BURNETTOWN -- When he assumes leadership of Midland Valley Chamber of Commerce next month, Hector Rodriquez says, he will strive for unity within the several distinct communities of Horse Creek Valley.
"I want to see the Midland Valley Chamber of Commerce become the catalyst for bringing together all the communities in the valley," Mr. Rodriquez said.
He has served 10 years as mayor of Burnettown, the only incorporated municipality in the area lying between the city limits of North Augusta and Aiken. A native of San Sebastian, Puerto Rico, he nevertheless calls Horse Creek Valley home and has resided 28 years in the same house on Carter Street in Burnettown.
As chairman of the chamber's board of directors, Mr. Rodriquez believes he will have an opportunity to reach out to all areas of the valley and encourage individuals and owners of small businesses alike to become involved in the activities of the chamber.
"We need to energize this valley," he said, "and a good, active chamber can get people out of their individual niches and bring them together."
The Midland Valley Chamber of Commerce is an all-volunteer organization. Gloria Busch-Johnson serves as the organization's executive director but like all other chamber workers receives no pay. Mr. Rodriquez succeeds Aiken Technical College retiree Dorothy Waymer.
He is not the first elected official to be chairman of the chamber's board of directors. Aiken County Council Chairman Ronnie Young led the chamber in 1996 and still sits on the board.
Membership in the Midland Valley Chamber stands at about 150, but Mr. Rodriquez hopes the roster will top 200 in 2000.
"One of our goals is to substantially increase membership of both individuals and businesses," he said.
Recruitment of small businesses will be emphasized especially this year, he said.
The chamber is the one organization in Horse Creek Valley that can represent the diversity of the area, he said. It is responsible for the Christmas parade and tree lighting and is involved in the continuing expansion of the Midland Valley Library.