January 15, 2009

Platte chamber gets new president

Election takes circuitous route; Kulenburg cites new Web site as added value

By Tom Locke

The Platte Canyon Area Chamber of Commerce has a new president: Bill Kulenburg, co-owner of Lynwood Park B&B, Trout Pond & Store in Bailey

Kulenburg was elected by the chamber board at a meeting on Jan. 5. He replaces Mary Sasser, who works at Moore Lumber in Bailey

Kulenburg said he will focus on what the members of the chamber want, and look at recent surveys as well as contact previous chamber presidents to see what they thought worked or didn’t work.

He said he would like to increase membership and thinks the chamber’s revamped Web site, which is still being worked on by the firm Chamber Nation at www.bailey-colorado.org, will add value that could attract new members. Soon people will be forwarded there from the current Web site, which is at baileycolorado.org.

For instance, "every member can have their own Web site through the chamber Web," and each member can also sell things online through the chamber Web site, he said.

Kulenburg doesn’t think any other chamber in the area offers those services, so the Platte Canyon chamber might be able to attract new members from Pine, Conifer and South Park with them. Plus there are additional services yet to come on the Web site that he’s not ready to discuss, he said.

He noted that the bad national economy has hurt local businesses, causing some to go under, and his focus will be on providing services to help businesses, including nonprofits.

The chamber had 160 members last year. The new Web site lists a range of charges for memberships that are as high as $150 a year for corporate memberships (such as chain stores), $65 a year for local business membership, and $30 a year for nonprofits.

"I would hope to increase membership," said Kulenburg, "but that means the chamber has to show value to businesses here for them to join."

The election

Kulenburg’s election came in an unusual way.

Nominations for the officers were made in December for Sasser as president, retired Realtor Jerry Humphrey as vice president, Sudz Laundromat manager Michelle Abbott as treasurer and Moore Lumber employee Linda Henley as secretary.

At the December meeting, the board voted for that uncontested slate of officers. But then in late December the board members realized that the vote needed to be taken in January, and only the nominations were to be taken in December.

According to Sasser, Kulenburg was nominated in January when the by-laws only call for nominations in December. Regardless, she said, she will not contest the election and plans to stay on the board and continue to help the community.

Kulenburg said that first there was a ballot at the January meeting for the previous slate of proposed officers, and that slate was rejected as a whole by six out of the eight board members.

The by-laws do not address such a situation, in which the nominees in December have been rejected in January. "What do you do?" said Kulenburg. So new nominations were taken.

Henley nominated Sasser, but no one seconded that nomination, he said. Susan Lambert, who runs a technology consulting business for homeland security and heads up the chamber’s Destination Bailey economic development arm, was nominated but declined the nomination. Kulenburg was nominated as part of an overall slate that included Humphrey as vice president, Abbott as treasurer, and Henley as secretary and that slate received six votes.

Kulenburg declined to discuss why he or others did not support Sasser as president. "It’s awkward," he said.

Lambert was elected last year as president, and was introduced to the members as president in the February meeting (see the Feb. 13, 2009, Flume), but then she decided to step down as things changed for her business. She and Sasser switched positions, with Sasser becoming president and Lambert vice president. (See the March 13, 2009, Flume.)

Sasser said she plans to stay on the board "It’s my responsibility as a former president to stay on the board," she said. "There’s a lot of exciting stuff that I want to keep working on."

Kulenburg supports that. "I personally would like her to stay on the board," he said. "She’s a personality in the community and I think she adds value." He noted that he was about to meet with -Sasser on Friday.

To some extent, Sasser looks at the positive side of being relieved of the top position at the chamber, and notes that she didn’t run for it the first time around.

"I could become more effective now because I’m not a target anymore. Anything that is wrong with the chamber is no longer my fault. And I get to vote. So I really feel that I’ll be more effective this way," she said. "And I think the main thing is I don’t need to be president to be effective in the community."