Making her own way
Craig Chamber director’s journey renews faith in abilities to make a difference
January 20, 2011
When Christina Oxley was 14, she found herself lying on her bed, telephone in hand.
Her goal that night was simple, but represented the life and career she would one day seek.
Oxley was calling Moffat County residents, encouraging them to vote for her father, Tom Mathers, as
"I'd say, 'Hi, my name is Chris and the election is tomorrow and I hope you support my dad,'" she recalled. "I loved that. I wanted to grow up too fast. I didn't want to go sit at the kids table — I wanted to be sitting at the adults table learning to play poker and pinochle."
From those humble beginnings a life of politics, community involvement and a passion for making a difference began to take shape.
However, Oxley, now the executive director of the Craig Chamber of Commerce, had a "crushing realization" in college.
"The more I studied, the more disillusioned I became at the system and what it took to influence the system and frankly I felt like there was no way," the 36-year-old Oxley said. "That I have got no opportunity whatsoever to influence the system."
But, her faith in the political process and a sense that she could make a difference in the world was renewed through a personal journey and career path she said she could have never imagined.
Oxley was born in 1974 and is a fourth generation Moffat County native.
She left the area for college at Colorado State University in 1992 with eyes set on a degree in political science and a minor in English.
"I was going to be a lawyer and then politician and retire as a lobbyist," she said.
However, after an unfortunate turn of events, Oxley left school without a degree and found herself getting by working multiple jobs back in Craig.
One of those jobs was a bartender on the day shift at her father's bar in downtown Craig.
The Daily Press editor at the time started bringing her news stories to edit in between mixing drinks. Oxley, who had little experience in the news industry back then, happily agreed.
"I was bartender on a day shift with nothing else to do," she said.
Eventually, she was hired at the Daily Press after working her way up through the ranks. Oxley worked as a reporter and photographer for 11 years.
"It was a whole different time for newspapers," she said. "I did everything from … paste up, layout and design, I was the special sections editor, was managing editor, was a beat reporter, photographer.
"I love being a jack of all trades."
Learning the ropes in a field she had no prior experience in held big dividends for her, she said.
"I really had to bulldoze my way into saying, 'I am capable of doing this, I want to do this and I am going to do this,'" she said.
She held onto that attitude and found it paid off when she left the Daily Press to become the Chamber's executive director.
"Going from a newspaper where I had all those contacts and connections and I knew how the community flowed, and what was going on, and who the movers and shakers were and being very intimate with the business climate and the economic climate — it was just such a natural transition," she said.
Oxley said she has enjoyed her work at the Chamber, a place where the different branches of the community come together.
"It's very satisfying," she said. "Every single day we do something that makes you feel this great sense of accomplishment."
However, Oxley often finds her work to be a balancing act of maintaining the integrity of the Chamber, serving its members, advocating for businesses, working to support the community and operating a visitor center.
"You are one person that everybody wants at the table, but they are not really sure why sometimes," she said.
As a woman in a prominent position in the community, Oxley often finds herself interacting and doing business with mostly men.
"The relationship is absolutely different," she said. "I know there is a difference, I can feel there is a difference, but I don't feel any disrespect or anybody who feels that my abilities are less than they are because I am a woman."
Oxley said she has never worried about her gender as she moved through the ranks of the community to where she is today.
She is the mother of two daughters — Katie, 10, and Nikki, 9 — and finds home life, much like work, to be about balance.
"It's tough," she said. "Luckily my husband (Kevin) is super supportive and super involved and that really spreads that work load out."
In the professional arena, she said she feels like she has always had, and will always have, a spot at the table next to the men of the community.
"It was never a concern," she said. "I'm, at this point, exactly where I want to be, where I strive to be."
But, Oxley keeps coming back to the feeling of disillusionment she once felt with the political process.
Working for the Daily Press, being deeply involved at the community level and reporting on local governments renewed Oxley's faith in the political system.
"I completely sympathize with people who don't feel like they can make a difference," she said. "But, I have sat in the (Craig City) Council chambers and watched one person put a halt to an ordinance."
That faith is now expanded through her work at the Chamber, weighing in on state legislative issues.
"It is politics at any level and you have got to be able to say, 'This is the way I am going to do it and I am going to get this done,'" she said.
That attitude may propel her to the next phase of her life considering her political aspirations.
Oxley said she has seriously considered running for a seat in the Colorado State House of Representatives recently.
"That's a career that's really hard to be a woman in," she said.
Today, it's something she is not quite ready for.
Tomorrow may be a different story, however.
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