Executive director considers his job a ‘grand opportunity’
Dr. Robert Argyelan is executive director of the Ramona Chamber of Commerce. A chiropractor with a background in fine arts, Argyelan has a lengthy list of accomplishments in professional, community and cultural developments. Originally from New Jersey, “just a subway ride from Manhattan,” Argyelan was exposed early to the museums and the culture of New York City. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Pratt Institute and a Master of Arts from New Jersey City University where he taught in the Fine Arts Department for 10 years. He obtained a grant to create a Department of Cultural Affairs for Jersey City, where he served as deputy director for 15 years.
He returned to college to earn a second bachelor’s degree and then his doctorate of chiropractic degree before moving to San Diego in January 1991. He opened a private chiropractic practice in El Cajon. Among his involvement in civic and professional organizations was chairing El Cajon’s Community Development Corporation, where he worked to develop the downtown business corridor by creating façade improvement programs, sign ordinances, property enhancements and special events to attract visitors.
In 1999 Argyelan moved to Ramona with his wife, Jennifer, daughter Dylan, and son Matthew and shortly after was elected to the San Diego Country Estates Association Board. He became chamber executive director in November 2013.
What motivated you to seek the executive director position for Ramona Chamber of Commerce?
In all honesty, I looked at the position as a grand opportunity to be part of making Ramona even better than it already is. The town has such a tremendous quality of life with great schools, wide open spaces, a solid core of businesses, a growing wine industry, a tradition of equestrian activities, and a growing culture of art and music.
Having worked with communities in creating economic improvements while implementing cultural programming, I saw the chamber as a leader that could serve the people of Ramona and its businesses. It could do so by working to develop and implement efforts that serve to bring about a renaissance of ideas and initiatives that restore economic viability while maintaining its rural traditions.
I’m excited now to be in a position to help guide the chamber in its leadership role and to work with its board of directors and many volunteers to build collaborative efforts to achieve our common goals and realize Ramona’s amazing potential to be the absolute best place to live and work in San Diego County.
Why do you like living in Ramona?
For me, there are many reasons. I like the recreational opportunities. My daughter can trail ride her horse or compete in a gymkhana, my wife has miles of trails to hike, and my son can grow creatively in a wonderful music community. I like that my children and grandchildren can grow up in a safe environment where people still look out for each other. I like the people and their warm embracement of neighbors, whether they live next door or five miles away.
But I think I mostly like the beautiful nights, when the sky is black and the world is lit by a million stars, uninterrupted by the lights and noises of an urban city, where the howl of a coyote is all you hear from the darkness, and from which night gives way to the brilliant sunshine of each morning.
Who or what inspires you?
I’m inspired most by people, not those necessarily elected or famous, or who rose up high on the corporate ladder. Rather I’m inspired by everyday people — by my daughter, who, while raising her two children, continues to go to college to earn her degree; by my son, who is becoming a remarkable musician in his own right; by my wife, who works long hours while also raising our family.
I’m inspired by so many people in this town who constantly work to make all our lives better, people who have dreams for a better Ramona and then actively work to make those dreams come true — the people involved in pioneering our wine industry, involved in community planning, involved in maintaining our equestrian heritage, involved in creating a vision for intergenerational spaces, involved in creating a blueprint for aesthetic design, and involved in creating a music or art scene so that lives can be touched in a way that only the arts can.
What do you like to do during your free time?
What? There’s something called free time? My wife, Jennifer, and I like to stroll through street fairs and talk to craftspeople and artists. We enjoy going to see a play or listen to a concert. Whenever we have the chance, we visit our local wineries and talk to the vintners about their wine-making and will often do so with friends.
During the summer we have a blast with friends at the concerts in Ramona Oaks Park and I’m hoping that soon we will be going to “Music on Main,” listening to the singers and songwriters of Ramona.
Is there anything you would like to see changed in Ramona, and if so, what?
It’s not so much that I want to see something changed as wanting to see an evolutionary process that allows Ramona to be all that it can for the people who live and work here.
I’d like to help the business community flourish by creating an environment that enhances the consumer experience. In doing so, I can envision an Arts & Entertainment district as a development for Old Town so that small business can thrive due to an increase in pedestrian traffic.
I’d like to work toward improving the “walkability” of Ramona so that there is a sense of community to shopping and dining in town. I see our growing wine industry as an important element in shaping Ramona as a destination rather than a pass-through on the way to someplace else, and in that process, serve as a magnet to attract new businesses to fill current storefront vacancies.
Perhaps if a specific change was needed, it would be to create better employment opportunities for those who live here so that they wouldn’t need to drive away from town to find work. Regardless of the outcome, I know we, as the people of Ramona, as the businesses of Ramona, as the organizations and leadership of Ramona, need to work collaboratively on our common goals so that we benefit mutually and our town of Ramona can be all that we can ever imagine.
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