FLEMING ISLAND – Multiple New York Yankee figurines sit atop an overhead shelf, only about a foot from an autographed red, white and black Jacksonville Sharks football. In a tucked away corner of the office just next to a floor-to-ceiling window sits a cricket bat, giving clues as to the British West-Indian roots, and the transient, but now static existence of the office’s lone occupant.
Wendell Chindra is the new president of the Clay County Chamber of Commerce. That much is easy to find out. The real question though, is who is Wendell Chindra? That is a much more interesting story.
Chindra is a husband. He is a father of three. He is a businessman. He is, in many ways, the embodiment of the American dream.
He is a 44-year-old native of Princes Town on the small island nation of Trinidad and Tobago, located in the Caribbean Sea, just off the north-eastern coast of Venezuela. Raised by a Hindu father and Muslim mother, Chindra is a Christian, currently a member of Restoration Church of God in Jacksonville, having developed interest in the faith after one of his cousins entered the seminary. His parents, though not Christian themselves, were in line with the morals and values of the Christian church.
Chindra arrived in the United States (Queens, New York) in 1996 to attend Lehman College and study geology with the intent of returning to his native Trinidad to enter the oil industry. He was close to completion of his bachelor’s degree when he was coaxed away from the classroom by a business opportunity in which he says he was “relatively successful.” He worked in the mortgage business, but when the housing crisis of 2008 happened, the bottom fell out. That, he said, is how he ended up moving his family to Jacksonville.
He went back to school, this time at Jacksonville University, but there was no geology program there.
“I liked political science, so I ended up doing a social science degree with a minor in political science, then I did a graduate degree in Public policy,” Chindra said. Due to his experience in the financial sector and in business, he then began working at Merrill Lynch as a financial advisor.
In October of 2018, he was hired as the director of operations for the CCOC (Clay Chamber of Commerce). In December of the same year, the then president of the CCOC resigned, opening the door for Chindra’s foray into leadership.
“I ran the chamber with the, at that time, Chairman of the Board Amy Pope-Wells, (current district 3 U.S. congressional candidate)” he said. “We did the day-to-day together for about six months with the new staff.”
After being the Director of operations for one year and one day, Chindra was offered the position of president.
“I was on the job training,” Chindra said. “For one year, and one day. After talking to my wife and praying about it, I decided to accept.”
Impressed with Chindra, the fifteen board members of the CCOC voted to make Chindra the president.
He is driven and wants to see Clay county develop into what he knows it can become.
In the short term, his biggest goal is to regain the trust of the community. He wants to see more business with the chamber of commerce stickers on their windows and doors.
In the long term, he wants the county to come to a place where they can lead the conversation on advancements and not just follow Jacksonville's and Duvall county’s leads. He believes that becoming a smart city is something to which Clay can aspire down the road. For that to happen, the conversation needs to be started. He believes that Clay can be and needs to be that starter.
Chindra is working hard at his current post, which comes with a three-year contract. Besides that, being a man of faith, he is also working towards a doctorate in Ministry from Pentecostal, Theological Seminary in Cleveland, Tennessee. He wants to serve his community in every possible way.
Chindra looks fondly on Clay County and has great hope for its future.
“I think for too long in Clay County, they’ve been at the base level. They’ve been the stepchild to Jacksonville. I think its own way it's unique. It’s an amazing place.”