Armed with marketing experience from California, seven years cultivating a community at the Oak Bluffs Library and a lifelong connection to the Vineyard, Carolina Cooney is prepared to tackle her next role as executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber board of directors announced their selection of Ms. Cooney as executive director this week. She will follow the footsteps of Nancy Gardella, who announced her retirement this past December, ending a 15-year tenure as executive director.

In a phone interview with the Gazette Wednesday, Ms. Cooney said she was looking for a challenge when she applied for the position, missing the world of marketing she left behind when she moved to the Island from California.

“Everything sounded like what I wanted, so I applied,” she said.

Ms. Cooney was born on Martha’s Vineyard, but moved away when she was two years old, she said. She returned 11 years ago to take care of her grandmother and raise her family, eventually returning to work at the Oak Bluffs Library. There, she continued her work in marketing and communications, serving as the library’s programming coordinator and working in public relations and graphic design.

She said she hopes her deep connections to the Vineyard act as an advantage in her new role.

“I think it’s hard to imagine somebody off-Island coming to [take] this position,” she said.

A resident of West Tisbury and co-creator of the retail website, Ms. Cooney said she understands what it’s like to run a business on the Island. She added that she believes it’s important for Island businesses to become more present online.

“Even not living here year-round, you don’t know what it’s like to have a business on the Island,” she said.

Ms. Cooney cited housing and staffing as two of the biggest challenges facing Island businesses. She added that the Island’s seasonality adds an additional layer of challenge for business owners.

“We rely so much on having the J-1 visa population . . . and we haven’t had that in the last few years,” she said in part.

In recent years, Ms. Cooney said she’s seen help wanted signs up at nearly every business on the Island. Even as Covid cases wane and the Vineyard prepares for an explosive summer, she said many of those same signs have been hung along the Island’s main streets.

“Having enough people to work, and having trained people to work, is a challenge,” she said.

One place Ms. Cooney sees opportunity for Island businesses is in the shoulder season, she said. With more people on the Island year-round, Ms. Cooney said the Island may be able to appeal to those who may not want to visit during the hectic summer season.

“Right now used to be the dead season,” she said. “And now . . . it’s pretty busy.”

Even if businesses can’t extend their seasons, Ms. Cooney said there’s opportunity in advertising and promotion throughout the year.

“They can still do promotions to really ramp up their summer sales,” she said.

And while she acknowledged the role of the chamber in promoting the Island for tourists, she said she feels Martha’s Vineyard speaks for itself when it comes to attracting summer visitors. Still, she said she believes there are demographics the Island could do a better job of attracting.

“We can certainly expand to reach more international visitors,” she said.

As Ms. Cooney steps into her new role, she’ll be helping to handle a season that has already seen sold-out ferries and a high octane rental market.

“Definitely anticipating to have a busier season than ever,” she said.

But looking to the summer and beyond, Ms. Cooney said she’s just excited to be able to help serve the Island and its business community.

She begins work Friday.

“I’m looking forward to getting started,” she said.