WHEELING - After almost 20 years as president of the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce, Terry Sterling has decided to call it a career.
Sterling informed the organization's board of directors of his decision to step down effective March 31 during the Wednesday meeting. He said he's been mulling the decision for some time, and it ultimately just came down to timing.
"My wife, Karen, and I - we have three adult children. We have five grandchildren and we have a new granddaughter on the way in April," he said.
Also, knowing that he left the chamber in better shape than he found it when he came on board in 1994 made the decision a little easier.
Through sound budgeting and hosting a number of successful events in recent years, he said, the chamber has built a "substantial cash reserve," allowing it to support various community projects. Most recently, he said, the chamber provided funds for two Wheeling Police Department satellite offices at Wheeling Park and the Warwood Plaza, a women's health program at Ohio Valley Medical Center and activites surrounding the West Virginia sesquicentennial celebration this past summer.
Sterling said he's grateful for all the support he has received over the years, particularly from leaders on the chamber's board.
"It's been a great ride. ... I've worked with some of the finest you can imagine," he said.
Another highlight of his career has been his work on helping to grow The Highlands retail development as a member of the Ohio County Development Authority, watching an open expanse of land turn into a "destination retail center."
"The Highlands has become a catalyst for a lot of other development, and I think you'll see that continuing," Sterling said.
Though he acknowledged there's much work to do, he said recent years have seen a number of important improvements in Wheeling, from Heritage Port to redeveloping the Stone Center and Wagner buildings and landing the Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe Global Operations Center.
"Those are just phenomenal projects, and I think Wheeling's future is very bright. ... I think downtown Wheeling is an area that will continue to improve over time," Sterling said.
He said he is also proud of the chamber's support over the years for Wheeling's participation in the West Virginia Home Rule Pilot Program, medical malpractice reform, tort reform, privatization of workers' compensation and various tax reforms, such as elimination of the health care provider tax and food tax.
Sterling is just the chamber's third president since what he termed the "modern day" organization's inception in 1966.
He said whether his replacement is familiar to Wheeling or from out of the area, he or she will need to be creative, a good listener and able to learn quickly "what makes this valley tick." He expects the board will begin the search process in earnest early next year.
As for what's next, Sterling said he and his wife may relocate to the Akron, Ohio, area to be closer to their grandchildren, but they won't make that decision immediately. He said he's considering doing some consulting work and noted he's even been approached about running for elected office.
"I want to contribute, but I'm looking forward to taking some time off and figuring out what the next phase of my life's going to look like," Sterling said.