Discovery Days threatened by chamber disarray

Published on Thu, Mar 22, 2001 by Meg Olson

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Discovery Days threatened by chamber disarray

By Meg Olson

A shake-up of the Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce board of directors may lead to a quiet summer around the bay. The seven-member board has lost four of its directors, including the president and the treasurer, since the beginning of the year, and chamber members are scrambling to get hands on deck to keep chamber projects alive.

“Even in this hard time we’ve gotten a lot accomplished, but we have a lot more to do,” said chamber director and WorldMark resort manager Frederick Becker, who took the reins of a March 20 special meeting of chamber membership. Short on bodies and dollars, Becker said the chamber may have to consider paring down Discovery Days events in 2001. “We’re sort of in a financial soft spot right now but we can still have a good year,” he said. “Events that brought a lot of people into Birch Bay, like the parade and the arts and crafts fair, I don’t think we’re in a position to do this year.”

Becker said the first step needed to be getting a full board in place, and asked for volunteers for the four vacant positions.

Carl King, Julie Gerrity and Kevin Burke volunteered to take over three of the vacant positions. Becker said Bank Northwest manager Nick Jerns had agreed to join the board as treasurer and Pat Palmer will stay on as secretary, which brings the board to seven with Becker should vice-president Meg Grable decide to stay with the board.

Grable was clear she did not want to step into the position of president and was questioning her position on the board, as she would not be available during the week of the regularly scheduled board meetings. “I wouldn’t change the meeting just for me,” she said.

Lack of a president or vice-president would not hamper the board’s ability to get the job done in the short term, Becker said. “We just need to get through this year and run by committee,” he said. He added that Jerns, with chamber directorial experience from Anchorage, Alaska, had agreed to run board meetings. The chamber will hold new elections at the annual general meeting in the fall. “I feel good about how this is turning out, said chamber member and C-Shop co-owner Patrick Alesse. “We have good board members here.”

One of the first tasks of the hastily assembled board will be to review chamber committees and who leads them. Several committee chairs have resigned recently, leaving some chamber functions rudderless. King said he would take over the membership committee, while Becker is heading up the marketing and fundraising committee. He will work with the C-Shop, Bay Center Market and Peace Arch Factory Outlets to develop a string of visitor info stops. Alesse has been working with a committee to develop a Birch Bay brochure and info card, now nearing completion. Becker said committees for special events and the chamber newsletter needed to be reformed, and certain other committees may need to be created.

“A lot of events we’ve done in the past were a huge amount of work and didn’t bring in any money,” Becker said. “The parade was a lot of work and there’s really no one to run it right now. There was also a cost associated with prizes. In its glory days it was very well run but its been dwindling – it brings nothing to the chamber but takes a lot out of it.” Becker also said that, unless long-time arts and crafts fair organizer Bea Ball could step in and take over again this year, it was unlikely the event would happen.

“We need to focus on events that take less to put together and can bring in some money,” Becker said, pointing to the duck derby on Terrell Creek as a fun, simple and productive event. Palmer said she would coordinate with the organizers of the Olde Englishe Faire planned for Blaine this summer to plan regional events.

As the chamber puts its house back in order, Palmer suggested the board revisit some of the factors that may have led to the current exodus of directors. “Under the circumstances, it would be a wise thing to do in case this sort of thing happens again,” she said.

Kathy Berg, who served as chamber president for several years, resigned in part because of grumblings that she was no longer a member of the business community after she left her position as manager of Bay Horizon Park.

The chamber bylaws state that any “reputable” business is eligible for business membership in the chamber and “reputable” individuals may join as associates. The seven-member board must have at least three business and one associate member. There is nothing in the bylaws indicating what class of membership a director must hold to be an officer.

“I think the key word is reputable,” King said. “Whether you’re a business or not, I don’t see the problem. We need people to keep the chamber moving forward.” He suggested bringing a bylaw review to the membership to clarify who could serve as an officer. “I don’t think it’s unclear,” said Patricia Alesse. “There is nothing to indicate a non-business person can’t be president.”

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