AUGUSTA — Katie Doherty has been named president and chief executive officer of the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce.

The announcement was made public Wednesday at the Business After Hours Event at the Senator Inn & Spa.

Doherty has worked at the chamber as its program director since December 2015.

“I’m excited for the opportunity to help the Kennebec Valley flourish,” Doherty said.

Stacey Morrison, chairwoman of the chamber’s board of directors, said over the course of its search, the chamber board could not find a candidate who was a perfect fit. But when Doherty’s name was suggested, the board agreed she was an ideal candidate.

At the same time, chamber Vice President of Operations Patricia Hewett, who has been with the chamber since 2002, has been promoted to chief operating officer.

With this move, the chamber’s leadership is for the first time entirely composed of women.

Doherty, 28, said her focus will be on growing the chamber and improving member services as well as re-evaluating chamber events to reach new audiences. That will include finding new ways to approach and engage new and younger members.

In her time with the chamber, Doherty has been working on raising the profile of chamber events including the Kenney Awards and the annual Business EXPO. Doherty brought the Color Dash 5K to Augusta which debuted last summer.

In making this decision, the board is putting a different face on the chamber, and it reflects the investment the chamber has made in reaching out to younger members. Morrison said the chamber’s investment in Cynergy Young Professionals has paid off, and several Cynergy members are part of chamber activities at the board level.

To continue to expand the chamber’s reach to new audiences, Doherty is now working to revamp the annual Whatever Family Festival, which will celebrate its 40th year this year. Among the planned changes is relocating the event from Capitol Park to Mill Park to tie it more directly to the Kennebec River. Doherty said an announcement on the festival is coming soon.

She also plans to build collaborations among regional organizations to promote the capital region and raise its profile.

The chamber also plans to place a higher emphasis on the arts in the region and highlight regional cultural events on its website.

Morrison, who is heading up the board of directors in 2017, said Doherty’s experience and education made her an outstanding candidate. At the chamber Doherty has shown herself to be a creative and motivated leader.

“The only thing she lacked was lobbying experience,” Morrison said. The chamber has contracted with Tim Walton to perform those duties with Doherty for a year.

Morrison said the chamber board had made a decision before the Kenney Awards at the end of January, but opted to delay the announcement to keep the focus on the award winners that evening.

“She has 100 percent support on the board,” Morrison said.

Doherty is a Waterville native and graduate of Thomas College. She is also a graduate of the Kennebec Leadership Institute.

The post has been vacant since early November, when the chamber and Ross Cunningham parted ways.

Cunningham started his term at the chamber in January 2015. He was hired when the chamber’s longtime president Peter Thompson stepped down after 26 years.

The chamber board announced a search at the end of October.

The Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce serves Augusta, Belgrade, Chelsea, Gardiner, Hallowell, Winthrop, Dresden, Farmingdale, Fayette, Jefferson, Litchfield, Manchester, Monmouth, Mount Vernon, Pittston, Randolph, Readfield, Richmond, Somerville, Wayne, West Gardiner, Whitefield and Windsor.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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