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Gill leaving chamber

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By Katy Korkos

“I took this job to find my place in a new community,” Debbie Gill said of her tenure as Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce member services coordinator.After almost three years in the highly visible position in the front office in Central Park Square, Gill is leaving the chamber to take on a new role as board coordinator for the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board.Now that she has found her place, and gotten to know people from all walks of life through the chamber’s programs, she will focus in on an area that has always been close to her heart, that of working with young people.Gill and husband John moved to Los Alamos from Miamisburg, Ohio, where she had served a 10-month stint as executive director of the Chamber of Commerce there. Miamisburg is home to the Department of Energy’s Mound Facility, so Gill brought with her the experience working in an energy community.Prior to that, she founded and ran a nonprofit organization geared toward helping youth take on a role in society.The nonprofit grew out of a home business she started when her two children were young, and she wanted them to experience meeting a wide range of people.The business was an after-school program “where we discovered things together,” Gill said. “We built things like water wheels and conveyor belts, and we figured things out. They learned to problem-solve.”Gill grew up in New Jersey, and remembers her move to Ohio as being a move “out West.”“Anything past the Delaware River was West to us,” Gill said. Until she visited New Mexico, she had no concept of the West as it exists past Ohio.“I just love living here,” she said. “I love the ski hill, I love the hiking; the resources we have here are huge.”She had worked in Harlem while in graduate school, and found the move to Ohio a bit of a culture shock. The move from an inner city to the agricultural heartland was a big change for her, yet she finds more similarities than differences in the places she has called home.“To be a good community, we need good government, good nonprofit organizations and a good business community,” she said. “All of the sectors have to come together to accomplish great things. Having worked in inner city, rural and suburban communities, I’ve observed that the challenges have almost been identical.”She believes open and honest communication is the key to keeping the concept of community alive.“Some of what community means is that people talk, listen, problem-solve together and share a present and future vision that brings benefit to everybody,” Gill said. “I always knew I wanted to work in community development.”She takes special pride in two chamber programs she has helped to develop and implement: the Discovery Dialogue and the Community Matters programs.She said that she is looking forward to working as the coordinator for the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board, first of all because of the board’s commitment to the youth of Los Alamos, but also because she believes the job might afford her more time to spend with her family.She also intends to spend some of her newfound free time doing freelance writing.She expects to become a grandmother for the first time in August, when her son Nat and his wife, who live in Maryland, have their first child.Her daughter Mary is a working studio artist who has moved to New Mexico, where she assists in the studio of Lucy Lyons.“We’ve had some great creative times with these people, and have done an incredible amount of work to fulfill the mission of the chamber,” Gill said. “My only disappointment has been the amount of time it takes to get things done.”She added, “I’m looking forward to getting a new perspective on the community and to realizing all that’s going on with youth here.”