Chamber picks new leader

Published 9:23 pm Thursday, January 23, 2014

By Karen Washburn


Andrew J. Cripps will begin serving the Isle of Wight-Smithfield-Windsor Chamber of Commerce as its new president and chief executive officer on Jan. 28.

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Cripps, who has more than 14 years of experience as a Chamber of Commerce executive, was selected unanimously by the board of directors earlier this month.

Cripps’ experience includes tenures as chief executive officer of the Greater Wildwood Chamber of Commerce in New Jersey, the Ormond Beach Chamber of Commerce and the Sumter County Chamber of Commerce, both in Florida.

“The Isle of Wight-Smithfield-Windsor Chamber offers a great opportunity for me to work with a dedicated board of directors and a talented professional staff and volunteers, who are all committed to helping local businesses thrive,” Cripps said.

“I am honored to be selected to follow the accomplishments of Constance Rhodes and excited to be part of a Chamber and a county that are well prepared for future success.”

Rhodes, who served as president and CEO for 30 years, is credited with transitioning the Chamber from a small to mid-sized organization.

“She focused on skillfully addressing the issues and trends affecting the business community,” said Lori Leib, board chairwoman. “She will be missed, but we certainly wish her well in this next chapter of her life.”

Leib believes that Cripps’ skills and experience will be just what is needed for the Chamber to continue moving forward.

“Andy’s background in media and public relations should serve us well as we continue to grow our membership.” Leib stated. “In addition, he has worked extensively with local governments. We look forward to his guidance as (the Chamber) continues to reach out to state and regional representatives.”

In Sumter County, Cripps was chief executive of the Chamber in Florida’s fastest growing county and helped it rebound from the loss of all government funding by developing new events and publications.

He said he is excited about leading a Chamber that is already well established and where he can focus on issues beyond just keeping the organization running.

“We can really focus on helping the business community and not be so worried about keeping the lights on and the doors open,” he explained, though he declined to go into details. “The Chamber’s goals will be set by the board of directors. My job is to facilitate the priorities and the agenda that they set.”

Leib praised Cripps’ past accomplishments and emphasized that growth means more than just increased membership, but also increased outreach to Chamber members and to the community at large.

“Andy’s Chamber experience and communication skills will be a great asset to this Chamber, and we are very excited to have him on board to be a part of the exciting future of Isle of Wight County,” she said

Cripps will relocate to Isle of Wight County with his wife, Diane, a history museum curator, and their 14-year-old son, Matthew. He said the family is excited about the move.

“Tidewater has always been a favorite place of my wife and I,” he said. “We vacationed there as kids and since we’ve been married. And of course, with my wife’s background, there’s the interest in all of the history there.”