North Mason Chamber Members Reject Adding “Kitsap” to Name

Chambers from both counties will hold a “summit” on how to better coordinate their efforts.
By Chris Henry
The North Mason Chamber of Commerce won’t be adding “Kitsap” to its letterhead.
The proposal to change the name to Mason-Kitsap Chamber of Commerce was initiated by the chamber’s executive board. It failed to get the required two-thirds approval at a members’ meeting Wednesday at the Theler Community Center.
Thirty members voted for the measure to reference their neighboring county in the chamber’s name as part of a comprehensive bylaw update; thirty-nine voted against it. Total membership is 406. Members had the option to vote by proxy.
The intent of the name change, according to chamber president Mike Boyle, was to reflect the regional focus of the chamber.
“The buzz word if you want any grant money or stimulus funding is ‘regionalization,’” said Boyle, who serves on the Pacific Mountain Workforce Development Council, representing a five-county area. “Forget the boundaries. Forget the counties. The businesses don’t care.”
The name change also was a nod to the growing number of chamber members who hail from Kitsap, Boyle said. North Mason’s membership has nearly doubled in the last 18 months, and many new members work or live in Kitsap County.
But the proposal became a divisive issue generating heated discourse in North Mason and beyond.
“Judging by the retail leakage from Mason to Kitsap one could assume Kitsap is doing just fine without our help,” wrote Dan Mancuso, publisher of the Shelton-Mason County Journal in a Sept. 17 editorial. “And judging by the 23 business vacancies in Belfair, it would appear we need the chamber’s undivided attention to stay right here at home.”
Three of four Kitsap chambers of commerce weighed in with a letter to the North Mason chamber shortly before the vote. According to Mike Strube, president of the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce, the letter politely chastised North Mason for leaving its neighbors out of the loop.
“We would have liked to have had a little discussion before they took it to their membership,” Strube said.
Instead, the proposal was publicized after the North Mason Chamber’s board had already included the name change in an a draft update of the by-laws.
Representatives of the Bremerton Area Chamber of Commerce and the Silverdale Chamber of Commerce also signed the letter, which raised red flags over potential confusion that could result from Internet searches of the term “Kitsap.”
Division was evident among the chamber members who voted Wednesday.
“My first thought was it seemed a little presumptuous to assume Kitsap would be an appropriate name to include in North Mason. … It just didn’t feel right,” said member Linda Blackwell, former chamber secretary who retired in 2006 from the Port of Bremerton.
Blackwell voted against the name change in part because it appeared to discount smaller North Mason communities around Hood Canal.
Member Cassandra Hoffman of C.L. Hoffman Insurance Agency voted for the change saying, “I do a lot of business with both Kitsap and North Mason customers. I also like it because it gave us a sort of community togetherness.”
Boyle said friction over the name change has had a positive outcome. The four chambers have since agreed to hold a “summit” with an in depth discussion of how they can better help each other promote the Kitsap-Mason region.
“If anything comes out of this whole name change, it makes me excited for the opportunity to work together with the local chambers to regionalize ourselves and leverage ourselves,” Boyle said.
“It was a learning experience,” Kenny said of the name change discourse. “We know we need to think regionally, but we also need to think about our partners.”
The by-laws will now go back to committee to be reworked and presented to the membership again, probably in November. It’s likely the name change proposal will be dropped, Kenney said.
Hoffman, who chairs the membership committee on the chamber’s board, was disappointed that fewer than 17 percent of members turned out to vote on the hot button issue. She would favor mail-in voting in the future to accommodate those who are unable to make the meetings and to get better representation on all issues.

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