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Roaring ‘20s Welcome Redmon to Chamber

Incoming chair says he will focus on mall businesses, government.

Gangsters and their molls, coppers and thugs, and members of the Family joined John Redmon as he became this year’s chairman of the Board of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce.

More than 200 people dressed in feathers and fringe, glitter and Zoot suits at the Chamber’s Speakeasy gala at the Birchmere on Jan. 11.

Charlie Collum, president of Burke and Herbert Bank and a member of the Chamber’s executive committee, danced the night away in a red Zoot suit. “The suit is really all my wife’s fault,” he said. “But it really should be black. Because the Chamber’s going to have a great year with John Redmon as chairman, and there’s going to be nothing but black ink around here.”

It was because of Collum and other executive committee members that Redmon agreed to be the chairman. “After the thumbscrews, they made me a lot of promises,” he said. “I’ve been involved with the Chamber since about 1997 and they’re a great group of people. I have a lot to learn but I also have a lot of help with Charlie Collum as the treasurer and Lonny Rich as the head of government relations. I think it’s going to be a great year.”

Redmon’s company, The Redmon Group, Inc., began 12 years ago in the living room of his apartment. Today, the high-tech firm has grown to handle such clients as The Discovery Channel, the Smithsonian Institution and many others.

“We have such good people in the company that it is possible for me to take time to be the chairman of the Chamber Board,” Redmon said. His wife Veronica encouraged him. “I think it’s great,” she said.

Redmon reiterated his commitment to working with small businesses. “Of the 1,100 Chamber members, 90 percent of them are small businesses, including my own,” he said. “It is really important that we get out there and actively support the people we represent, especially with the economy as it is now.”

MAYOR KERRY J. DONLEY has been attending Chamber galas for many years. His employer, Virginia Commerce Bank, was a sponsor of this year’s event.

“I think it’s important to come out and support the Chamber,” Donley said. “We need to have good relationships with our businesses and we’re also here to support the Alexandria Education Partnership. They provide funding and tutors for our schools.” The Partnership received a large percentage of the funds raised from the silent auction.

That silent auction contained more than 100 items that were donated by businesses and individuals from throughout the area. There were four tickets to the Mt. Vernon estate; a $100 gift certificate to Safeway; $100 in service at Landmark Honda; a football that was autographed by Redskin great, Charlie Taylor; weekends at bed and breakfasts; a week at a house in Duck, N.C., and a party for 20 on one of Potomac Riverboats vessels, to name a few.

Councilman William D. Euille found this last item appealing, “I’m going to bid on the party and maybe reward some of my campaign staff when this election is all over,” he said. But Euille also contributed to the auction, donating tickets to an upcoming Washington Wizard game.

Councilwoman Joyce Woodson was attracted by another auction item. “I bid on Kerry and David [Councilman David Speck] washing my car. And I need to make sure that the car has lots of oil and mud on it if I win,” she said.

After the silent auction, guests danced to the sound of Big Ray and the Kool Kats, who played everything from big band sounds of the 30s and 40s and the Charleston to disco tunes. A professional dancer even instructed people on dancing the Charleston, the Tango and other dances of the Prohibition era.

There was no evidence of bathtub gin, but wine and beer were available. These libations complimented the buffet of pork tenderloin stuffed with apricots and apples; chicken Oscar; sole Veronique, poached with grapes and champagne; sweet potatoes, baked with cranberries and apples; rice pilaf and southern-style greens.

MOST OF THE NIGHT was dedicated to laughter, dancing, food and drink. But Redmon did take time out from the gaiety to outline some of his initiatives for the upcoming year.

“The most important of these initiatives is networking,” Redmon said. “I’m not talking about Internet dating or escort services, but getting out and meeting each other.”

Government advocacy was next on his list. “That is representing business with local city and state officials,” Redmon said. “This does not mean unmarked small bills or buying votes but working with our City Council members to represent business well.”

Next was small business development. “We have a great small business development center and we are going to get in there and help these businesses out,” Redmon said. He also will focus on improving communication with civic groups. “Here we are at the Birchmere in Del Ray, where businesses and the community work well together – a great model.

The chamber will begin a speaker series this year, starting in late January. Guests will include Senator John McCain and, side by side, Newt Gingrich and James Carville,” Redmon said.