Tuesday’s monthly luncheon of the Desloge Chamber of Commerce focused on changes in the organization's leadership as a new president of the board of directors, as well as the 2018-19 board members, were sworn in.

The upcoming resignation of the chamber’s executive director was also announced.

Out-going President Brenda Jordan swore in Shelley Layton Tracey as the chamber’s new director, who then swore in new board members Karen Vandiver, Brandon Penberthy and Taylor Robinson, along with current members Jordan, past president; Dan Chapman, vice president; Dave Shaw, secretary; Julie Pratte, treasurer; and members William Britton and Roger Bates.

Following the swearing-in ceremonies, President Tracey addressed the chamber membership, saying, “What a wonderful board of directors we have this year. I do so much appreciate them and their volunteering hours and their effort that they put in to how much this chamber means to them. And I appreciate all of you being here today and that we can spend time together to learn about each other’s businesses and a little bit more about our community.

“I want to talk about 2018 and a little bit about where your chamber board really wants to challenge us to be able to serve you better. One of the biggest questions that we have for 2018 is how we can add value to your business. I think we talk so much as chamber members about what can I do for my community? What can I do for my city and what can I do for my chamber?

“I think that’s an important question, but I think we want to change the gears just a bit this year and ask us, as a board, what can we do to value you? What can we do to set your business apart? What can we do to be able to know that you feel that your membership is adding something of value to what you do every day? Your businesses are very, very important to us.”

Tracey said the board will be selecting two chamber members each week to highlight on the chamber’s website and Facebook page, as well as through email blasts; radio interviews and ads; and the monthly luncheon.

“We started this week by picking two of our members and doing this blast for them,” she said. “We think this is going to give all of you an opportunity to have your week. We hope that you’ve been able to see a little bit of them already out there and what that’s going to look like when it’s your turn and your business’s turn.”

Tracey said the board also wants the members to become more aware of what it can offer.

“We’re not just coming in here to socialize and we’re not coming in here to be able to eat the good food and then we forget all about it after that. We want all our businesses to have some staying power and I know you guys want that, too. And so, when we are in here becoming friends with each other, we need to be able to learn about each other’s businesses.

“Networking is not just some kind of word we use — we want to know what that means. We want to dig in a little deeper to find out how we can properly network. So, instead of just asking all the time about our social life with our great friendships here, but also to be able to say, ‘I don’t know about that new program you have. Tell me more about it.’ Or, vice versa, ‘Let me tell you about a new program that might help you and your staff.

“Being able to network through these luncheons is going to be a big piece that we want to focus on this year — to go through some education, go through some in-services, go through some time together so that we learn how to network. Then our time together is spent not only making friends, but encouraging growth in our business.”

Tracey summed up the goal of the chamber as providing resources for its members and networking opportunities to help them retain customers.

“We, of course, want to grow our membership at the chamber, but our focus this year is to grow customers for you,” she said. “To do that, we also want to strengthen your position in the community.

"That’s going to increase your revenue, we hope, and we want to increase the way that the public sees your business. To do that, we’re going to try to increase your visibility so you can attract new customers.”

Tracey told the members that the chamber’s Jingle Bell Run and Finding Frosty had been a “great success.” She also announced that the chamber will be hosting a blood drive Feb. 22 at Desloge City Hall and will hold its annual trivia night March 2 at Stone Park.

After the board heard a presentation by Gary Baker and Will Foy about Operation Center Mass, a division of the Warrior Transition Network, Baker explained that network’s mission is “to build a bridge from military service to the veteran’s path of meaningful opportunity.

For more information, go to www.warriortransitionnetwork.com or email Foy at will@operationcentermass.com.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Tracey announced that chamber Executive Director Loni Ruediger will be resigning in May to spend more time with family and work with her husband on their golfing accessory business. Applications are now being accepted for the position. Call the chamber at 573-431-3006 for more information.

Next month’s meeting will take place at noon Feb. 6 at the new El Tapatio Mexican Restaurant in Desloge.

Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or kjenkins@dailyjournalonline.com

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