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Tracy Frank, Published April 24 2009

West Fargo chamber director stepping down

Chris Barton is stepping down May 6 from her role as executive director of the West Fargo Area Chamber of Commerce.

She will become director of sales for the Hilton Garden Inn under construction at 4351 17th Ave. S. in Fargo. The hotel is expected to open this fall, Barton said.

Barton debated for two weeks whether to take the job.

“My heart’s always been in the chamber,” she said.

But she has also spent a lot of time in the hospitality industry.

“Once you’re in the hospitality world, it never really leaves your blood,” she said.

Barton has been with the chamber for five years.

In that time, she has taken it from 250 to 452 members, created a business mentorship program and networking opportunities, and turned the West Fest Community Days celebration and Big Event fundraiser into bigger, more exciting events, among other accomplishments, said Don Gronke, chairman of the West Fargo Chamber board.

“We’re sad to see her go,” said Gronke, a State Farm Insurance agent. “She has definitely helped the chamber grow dramatically and we appreciate it.”

Barton was not looking for another position, but Hilton Garden Inn approached her, she said.

“Watching something go from just a pile of wood to a full-service hotel is going to be fun,” Barton said.

Barton said she will miss working with chamber members and volunteers. She said she is proudest of the membership growth.

“When we started to see the growth, then everybody else got excited,” Barton said. “It was certainly a team effort.”

The chamber board has started a nationwide search to fill the position. It hopes to name a new director at its annual awards breakfast on May 14.

West Fargo Mayor Rich Mattern said Barton will be hard to replace.

“She was very engaged with the city,” he said. “She really worked hard to help promote the city.”

The West Fargo Chamber has previously been approached about joining the Chamber of Commerce of Fargo Moorhead, but did not consider the move when Barton decided to resign, Gronke said.

“We feel as the board of directors that we have a very successful chamber,” Gronke said. “A lot of our members have told us they like a smaller chamber.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526