Changes coming to Chamber of Commerce
New director will not be hired; meeting with members set for July 12
The Tonganoxie Chamber of Commerce is going through considerable change, but a meeting last week sparked members to step up to keep the organization moving forward.
The board called a meeting with members Thursday to discuss the state of the chamber.
Chamber director Susan Freemyer recently resigned to take another job. The board told about 15 members in attendance in Tonganoxie City Council chambers that it determined its current finances didn’t allow for filling the director position, which is part-time.
“We moved into a new office with higher rent and soon had to find a new executive director,” Donna Hoegler, chamber president, told members at the meeting about the board’s situation early on in 2011. “We are grateful to our most recent executive director, Susan Freemyer, who put in more than her salaried hours to be the face of the chamber to the greater community.
“We struggled to break even on the year’s events and entered 2012 on shaky legs. We did our best to use our limited funds to meet the needs of the chamber and the community.”
Hoegler suggested two options to members at the meeting: make a motion to dissolve the chamber or if no motion were made, each voting member of the board was prepared to submit a letter of resignation.
Chamber members, though, wanted the chamber to press on.
“I don’t live in Tonganoxie, but spend a lot of my life here,” said chamber member Greg Orscheln, who works at Everlasting Specialties in Tonganoxie. “I very much appreciate the community you have here. I’m very proud of the Chamber of Commerce. I’m willing to help any way I can.”
Orscheln offered to join the board and was approved. Hoegler and fellow board member Tamara Morando submitted their resignations at the meeting. Vice president Jeff Clinger agreed to become president in the interim as the chamber works to move forward.
The rest of the board members — treasurer Ryne Wheatcroft, Michelle Hartpence and Gavin Olds — also are staying on the board in the interim. The board also called for another meeting this month to address the chamber’s future.
City Council member Dennis Bixby said he appreciated Hoegler’s work as president.
“I think everyone in this room thanks you for the work and investment you’ve done,” Bixby said. “It’s not easy, giving up a lot of your personal time to do what you’ve done. ”
Hoegler, who owns H Ave., is in the process of moving her business to a new location in Tonganoxie.
Mayor Jason Ward, an ex officio member of the chamber, said he thought the chamber should continue.
“We need to have a chamber of commerce in Tonganoxie,” Ward said. “That’s just an entity that has to be in place … we’ve learned that doesn’t have to function in the way that it has.”
The Chamber has taken the lead on various festivals and events, Ward said.
“The Chamber has taken on so much of that,” Ward said. “That’s not necessarily their purpose. They should be a participant but shouldn’t take the lead on that.”
Chamber members can join in the discussion about the organization’s future at 8 a.m. Thursday, July 12, in Tonganoxie City Council Chambers next to City Hall, 321 Delaware.