WHEELING - Delegate Erikka Storch - hired as the new president of the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday - says she plans to stay in the state Legislature, and will continue to serve if elected to a third two-year term in November.
The Ohio County Republican was first elected to the House in 2010. After being named chamber president Wednesday, Storch stepped down as chairwoman of the chamber, and also resigned as chief financial officer of her family's business, Ohio Valley Steel.
Members of the chamber's presidential search committee acknowledged Wednesday they had some reservations about hiring a state lawmaker to be their next president. As a delegate, Storch must be in Charleston for the legislature's 60-day regular session - typically from mid-January until mid-March - and has interim sessions and special sessions of the legislature to attend throughout the rest of the year.
Photo by Joselyn King
Delegate Erikka Storch, R-Ohio, will become president of the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce on July 1.
"Some of the committee member may have had concerns," Storch said. "They realized there would be some work for me to do both jobs. But it also was the intention of our forefathers that we have a citizen legislature."
She added today's technology will make it possible for her to serve in the Legislature in Charleston while overseeing operations at the chamber office.
Storch also hopes to make the chamber a place where local businesses can come to find answers to the problems they face. She replaces Terry Sterling, who retired March 31. She takes over as president effective July 1.
Storch will be the first woman to serve as president of the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce, but she won't be a trailblazer at the state level. She said of the 45 chambers of commerce in West Virginia, 33 have female presidents.
In Charleston, Storch's office mate is Delegate Amanda Pasdon, R-Monongalia, who is employed as director of business development for the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce.
John Culler has been serving as interim president of the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce, and was also chairman of the presidential search committee.
"It is a unique situation, having a president who is a delegate," he said. "We have not had that before at the chamber. There were some members who thought it would be an asset, while others thought it would be a deterrent."
Member Bill Koegler said he had been opposed to hiring an elected state lawmaker to be the chamber's president, but later changed his mind. He said the issue was discussed for at least two to three hours by the committee, and when the talk ended he believed his questions had been answered by Storch and she had presented herself well.
"I was among the biggest nay-sayers, and probably the member who was the most vocal this wouldn't work," he said.
But after considering the principle of a citizen legislature and today's availability of computers, smartphones and iPads, Koegler said he was "very much turned around."
Storch, 43, is a graduate of Wheeling Park High School, holds both bachelor's and master's degrees in business administration and accounting services from Wheeling Jesuit University. She is married to Thomas Storch, and has three children, Seth, Alexis and Payton.