Chamber president search narrowed to 5

January 12, 2019

The Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce could potentially have its next president hired in the coming weeks.

The chamber’s search committee, made of Dennis Grennan, Chad Dhyrkopp, Lisa Kaslon, Ken Curry, Sarah Pillen and Steve Line, has narrowed its list that started with 12 to five viable candidates. Grennan, who is also the chairman of the chamber’s board of directors, said the the committee first brought the list down to eight candidates. The five finalists, he noted, were determined after the committee conducted initial interviews Jan. 8 using Zoom video conferencing.

Of those eight, three were from out of state, while the five others were from the local area. There are a variety of backgrounds among the remaining candidates, who all have various forms of experience at organizations similar to Columbus’ chamber, he noted. Grennan wasn’t ready to disclose more specifics about the remaining candidates out of respect to them since the search is still currently active.

“I think very good,” Grennan said of the process. “The search committee is very pleased with the number of candidates and the quality of candidates we had to review. It’s making our decision difficult, which is a good thing. We’re anxious to keep pursuing it until we make a final selection.”

The committee, according to Grennan, is planning to conduct a set of face-to-face interviews with the finalists on Jan. 18. A final decision on who will take over the role could come soon after, but isn’t guaranteed, he assured.

“It is still our hope to make a recommendation to the full board on Jan. 21,” Grennan said, in an email sent to all Chamber members on Thursday afternoon. “However, you may rest assured we will take whatever time is needed to find the right leader for our organization so that will be delayed if necessary.”

Grennan told The Telegram that the committee ultimately wants someone who possesses great leadership skills and has business savvy, among other things.

“We’re looking for folks who can relate to our members and to our businesses – the diverse businesses of our membership,” Grennan said. “We’re looking for someone who can bring a coalition of people together to help solve problems in our region. They have to be really good at collaboration and a good communicator – public speaking and working well internally with the great staff we have.”

The next chamber president will take over for K.C. Belitz, who resigned in early December after a little more than 18 years in the role. Belitz told The Telegram on the day he resigned that he loved his time as the chamber’s president immensely, but was excited about becoming the chief operating officer of the Nebraska Community Foundation, a new position focused on community impact among NCF’s network of 220 affiliated funds serving 260 communities.

Currently, Belitz said he is splitting time in both roles – three days a week for NCF and two for the chamber. He said he expected that to continue for the next couple of weeks.

“I certainly want to make sure it’s a smooth transition,” Belitz said, calling the chamber’s staff “a great team.”

Moving forward, Belitz, who will continue to live in Columbus and coach Lakeview High School volleyball, said he hopes to continue having a good relationship with the local chamber. He said he would be happy to provide any insight he can to his successor if the chamber’s board wants that.

“Whatever they ask, I’ll help with,” he said. “I’ll be as involved as they want me to be, sharing the institutional knowledge, if you will.”

Grennan also confirmed Belitz is splitting time between the chamber and his new job, adding Belitz has been involved with the process of finding the next chamber president.

“Absolutely we have a good relationship. I think it has been extremely positive,” Grennan said of the relationship between the chamber and Belitz. “This was a great opportunity for K.C. and it’s a great opportunity for Columbus and the chamber with what he’s doing in his new role. I think it’s going to be a win-win for everyone involved.”

The chamber will continue to have Belitz involved with the organization in some form, he noted, but the board is eager about what lies ahead.

“This is a new opportunity, and it is exciting to get someone with a little different perspective and background,” Grennan said. “We want to move to the next level. While we have had a great past, we continue to look toward the future and want to continue to make Columbus even better.”

Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at matt.lindberg@lee.net.

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