The new head of the Keokuk Area Chamber of Commerce believes being an outsider will help her better do her job.
Shelley Oltmans will serve as both the chamber's Executive Director and as a Community Development Specialist for ISU Extension and Outreach in Lee County.
She will be asked to coordinate with local businesses and government agencies to improve community prosperity, standard of living and quality of life.
Oltmans grew up in Minnesota, which helped shape her passion for rural America.
"Growing up on a row crop and livestock farm near Sherburn, Mn., I have been ingrained with the culture of rural communities since I was small," said Oltmans. "Out of that experience grew a desire to work with businesses and communities in rural areas. I am eager to join the community and begin working with area leaders to improve economic health in Keokuk and Lee County."
Oltmans also spent several years in Europe before studying Community and Regional Planning and Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University.
She said all of that allows her to bring a fresh perspective to Keokuk, which she said hiring committee members told her they found important.
"(They told me) you can see things that we don't any longer," said Oltmans. "(Things) that we have just become compliant to or even only see as a weakness when there is actually a strength in the weaknesses.”
Michael Greenwald echoed those thoughts. He is the President-Elect of the Keokuk Area Chamber of Commerce.
"We are excited to bring a new person into the community," said Greenwald. "With her training and education, and a new pair of eyes on the region, I hope she will be able to connect with local business owners to discover what the chamber can do to help everyone prosper."
Oltmans has spent her first few weeks on the job getting to know Keokuk and the surrounding area.
Oltmans said she’s trying to get people talking and working together, and she’s trying to help local businesses improve their networking abilities.