AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB) – After 36 years, Colleen DiPirro is stepping down as President and CEO of the Amherst Chamber of Commerce. This highly decorated businesswoman has made her mark on Buffalo’s biggest suburb.
“Colleen has been wonderful in this community, has grown this chamber to really be a source of pride for the community, and economic driver for the community,” says Brian Kulpa, Amherst Supervisor.
DiPirro led the Chamber away from picnics and parades into public policy and regional development.
“We needed to create a new paradigm for Chambers of Commerce. The old Chamber of Commerce model doesn’t work anymore,” says DiPirro.
She even dared to broach the touchy subject of whether businesses were spreading too rapidly in Amherst – bringing all that traffic.
“Seventy-seven percent of the taxes that support all the services we enjoy for our quality of life (in Amherst) are paid for by businesses,” according to DiPirro.
Along the way, she shepherded Amherst businesses to back the Buffalo Bills and galvanized support for D-1 athletics at UB, but most of all this Republican is proud of fostering bipartisan leadership.
DiPirro says, “The fact that we can work with both sides of the aisle and remain on friendly terms and not adversarial with them bodes so well for the growth of not only this organization, but the community and the region at large.”
DiPirro, now a proud grandmother, was a young mother of two boys when her husband died suddenly while watching one son compete in a youth wrestling match. In her grief, to avoid welfare, she went to work full-time and made a promise to her sons.
“I’m not going to be waiting with milk and cookies when you come home, ” DiPirro told her boys back then, “but I’m not going to miss any of the important times of your life. I’m always there for you and always supportive of you.”
She’s proud that, as a single parent, she never missed the major moments of her sons’ lives. But she is frank about what she endured, often as the only woman in the room at a business organization.
She recalls, “The very first board meeting I went to, two of the board members asked where the pastries were. Did I bake the night before? That’s an absolutely true story.”
She urges young working women today to stand strong and confident.
“And never give in, ever, to the physical or emotional abuse of someone of the same sex or the opposite sex. And it’s not always easy.”
Under DiPirro’s leadership, the Chamber has grown from 150 members to about 1,000 and A.J.Baynes steps into the President’s role at a thriving organization. DiPirro leaves behind a mountain of milestones and accolades. So, it’s no surprise she has been asked now to consider a run for Congress.
DiPirro says she has turned it down. “I think my time in a leadership position has passed and I’m looking forward to time to spend with my family and my grandchildren.”