Ruff ready to take McGregor and Marquette to the next level as new chamber director

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Patti Ruff took over Jan. 3 as executive director of the McGregor-Marquette Chamber of Commerce. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

Patti Ruff has lived in the McGregor-Marquette area since she was 6. After graduating from Mar-Mac High School, she earned a degree in history from Loras College and settled in the area with husband Dan. They have three sons—Liam, Bryar and Tucker.

“I can’t imagine living anywhere else,” she said. “I just love McGregor and Marquette.”

When the position of executive director of the McGregor-Marquette Chamber of Commerce became available a couple months ago, it was a dream come true.

“I’ve wanted to do this job for a long time,” Ruff said, adding that, lately, the desire to promote the area became even stronger. “I just felt like the towns were not living up to their potential.”

When Ruff, who served as representative for Iowa House District 56, applied for the position, she was still in the midst of the election. If she would have won and also been offered the job, Ruff said she planned to do both. 

“When I lost, it just made it more of a possibility,” she remarked. “Now’s the chance to come back home and take McGregor and Marquette to the next level.”

As chamber director, Ruff said her vision for the two communities involves putting McGregor and Marquette back on the map.

“I want to get it back to being a destination for people who want to experience the river, small town shops and what a river town is like,” she shared.

“I’m excited to promote McGregor and Marquette, expand our reach and get more visitors to the area,” Ruff added. “I’ve been out in the Des Moines area and outside Iowa, and people think Iowa’s all flat and cornfields. They don’t understand the grand beauty we have in the Driftless Area. We’re a well-kept secret. I want to make sure we get the word out. I think we have a lot to offer, that our businesses have a lot to offer.”

Ruff, who officially started her duties Jan. 3, said one of the first orders of business will be to discover what people—the chamber board, chamber members and cities—want from the chamber.

“Right away, I need to reach out to people and have good, open communication,” she explained. “I want to go around and talk to all the members, find out their goals and what they want to see from the chamber.”

She also hopes to gain new members and bring back businesses who left the chamber, discovering why they left and what would convince them to return.

Additional goals, Ruff shared, include helping to explore opportunities for the closed Old Man River and the former Holiday Shores property, as well as strengthening the communities’ events.

“I want to get the events built back up to premiere style, get a handle on what we do and what we’re involved in, and make it the best possible,” she commented.

Ruff said there’s a lot she’ll have to catch up on and learn about, but she’s excited for the opportunity.

“I’m up for the challenge,” she noted. “If you’re a member or want to be, stop in and see me. My door’s always open. I want to build that trust and reliability.”

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