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Director envisions an expanded role

Marjorie Walsh loves Land O'Lakes. Now, she has her ideal job.

A 17-year resident of this central Pasco community, Walsh officially becomes executive director of the Land O'Lakes Chamber of Commerce on July 1.

"It's a job that I love," said Walsh, the chamber's administrative secretary since 1992. "I like meeting people. I like seeing Land O'Lakes grow and the people working together."

The chamber has not had an executive director since Mary Gaulden relinquished that post in 1991.

"It's a new era, so to speak," said Kurt Conover, a chamber director and past president. "I think we've long needed more resources at the chamber. The way you start doing more for your chamber is having more organization and structure to your chamber."

Walsh, who will earn $20,000 a year, received majority approval from the board of directors in April. The position, as well as Walsh's performance, will be reviewed after six months.

Her duties basically will remain the same, she figures, only on a grander scale. Walsh estimates she works 50 to 60 hours per week.

"It's a lot of what I'm doing now, but we have grown a lot," Walsh said.

Several activities have been added since Walsh first became involved with the chamber. Such activities include a dinner and breakfast during the annual Fall Flapjack Festival season, a fishing trip and fish fry, the summer kickoff and Jellybean Jamboree.

One of the most popular events in the community, Walsh said, is the Jellybean Jamboree, held a week before Easter.

"They love it," she said. "The parents can't think of a better place to take their kids that doesn't cost anything and to have a good time.

"The events that we're doing seem to be growing every year. A lot of people didn't realize that."

Two of those events _ the Flapjack Festival and honorary mayor's race _ are the chamber's primary fund-raisers. Conover believes it is vital for those activities to prosper in order to cover chamber costs and plan for future functions.

"For us to continue to grow and thrive, we need to make these successful," he said.

Supporting the community and lending a hand to residents and visitors alike are responsibilities Walsh relishes. Without a city government, she realizes the chamber serves as an information outlet, and she often is the community's liaison.

"You're kind of a focal point," Walsh said. "If they don't have the answer, they call here first. And if I don't have the answer, I try to find it."

Her searches and various projects often require the assistance of family and friends. For example, Walsh's friend David Crouch, a former Tampa firefighter, decided to use his home as the site for the fish fry. He also built a community booth for the chamber and has helped hang flags and Christmas decorations in Land O'Lakes.

Walsh envisions her role as an expanding one. She not only promotes Land O'Lakes, but also the east and west sides of the county by working with chambers in Dade City and New Port Richey. All have benefited from such events as the Pasco County Fair, business expositions throughout the county and Earth Day at Crews Lake in Shady Hills.

Land O'Lakes' chamber added 19 new members at its business expo, boosting its membership to about 325, Walsh said.

Walsh has been involved with the community since moving here from Pennsylvania in 1978. When her ex-husband became a Little League coach, she became a team mom and scorekeeper. Her five children _ Billy, Kimberly, Karla, Kelly and Kerry _ also registered to play Little League.

Each youngster went on to play sports at Land O'Lakes High. Walsh also was active in the school's athletic booster club for several years.

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