Archive for Saturday, April 5, 2008

Chamber of Commerce president departing

Search committee to be appointed within a week

April 5, 2008


Chamber President steps down

The Lawrence Chamber of Commerce and its top administrator are parting ways. Enlarge video

The Lawrence Chamber of Commerce's top administrator is leaving.

Lavern Squier, the chamber's president and chief executive officer for nearly five years, no longer will be employed by the chamber once an "appropriate transition period" has passed, the organization's board of directors announced Friday.

The chamber runs the city's economic-development efforts, and Mayor Mike Dever acknowledged that the upcoming leadership transition would be difficult.

"We need a dynamic salesperson that can really get in front of people and bring opportunities to the community," he said.

Dr. Jim Otten, chamber chairman, said a search committee would be appointed within a week to identify candidates to replace Squier. Until a new president and CEO is chosen, Squier's administrative responsibilities will be shared by existing chamber staffers.

Among employees who will be expected to play a lead role: Hank Booth, who was hired in November to work within all of the chamber's programs, including economic development and membership.

"He will be an important transition person," Otten said Friday afternoon.

Otten described Squier's departure as a "mutual agreement," following discussions about each side's futures that had been going "for a long time" between Squier and the chamber's board of directors.

The written announcement included no mention of Squier having another job, and Otten acknowledged that Squier didn't have anything specific lined up.

Messages left for Squier were not returned Friday. In the board's announcement, Squier said that it was a good time for all to look forward to opportunities: for himself, the chamber and the community overall.

"This represents an ideal time for an evolutionary step in my career and likewise for the organization," Squier said.

The chamber touted some accomplishments achieved during Squier's tenure: Berry Plastics pursuing a $118 million expansion; 1,640 jobs added by existing companies, plus another 255 through recruitment; creation of a Life Sciences Task Force, which later became the Lawrence-Douglas County Biosciences Authority; and co-creation of the Lawrence/Douglas County Technical Training Task Force.

Not mentioned were other developments that occurred under Squier's watch, including:

¢ This year's departure of the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau, which left the chamber and its offices at 734 Vt. to form Destination Management Inc., which continues to operate the CVB and now oversees operations of the Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area.

¢ The collapse of a deal that would have relocated Deciphera Pharmaceuticals from offices and labs in western Lawrence to a building at the East Hills Business Park. Squier was at the center of the deal, which fell apart after he and Lawrence city commissioners were found to have participated in improper executive sessions to discuss incentives for Deciphera.

¢ Voluntary departures of many chamber staffers, including all members of the economic-development team that was in place at the time of his arrival.

Squier came to Lawrence after nearly 13 years as executive director of the Hays-based Ellis County Coalition for Economic Development.

A reception to honor Squier's community service, Otten said, would be scheduled soon.

Staff writer Chad Lawhorn contributed information to this story.


1wetwilly 10 years, 1 month ago

In Lawrence there are "city leaders / promoters" that have not acheived anything on their own. They grew up here, maybe attended KU (as an extension of Lawrence High School), and merely fell into businesses and social cliques started decades ago by relatives. They try to convince other people through their verbosity that they are individually successful. The reality is that they may have inherited money or businesses, but in their own right, they are mediocre and unaccomplished. They are simply disapated adults living off the legacy of deceased parents and grandparents.

texburgh 10 years, 1 month ago

Will part of the celebration honoring Lavern focus on his role in the notorious open meetings violations? If there was ever proof that the city commission was working for the Chamber and not for the citizens of Lawrence, it was the incestuous relationship brought to light by the arrogance of a man who thought he, as chamber president, was entitled to attend executive sessions of the commission while I, a mere citizen/taxpayer, could not. Hey Lavern, don't let the door hit you in the rear on the way out of town. Good riddance.

mytwocents555 10 years, 1 month ago

How nice for Mr. Squier an evolutionary step in his career and for the Chamber. Sounds like a prepared media statement to me. Like we don't know the real reason he is leaving. Gee, that really surprises me because according to him, he was the only REAL leader in this community. Go ahead; ask him, he'll be happy to tell you. City, County, Universities, Schools, Chamber Board members and staff would be lost without him. Nothing would have occurred in this community during the past 5 years if it wasn't for him. Not only does he take credit for the hard work, ideas and ingenuity of others, he has to criticize and discredit everyone he comes into contact with to further aggrandize himself. Yes, Mr. Squier, nobody is as all knowing and powerful as you. I can't even imagine how he treated his staff - can you believe that turnover! Didn't your mommy ever tell you that what goes around comes around? Bye, bye!

kudzutexas 10 years, 1 month ago

FINALLY...this man is gone. Why have a celebration for a man who has been robbing the members of this organization for sometime. All of the accomplishments stated were started by the economic team that was in place before him. The only thing Lavern accomplished was a record high of turnover in employees. It's a shame that nothing was done sooner. See ya Lavern. Go back to where you came from. I'm sure there is a certain someone who'd like to see you return.

burtreynolds 10 years, 1 month ago

Chamber board; thanks for finally pulling your heads out. Firing Lavern D. Squier from his role as President AND CEO of the chamber is the best thing you've done since hiring him. All he's done for 5 years is stifle everyone around him. He chased the CVB out of the office! He ran countless talented staff away. Don't bother going on with the charade of him leaving on his own accord...he has no other job lined up, you don't have a replacement lined up, and he's still under contract, I fell safe assuming. What's his golden parachute look like? Think he's worth 1/10th of it? Let's try to be a little wiser with hiring his replacement. Bye, Beth Johnson. Your job was to make Lavern look pretty and due to your gross incompetence you excelled at it. Enjoy the unemployment line.

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