LEWISTON — Beckie Conrad, president and CEO of the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, announced Friday that she’ll be leaving that post June 30.

Beckie Conrad (Sun Journal file photo)

The news came two years to the day that the chamber announced her hire.

Conrad said in an interview that she loves the work and the community, yet she’d been contemplating the change for a while.

“I really have come to the conclusion that in order for it to truly be where the chamber is headed, I need to hand it off to somebody else,” she said.

Conrad let the board know Thursday night. A number of members, including Chairwoman Jennifer Hogan, were surprised.

“I think she’s still very passionate about the chamber, just feels like she’s done what she can or was brought on to do, and maybe feels like there’s someone more suited to take the next step,” Hogan said. “I think that she’s been great for the chamber. The great thing is that she’s really poised us for the future.”

Hogan said the board hasn’t had a chance to talk about how local to keep the search for the next president.

Conrad shared some thoughts with the board.

“This community means a great deal to me. It has since I got here in 1978 as a Bates student,” she said. “I’ve never left. I’ve lived here all my adult life. I see huge potential. I believe there’s a young person in this community whose time has come to step up and take us where we need to go, and I say that in the most genuine sense.”

In an email to members on Friday, Conrad wrote:

“Planned changes in leadership allow for good ideas to emerge and I hope that you will share your thoughts on how the chamber can evolve to meet your needs. My deepest hope is for the LA Metro Chamber to continue as a leader in Maine’s future and I will work with the board to ensure a smooth transition.”

Conrad said she’s been a chamber member since 1985, when she and her husband, Austin Conrad Jr., opened Austin’s Fine Wines and Foods in downtown Auburn, where Gritty’s is now.

She’d been vice president for institutional advancement at the Maine College of Art in Portland before taking the chamber position, which became vacant abruptly when the previous president resigned.

Conrad said she had a few ideas for the future and no plans to leave the area.

“I think I’ve come to understand myself that my next and probably last step of my career will be to focus more narrowly on some of the things I’ve learned in this job,” she said. “Economic development or something maybe back in education, maybe something in community building, I don’t know.”

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