New Chamber President set to Unleash the Magic

 Zavala is Falmouthese for Energy

I can remember a few years back, thumbing through the latest edition of Coastlines, the newsletter of the Falmouth Chamber of Commerce, and spying the new members list.  When I saw the note for new member "Zavala, Inc.," I recall the kid in me being pleased, figuring that Zavala was some alternate form of "Shazam" or "Abracadabra," and that Falmouth would finally have a magician in its midst.  I was partially correct.

Jay Zavala may not be a magician by trade, but he certainly has a near magical ability to bring his enthusiasm and optimism to any task he undertakes, and I suspect it was exactly that ability that led the Chamber Board of Directors to install Jay as its new President. It was a stroke of genius.

In today's dour world, there is no substitute for the effervescence and positive vision that Jay brings to an already well-organized and sound organization.  In an interview with the Enterprise last week, he spoke of "seeking sustainable prosperity," which is Jayspeak (he is an accomplished member of Toastmasters, a public speaking organization) for keeping our local economy chugging.  With the worst economy since the Great Depression upon us, truer words were never spoken by a local economic official.

Jay's local civic pedigree is outstanding, from his work with the Pops Goes the Summer Committee, to his leadership of the annual Christmas Parade, to his volunteering with the Friends of Fairwinds, a local clubhouse for adults with psychiatric disabilities. It is his vision for the future of the chamber, and for our local economy, though, that has this political observer jumping for joy. 

Highlighting his willingness and ability to listen to his core constituency of 700 local businesses, Zavala said, "It's important to know the situation out on the street to satisfy the needs of the business community.  I want to find out how they want the chamber to serve them." These are not simply words.  I remember Jay's interview to be Falmouth's representative to the Cape Cod Commission, where he offered a similar philosophy on joining the Cape's premier bureaucracy.  His performance in that position held true, and the Commission has been moving toward a more user-friendly organization since, no doubt in part to Jay's thoughtful and even-tempered leadership.  I have no doubt that this latest intended outreach will be swift and sincere - because Jay knows as a local businessman himself that the business people - the people on streets and in the economic trenches of this community - know what is needed to stimulate a local economy - and know that additional taxes on meals and summer rentals is not the answer to our local fiscal challenges.

We are suffering from a crisis of confidence in government these days, and our local democratic republic is not immune.  The most prominent manifestation of this government gloom is the amount of vacancies on local committees and uncontested Town Meeting seats - the lack of confidence by Falmouthites that their participation in civic affairs can make a difference.  The Chamber's new boss and chief cheerleader has a solution, though.  His vision to create a "broad volunteer base" called the Falmouth Citizens Academy may just be the impetus needed to bring citizen activists back to Town Hall and Town Meeting.  His sharing of a story from his childhood about his mother believing that people litter when they don't feel part of the community is a great symbol of this.  People who don't feel part of the local government litter too - in the form of apathy, complaints, or downright disdain.  I can't wait to see what Jay and the Chamber have in store to act as a civic custodian to clean up this governmental garbage.

When I called Jay to congratulate him on assuming the weighty responsibility before him, he suggested that I offer my thoughts on the future direction of the Chamber - an offer that he knew I would oblige.  I simply offer this: No one expects you to truly pull a rabbit out of your hat, Jay, but the vision you have set forth to shape the direction of our most important local economic organization by seeking the input of local business people and to re-invigorate the local citizenry by fostering volunteerism and pride in their community is a tall order that will be nothing less than magical if fulfilled.  Now, unleash the magic and get to work!

This column is reprinted from the Falmouth Enterprise.

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