Incoming Peace River & District Chamber of Commerce president Layne Gardner, right, accepts congratulations and best wishes from outgoing president Peter Herritt. All photos courtesy of Photography by Lori.

Emily Plihal
Local Journalism
Initiative Reporter

Peace River & District Chamber of Commerce held its annual general meeting on Jan. 18 and has some major changes to its board.
Long-time president Peter Herritt has completed his term, with Layne Gardner replacing him. Heidi Dube has been moved into the position of first vice-president and Brandon Huberts is now second vice-president. They also elected two new board of directors in Kim Gagnon and Jordan Richards.
“I am proud to serve as the new chamber president,” says Gardner.
“I have been on the board of directors for several years now and it is now time for me to take on this role. I think there are lots of exciting opportunities on the horizon in the Peace Country and I look forward to collaborating with other organizations in the area to realize some of those opportunities.”
Gardner is also chair of the recently formed Economic Development Committee for the Town of Peace River.
“I hope that by serving on those two boards that I can help the two organizations find synergies and work together to make positive changes for our community,” he says.
“I am surrounded by fantastic individuals on both boards who care deeply and passionately about our area and I am so excited to work with them,” he adds.
Gardner explains the chamber’s executive of the board of directors is set up as a natural succession plan. An individual is first nominated and elected to the second vice-president role for two years, then they are moved to first vice-president, and then finally to the president role.
“When you join as a director, it is assumed that you will eventually move into the executive roles,” says Gardner.
“The setup is done so that by the time you become president, you have some experience with the board and the chamber and how it operates.”
Gardner explains outgoing president Peter Herritt served a slightly longer term as president when he stepped in for former president Justin Hicks when he moved due to work. Herritt served for two and a half years, serving the remainder of Hicks’ term and his two-year commitment.
Gardner says the chamber organizes many events throughout the year, including the upcoming Davis Business Awards, Small Business Week, a Trade Show, Santa Claus Parade, and their annual golf tournament.
“We will continue to host monthly meetings with a variety of guest speakers for our general membership,” he explains.
“We hope to work more closely with the previously mentioned Economic Development Committee to help new business and economic opportunities get established in the Peace Country,” he adds. “We will also continue to work closely and collaboratively with our municipal partners and continue advocating for the businesses we represent.”
Executive members also attend provincial and federal chamber of commerce meetings to learn what is available and what can be added to the opportunities offered in Peace River.
“We represent 170 plus businesses, and we are always welcoming new businesses to join as members so that we can help them to thrive and succeed,” says Gardner.
“We work hard to offer many value adds to our businesses through exposure events such as the Trade Show, peer recognition of excellence and achievement through our Davis Awards, community spirit and celebration through events like the Santa Claus Parade and Light up the Park. We support shop local initiatives with our Passport to Christmas program among many other things.”
The chamber also provides workshops and programs to help businesses during Small Business Week. Gardner says the team devotes countless hours to support business and make things better for the surrounding communities.
“We are there to offer support through programs and different initiatives brought down through the various levels of chamber of commerce,” he explains.
“We are the advocates for our business community when it comes to the various levels of government. We are community partners and community builders with the different events and programs we host. We strive to make life easier and better and more rewarding for the businesses and our communities.”
The chamber will be hosted its annual Davis Awards Jan. 28. They have released the list of three finalists in each category and will announce the winners for each category at the gala event. Categories include: Industry Leadership Sponsorship, Business of the Year (one for under 10 employees and one for over 10 employees), Customer Service Excellence, President’s Davis Award, and Community Spirit.
“The finalists are selected after results are collected from a survey that we send out to our membership and public,” he says. “The votes are tabulated, and active chamber member businesses are eligible.”
Gardner says interested businesses are urged to join. The chamber has an annual membership fee, a fee which also provides many perks they have available. Member businesses can also submit their name to join the board of directors to become directly involved with day-to-day operations of the chamber.
“We are a group of volunteers who volunteer our time because we care deeply about Peace River and area and believe passionately in giving back to our community,” he says.
“None of the events we host throughout the year would be possible without the people who volunteer their time to the chamber. To each of the members of the board of directors and our office staff, I personally say thank you for caring and giving so much of yourselves to help to make a difference. Ideas don’t happen without the people to execute those ideas.”
Gardner says he’d like to see more new faces get involved with the chamber, he says new people bring new ideas and perspectives and keep an organization fresh.
“We are all just normal members but feel strongly that the only way we can make a difference and make changes happen is to be the people actually doing it and being a part of it,” explains Garder.
“Ideas are just ideas until people make the idea a reality. Without people executing ideas, we have nothing.”

Part of the Peace River & District Chamber of Commerce executive. Left-right are outgoing president Peter Herritt, president Layne Gardner, and first vice-president Heidi Dube.
Layne Gardner, right, signs his oath as president. Witnessing is Kristian Andres from Harcourt Law Group.
Peace River & District Chamber of Commerce manager Ramona Thoma, left, outgoing president Peter Herritt, and incoming president: Layne Gardner, during the meeting.