On November 5th, after 14 years, one month and 5 days at the helm of the Lake Champlain Chamber, I will step down as President and Cathy Davis will assume those responsibilities. My role will be to raise funds for, and awareness of, the Lake Champlain Opportunity Fund: an investment that supports the Chamber’s community impact work.
During these past 14 years, we have witnessed enormous social and political changes in our state, country, and region and to the composition of Vermont’s economy. When I arrived in 2006, we were still trying to comprehend the changes wrought by the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and, as I move to part-time status in 2020, we confront a pandemic, the eruption of long-simmering social injustices and a sociocultural divide in our country that dwarfs the schism we experienced during the 1960’s.
Transitions are times for reflection and my transition is no different. I am proud that the Chamber had the courage to take stands on some of the controversial most issues that our state has faced. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my Board of Directors and Executive Committee. As they struggled to reach consensus, they never hid behind the cozy and comfortable platitude “that’s really not a business issue”. Certainly, we didn’t always make the membership happy. The Chamber lost members when we supported marriage equality, refugee resettlement, raising the minimum wage, funding water quality though a new tax and when we fought bills that smothered job creation, opposed the commercialization of cannabis, supported economic growth incentives and championed the basing of the F-35’s. It was always heartening to hear exasperated politicians complain that they couldn’t tell if we were a Democratic or Republican organization. We rankled all sides by staking out reasoned and principled – not politically expedient -positions that balanced the interests of businesses, their employees and our Vermont communities. In confounding all political persuasions, I believe, on balance, we got it just right!
For those instances where we didn’t get it ‘just right’, the responsibility is all mine. I won’t hide behind the Board, the staff or having been misquoted. I’ve never been bashful in letting people know where I stand and my diction is clear. While attending a wake in my home state ‘way back in the day’, I heard mourner opine about the deceased: “well, he never took anyone from behind”. Leaving that particular soul out of the equation, I figured that was good counsel to live by. I tried to be straight with everyone and damn the fallout. We don’t get any ‘do overs’ in life.
As I depart, the Chamber is in very competent hands. Cathy was the first person that I hired back in January of 2007 (proving the old adage “better lucky than good”). She has touched every aspect of the enterprise as she assumed greater and greater responsibility within the organization. We are two very different personalities – thank God for that – and there has never been a better time for a “refresh”. I am excited to step back and watch this organization continue to be the best voice for business and prosperity for all Vermonters.
Some Final Thoughts and Pearls of Wisdom:
“People come and people go and nothing ever lasts” – Emmylou Harris
“If you plant ice, you’re gonna harvest wind” – Hunter/Garcia
“If you lay down with dogs, you’ll get up with fleas” – Big Frank
“Tutti tranne sei” – Old Italian Saying