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Former mayor returns as interim Healdsburg Chamber of Commerce director

There's a new but familiar face at the Healdsburg Chamber of Commerce.

Carla Howell, a former three-time Healdsburg mayor, was made interim director this month.

She replaces Maureen "Mo" McElroy, who resigned in July to pursue her own consulting business.

For the past 12 years, Howell has been head of chambers of commerce in three other communities: Cloverdale, Rohnert Park and Mendocino.

After five years as chamber chief in Cloverdale, her job ended in June when state redevelopment funds that subsidized the position dried up. She continued to do some economic development consulting for Cloverdale.

"I was available. It was synchronicity," Howell said of being hired in Healdsburg by the chamber's board of directors. "I'm back in the old homestead."

Howell said Healdsburg still has some redevelopment money for chamber programs that help administer business promotion and marketing campaigns. The funding is part of a three-year contract, which expires in mid-2013.

"Then we're in the same pickle as everyone else," she said, adding that one of the challenges is "how can we restructure our budget to deliver the same level of service when funding for the redevelopment agency goes away?"

She oversees a staff of three full-time and two part-time employees, which includes the Visitors Bureau.

Howell's contract is for six months, but she said, "I would very much like it to become a permanent position."

A resident of Healdsburg, she was elected to two terms on the City Council, serving from 1990 to 1998. Prior to that, she was on the city Planning Commission for 12 years.

Howell ran a children's clothing store, Cubbyhouse, for 28 years. The store on the Healdsburg Plaza closed in 2004. Another, in Santa Rosa's Montgomery Village, lasted until 2001.

You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or clark.mason@pressdemocrat.com

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