YARMOUTH — The Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce has hired Andrew Smaha as its executive director, following the resignation of Carolyn Schuster.
Smaha, 38, will start his new position on Aug. 24.
Schuster, who was with the chamber for 17 years, announced her resignation in June and left shortly after Smaha was officially hired on July 23.
Smaha, a resident of Freeport, has worked for the past four years as a conference director for Smither’s Information in Falmouth. He said he’s excited about working for the chamber because its emphasis is local.
“I’m looking forward to working with something that will have an impact on a local community,” he said. “I really wanted to do something that would promote the local economy and Maine’s economy.”
Brian Bartlett, president of the chamber board of directors, said Smaha was hired because of his experience.
“We were very impressed by his diverse experience in business development anchored in the events industry, his professional, systems-oriented approach to running an organization, his sincere passion for building strong Maine communities, and his vision for the town of Yarmouth,” Bartlett said in a press release.
Despite his experience, Smaha said he knows there will be a lot he can’t learn until he’s doing the job.
“The greatest challenge is that there’s a giant amount of information you learn on the job,” he said. “There’s a learning curve.”
Smaha said he has talked with Schuster and she has agreed to train him and be available when he has questions.
Smaha said he already has some ideas for things he wants to do as executive director, including creating a stronger connection between the schools and businesses.
“There’s no denying that Yarmouth’s education system is state of the art,” Smaha said. “I want to strengthen the ties between businesses and education.”
He said he also wants businesses to have access to more educational tools and resources, and wants the chamber to collaborate more with organizations in surrounding towns and cities.
“I think there are a lot of shared resources we could rely on,” he said.
Smaha said he also wants the chamber to host more seminars and conferences and to “diversify revenue sources beyond the Clam Festival.” He said he’s looking forward to working on the Clam Festival each year, but also wants to find other ways to attract people to Yarmouth.
“It’s absolutely critical that we have a diverse business community on Main Street, keep it pedestrian-friendly, and make a Main Street that caters to the interests and needs of all citizens,” Smaha said.
He said he believes Yarmouth is “open-minded and ready” for “a new wave of investment.”
Bartlett said Smaha’s vision is another reason he was hired.
“As the Chamber celebrates more than 50 years of serving the Yarmouth business community, Andrew will be integral to taking our organization into the future,” he said.
Despite the desire for growth, Smaha said he will try to help maintain what makes Yarmouth special.
“That core feeling of who Yarmouth is as a town, that’s not going to change,” he said.