More than 130 business leaders, government officials and community members gathered to celebrate a successful 2022 at the annual Sussex County Chamber of Commerce dinner Feb. 28.
They also welcomed the new chairman of the chamber’s board of trustees, Thomas Ryan, of the Laddey, Clark and Ryan law firm in Sparta.
Ryan, managing partner of the firm, has been a trustee and former chairman of the Sussex County Economic Development Partnership as well as a member of the boards of trustees of the Newton Medical Center Foundation and the 200 Club of Sussex County.
He told the crowd that he was humbled by the opportunity to lead them as chairman of the board.
“I can’t help but marvel at what changes we’ve all experienced over the past few years. We’ve been challenged in unprecedented ways, personally and collectively, and I’ve been inspired by our colleagues, how they have met these challenges head-on,” he said.
“We’ve grown to evolve in the face of uncertainty and rely on one another and blaze new trails. That’s what matters. That’s what’s happening in the Sussex County business community. That’s what Sussex County people do. They run challenges head on and by doing so they blaze new trails.”
Ryan referred to the constants of “our families, our educational community, our culture institutions, our friends, our colleagues and in Sussex County opportunities that are unique.” “From Main Street in Sparta to Route 23 in Wantage, we have a centrality of a place that’s really unique and very special.”
He urged the guests to support the work of the chamber “because when you support the work of the chamber, you’re supporting a broader community.” ”You’re supporting what is the backbone of this community and the businesses.
“I so much appreciate seeing so many out here from the different sectors of our business community. We need to be a resource as well as an incubator for entrepreneurship. That’s progress, that’s advancement, that’s what we need to do.”
Ryan did mention daunting challenges “from inflation, increasing interest rates, international conflict and political dysfunction, and it does impact those of us here in Sussex County.”
But he added, “Remember never to count Sussex County out and be forewarned not to make any long-term bets against the Sussex County business community. Never underestimate our resilience. Just look at our history, look at our legacy.”
During the cocktail hour in the lounge area of Bear Brook Valley in Fredon, guests mingled and snacked on appetizers from a taco stand with fresh guacamole, a little slice of Italy with mini chicken parm sandwiches and sliced steaks cooked to perfection.
Then, the guests moved upstairs to the ballroom, where they were seated at assigned tables.
Chamber president Tammie Horsfield welcomed them, saying she was thrilled to see so many people at the group’s first Business to Business breakfast of the year, held on Valentine’s Day at the Lafayette House, where the parking lot was packed.
“I am pleased that so many of our members recognize the importance of these face-to-face gatherings in creating professional connections, building relationships and growing their businesses.’’
She promised that the chamber will continue providing opportunities for members to network and connect to resources and referrals.
“I appreciate your commitment to keeping the chamber strong, so we can continue our work to advocate for local businesses and strengthen the business community. The Chamber of Commerce wouldn’t be what it is today without your membership and dedication to our mission.”
Horsfield presented an award to Lidia Zdunek, the outgoing chairwoman of the chamber’s board. Zdunek is vice president and business banking officer at Lakeland Bank.
“Lidia has been an inspiration to all, a great leader, a supporter, active volunteer and a good friend to the chamber,” Horsfield said.
“I want to thank her for all she has given to the chamber, not just for this past year but for many years. The chamber is not successful without people like Lidia.”
Zdunek thanked the dinner guests, saying, “You show your support and dedication to the business that operates here in Sussex county and the residents that live here. Thank you for your support and I look forward to continuing to work with the chamber under Tom Ryan’s leadership.”
Ryan thanked the chamber, Horsfield and her staff; introduced the new board of trustees; and outlined his vision for the chamber and his plans for the coming year.
“To our newest members, welcome. I thank you for your support and look forward to working with you. To our longstanding members, I remain grateful for your dedication and partnership and for building a strong and sustainable Sussex County.”
The event included a silent auction, which featured a range of items donated by local businesses and individuals. They ranged from discounts on services to gift baskets to office furniture.
We’ve grown to evolve in the face of uncertainty and rely on one another and blaze new trails. ...That’s what Sussex County people do. They run challenges head on and by doing so they blaze new trails.” - Thomas Ryan, new chairman, Sussex County Chamber of Commerce board of trustees