New events coordinator at chamber

Kelsey Balensifer recently started as the new events coordinator at the Astoria-Warrenton Chamber of Commerce.

Kelsey Balensifer joined the Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce Dec. 8 as its new events coordinator. She replaces Alana Kujala, who recently became the new volunteer coordinator at Providence Seaside Hospital.

Balensifer said Kujala reached out to her, after which she applied, was interviewed by the entire chamber staff and hired Dec. 5. Balensifer is married to Warrenton City Commissioner Henry Balensifer. Her predecessor Kujala is married to Skipanon Brand Seafoods co-owner, former Warrenton City Commissioner and current Warrenton Mayor Mark Kujala.

Before moving to Warrenton in May, Kelsey Balensifer lived in Washington, D.C., working as a reporter and editor at various publications, including Red Alert Politics, The Washington Examiner and Street Sense. Before Washington, she interned at Presbyterian Homes & Services in Roseville, Minn., and media firm Tiger Oak Publications in Minneapolis. She graduated magna cum laude with a degree in journalism from Biola University in La Mirada, Calif., and chosen in 2012 as Outstanding Journalism Student of the Year.

“This has been a big change,” she said of the cross country move. “But it’s been a good change.”

Most of her time now, she said, is spent preparing for the chamber’s annual meeting and awards banquet, at which the George and Richard Ford awards for community service in Astoria and Warrenton, respectively, will be announced. Registration for vendors at the Crab, Seafood and Wine Festival starting April 24 ended Dec. 31, she said, and now it’s panic mode for vendors who missed the deadline and are still trying to get in. Also coming this summer is the 30th anniversary of “The Goonies,” which she said the Chamber is going all out for.

“While Kelsey does not have years of event experience, we strongly feel that she has the necessary skills, desire, talent and commitment to make this transition very quickly,” wrote Chamber Executive Director Skip Hauke in his report late last month about the change in personnel.

Balensifer works at at the chamber office, 111 W. Marine Drive in Astoria.

Alana Kujala, also marketing director for her family’s business Skipanon Brand Seafoods, started as events coordinator at the chamber in August 2010. Like her replacement, she has a background in journalism, graduating in 2002 from Miami University in Ohio with a broadcast journalism degree. She was a field reporter at Portland CBS affiliate KOIN 6 from 2006 to 2010, and at northern Nevada ABC affiliate KOLO 8 from 2005 to 2006.

“As the event coordinator for the Astoria-Warrenton Chamber, Alana had no equal,” said Hauke. “Every event she was responsible for seems to be ‘new and improved’ on every level.”

Kujala, already working at Providence, has remained part time at the chamber, helping train Balensifer and ensure the success of the annual banquet Saturday. There, Kujala will get her official goodbye.