MILFORD — Darel La Prade, publisher of the Delaware State News, has been awarded for his work as president of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Milford between 2018 and 2020.
“It was a surprise. I didn’t expect it,” Mr. La Prade said of the award, given earlier this month. “It was an honor, not so much to receive the award, but rather to have been the president of the chamber for three consecutive years.”
According to a press release from CCGM, he was the first person to serve in that capacity for that long.
For the last 24 years, Mr. La Prade has worked for Independent Newsmedia Inc., the company that owns and publishes the Delaware State News, the Milford Chronicle and several other local papers in Downstate Delaware.
“Darel has been such an asset to the chamber, and the community, supporting businesses and organizations to help this area grow,” Jo Schmeiser, the chamber’s executive director, said in an email. “Darel has been a great mentor to me (and to) several board and chamber members as well.”
But the fact that Mr. La Prade’s term is up does not mean he’s no longer involved with the organization.
“He is still involved with the chamber serving on the Economic Development Joint Task Force, is Chairperson of the CCGM Legislative Affairs Committee and will hopefully help with the set-up of the 20th Anniversary Riverwalk ‘Freedom’ Festival in September as he has many times,” Ms. Schmeiser said.
The press release features a long list of accomplishments Mr. La Prade had a hand in over the course of his tenure, including the implementation of a new computer system, a move back to downtown Milford and a redesign of the organization’s newsletter.
“The most important (accomplishment) was giving money back to the community,” Mr. La Prade said when asked to reflect on his time as president.
“The Milford chamber is a very unique organization, I think, insofar as it not only advocates for the business community and does a really good job at that but also prides itself on returning money to the community and to nonprofits, so that the money has a multiplier effect,” he said.
According to the press release, the chamber gave $45,000 to local nonprofits over the course of Mr. La Prade’s three years as president.
This may have been his most important contribution as president, but it’s not his favorite.
“The one that is nearest and dearest to my heart and the one I hope really becomes better and better each year is the Professional Citizen of the Year (Award),” Mr. La Prade said.
In 2020, that award was given to the two brothers who own Mama Maria Restaurant & Pizzeria, which gave away hundreds of meals at the beginning of the pandemic.
Mr. La Prade’s award was also delayed by COVID-19. According to the press release, he was supposed to receive it back in April at the chamber’s Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon, which was canceled.
Interestingly, Mr. La Prade has earlier experience leading a chamber of commerce.
“I was president of the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce, as well,” he said, referring to his earlier career in North Carolina.
Mr. La Prade said his involvement with that chamber “grew out of being in the newspaper business. I ran a bunch of newspapers on the Outer Banks of North Carolina from 1985 to 1993 or so.”
Ms. Schmeiser said it’s useful for chambers to have close relationships with members of the media.
“I’m not sure if all chambers have the same relationship with personnel from local newspapers, but if I had to guess I would say yes,” she said. “Local media is extremely important to chambers because they help us market our events, they provide editorial opportunities to us and also provide a plethora of information that effects those we support.”
When asked why he wanted to become the president of CCGM back in 2018, Mr. La Prade cited his hope to aid businesses.
“I felt like it was my obligation to do something good, to help the Milford community, particularly the Milford business community,” he said. “I felt like I had something to contribute to the chamber.”
Ms. Schmeiser said he was a pleasure to work with.
“Even though technically Darel was my boss, he never made me feel like I was working for him, but that we were working together to achieve the same goals,” she said. “He was always available — and still is — when I had questions or needed guidance, and was overall a very supportive, hands on leader of the chamber."