The Sparwood Chamber of Commerce is now home to the youngest Chamber manager in B.C., and maybe even Canada.
At 21, Michael Decker took the job as Chamber manager just days after finishing his policy studies classes at Mount Royal University in Calgary.
“I had four days transition period between university and starting the job, with Christmas in the mix,” said Decker.
But he is still working on his honours thesis while learning about his new job.
“I consider myself to be extremely fortunate,” he said. “I’ve been listening to and reading the news, and I hear that university students are having a hard time finding jobs. Even three years ago, you needed no experience and you would get hired. Now for every job you need at least five years experience.”
Decker is not new to Sparwood. His family moved to Sparwood in the 1980s from Newfoundland. His mom is a nurse at the Sparwood Health Centre, and his dad is a teacher at Sparwood Secondary School.
When he finished high school and left for Calgary he didn’t look back. He was excited to head for the city.
“I was the city kid,” he said. “I couldn’t wait to get out of Sparwood. I did not want to come back. Every time there was a break I wanted to stay in Calgary.
“But then as I got older, I started to put things in perspective of what I wanted my life to be. Do you want to travel two hours to work? Do you want to deal with the traffic every day?
“I took on the job to pay back the business community, and the community in general because I believe it takes a community to raise a child and this is my way of saying thanks.”
Growing up, Decker worked at Overwaitea, A&W, Movies and More (now Middletown), the District of Sparwood and Teck.
“It’s funny now that I’m back, and I’m the Chamber manager, I’m dealing with a lot of people that were my former bosses,” he said.
On Decker’s first day he was faced with a backlog of 300 emails, 100 voicemails and a mountain of mail (much of which is still waiting to be opened.)
“It took me a while to get caught up,” he said.
One of the biggest challenges Decker faced was going from an academic writing style, to writing personal letters and emails.
“I’ve worked in these small businesses so I know their trials and tribulations first hand, and I know the issues that face a town living so close to the Alberta border,” said Decker.
He is currently gearing up for the Sparwood Chamber of Commerce annual general meeting on Februrary 2.