Debbie Miller, president, Woodland Park Chamber
Debbie Miller’s description of the Greater Woodland Park Chamber of Commerce as “chamber heaven” seems an apt description for a “city above the clouds.”
The description is more of a personal reference about the organization’s size and proximity to a major metropolis, Colorado Springs, said Miller, who is president of the organization.
Miller came to Woodland Park from a much larger chamber of commerce in Mount Pleasant, S.C., which has a population of about 50,000. She found the demands of a chamber that size took her away from her husband and son.
And when her mother passed away it drove home a lesson about balance that now drives everything else in Miller’s life.
“I had to take a step back and realize what’s really important in life,” she said. “That led me to come to Colorado and to look for a smaller chamber to restore that balance in my life.”
She discovered the GWPCC was a perfect size for other reasons, too.
“The setting of this smaller chamber allows me to be more hands-on than at my prior chamber,” Miller said. “I refer to it as chamber heaven.”
Miller traces her desire for public service to the time she walked into an Illinois state representative as a young woman to volunteer. That led to a career running campaigns for legislators and gave her an invaluable understanding of politics.
“That was the most valuable education — all hands-on — I ever had,” she said. “One of the state r epresentatives I worked for won his first election by 63 votes out of more than 100,000. That had an immediate impact on me that your vote really does count — as does participating in the community. You may not see the fruits of that service immediately, but it’s something your grandchildren might see later.”
She knows. Miller and her husband Jeffrey Wells have three grandchildren now.
As far as the chamber goes, Miller had an immediate impact. She boosted membership 8 percent in the first year, has retained 89 percent membership and used her political savvy to help the city council rewrite Woodland Park’s comprehensive plan.
“I’ve worked to add value to the membership dollars,” she said. “There’s value in having my bi-county political relationships in the legislative area. Business owners too often focus only on the bottom line. … But government can pass demanding regulations and pass laws that affect those businesses.”
Her volunteer work with Junior Achievement creates an opportunity for her to mentor students, but she also mentors young business professionals.
“My personal goals are to give back to this industry that gave so much to me. There are new people coming into the business world and I’m looking to help them. There’s such a reward for doing that,” Miller said.
Miller was elected this year chairwoman of the Colorado Chamber of Commerce Executives and chairwoman of the Southern Colorado Business Partnership.
Despite the demands of those leadership roles, Miller seems to have maintained her balance.
“My family and faith are number one,” she said. “Number two is making a difference within the community from a professional standpoint and giving everything I can offer. … I’m a firm believer that you reap what you sow. That results in community activities and giving back. The reward and accomplishment is that I’m able to help and we’re seeing growth in our community.”
By Dennis Huspeni