40 Years at the Berkeley County Chamber of Commerce

Article By: M.T. Decker
Photos By: Angela Cornwell

It’s rare these days when someone works in the same place for more than twenty years, but Susan Sanders has surpassed even that, having spent the last 40 years working for the Martinsburg/Berkeley County Chamber of Commerce.

Part of what has made the past 40 years possible is the Chamber of Commerce and its mission.

The Chamber of Commerce was established in 1926, almost 93 years ago and then, as now it was organized to help local businesses grow, network and better serve the community. They offer workshops, networking, history and a nine-month program called ‘Leadership Berkeley.’

“It’s a nine month course and each month focuses on a different aspect of community life, and leadership skills,” Susan explains.

“I learned so much about this community just by going through the program,” she added. “I’d lived here all my life, and I didn’t know all this. There were things that if someone had told me were true, I’d have told them they were wrong. It was so wonderful to learn what’s available in the community.

“This program and others like it are just some of what makes the Chamber of Commerce so unique.”I was hired on November 29th, 1978,” Susan told me, and that has given her a unique point of view when helping the businesses and people of Berkeley County.

“When I first started there was the executive director and myself. And as the years passed and the chamber grew, and the area grew we now have three people at the Chamber of Commerce, our President and CEO Tina Combs, Our Marketing and Events Assistant, Natalie Cline and myself, I am the office manager.

Additionally, the Chamber of Commerce is rounded out by their board with Susan Snowden serving as Chair, Tracy Rohrbaugh as Chair-Elect, C.D. Linton as Vice-Chair and Pam Neely as Treasurer.

Currently, Berkeley County is growing rapidly, and the Chamber is working to keep up with the growth while providing support and information for the community.

With it’s proximity to the interstate and the transportation available, many people are moving out from the suburbs of Baltimore and Washington, and the Chamber of Commerce is working to keep up with the growth.

“The whole Eastern Panhandle is growing,” Susan explains, proud to be a part of that growth.

Today, the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Chamber of Commerce is supported by over 500 businesses and works with thousands of volunteers to work for a better community.

In addition to serving the businesses, the Chamber of Commerce also helps connect people to businesses and opportunities within the community.Having grown up in Berkley County, Susan knows it’s history, how it has changed over the years and is part of the guiding hand to help direct it forward into the future. She is proud, not only of the community but how it has grown and that she has been a part of that growth.

Talking about the Chamber of Commerce, Susan told me, “we were incorporated in 1926, and since I joined, we’ve been in three locations. I started on West Burke Street; I was hired by the executive director, Vic Roberts. We moved to the Borman Arts center, and we spent about seven years there, and then we moved here to the Viking Way Commons, which was previously the Community College and before that, it was part of the Tanger Outlet Center.

Martinsburg has a history of reinventing itself, and Susan remembers that the buildings that now comprise the Judicial Center were once part of the Outlet Malls, which in turn were once factories.

Having roots in the community, Susan had family members who worked in those factories, and she has watched as the community has grown and changed, and through it all, she has been not only part of the city, but part of the growth through the Chamber of Commerce.

When I asked her about the purpose of the Chamber of Commerce, Susan told me, “We’re here to help our partners, to help our businesses and to help the community.”

“This (the area around the commons) all used to be farmland, and to see all the changes of the years, even the past 20-25 years, it’s remarkable,” Susan told me as we were discussing the changes.

“You can imagine, living here all my life. I’ve seen all the changes, I lived in Downtown Martinsburg, I can remember when the streets were paved for the first time.”

I’ve seen a lot, and I love to see that the downtown area is coming back and being revitalized,” Susan added happily. “it’s just been one learning experience after another.”

That is part of what Susan loves about her job, there is so much to learn, and it keeps things fresh.

She loves answering people’s questions and getting them the information they need.

“It gets frustrating when you get bounced around from one department to another,” she explains. “What we (the Chamber of Commerce) do is try to get people to the right place to get things taken care of.”

“All three of us try to help everybody who comes through our door or calls on the phone,” she added talking about her fellow staff members.

“We are fully funded by our members,” she added proudly, pleased that the community is working together to make something special.

It’s part of what has kept Susan working for the Chamber for the past 40 years. And it is clear that she plans on working to help the community for many years to come.

To learn more about the Chamber of commerce, you can visit them at their office in Viking Way Commons or check them out online at: www.berkeleycounty.org

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