New C of C manager pleased with move from Alaska to East Linn Co.

Alex Paul

Carla Claasen brings 26 years of experience in the grocery industry to her new part-time position as Chamber of Commerce manager.

Claasen took over her new duties September 1 and says it is a natural since she spent many years working with the Chamber in Ketchikan, Alaska, her hometown.

“I love it already,” Claasen said.

Starting as a grocery store checker at the age of 14, Claasen worked her way up into management for two large Alaska grocery chains.

“We made lots of shipments to logging camps and to fishing boats,” Claasen said. “As the logging industry tapered down, the cruise ship business picked up. It wasn’t unusual to get an order for 400 gallons of milk or 200 pounds of rice.”

Claasen said her business and Chamber training have “ingrained me to shop at home.”

It during a Chamber of Commerce event in Craig, Alaska that Claasen met her husband, Randy. He was then mayor of Thorne Bay. They met in 1994 and married in 1998. They have two grown children by a former marriage, Paul Claasen, 23 and Autumn Johnson, 27.

“Randy had worked for many years for Ketchikan Pulp Company but after we got together, he worked for our grocery chain and then was recruited by a barge line to be their shipping manager,” Claasen said.

It was her husband’s 30th class reunion that brought them southward.

“We attended his class reunion in 2002 and that winter we moved here,” Claasen said. “It was a big leap for me since I’d never lived anywhere but Ketchikan–but I am very happy.”

Claasen said she likes being able to drive to the coast or the mountains for an afternoon, or to take off for Montana to visit relatives. Travel is not so simple in Alaska.

“I like the fact that both Ketchikan and Sweet Home are small towns, that they are timber towns and that people have space to live without being on top of one another,” Claasen said.

She also likes the fact that although some persons believe it rains a lot in the Willamette Valley, our 46 inches per year can’t compare to Ketchikan’s 186 inches.

Claasen said her 10 years in Chamber projects taught her that businesses need to receive benefits from their memberships, “not just be asked for donations.”

“It’s important for people to realize that businesses need to make a profit while also giving back to their communities,” she said.

For example, this year’s lighted holiday parade will have a People’s Choice award for which the public will need to visit local merchants to cast their ballot.

“I also want to tie together sales events from local businesses into a community promotion,” Claasen said. “We should have fun and help businesses make money.”

Chamber board members are Larry Blem, president; Todd Branson, vice president; Karla Burcham, secretary; Patty Hankins, Sue Olson, Billie Weber and Greg Downs.

Claasen said she will work with JOBS Plus and the county training and development programs to develop staffing.

“I also think it’s important that we tie into events at the Linn County Fairgrounds,” Claasen said. “Let’s say there’s a big show there that brings people to the county for several days. If we work together, we could have something planned in Sweet Home that would draw people here for an evening.”

Although she lives near Brownsville, Claasen said she considers herself a resident of East Linn county. She was drafted onto Alice Grovom’s city beautification committee soon after arriving in the area.

“I’m very happy here,” Claasen said. “My mother-in-law has been very active at the Crawfordsville Bridge Day and that drew us into that event as well.”

Her husband is an assistant baseball coach at Central Linn High School.