CHATHAM — The new executive director of the Chatham Chamber of Commerce, Mary Cavanaugh, started work Monday. And while she’s focused now on unpacking boxes and meeting key people, she’s eager to get to work promoting the town’s businesses and encouraging economic development.
A Chatham summer resident since the early 1980s, Cavanaugh and her husband purchased land here in 2002 and built a home, and they’ve been full-time residents since late 2010. Before that, they lived in New Hampshire and Chicago, but she’s originally from Walpole, Mass. During her time on the Cape, she has worked with the Cape Cod Community College Educational Foundation and has lots of connections in the nonprofit and business communities.
While at the foundation, Cavanaugh helped the organization’s executive director complete a $3.7 million capital campaign to renovate the college’s nursing and health lab, along with a $1.5 million campaign to renovate the dental hygiene clinic. She managed special events and led the foundation’s scholarship and events committees. But having served the foundation since 2011, Cavanaugh felt it was time or a change.
“I was looking for more of a leadership position,” she said.
Cavanaugh takes the place of former chamber executive Lisa Franz, who stepped down in late March after serving for nearly a decade. She said she’s looking forward to working on behalf of chamber members – and she’s also excited about having a shorter commute to work.
“This just seemed like the right fit,” Cavanaugh said.
In addition to her work with the college, Cavanaugh has experience as a real estate sales agent, working most recently with Ricotta and Associates. She holds a degree in marketing from the University of Massachusetts and is a member of various nonprofit groups, including the Chatham Food Pantry, the Chatham Orpheum Theater, WE CAN and Philanthropy Partners of the Cape and the Islands.
While in the Chicago area, Cavanaugh was a board member for the Oak Park Education Foundation, a nonprofit group that works with area schools to bring enrichment activities to more than 3,000 students annually. She organized special events and conducted public relations and fundraising efforts.
Cavanaugh said her goal is to strengthen the chamber of commerce’s key ties in the community, “just fostering a great relationship between the chamber and the town and the residents.” That’s not just about promoting the goods and services at Chatham’s businesses, she said. “I’m looking forward to a lot of collaboration” with community groups, stakeholders and the chambers of commerce in surrounding towns, Cavanaugh said.
She spent time Monday meeting with board President Stephen Williams, who said he has ideas for new events, “or maybe bringing back some old ones,” with the goal of boosting commerce in the shoulder seasons. Focusing on the spring and fall seasons can help in “keeping the income flow to the businesses,” reducing the seasonality that can make it a challenge to operate a year-round restaurant or retail business in Chatham, she said.
Cavanaugh said she is aware of the move by selectmen to create a task force to examine ways to reduce the burden on young working families in town.
“We need to have a seat at that table,” she said. Even more important than attracting young families to town is finding ways to retain them, she added.
Cavanaugh is glad to have the support of the board and of the chamber’s “phenomenal operations staff,” like Danita Scribner, the operations manager, and the staff of the information center. On Monday, her first day, Cavanaugh was greeted at the info desk by Richard Hunter, the former deputy fire chief, who’s now providing helpful hints to visitors. If Hunter is any indication of the rest of the staff, “it’s going to be great,” she quipped.
“I’m just excited to be here and looking forward to the future,” Cavanaugh said.