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Chamber hosts goodbye luncheon for Clonch

Thursday marked the end of an era at the Greater Lawrence County Area Chamber of Commerce and Lawrence Economic Development Corporation as dozens of friends and co-workers said goodbye to executive director Pat Clonch.

After 20 years with both agencies, Clonch announced her retirement earlier this month. Her last day will be next Friday. Dr. Bill Dingus was chosen to succeed her.

Everyone in attendance Thursday offered glowing praise for Clonch to go with their cards and going-away presents.

U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland (D-6th) presented her with a certificate of appreciation that he said barely scratched the surface of summing up all that Clonch has meant to Lawrence County.

"I have said frequently that I wish I had a Pat Clonch in every one of my counties," Strickland said. "She is a person of extraordinary ability. Her commitment to the community has been deep and the results have been visible in so many ways."

Others in attendance included Ironton Mayor Bob Cleary and Economic Development Director Matt Ward, County Commissioners Jason Stephens and Doug Malone, Jim Crawford from Ohio University Southern, Ralph Kline from the CAO, Collins Career Center Superintendent Steve Dodgion, Huntington-Ironton Empowerment Zone Director Cathy Burns, representatives for several businesses including Liebert and Superior Marine and many others.

The diverse collection of public officials, politicians and business leaders is a testament of Clonch's ability to reach out to people of all backgrounds and get them to work towards one common goal -- the development of Lawrence County, Strickland said.

Don Baker,

director of technical program development for Ohio University Southern, said he stopped in to wish Pat well after working together for so many years.

"We are going to miss her. There are not many people who can do what she has done" Baker said. "But, I know Bill Dingus can. He is about the only other person that I would be that confident with."

Chamber President Jodi Rowe-Collins said the whole purpose of the informal luncheon was to honor all of Clonch's accomplishments and the dedication she has shown for the past two decades.

"I think we have been very fortunate to have her as the executive director of the Chamber and the LEDC," Rowe-Collins said. "She is a good, strong leader who set an excellent example."

Clonch said she was truly honored to see so many people come to say goodbye.

"People are what my life has been about. It is wonderful to see everyone," she said. "I did not know anything about this."

Above all, Clonch said it will be the people she misses the most after she moves to Florida to be closer to her family. However, it helps to know that she is leaving the agencies in good hands.

"We have a lot of good people here to take over the agency and make things happen," she said. "I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Dr. Dingus can make it a success."