Carrie Schulstad is leaving her job as head of the Battle Ground Chamber of Commerce and returning to the city where she began her civic activism, taking on the position of director of the Downtown Camas Association.
Schulstad, 46, became the Battle Ground chamber's executive director only last January. She'd previously owned a boutique in downtown Camas, from 2004 to 2012, and had been a leader in downtown association activities.
She'll leave the Battle Ground Chamber on Jan. 15. When she disclosed her decision last week, Schulstad said she agonized over the move because of her enthusiasm for her job in Battle Ground. But she said being closer to her two teenage children in Camas was a key factor in her decision.
She is unabashed about her passion for downtown Camas and the east Clark County region.
"I'm excited about the economic development that's happening there," Schulstad said. With the Camas-Washougal Economic Development Association and the Columbia River Economic Development Council both promoting the Camas area, she said: "Wow. I can rally imagine that area going crazy."
When she opened her store, The Uncommon Gift, almost a decade ago, Schulstad said, the Camas downtown had just a few boutiques. Its night life was characterized by some bars that were causing problems.
"There were lots of vacant windows and little energy," she said.
With the help of a Main Street Program that provided expertise and tax incentives for local improvements, the Camas downtown has made big strides. More retail businesses and family-oriented restaurants are open in the evenings, the downtown has a brew pub and the downtown association sponsors many local activities, she said. The downtown hasn't turned its back on its industrial roots, and the giant paper mill next to the business district is even part of the local walking tour, she said.
Schulstad said her first goal will be to reconnect with the community and then get to work on enhancing and updating a vision for the downtown district.
But if she's thrilled about her return to Camas, Schulstad admits to mixed feelings about leaving Battle Ground after her short tenure there. She's excited about the Main Street Program being launched in Battle Ground, and expects to work closely with that program's coordinator.
"I think it really works," she said. "A Main Street Program takes what a community authentically is and builds on those assets.