Archive for Sunday, May 18, 2008

Chamber CEO search casts wide net

May 18, 2008


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."


Richard Heckler 10 years ago

It will require a lot more than a new face on the CEO. There are a lot of old faces still hanging around the Chamber that will want to carry on :business as usual. This whole search thing is more about PR than any significant change. The chamber needs deep internal change. LaVerne Squire was operating like a lone ranger. If the executive board had no clue what Laverne was doing they need to fired. One more reason to cut city tax dollars from the Chamber.When we have people involved that want to make money aka generate revenue instead of spending millions upon millions upon millions of tax dollars on building structures: that would be different. Things like a mutimillion dollar health and fitness center is not necessary. There are health and fitness centers all over town such as parks and rec, public schools and private operations. If Bill Self wants to spend money why fund after school staff ? Public schools are accessible all over town which is far more practical. Invest in these existing resources as well as the parks and rec centers. Invest in staff and update equipment: why not? Investing in existing resources is very healthy thinking.The library needs more space no question about it. The library is a busy place because citizens use the resource. Libraries promote literacy. Libraries make books available to all no matter the income. Reading is a healthy adventure. Maybe Bill Self would throw some dollars at a healthy exercise like a library? When the Chamber of Commerce and our boatload of commissioners realize the benefitof these studies and push for mandating them on all development then that might signify change:Cost of Community Services Study every 24 monthsâ A variety of economic impact studiesâ New retail impact studiesâ New Housing Impact Studiesâ Environmental Impact StudiesThere is no one on the the current commissions in Lawrence,Kansas or on the planet genius enough to make decisions without the benefit of these studies. Lawrence ,Kansas needs to rid itself of laissez-faire government because no economy can afford to allow developers to do as they please.

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