small businesses.

Voting has also been on her radar screen. The chamber sponsored a series of events, most notably lunch meetings with the leaders of the three major political parties as the 2013 provincial election approached, to boost voter participation. It also urged its members to get their employees to vote. It continued to do so in the 2014 municipal election campaign, and voter interest and turnout in Langley did go up in both elections.

She encouraged members of her staff, and members of the chamber, to engage in personal development and growth – a point made clearly by numerous speakers at Thursday’s event. She also was sought out by current and wannabe politicians for one-on-one meetings, about specific issues and about potential candidacies.

On every occasion, her first question was, “Why?”

Over her years as chamber manager and executive director, she oversaw numerous moves, participation in innumerable community events, a building fund which allowed the chamber to move a year ago into a new office near 200 Street and 80 Avenue while remaining debt-free, and amalgamation with the Fort Langley and Aldergrove chambers.

She did all this while remaining careful with her words and actions, encouraging of new business operators, gracious and direct with politicians and the media, and hard-working in the extreme.

She has indeed touched many lives — and she has made Langley a much better place than it was 30 years ago.

Here’s wishing her a very happy retirement, and hoping she will stay involved in the community while enjoying more time with her family and her precious grandchildren.

Retired Langley Times editor Frank Bucholtz continues to share  his thoughts on all things political on his Frankly Speaking blog, frankbucholtz.blogspot.ca.