Member engagement is focus of 2020 Chamber board president

Jill Meier, Journal editor
Rachael Neiman takes over as interim CEO/president of the Brandon Valley Area Chamber of Commerce, and Chuck Parsons steps up to chair of the Chamber board of directors in 2020. Jill Meier/BV Journal

Chuck Parsons isn’t about to “fix” something that’s not broken.
As he steps into the leadership role as chairman of the Brandon Valley Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Parsons simply wants to pick up where 2019 chairman Brian Wills left off. 
“I’m going to carry on what Brian started. I don’t want to vary from that and to me, nothing needs to be fixed,” he said.
During his year at the helm, Wills promoted member engagement.
“I think that engagement piece is just wanting people to find volunteering with the chamber to be fun,” Parsons said. “That’s one thing Brian and I talked about is that we want things to be fun. We want to try new things and if they don’t work out, so what? We’ll keep trying. But we want to have fun and I want people to want to be willing to step up, have some fun without the fear of being judged.”
Parsons retired this past year from First National Bank, and part of his retirement plan is to ease back into community endeavors, like the Chamber. “I want to get reengaged (with the Chamber) like I did when I first moved here in 1989,” he said. “I thought this (serving on the Board and as its chairman) would be a good way to get back in the flow of meeting the new business people in Brandon and stuff like that.”
Parsons partially “stepped away” from Chamber involvement when his position with First National Bank relocated him to the Downtown Sioux Falls location. 
“I was kind of removed for six, seven years from what was going on in Brandon, and this is a way to get back and work with the chamber,” he said.
When Parsons was first involved with the BVACC, it was largely manned by the member volunteers themselves. He views the evolution to a full-time staff as a welcome change from 1989.
As Parsons slides into the board chair role, Chamber staff Rachael Neiman and Rachel Polan step into their new roles as well. Kim Cerwick, who served as the BVACC president/CEO for nearly 12 years, resigned from the position at the end of December to take a more active role in the Pizza Ranch businesses that she and her husband, Matt, now own.
“2020 is kind of a new start for this Chamber. In a way, we’re saying goodbye to Kim and welcoming in the Rachels,” Parsons said.
Parsons is quick to recognize Cerwick for her efforts over the last dozen years.
“I just want to say a big thank you Kim, because she was a big part of getting the Chamber to the point where it is now and being involved with the Inside Brandon magazine we’re doing, getting Auction A’more going strong, and just being that resource. I mean, a huge credit to her for doing that,” Parsons said. “You always hate to see people go that have been there a long time, but I think it also presents an opportunity, and looking forward, I see a lot of energy in the two Rach(a)els.” 
Neiman joined the Chamber as its membership manager this past fall, succeeding Brandon Lane, who is now heading up the Harrisburg Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development office for that community. Polan will continue on in her communications coordinator role, but also assumes a role as interim assistant director. Neiman was promoted to interim executive director following Cerwick’s departure. She’s excited to get new – and current – members engrossed in Chamber events and committee involvement.
“When I’m lining up new members, I always reiterate that I am not the chamber, the chamber is you, the members,” she said. “I’ve been encouraging people that if they are passionate about something to join a committee.”
Adds Parsons: “We’re going to promote the Chamber is the board and its volunteers, not the individuals running the chamber like Rachel or like Kim was. We want to make sure that the face of the Chamber is more than just one person because the Chamber is all of us.”
Parsons said the Chamber will also focus on community engagement this year, noting some new community projects are forthcoming. 
“That’s what I mean by carrying on Brian’s vision of that engagement, wanting people to be involved,” he explains. “I think, as (board vice chairwoman) Amanda (Starzl) has pointed out, (we need to) create events that people want to go to and think they’re missing out if they’re not there.”
A new committee developed out of the Chamber board’s strategic planning this past fall is a Workforce Development committee that board member Daemon Coughlin will head up.
“We’re going to work together with the school, and I’m excited about that and that may draw in some more excitement from our business community to want to get involved with working with the kids in the school,” Parsons said.
Outside the walls of the Chamber, Parsons said discussions are taking place to carry out a community-based project, such as cleaning up ditches like the Lions or raking the town.
“We’ve got some great leadership,” Parsons said. “Brian, Amanda and I sat down and we all agreed that one of the things we want is for the chairperson is to have some continuity so that we’re all on the same page so things don’t drastically change (from year to year). I don’t want to get too much in the weeds of what’s going on in the office, because I don’t think that’s the role of a chairman. You’re here to guide the board, make policies and procedures, and then it’s up to the staff and the volunteers to follow them.”


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