Q1: What is your role with the Chamber, and how does it serve the community?
Within DeKalb County we have ten communities the chamber serves, and each of them offers something unique. A typical day for me as executive director would be working with area partners on various issues like economic development, training, workforce development or working with one of our downtown improvement organizations to see what we can do to continue to revitalize our downtown areas. Recently we have had discussions about the importance of agriculture in our community and what the landscape of that looks like. We also just held a human resources roundtable, including HR directors from manufacturing, to discuss the challenges of hiring the right people to take hiring from ‘good’ to ‘great.’ I also work with area businesses to celebrate the growth and success of locally owned businesses in our area. We do a wide variety of things for our county and I absolutely love that.
Q2: How did your career path lead you to your current position?
I have been very involved with the Chamber of Commerce in Fort Wayne for almost 30 years, and when I was a child, my uncle sat on the Chamber board. I remember always wanting to be one of the decision makers, so now as I run a chamber myself, it is kind of interesting where my interest began. I was also with Business People magazine for almost 20 years, where I received support to be involved with the Chamber and helped to work with the small business division and the events as a committee chair. I enjoy the work the Chamber does, and the ways it helps businesses. I eventually worked with Mental Health America (MHA) for a year, during which time I presented a suicide prevention/post-vention tool kit in Washington, D.C. at the National MHA convention. I have been a board member for the Auburn-Cord Duesenberg Festival for five years. It was there my friend Sarah Payne said the DeKalb Chamber was looking for an executive director. I pursued the opportunity, and it has been a perfect fit ever since. It is a great way for me to assist other organizations and partner with them in ultimately creating a better world.
Q3: What are some challenges you see within your community, and how can you overcome them?
From a commerce standpoint, our greatest challenge is the workforce. It is the biggest obstacle we have everywhere; having enough people for the open positions that we have. Also, developed workforce with proper training is integral. I work closely with DeKalb Economic Development and attend regular meetings with area/regional chambers to see how we can all work together to strengthen our region with these issues. We also provide training and educational seminars to our members in a variety of ways through events like Lunch & Learns, Leadercast, Career Exploration Day and Leadership breakfasts just to name a few. We also face drug abuse issues in our county. At our next HR round-table we plan to have the Lutheran Foundation’s Look Up Indiana come to speak about the opioid crisis. We definitely have a challenge with poverty and the working poor. These are important issues. There are so many wonderful organizations working together offering service and eduation to the people in this demographic. What I am most impressed by is how the businesses, nonprofit organizations and people in our community work together so that we do not duplicate efforts and we unite to serve the needs of DeKalb County.
Q4: What are some the best qualities of DeKalb County?
The strongest asset we have in DeKalb County is the people, hands down. The ones who live there are amazing, the DeKalb County employees are great people and our visitors from all over bring a little piece of heaven to our area. Part of our mission at the Chamber is to create a better place to live, work and play. Whether you live, work or play in DeKalb County, it is all one cohesive community. One thing we do is host the world’s largest classic car show over Labor Day weekend, with many out-of-town visitors. We also have a free fall fair with great attendance. Garrett has a great art museum that is absolutely gorgeous, and people come to visit from all over the world. Each year over 28,000 people travel through the Waterloo Train Depot. We have the Spencerville Bridge, as well. In Ashley, Country Meadow Elementary School is the only school in the state to have the Leader Me program accreditation. We have so many wonderful things to offer in DeKalb County, many hidden gems waiting to be discovered. If you are in our area, please stop in and say hi!