Edmonds Chamber members, volunteers reeling after departure of beloved membership director

Valerie Claypool
Valerie Claypool

Many Edmonds Chamber of Commerce members and volunteers were shocked Oct. 27 by the news that the chamber’s tireless membership and events director, Valerie Claypool, was leaving the organization.

After all, Claypool had just returned Oct. 20 from a 10-day trip leading a delegation of 30 business owners and community members to China, and during that time had spoken enthusiastically about the chamber projects that awaited her in Edmonds when she returned, recalled Sno-King Signs owner Randy Hutchins, a long-time chamber member who went on the trip.

A news release sent out to chamber members, volunteers and the media Monday, Oct. 27 stated this: “On behalf of the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce, the Board of Directors and the entire Edmonds Chamber of Commerce membership, we would like to extend our deepest thanks and appreciation to Valerie Claypool for her many years of service as the Membership & Events Director of the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce.”

The reaction from the chamber’s rank-and-file members and volunteers, and some of its board members, was swift, as most of them were unaware that Claypool was leaving. The exception was the chamber’s executive committee, which had approved Chamber President and CEO Greg Urban’s decision to let Claypool go, said one veteran board member who spoke on the condition of complete anonymity.

Some board members were inundated by email inquiries from concerned and – in some cases angry – chamber members and volunteers. My Edmonds News received copies of some of those communications directly from business members who sent them, unsolicited, to us. Several of the chamber’s long-time volunteers also said in interviews that they were devastated by the news. Claypool was particularly known for her caring attitude toward all those who donated countless hours toward chamber events, from the Taste of Edmonds, to the annual Fourth of July parade and fireworks show, to the Edmonds Classic Car Show.

Neither Urban nor the executive committee will talk publicly about the specific reasons for Claypool leaving. Claypool herself said she prefers to take the high road, issuing a statement thanking “the community for all the phone calls, emails and letters written on my behalf.”

The board member who spoke with us said that not everyone on the board was in agreement with the decision that she be let go. Chamber Executive Committee Chairman Jack Loos said in an email that “since this is an HR matter, I cannot go into particulars,” adding “we have decided to go in a different direction.”

In a brief interview, Claypool proudly noted that during her two-and-a-half years with the organization, she doubled the membership to nearly 500 members. Her stellar sales performance was mentioned by many of those who questioned her leaving the chamber. “We’ve never had a salesperson in this chamber like this,” said Jim Meisenburg, who for many years has served as volunteer chair of the annual chamber-sponsored Edmonds Classic Car Show and also had a long career himself in sales. “[Valerie] made you feel good about sponsoring, buying things, going on trips, it doesn’t matter.”

Claypool, a former real estate agent who spent four years working as a volunteer on chamber events before being hired as membership and events director in 2012,  “was so easy to work with,” Meisenburg said. “She was the first one there, the last one to leave, she’d roll up her sleeves, no matter what it took. “

“All these festivals that the community is known for, that the community loves and are attached to, are going to be impacted” by Claypool’s departure, Meisenburg said.

“I’m just sick about, I really am,” Edmonds retiree Linda McCullough said of the news that Claypool was leaving. For years, McCullough has been volunteering at the chamber’s Log Cabin visitors center located across from the chamber offices. She also works the registration table at chamber events, staffs the information booth at the car show and serves wine in the Taste of Edmonds wine garden.

“Valerie has really established a rapport with all of the volunteers at the cabin that hasn’t been there before,” McCullough said. “She’s been so nice and so good and supportive of what we need.” Claypool was also “really good about recognizing people,” she said.

“She really brought life to Edmonds that wasn’t there before and I think it will be really difficult to replace that feeling that people in town have for her,” McCullough said.

Danielle Doster, a 27-year-old Edmonds native who started volunteering with the chamber as a college student, said that Claypool had a unique ability to “draw the younger generation in.”

“I am somebody who wants to give back to my community,” Doster said. “You don’t have a lot of people my age who are wanting to participate. I honestly believe that without her (Claypool) there, they are going to struggle significantly to get younger people involved.

“Valerie went out of her way to make a different connection with each person she came into contact with, each one of her vendors, sponsors, volunteers. Each one of those people have a special connection with her,” Doster said.

Many chamber members also expressed their dismay at losing someone who worked as hard to promote their individual businesses, as she did to promote the chamber itself.

“I always look forward to events with Valerie,” said Terri Hardan of Kafe Neo, an Edmonds Chamber member business that frequently caters chamber events. “She is a bright light and a joy to work with. I can’t express how disappointed I am to hear the news that she is leaving.”

Claypool’s organizational skills “allow her to see the total picture and at the same time be able to pay attention to detail,” wrote Sno-King Signs’ Hutchins in a letter to the Chamber of Commerce Board. “She works cohesively with the chairs of all the events, and can get things done on the fly to make the event look easy.”

Urban declined a request to be interviewed for this article, but he did say that the vacant position has been posted to the Chamber website and will also be listed elsewhere.

“There are no major changes with the position, unless the chosen candidate is able to take on new responsibilities,” Urban said in an email. Resumes will be accepted until 5 p.m. Nov. 15, with phone and in-person interviews to follow.

“I hope to identify and introduce a new person by the second week of December,” he said.

As for Claypool, she is reviewing other job opportunities and is already making plans to put together another trip to China — affiliated with an organization other than the Edmonds Chamber — as well as a reunion for those who went on the trip in October.

