Chamber seeking new directorBy Steve Estes
The Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce this week is on a search for a new executive director.
At last week’s chamber board of director’s meeting, a majority of the board voted not to renew the contract of long-time director Carole Stevens.
Stevens has been leading the organization for about a decade.
“Carole was the right person at the right time when she was hired for the job,” said Steve Miller, current chamber president.
“At a time in our history when we needed someone to help us return to fiscal solvency, Carole did that,” he said.
At one point about a decade ago the chamber was running at a budgetary deficit each year and was annually dipping into lines of credit to carry the organization through lean times.
Since then, the chamber has instituted some successful community events that raise money for the organization, such as the annual Nautical Flea Market, the annual Island Art Fair and ever increasing participation in its annual dolphin tournament.
Stevens was also one of five chamber directors that successfully lobbied the Monroe Board of County Commissioners not to remove the chambers as tourist information services under the umbrella of the Tourist Development Council. The latter organization had contemplated that move, discussing turning over the information services duties to the lodging association.
The visitor information services money from TDC is a substantial portion of the local chamber’s budget each year.
The remainder of the budget comes from fundraising through the community events and membership dues.
At one time the chamber represented more than 300 business entities between the south end of the 7-Mile Bridge and Stock Island, but that number has dwindled to around 250 now.
Increasing membership is part of the new thrust the chamber wants from a new director, said Miller.
“The chamber also wants to become more of a community force,” said Miller. “We are looking for leadership that can take us in that direction.”
Miller expects no dearth of candidates for the job, but said he would like to have the position filled in the next three weeks. A selection committee will be formed of chamber directors to narrow the field and a majority vote of the directors will be needed to select a final candidate.
He says the search will start “immediately.”
“We’re looking for someone who is a successful event planner, preferably with some knowledge of grant writing and experience in management of a not-for-profit agency such as the chamber,” said Miller.
The director is asked to run the day-to-day operations of the Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce, liaison with TDC and elected officials in the county, provide oversight in event planning and successfully manage the chamber’s budget, as well as other ancillary jobs.
The local chamber is the smallest of the five in Monroe County in terms of dollars returned to county coffers through TDC bed taxes, although it is one of the largest in terms of territory covered, with a membership area spanning more than 25 miles.
There are fewer lodging rooms in the Lower Keys than any other area in the island chain, with little chance of adding any significant number of rooms in the future due to growth management restrictions in the area.
The Lowe Keys chamber area accounts for about six percent of the total bed tax dollars in Monroe County.
Miller says anyone interested in applying for the job can drop a resume at the chamber offices at mile marker 31 oceanside on Big Pine Key, or email resumes to email@example.com.