PROSSER -- The Prosser Chamber of Commerce has a new face and a new van.
Jim Milne, who's been the executive director of the chamber since January 2006, left July 24 to move to Houston.
Taking over is Humberto Rodriguez, who was hired July 1. He was born in Prosser and grew up in California and the Yakima Valley. He's married with three children.
"I'm excited about the opportunities of this job," he said.
Among his goals are to grow the city's Fourth of July and States Day (Labor Day) celebrations.
"They're great," he said, "but can be even better. One thing I'd like to do is add patriotic music to the fireworks for the Fourth."
Milne, a Prosser native, said he is sad to be leaving the town he's lived in almost all his life.
"It'll be hard to leave a town of 6,000 to live and work in one of nearly 6 million. But my son lives there and my wife, Amy, has already found a job there teaching eighth-grade science," Milne said.
Milne has a home-based sales business and processes credit cards.
Milne said he's enjoyed his time with the chamber, even the past few, tough, years.
"The businesses here have survived and thrived in these hard economic times all due to tourism dollars. The years 2009-10 were tough, people's travel habits changed. Instead of going to Colorado, Arizona, Mexico, they opted for weekend getaways and those west-siders began heading for Eastern Washington for three- to four-day vacations because we have the sunshine and fun things to do," Milne said.
Milne regrets he won't be in Prosser when the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center opens sometime in November.
"It will be an iconic business for Central Washington in general. I'm excited about it," he said.
Some of the projects Rodriguez will be promoting as he takes over the executive director position include a new bakery going in on Sixth Street and getting the chamber's van set up to be a free shuttle between Prosser's hotels and the downtown businesses and wineries.
The van was retired from the Ben Franklin Transit fleet and one of several offered by the company to nonprofits.
The chamber was able to buy it for $500 and is having it outfitted with the chamber logo. It should be ready to roll early in August.
The owners of Horse Heaven Brewery also are renovating an old cafe on Sixth Street, turning it into the Horse Heaven Saloon.
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-- Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; email@example.com