Julie Pastrick is all about teamwork and finding balance, because those are the key components to leadership.
Pastrick is president and CEO of the Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce, which serves more than 1,000 member businesses in the second-largest county in the United States.
“I think being the leader of a chamber that has been known as the largest rural chamber has been quite an honor,” Pastrick said. “Collaboration, reaching out, partnerships, doing things together with other entities so your outcomes are greater has always been my philosophy.
“I call it collective governance, meaning: Alone, the chamber can do so much, but if you partner with another nonprofit, with the university, with the city, with the county… or an industry partner, you can drive outcomes that you couldn’t do alone, because there’s shared resources, there’s shared thought leadership,” Pastrick said.
Pastrick said she loves thought leadership that comes from various perspectives because when the Flagstaff Chamber makes a business advocacy decision, “it’s been researched, it’s been distilled.”
“Leadership is such a unique term, because I know that certain people are called leaders or viewed as leaders, but for me… it’s about mirroring what your customers’ needs are and what your businesses want you to do and surrounding yourself with people that you think are just way more awesome than you are and can get things done with you,” Pastrick said. “I’m a very team-oriented leader.”
Flagstaff is a diverse and unique community of about 72,000 residents nestled at 7,000 feet above sea level in the largest stand of Ponderosa pine trees in the world. The city has a “wonderful, world-class university” and businesses both small and large from a range of industries, including a booming tourism industry, Pastrick said.
“A lot of people really want to live in the mountains, but you also have to be gainfully employed and respect the fact that business is what drives a local economy,” she said. “The Flagstaff Chamber’s mission is to drive a very healthy business climate, because we truly believe that a healthy business climate and a vibrant community are inseparable.”
“I think any time you live in a very desirable community — like Flagstaff really is — you face a dichotomy of emotions and thinking,” Pastrick said. “People come to Flagstaff because they want to live in the mountains, and they want to be the last person who ever came here. Business knows that that’s not how it goes. We have to support the economy and grow the economy and work together.”
In small mountain towns across the Intermountain West, the “no-growth versus growth” battle is front and center, she said.
Issues that might not even feel like growth issues get “put in that box,” Pastrick said, creating a struggle in the community to find middle ground: How can you keep the small-town community atmosphere while continuing to grow economically?
Pastrick is originally from South Bend, Indiana, and migrated to Arizona as an educator. She taught on the Navajo Nation reservation in the northeast part of the state, which made her “deeply connected to the culture and the ways of the Navajo tribe,” she said.
Flagstaff, the closest bedroom community to the Navajo Nation, was her next stop.
“I just think that sometimes you go someplace and you wonder why you didn’t leave, and you’re glad that you stayed,” Pastrick said. Most of her family is still in Indiana and the Midwest, she said.
Coconino National Forest and its Ponderosa pines surround Flagstaff, making urban sprawl nearly impossible, but that is part of what makes the outdoor recreation-focused community so attractive, Pastrick said.
Flagstaff is the seat of Coconino County, and the Flagstaff Chamber serves a broad region of Northern Arizona, allowing for a variety of productive partnerships, she said.
The Williams Chamber of Commerce closed in 2016, and the Flagstaff Chamber picked up the slack by forming the Williams Business Alliance about 18 months ago, she said.
“That’s been a wonderful blend of two I-40 communities working together, going back and forth, businesses sharing their ideas and their growth concepts and keeping that I-40 corridor really vital and growing,” Pastrick said.
Leadership is also about accepting criticism and working with others, Pastrick said.
“It’s almost like the buck stops with you, and if you’re able to take the buck, fine,” she said. “Sometimes it gets kind of murky, and sometimes you have to make that tough decision that isn’t really popular.”
For the most part, however, being a chamber CEO is “very gratifying” and can play an important role in determining the quality of the community, Pastrick said.
“My father was my role model,” she said. “My father always told me I could do anything I wanted to, I could be who I wanted to be, and he was always there for me; he was always willing to help.”
Pastrick said she admires leaders of all kinds, and she believes reading is crucial to aspiring leaders who want to keep learning.
“If you get two or three ideas from each book, you’re a better person for it,” she said. “It either lets you know you’re doing things right or tells you, ‘Hey, maybe you’ve got to go the other fork in the road; try this for a change.’”
Pastrick said her favorite hobby, however, is fitness. She said she tries to keep her health, career, family and faith all balanced.
“I just feel like cycling and spending time at the beach and going to the gym really help me to unwind, and I do it all the time, and I’m so happy that I have time for it most of the time, but it’s very important,” she said. “Proper nutrition and proper exercise and a passion for what you do — it’s a great equation for success.”
Finding that balance makes it easier to lead and easier to earn support, Pastrick said.
“The better you feel as a leader, the better you will be attracting those around you to go with what your concepts are or what your ideas are,” she said.