Chamber of Commerce
As they search for a new top administrator, leaders of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce would love to hear from all of the more than 100,000 residents of Lawrence and Douglas County.
The reason is simple: the chamber's president and chief executive officer will be looked upon to lead the community, not simply an organization.
"This community has changed from where it was five years ago, and we want to meet the needs of the community for the future," said Joan Golden, the chamber's immediate past chairwoman and member of the organization's appointed Search Committee. "We, more and more, are trying to listen to each other, and more and more people are expressing their opinions.
"Hopefully, we practice what we say. We need to learn to trust each other and listen to each other and work together."
The ongoing search to replace Lavern Squier, who resigned this year after nearly five years on the job, represents a first for the chamber. The endeavor is involving more public input than ever, starting with recent sessions that attracted more than 100 people to offer their own ideas for what qualities, skills and other characteristics the chamber's next leader should have.
Next up: a survey, e-mailed to more than 1,500 chamber members, to see what personality characteristics, professional qualifications and educational achievements would be most important to focus on during the search.
The professional search firm hired by the chamber also is taking suggestions for potential candidates and for potential references.
After that, consultants from the executive search firm, Waverly Partners, will compile a job description, to be vetted by the search committee before soliciting applications. Then candidates will be interviewed, and up to three finalists will be tapped to be back in town for a series of public meetings.
Anyone and everyone in the area - cutting across all economic, business, political, residential and other demographic strata - will be invited to ask questions, form opinions and commit them to evaluation forms for members of the search committee to consider.
The goal is to recommend to the chamber's full Board of Directors a candidate with the widest possible appeal, most desirable skills and best chance for success in a community where consensus on economic development and other issues often has proven elusive.
"We just need someone who can leap tall buildings in a single bound, faster than a speeding bullet," said Randy Weseman, superintendent of Lawrence public schools and member of the chamber's board and search committee. "And that's not unusual. It'll be hard to find a person who can satisfy every interest group and constituent group in town, but asking them all what they think is probably a good practice.
"That's what a community is: a lot of different opinions."
Chamber leaders are hoping to have its president and CEO hired within four or five months, said Golden, a vice president at U.S. Bank.
By the end of the process - after all the suggestions, questions, comments and other ideas are considered - the chamber leader should have a fairly good idea of what's in store, Golden said.
"The candidates that end up coming to Lawrence at the end," she said, "hopefully will be ones who come in with their eyes wide open."