I knew this day would come. Frankly, in January, it seemed like a long way away. But now that the end is near, it seems like this past year flew by at the speed of light. Maybe that is because things ran so smoothly.
My approach to the Chamber was much different than I thought it would be when I first found out I was going to be the 2014 chairman – way back in late 2012. I had BIG plans – we were going to make changes, be everywhere all the time, yada, yada, yada. Well, things have a way of changing and adjustments must be made. Wisdom must be used (I am not implying that I had any great wisdom, but I did remember a lot of wise sayings and advice I have heard/been given over the years).
The course of action I chose to take was “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” I did not think that our Chamber was broken. Could we improve? Always. But overall the Destin Area Chamber is a great Chamber. So, I let the professionals do their jobs. I provided guidance when it was needed, did what was asked and required of me, provided what I could to make their jobs easier, and then stayed out of their way.
I also vowed to listen to anyone who needed the Chamber. The traffic light versus a signalized cross-walk comes to mind. Last, year the Chamber supported building a traffic light at Marler Street and Highway 98, as opposed to a fully signalized cross-walk. This year, several property owners asked the Chamber to support the fully signalized cross-walk over a traffic light. We listened. Then decided that the best approach for the Chamber was to support getting pedestrians across U.S. Hwy 98 SAFELY. The details of how that should happen we left to the professionals.
We also let go of an event that had run its course. Goodbye, PUTToberfest. I enjoyed this event, but it was time to say farewell. While the events that are growing got even more focus from the Chamber. Paddle at the Porch was successful, as was the second Bourbon at the Bay at Regatta Bay.
So, what did my “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” approach yield? Glad you asked! The Chamber is in the best financial shape it has been in in years. New memberships and renewals are higher than they have been in years. Our relationship with the City of Destin is very good (thank you, Mayor Ponder, Greg Kisela, City Council, and Staff), as is the relationship with the Economic Development Council (thank you, Nathan Sparks). Destin Forward is growing.
Is this the right approach for 2015? I don’t know, but the good news is Ken Wampler is on the job in just a few short weeks! To borrow a line from Oprah, what I know for sure is that I am turning over the Destin Area Chamber of Commerce in a healthy condition. What I also know for sure is that it had little to do with me and everything to do with Shane, Elizabeth, Suzy, Dena, and Jacqui, the Board of Directors who were so engaged, our wonderful Ambassadors and Volunteers, and, most of all, YOU. You make this Chamber the great Chamber it is today. Be proud of that, I am.
Now on a personal note, I want to say a special thank you to Karen McCarthy, who chose me as her special appointee to the Board of Directors when she was Chairman in 2009. Karen was (and still is) a wonderful mentor to me and an even better friend. Thank you to my two appointees, Michelle Terry and Fred Fenn, for accepting three-year Board terms. You both bring unique perspectives and were great additions to the Board (big pat on the back to me for great choices). Thank you to Shane Moody, you are great at what you do and do not ever let anyone make you doubt that; Elizabeth Spies, your quiet strength inspires me more than you know; Suzy Nicholson Hunt, you provide so much humor and comic relief, I get a little mini-vacation every time I enter your office and have a few laughs; Dena Critch, you have so much professional experience, and I am so happy the Chamber gets to enjoy the benefit of that, plus you are just awesome on the phones; and Jacqui Luberto, you have only been with us a short time, but WOW, you have made a big impact. Ken Wampler, thank you for the notes during our Board meetings (and you’re welcome!!). Bill Head, I appreciate your kindness at every single lunch this year – you always took care of me.
Thank you to everyone at Pleat, Perry & Ritchie and to my law partner, West Ritchie, who is the Walton Area Chamber Chairman this year – you were a good sounding board for me, I hope I was for you. Thank you to my paralegal, Sharlene, you kept me organized and helped me do so much more with less time and kept so many calendars straight for me. Thank you to my husband, David Pleat, who knew what I was getting into because he did this seven years ago and yet he still encouraged me to do it anyway. Thanks for covering me at work when I needed it.
A new year is on the way, and the possibilities are endless! Let 2015 be your best year yet!
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year,
2014 Chamber Chairman
Pleat, Perry & Ritchie, P.A.