A chat with Wes Seastrom

Wes Seastrom, the La Cañada Flintridge Chamber of Commerce’s newly-installed chairman of the board, knows plenty about the community, having lived in the city for all but three short years of his life, when he resided in a frat house at USC. After college Seastrom moved back into his hometown.

In 1989 he began building a career in real estate here. He started out by partnering with longtime friend Rick Mueller at Richard Keilholtz Realtors. In 2008 Keilholtz merged with Podley Properties, where Seastrom and Mueller both work today. As a long standing-member of the local business community, Seastrom has been a member of the chamber’s board of directors since 2003, and this year is stepping to the forefront. He sat down to discuss his plans for his tenure as chairman at the La Cañada Valley Sun offices last Friday.

Valley Sun: How’d you end up becoming chairman of the board?

It’s an honor to be the chair of this association, with all the great things they’ve done and all the wonderful people that have been chair in the past. I joined the board in 2003 and for the past nine years I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it and just felt like it was my time to step up to do another role. I was asked, it’s not necessarily something I pursued, but it’s something I like giving back to the community as I’ve done in the past. This opportunity came up and I’m happy to serve.

What have you learned in your business career that you hope to apply to your work as chairman?

This position is a little different in that we’re serving other businesses instead of end-user customers — or in the case of a real estate broker, people who are buying and selling homes. Here our customers are really our business members as well as the community at large, because we are not only a chamber of commerce…we’re unique in that we’re also a community association.

So our mission is basically to support, to enhance, to promote and encourage a healthy business climate in La Cañada Flintridge, so that all businesses, large and small, and of all types can flourish in La Cañada.

In addition, the community association aspect of it is that we want to help enrich the unparalleled quality of life we have here in La Cañada Flintridge.

How have you seen the role of the chamber change, and how would you like to see it evolve in the future?

Before cityhood, the chamber of commerce was the only thing close to a local governmental entity [in La Cañada], and so they helped underground the electric lines on Foothill Boulevard. They were supportive of La Cañada Flintridge forming its own unified school district back in the late-‘50s, early ‘60s. They were certainly supportive in those early days, in the ‘60s, of a modern sewer system, which took almost 40 years to bring. The incorporation of La Cañada in 1976 encouraged that [cityhood], and that was a big deal. They are so many things that the chamber did, and still does, that really have nothing to do specifically with business.

After the city’s incorporation [in 1976], the chamber was able to focus more attention on being an advocate for local businesses. Not only facilitating disputes or misunderstanding between the local government and business, but also something I think we’ve done very successfully these last two years, which is to encourage a more business-friendly attitude in our city government.

What are your goals for your term as chairman?

It’s been a great foundation from the people that have been before me, and I’m not smart enough to have all these fantastic visionary ideas, those will come from our great board of directors and our staff. But just to continue on with being advocates of the business community, to strengthen and support business.

Many people may not know [that] this last year almost 20% of the city revenue came from local sales tax. Which, obviously is generated from our local businesses. So we need to continue to work with the city to promote a healthy atmosphere.

It’s the LCF Chamber’s centennial year. Are there any special plans?

We have a centennial committee headed by past chair Terry Walker and my wife Jennifer Seastrom that is putting together a year-long celebration of the chamber.

What we’ll be doing with our mixers is taking a block of the community, and it’s going to be kind of a block party mixer, and we’ll be looking back at that section as to what it was, what it is.

There will be banners up along [Foothill] Boulevard from May to December that will be promoting the 100th year of the chamber. And we’ll give businesses as well as individuals or families the opportunity to have a banner in their name. Plus, we’re going to be putting together a time capsule that will be buried just off of Memorial Park that will have memorabilia from this year in it.

How did growing up in La Cañada inform your decision to get involved with the chamber?

Certainly growing up here and being fortunate to have bought a home here the year after I graduated from college and got married, plus having my two children grow up here. They’re now grown and married, one just moved into La Cañada and bought a home this last year.

This is my hometown and I’m very protective of it. That’s why it’s been a pleasure to have been able to serve on a number of local groups, charities and so on, and also since 1989 I’ve been able to also work in town.

So it makes it very easy, and I feel pretty privileged to be able to give back my community. Because I have a vested interest, I live here, I work here and being as I grew up here I’m very protective of it and I want it to continue to be the type of community that it is.

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