Chamber announces new chairman, reflects on past year

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NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck Chamber of Commerce’s 97th annual meeting marked a changing of the guard.

Chamber Chairman Ronald Pugliese’s three-year term has come to an end and he is stepping down from the role.

“He is one of the best leaders I have ever had the opportunity to serve with,” said Naugatuck Chamber President and CEO Lynn Ward, who is also president and CEO of the Waterbury Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Pugliese, who is president and CEO of the Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation, thanked the chamber staff, saying it was an honor to serve as the chairman.

“I also congratulate the new leadership,” Pugliese said. “I know they will all do a tremendous job.”

Dawn Derwin, an executive vice president at Ion Bank, is stepping up from her role as vice chairman to become the chamber’s chairman.

“I am very excited about taking over this role, but I certainly do have big shoes to fill,” Derwin said.

Chamber officials also took a moment during the Annual Meeting and Lewis A. Dibble, Sr. Award Dinner Jan. 9 to reflect on the past year’s accomplishments.

Naugatuck Chamber Director Courtney Ligi said the chamber added 16 members, a growth of about 18 percent, which was above the organization’s goal of 10 percent.

The new businesses brings the chamber’s membership to over 100.

The chamber also helped 91 nonprofit organizations raise a total of $26,000 through its annual Duck Race and Festival. Since the duck race started 13 years ago, Ligi said the event has raised over $383,000 for nonprofits and has helped over 340 organizations.

Last year also marked the 15th anniversary of the partnership between the Naugatuck and Waterbury Regional chambers, Ligi said.

“We are so glad to be able to mark the milestone and celebrate 15 years,” Ligi said. “This partnership has opened new opportunities for us.”

The highlight of the evening was the presentation of the Dibble Award to Kathleen McPadden, the senior vice president and community relations officer for Ion Bank and executive director of the Ion Bank Foundation.

The award is given in recognition of an individual’s outstanding contributions to business and the socioeconomic well-being of Naugatuck.

“Her numerous efforts on behalf of nonprofit organizations in Naugatuck and greater Waterbury reflect the conscious choice she made years ago to dedicate her personal time to volunteer service,” said Charles Boulier, who retired this year as CEO of Ion Bank and received the Dibble Award in 2016. “I can think of no one more deserving of this honor this year than Kathleen McPadden.”

McPadden began volunteering in 1987 when she took on the roles of special events coordinator and loaned executive for the United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls, an organization for which she has volunteered for more than 30 years.

She’s volunteered for a number of organizations over the years, including serving as chairman of the Naugatuck YMCA’s capital campaign and participating in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life of Greater Waterbury for 23 years.

McPadden said living and working in Naugatuck her whole life has helped her understand the importance of giving back to the community.

“The benefits of volunteering are enormous. The most valuable skills you can bring to any volunteer effort are compassion, an open mind, a positive attitude and a willingness to do whatever is needed. That is exactly what I try to do. I could never volunteer for this many organizations without the support of my family, friends and daily coworkers at Ion Bank,” McPadden said.