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Although not native to Creek County, new Sapulpa Chamber of Commerce President Janet Birnie’s love of the community is virtually unrivaled. She sees the City’s attributes, energy, and potential in a way few others do.
In 2002, friend and fellow community volunteer Tami Fleak, who was the Sapulpa Main Street Director, steered Birnie into a position at the Chamber. Birnie would go on to work in the building for almost 10 years.
She was hired to work the front desk part-time by then-Chamber President Susan Carlson Bynum. That quickly became a full-time position, and when Bynum left, new Chamber President Betty Calley kept Birnie on.
“That was my favorite job of all time,” Birnie says. “You see all kinds of people; it’s busy, different every day, you get to know a lot of people. I did that for 4 years.”
In 2006, when Fleak left Main Street, Birnie “was able to go across the hall and be the Main Street Director for five-and-a-half years.”
“I was sad when I left; I missed my people,” she said. “I really felt like I was working for the betterment of the community I was living in, my son was in school there.” But, it was time for a change.
In 2013, Rebecca LaFevers approached Birnie to ask her to work in her State Farm insurance agency. “The LaFevers are the best people on the planet,” Birnie says. “They’ve become like family to me. It would have taken this specific job (Chamber President) to make me leave…Rebecca was really happy for me. They know I’ve been wanting to get back into community service and getting involved in the town.”
“I just see so much growth and excitement here—a real buzz. I feel fortunate to be in the position I’m in at the time I am—there’s a lot of energy, a lot of excitement, and I am happy to facilitate!”
Birnie says she also wants to encourage the community “to really get involved, to volunteer. It takes a lot of work; it doesn’t just happen. Volunteerism is the key. And let’s get some new people involved! Get on a committee, see how it works!”
Born in Pittsburgh, Birnie says she “bounced around” during her younger years. She moved to Broken Arrow in 1976, then to Chicago, and then back to Union High School her junior year.
“I think that’s why I love this small-town feel. I love that you can really get to know people. I don’t think outsiders understand how generous and warm and open this community is…It doesn’t happen everywhere,” she says.
Birnie believes that a unified vision of seeing Sapulpa as a great community to live in is what will drive growth. “That’s what we need to focus on. There are so many smart, generous people in this town. And we all want the betterment of Sapulpa; better quality of life,” she says. “We’re getting ready to be even bigger and better. We’ve got to start thinking of ourselves as a really great town. There are too many good things happening not to.”
Sapulpa needs to see itself “as this hidden little jewel over here without the crime and traffic, with great schools and parks,” says Birnie. “We don’t need to try to be someone else, just a better version of ourselves.”
“I can’t wait!” she continued. “I feel like this is something that has been waiting for me for the right time…There’s so much to be done. And I’m on board! I’m ready to go!”
Birnie hits the ground running on Monday, October 25th and will have an “open door for anyone who wants to get involved” in Chamber programs. Make sure to stop by and introduce yourself or to say hi the next time you’re downtown!