When Kristen Cepak talks about her family her voice shakes and tears form in her eyes.
Cepak recently announced she is resigning as the Sand Springs Chamber Director to move back to Texas and take care of her ailing parents. It wasn’t an easy decision for Cepak but a necessary one.
“As difficult as it is, I love this town. I love this town,” Cepak said. “I need to be with my family right now and it’s hard but it’s what needs to be done.”
When Cepak accepted the job as chamber director in 2015 she didn’t have a vision, but that quickly changed.
In almost five years, Cepak has completely re-invented the position as chamber director and has set up the new director for success.
Cepak launched a new website that gives members an opportunity to pay their dues online, and the Christmas parade was turned into a two-day Christmas Festival complete with larger-than-life Christmas ornaments, music, food, dancing, horse and carriage rides, and more.
She also started the Small Business Initiative that gives smaller locally-owned businesses a chance to be involved with the bigger businesses, and she helped start Small Business Saturdays.
Cepak brought back Leadership Sand Springs, which are classes about the town, the community, fire, police, and town history. She started a hometown guide-type magazine and moved the offices into a new building.
Cepak is probably most proud of the new building and what it represents. The new chamber offices, located at 109 N. Garfield, house the chamber office, several conference rooms, and work zones, and they are all sponsored by local businesses.
Osage Casinos sponsor the media center, American Heritage Bank sponsors the large conference room, BancFirst the small conference room, Green Country Federal Credit Union the work zone, and Webco sponsors the entire building. The businesses have their names and logos branded on their respective areas, and Cepak says the partnership with these companies will bring $130,000 to the chamber over the next five years.
The annual chamber banquet is also special to Cepak who is able to honor her volunteers with awards, recognizing their hard work for the chamber.
“The first year I had the banquet we had 90 people and five sponsored tables. This year, we had 207 people and 19 sponsored tables,” she said.
She even started an incubator program that helps people achieve their dreams of owning a successful business.
Cepak formed great relationships with Sand Springs City Manager Elizabeth Gray and Sand Springs Public Schools Superintendent Sherry Durkee.
“I believe the chamber, the city, and the schools form a triangle, and they all work together,” Cepak said.
She told her board of directors that she was not renewing her contract in March and needed to move back home to Texas.
“Several (board members) were shocked but they all understood,” Cepak said.
Even though Cepak didn’t start with a vision she quickly formed one that will continue after she is gone.
“I would like to see two tenants in the incubator, and I want the new director to continue to work with the city, and I want the chamber to continue to be relevant. I want them to continue the programs and even amplify them,” Cepak said.