Bement Chamber looking for leaders

For the second time within a year, the Bement Area Chamber of Commerce is looking for a new executive director and president.

Heidi and Clayton Ahlden, the couple who took on those two positions in December of last year, resigned on Oct. 2, citing a busy schedule that includes their role as Bement village board members that began in May.

“Since being part of the Chamber, we have had much difficulty balancing the responsibilities of the positions along with the rest of our lives as well as our other responsibilities with the village,” said the resignation letter signed by both Clayton (president) and Heidi (executive director) Ahlden.

“Both of us work out of town, which leaves us unable to attend many meetings and/or daytime activities. We have not met many other members. It has felt as though we are juggling the responsibilities of the positions but have been unable to get a firm grasp on them,” it continued.

They also stated they felt “there is an inherent conflict of interest in many of the decisions we are faced with at village meetings.”

The duo stepped in after the Chamber could not find someone to fill a vacant president position last year, along with executive director Kym Bentley stepping down in December of last year. The latter position handles the day-to-day duties but netted Heidi Ahlden just $50 per month in Bement Bucks.

Jeff Funk, who as current vice president presided over the BACC monthly luncheon on Oct. 4, admits the executive director position needs more compensation but that it might be out of the financial realm of the organization.

“Obviously the executive director is a big time-consuming job with a lot of responsibilities,” said Funk. “I think it’s difficult to ask someone to spend the amount of time it takes to do it unless there’s some compensation involved, but we don’t have funds to pay anyone’s salaries,” he said.

Members’ dues go mostly to fund chamber events, including the Old Glory Festival in June and the December holiday Vendor Blender. Other duties include website updates, organizing the monthly luncheons and sending out quarterly all-household mailings.

After Tabitha Elder led the chamber as president for several years, the organization decided to add an executive director and appointed Bentley in 2014.

Chamber officers were not elected on their usual cycle this past May, so previous year’s officers have continued to serve.

“Kim had trouble finding a replacement, and I also had a hard time finding a replacement. I don’t know if we all need to meet as chamber members and find the right way to go about this,” said Elder at the Chamber’s lunch meeting Oct. 5.

With a shortage of volunteers, member Michelle Gross asked if it was time to think of reorganizing the group.

“There could be a potential reorganization of the chamber. Maybe instead of monthly meetings we could go to quarterly meetings,” said Gross, the branch manager of State Bank of Bement’s Monticello branch.

Heidi Apperson, another Chamber member and communication specialist at Kirby Medical Center, said interns can help, especially with events.

“Interns are most helpful to me with things like the Kirby Derby (road race),” said Apperson.

Elder added the director position is important not only for event planning, but as an advocate for local businesses.

“If we can’t find anyone to run the chamber, there’s not really anyone to promote the local economy, and how is that going to affect the businesses and organizations in town and the area,” she added.

Like Funk, she also felt the BACC would need to pay someone in order to fill the executive director post.

A Chamber committee will likely be formed to brainstorm the issue, including a possible replacement for Heidi Ahlden. Anyone interested in applying for the executive director position should call Funk at 217-493-7739.

Julie Glawe of Piatt County Faith in Action – the speaker for the Oct. 5 chamber meeting – encouraged members as she spoke on “building community.”

“I think it’s solvable,” she said, adding that the chamber could start doing more low-time, low-cost items that could include helping deliver Foodmobile items, cleaning yards, and partnering with other organizations on local projects.

“You can do things in your community without a lot of time and effort,” added Glawe.


 

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