New chamber office manager brings lots of experience to job

Scott Swanson

Melody Jordan Reese has been office manager for the Sweet Home Chamber of Commerce for less than a month, but this isn’t new territory for her.

Her fingerprints have been all over the chamber’s website and Facebook pages since April, when she joined the chamber staff as marketing manager.

But Reese already had been involved in Sweet Home as regional coordinator for the nonprofit Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network, commonly known as RAIN, which works to help entrepreneurs, local startups, development organizations and investors connect in the local community.

“That’s how I got connected into the community of Sweet Home,” she said.

Reese, 30, has actually been connected to a wide range of activities between the time she graduated from high school in Santa Maria, Calif., home of Santa Maria barbecue, and her current role. She’s fronted a country rock band that played some of the top venues in Hollywood, Calif. She’s been a horse enthusiast, a hair stylist, a personal trainer and a social media practitioner, among other things.

She was born and lived in the Fresno, Calif., area through her elementary years, where her dad was part of a country music band.

“They played all the big festivals,” she said. “I grew up with all of that. I grew up with the Marshall Tucker Band, Dwight Yoakam, George Strait. I grew up singing.”

After graduating from high school, she attended the Paul Mitchell Beauty School in Santa Barbara, then moved to Los Angeles, where she worked as a hairdresser at a “rockabilly” barber shop and performed nights in Hollywood with a number of different bands as well as a solo acoustic artist.

After six years in Southern California, Reese moved to the Albany area in 2016 due to family connections, she said. She eventually landed in Lebanon.

“When I moved up here, I ended my hairdressing career,” she said. She got a job in a small family-owned business and that got her interested in small businesses and economics.

Pregnant with her daughter, she also earned certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine as a personal trainer and then founded Mighty Mama in Pajamas, a fitness training and motivational business serving women in various stages of motherhood.

“To promote my services, I started going to networking events, which is how I got connected with Oregon RAIN,” she said.

In August of 2019 she joined the organization for six months as a regional coordinator, working with Corey Wright, RAIN’s venture catalyst for Linn and Benton counties. She coordinated networking and educational events for cities and local businesses, including all the communication required for planning and following up on those.

Her background in multiple arenas helped in her work with RAIN and will now, with the chamber, she said.

“I’ve tried a lot of things and had a lot of experiences. I try to find the common theme in all of that, bringing people together and connecting people. I like to encourage and support, to see people succeed and do well, and if I can play a part in that, awesome.”

Her work with RAIN got her involved in Sweet Home and, when her six-month contract ended, the Sweet Home Chamber of Commerce needed an office manager, so she applied. The chamber ended up splitting the job between Diana Kelly, who took over in April as office manager, and Reese, who became marketing manager.

Handling those needs, particularly social media outreach, was a natural fit for her.

“I’ve been doing that for a long time,” Reese said. “I started when I was 8, when I was introduced to AOL. I taught myself graphic design and HTML.”

By the time she was 12, she’d built her own website, complete with online instruction in computer programming.

“I put HTML tutorials on it,” she said. “This was pre-WordPress, back in the Napster days.

Through the summer Reese put together about a dozen live online video interviews with local business owners who were chamber members, to help local residents connect with the business community.

Those have been “really fun,” she said. “It’s really cool, seeing the personalities, the faces behind the businesses.” She also produced and engineered the chamber’s virtual awards ceremony in September.

When Kelly stepped down, shortly after the awards ceremony, Reese took over the office management duties as well, along with receptionist Savannah Young. Reese almost immediately began planning for the future.

“We’ve been trying to get creative, figuring out how to keep supporting the business community here through this pandemic,” she said. “With more people at home, more people are online. If you’re going to stay on top of things, you need to be online, and live video is a really great way to stand out.”

She plans to roll out a series of online webinars on various aspects of business development, starting with “Live Video 101” on Monday, Oct. 12.

“I’ll be teaching the ins and outs of live video – why it’s important, how it can help you stand out, how to get over the fear of going live – the bare basics,” Reese said. A second installment, Live Video 201, slated for release two weeks later on Oct. 26, will focus on more technique, tools and software.

She plans another two-parter in November on search engine optimization (SEO) and another in December on cohesive design for a business’s online platforms and how to avoid common pitfalls in branding that can affect customer retention.

“I do a lot here,” Reese said, and she’s learning the administrative and accounting side. “I obviously have a background in events and marketing. I love Sweet Home. I love the rivers and lakes.”

She said one of her biggest goals is “just staying connected with our members and with our partners, the businesses of Sweet Home, and the local neighborhoods.”

“I would like to see them thrive.”