“It’s been a privilege to work in the community,” she said. “I appreciate the generosity of all the sponsors, Log Cabin information center volunteers, ambassadors, the committee and event chairs, the Downtown Edmonds Merchants Association, the Edmonds Museum and all the departments within the City of Edmonds. Mostly, I want to acknowledge the numerous hours and tireless energy of so many volunteers. I am sure in some capacity I will work with them, if not all of you, again soon in the future.”


  1. I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Valerie, but she sure does have a lot of fans. With a reputation and stats like this, she won’t be looking for long. Perplexing move by the chamber bosses, makes no sense. Talent like this is hard to come by.

  2. Valerie was always competent & enthusiastic. When can we expect an explain action for her termination?

  3. It is a sad loss for the Edmonds Chamber and community. Valerie is a dedicated, ethical, and hard working individual who increased membership for the chamber to a one-time high. In my opinion it seems to be a poorly thought-out decision by the executive board to use the excuse of “a different direction” for the second time this year after the chamber board created an environment that led to former CEO Kyle Vixie’s decision to move on. It’s sad to see that dedicated and capable personnel have become scape goats for inadequacy in Chamber leadership. I am vested in this community and only want the best for Edmonds, which is why I am speaking out about this issue.

  4. As a Chamber Ambassador and volunteer for our weekly networking breakfasts and other events, I find it difficult to believe the Edmonds Chamber has let Valerie go. It is hard to imagine anyone else beginning to replace the incredible energy, enthusiasm, knowledge and abilities of Valerie. She brought life to every event she was involved in and we will miss her tremendously. Makes no sense.

  5. I am having a hard time putting my reaction to Valerie’s dismissal from the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce into words. Currently, I am an active volunteer and a Chamber Ambassador. In no way could I imagine myself as involved in the Edmonds community if it wasn’t for the gentle and consistent persuasion of Valerie Claypool. From the minute I walked into my first meeting, she made me feel welcome and, dare I say, special. She encouraged me at every turn to connect just a little bit more. My experience with the Chamber has been wonderful, and when I say with the Chamber, I mean my experience with Valerie. She is tireless and enthusiastic. Valerie has an uncanny way of finding out peoples’ gifts and encouraging them to grow. To say the least, I am stunned by the decision. I cannot imagine participating at the same level in the Chamber without her encouragement and guidance.

  6. My short earlier response was edited by spell check, the question is, “when might the community expect an explanation for this action?” Since at least one of the board members was on the China trip while this decision was made, it seems due process was circumvented.

  7. I too was stunned when I read the announcement of Valerie “leaving”. Valerie loved her job and put her heart and soul into every event. She has been the “face” of the Chamber even though I first joined she was only in a volunteer position. Because of that, I believe Valerie knows that volunteers are the life blood of organizations such as this Chamber. I personally witnessed donations of over $10,000 to local charities from two sponsored Chamber events. The Taste of Edmonds and the Car show. Losing Valerie could also be the loss of many thousand of dollars to local charities.

  8. To answer Kathleen Hashbarger, due process was not circumvented. The Board does not have input for HR decisions. The decision was made by the ceo who is charged with all HR issues. As far as I know, there will be no explanation coming from the chamber. HR issues are rarely aired in public. (Look what is going on with the Debi Humann case.) The chamber is not a public entity and has no duty to report to the community.

    Full disclosure: I am a long time board member & do not agree with the decision. I have made this VERY well known to the leadership of the chamber.

  9. In this case, how can the Chamber of Commerce for Edmonds not be a “public” entity when it has an office, right in front, at and IN Townhall in our GOVERNMENT offices and building downtown?……Am I missing something here?

    There are International and National guidelines for the Chambers of Commerce entities all over the world including the guidelines for certified CEOS/heads, boards, etc of Chambers of Commerce. I believe this has been true since the early 1900s. Perhaps I’ve missed something here?!

    1. Each Chamber of Commerce is its own non-profit, membership driven, entity. It’s not a franchise. For example, every CofC operates per a set of bylaws but each organization drafts their own set tailored to their local community and needs.

      As for the Edmonds CofC office, they have been in that location for at least 17 years. They are simply rent paying tenants in the City Hall building. They have a separate entry. They are not a part of any level of government be it city, county, state or federal.

      Hope that answers some of your questions.

  10. Looks like it might be time to take a closer look at the CEO…if HR decisions are made by that person, who fired the second most recent one three months ago?
    I am a community volunteer, was present on the China trip, and was simply staggered by the news. Valerie not only was a delight to work with, always positive and ready for any action necessary, including above and beyond duty, she attended events when it was mot required of her to do so. She is such a total supporter of good things for Edmonds!
    And I appreciate Chris Fleck’s remarks. Thank you! Would love to hear from additional Chamber Board members, especially those who supported the ousting.

  11. Again, anybody can easily research this and probably come up with some possible answers. Its a shame regarding the court thing in Seattle and it is unpleasant that hundreds of volunteers here are reeling from this Chamber thing……..not saying the two are connected but most times transparency in all organizations whether government or private is a good idea

  12. It’s so sad that this type of things is still happening after 2 1/2 years in 2012. The Chamber board at that time seemed to have other agenda items of their own which weren’t necessarily is the best interest of the Chamber (in my opinion). Before being let go in March of 2012 after 17 years of service to the Chamber there were plans in the works for hiring Valerie as a move forward plan, but the board had decided to go with their own agenda. It did include hiring Valerie and others and now has been 6 hires in 2 1/2 years with only two left. Like I stated in the Debi Humann case, I guess that doing your job and what’s “right” doesn’t always mean you will be allowed to keep doing it and that’s a shame! And to add salt to the wound it’s like being shunned from the community that you love, live in, and worked in.

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