by Mary Alys Cherry
Faced with a fast-growing population and the need to promote the area, the Clear Lake Chamber was formed through the merger of the Seabrook Chamber of Commerce and the Kemah Chamber of Commerce in the summer of 1962.
At first, it was called the Seabrook-Bay Area Chamber, but with the addition of the Kemah Chamber, the name was changed officially to the Clear Lake Chamber with the late Jack Campbell orchestrating the merger and setting it on its course to promote tourism and enhance the quality of life in the Bay Area. The League City Chamber merged with the Clear Lake Chamber two years later in 1964. “He felt all the chambers would benefit by merging,” Betty Campbell said when asked about her husband’s work founding the chamber.
Pat Ashby Jr. served as the chamber’s first chairman with Campbell taking the reins for the next two years and becoming the only chairman to serve two terms.
Webb Sharp was the first chamber manager (or president as the job is called today), serving from 1966-76, followed by David Ross from 1977-87.
Then Claudette Alderman, who joined the chamber staff in 1971, served in the top post from 1987 to 2008, when the current president, Cindy Harreld, took the chamber reins. Harreld first joined the chamber staff in 1983.
The chamber in 1972 became the 11th chamber in Texas and the 214th in the nation to achieve accreditation with the U.S. Chamber and has continued through the years to have the accreditation renewed. One of its most challenging times came after Hurricane Ike hit the area in 2008, damaging the chamber offices and leading to massive renovations.
Perhaps what has made it so successful is the backing of the business community with many of the Bay Area’s most outstanding citizens serving as chairmen of the chamber or as its directors.
Bank presidents Bob Scott, Jim Hargrove, Aaron Schein, Mark Humphrey and Gordon Hutmacher were among the chamber chairmen over the past five decades. Some of the others who filled the top post are attorneys Dick Gregg Jr., Joe Barlow¸ Richard Simmons and Marilyn Mieszkuc, Barrios Technology President Emyre Robinson, developer Gene Read; Citizen Publisher Lonnie Clement and CPA Olive Murphy.
Two were married to each other – Minuteman Press owners Jim and Jane Sweeney. Two others were father and son – Jack Rowe and his son, Larry Rowe, who ran the Rowe Funeral Home in League City for many years before an electrical fire destroyed it during Hurricane Ike in 2008.
Directors have included dozens of bankers such as Frank Law, Mike Duckworth, Joe Henkel, Larry Burrow and Mike Cornett, plus many aerospace executives including GB Tech CEO Gale Burkett, IBM Division Director Mike Dawkins, Rockwell Space Operations President Glynn Lunney and Boeing Space Division President Bob Minor; Friendswood Development Corp. Director Roy Pezoldt and architects Gregg Stephens, Roy Montalbano and Richard Ainslie.
There has been many from various backgrounds – jeweler Don Billings, Citizen Publisher Mike Allison and Tell Tales Publisher Kay DuBois, auto dealer Jerry Samuels, Re/Max owner Kathy Covey, and restaurant owners Franz Gillebaard and Tom Tollett.
UHCL Presidents Bill Staples, Tom Stauffer and Glenn Goerke and many Clear Creek ISD superintendents including Lloyd Ferguson, Ron McLeod, John Wilson, Sandra Mossman and Greg Smith have served as ex officio directors, along with Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership Presidents Jim Reinhartsen and Bob Mitchell, Bay Area Houston Transportation Partnership Presidents Chuck Jacobson and Coletta Castleshouldt and Bay Area Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau President Pam Summers.