AMESBURY — On Wednesday, as much of the region hunkered down at home to ride out the storm, Bill Piercey buttoned up his coat and walked from his house in Amesbury to his office in Market Square.
"I just wanted to see what was going on around town and get organized," he said.
Piercey is in his first week as executive director of the Amesbury Chamber of Commerce.
While his past four years have been spent as vice president at Chase and Lunt Insurance in Newburyport, the role as a chamber leader isn't new territory. He served as president of the Newburyport Chamber of Commerce and Industry from 1996 to 2006, increasing membership and doubling the organization's income in his time there.
"In Newburyport, there seems to be a sense that there is always something going on, there is always something to do. I want people to feel that in Amesbury, too, whether it's an outdoor performance in the Millyard or great shopping and dining opportunities. I want to see the community have a cohesive feel, and I want the Chamber to be a visible part of that," Piercey said.
His visions for Amesbury come at a crucial time. The Chamber has seen three different executive directors in five years and has been without leadership since April, when then-director Stefanie McCowan stepped down. Since April, the board of directors has been running the show, with Chairwoman Anne Bonaventura acting as executive director until a replacement could be found.
"The board did a great job, but when you don't have someone here in the office, it's hard to get any momentum going. There's a void," Piercey said.
It's those missing pieces that he said attracted him to the job in the first place.
With Mayor Thatcher Kezer in his third term and a consistent Municipal Council, Piercey said the government side of things has pulled together well, just in time for the influx of restaurants and businesses that are finding a home in Amesbury.
"The last piece is to unite the business community, and that's where the Chamber comes into play," he said.
Piercey sees now as the time to make that unification happen, so that the businesses of Amesbury are poised to take advantage of an uptick in the economy.
When asked what makes a successful chamber of commerce, Piercey points to one thing: active members. He sees the Chamber's prosperity as a team effort that starts in his office and blossoms out into the community.
"That's why I like activities, things that connect restaurants, shops and manufacturers. Bringing people and businesses together is what makes a chamber work," he said, pointing to the transportation center in the Lower Millyard and the potential hotel development near Interstate 95 as exciting processes for the Chamber to be involved in.
While some aspects of the job translate across the river from Newburyport to Amesbury, like the strategy sessions, desk work and evening meetings with local government officials, there are some differences as well.
"Now, I have the perspective of a citizen. My car barely has a chance to warm up before I reach my office from my house. In my rounds about town to businesses, I see friends and neighbors. It's all coming together for me here," Piercey said.
There are plenty of familiar faces in town, as he's been a resident for close to 20 years now. Earlier this week, he stopped into many downtown businesses to say hello and introduce himself.
Deb Pagley, owner of Parke Place gift shop, needed no introduction. She's known Piercey since his Newburyport days and said she's thrilled to see him find his niche in Amesbury.
"The experience and background he brings are just perfect. He has what we need to get Amesbury on the map," Pagley said.
Her daughter, Laura, who helps her mother at the shop, agreed.
"He's the right person for the job," she said.
With his home and work in the same community, Piercey makes sure to schedule in some downtime. Music is big in his house, as both his boys, ages 17 and 15, play guitar. His younger son, Logan, is lead singer in the local band Errata and even has some songs available for download on iTunes. Conor, a senior in high school, is currently doing a semester abroad in Germany, but when he's on U.S. soil, he plays football at Phillips Exeter Academy. Piercey and his wife are actively involved in supporting the team, often spending Friday evenings cooking dinner for 40 hungry, teenage athletes and Saturdays huddled in the bleachers, cheering them on.
"We're spread out as a family right now, but Amesbury is definitely home," he said.
A meet-and-greet with Piercey is scheduled for Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at Amesbury Sports Park. To RSVP for the event, call the Chamber at 978-388-3178 or e-mail email@example.com.