ELKTON — Jessica Price’s temporary appointment as the executive director of the Elkton Chamber & Alliance was made permanent this week, with the full support of its board of directors.
“It’s overwhelming,” she told the Whig this week. “It’s amazing that the board believes I’m the right choice. Hopefully, I can make everyone proud and continue our legacy started under Mary Jo.”
Price steps into the role that her mentor Mary Jo Jablonski held for years until she passed on Feb. 21 after quietly battling cancer for many months. Price worked side-by-side with Jablonski since 2005 as her executive assistant, often luring businesses downtown, planning events and writing grants for the town’s Main Street program.
The Elkton Chamber & Alliance board named Price its interim executive in March, when it became clear that it needed someone at the helm who could handle numerous applications for state funding. Price and volunteer Margie Blystone have kept the office running since.
For Elkton Chamber & Alliance Board Chairman Larry Crouse and Vice Chairman Roger Owens, it’s a perfect fit. Both said it’s been relatively smooth, notably having little to do to prep the town’s hit Memorial Day parade last month since Price and Blystone handled the logistics.
“We definitely feel comfortable about Jessica’s abilities,” Owens said. “Mary Jo did 12 different things at once, and she trusted Jessica to do a lot of them.”
“I think Mary Jo is smiling, knowing that Jessica’s stepped up. She’s been at this for 14 years,” Crouse added. “Now we want to give her the help she needs, to free up Jessica to do what she does best.”
The Elkton Chamber & Alliance are considering hiring up to two additional staff members to cover daily operations and networking with businesses. The board is also considering outsourcing graphic design work, something Price handled, to a vendor.
The board hopes that under Price’s leadership, the Chamber & Alliance can enter into a new era. Crouse and Owens’ goal is to transform the Elkton Chamber & Alliance into a premiere event venue and town cornerstone though renovations.
But in the immediate future, Price is tying up loose ends on Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development grant applications and preparing for the inaugural Dinner Under the Stars next weekend, as well as talking about new events.
This week, Price still sits at her old desk, which is inches away from the office’s front door. She will get her own office, but for now, it serves as a lingering tribute to Jablonski.
“It’s funny, this desk used to be Mary Jo’s. She always loved being in the middle of things, and talking with people, but as time went on, she needed an office for her work,” Price said.
Price said she wants to continue Jablonski’s policy of welcoming people with open arms.
“The one thing I want people to know is that my door is always open to help the merchants and make Elkton a great place to live and work,” she said. “I’m thrilled to be here.”