Heard in the Street: More staffing changes at chamber

June 6, 2018


The Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce is going through another round of staff departures.

Melanie Hoppenworth, Jenny Karow and Paul Richardson have all left or will soon leave the chamber, according to Interim Chamber President Kathleen Harrington.

Harrington said the departures give the organization an opportunity to make adjustments to better serve members.

“The chamber is in the midst of looking at what our members need and what we should be to remain relevant,” she said. “The board is doing some strategic planning. Change is difficult. While these talents will missed, this is an opportunity … to re-define our world.”

Harrington said one thing the chamber is working on is focusing its attention on supporting small businesses through local advocacy. The recent push to make a city redesign of North Broadway more business-friendly is an example of what she’d like to see the chamber do more.

Hoppenworth, the chamber’s longtime vice president of finance and administration, left the organization on June 1 to take a position with Rochester’s Energy Products & Design, said Harrington.

The chamber is contracting with the nearby Smith Schafer & Associates accounting firm to handle the chamber’s financial duties for the next few months.

Chamber receptionist Karow also has taken a position at Energy Products, owned by Brent and Christy Buchan.

Richardson, vice president of development and operations, submitted his resignation last week. He will wrap up at the chamber on July 6. Richardson is returning to Arizona, where he moved from in 2015 after being hired by Rob Miller.

The chamber has seen a lot of change in the past year.

In August, former President Rob Miller f orced out popular Membership Director Judy Braatz to the dismay of many members. As Braatz left, she submitted a letter detailing incidents of what she described as bullying and harassment by Miller. Amid the controversy, Miller resigned on Aug. 30 and returned to Arizona.

The chamber reached an undisclosed legal settlement with Braatz in April over her complaints about her treatment. She now works for Rochester’s Think Mutual Bank as a business development representative.

Two other chamber staff members — Julie Brock and Julie Fiesel — left abruptly in May 2017.

Marketing and Communications Manager Vanessa Carroll and Events Manager Meghann Southwick left the chamber last fall.

Kaylie Huntley, the former workforce development and education manager, also left in April.

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