Getting down to business

Photo courtesy Prince Albert and District Chamber of Commerce.

New CEO Elise Hildebrandt ready to bring some stability to Chamber of Commerce

It’s been a busy first few days for the new CEO of the Prince Albert and District Chamber of Commerce, but Elise Hildebrandt is embracing the challenges that lie ahead.

Hildebrandt comes into a chamber that hasn’t had a CEO since March, when newly-hired Kelvin Pankiw was ousted, just three months after former CEO Larry Fladager retired.

In the interim, other staff has also departed, meaning the longest-serving chamber staff member has only been in her position since February.

Hildebrandt has the added challenge of learning a new community. While she’s driver through and shopped in Prince Albert a number of times when travelling from her Warman home to the lakes, the new CEO will have to take some time to get to know the faces and names in the Prince Albert business community.

“I’m not a total mystery to Prince Albert,” Hildebrandt said during a sit-down interview Thursday.

“It’s only been the first four days, so I haven’t had a chance to go out and start to introduce myself to the different community members. We will be starting shortly.”

She has met a few – including a chamber board member who said he’s behind her all the way — but she’s looking forward to the annual golf tournament and the upcoming premier’s visit as an opportunity to get to know even more people. The hope is that both of those events sell out.

“I think it’s going to be really exciting in those first couple of events to start putting the community business members, names and faces together,” she said.

Hildebrandt has a varied background working with boards, setting them up, organizing and participating in them. She took a more hands-on approach in Warman helping the part-time executive director keep things organized.

I stepped in to help her quite often, and came to love it,” she said.

“There’s something about walking into an event and saying ‘hey how are you,’ and starting to see connections between different businesses people. I came to realize I enjoyed it more than I did being self-employed, which I know is not normal.”

But that background being self-employed, Hildebrandt said, will help her connect with and understand the issues faced with members of the business community.

“Being part of the Chamber is a little bit like being self-employed,” she said. “You’re trying to grow the business, helping people accomplish their goals. I will definitely understand some of their struggles.”

Coming from an outside-looking-in perspective also helps Hildebrandt develop a new perspective into Prince Albert, which has its advantages and disadvantages.

“I don’t know who everybody is. I don’t know where those connections are,” she said. The advantages — I don’t know what those connections are. It’s a totally different perspective.”

Hildebrandt is also hoping she can help provide some stability to the Chamber as she adapts into her new role.

“I love chaos. I love organizing it. It’s one of those things that’s always kind of fun. You can do this one step at a time. That’s what it’s going to come down to, one step at a time,” she said.

“If my dream comes true I will be down here when I retire, which will be a number of years from now. I hope to be here for the next 20 to 25 years, just because of that consistency. I guess that’s up to the board if they like me, and the members, but I have no intentions of being here for a short period of time. It takes a while to make the machine run — well business would be the better word in there — but it takes awhile to work out all of the kinks.”

Hildebrandt has met some of the board, though not all, but is hopeful they support her as she works to move the Chamber forward.

“I need 14 people behind me to make it right now. It takes teamwork to make everything work,” she said.

“I am hoping they are behind the staff 100 per cent as we go forward. I know (first Vice Chair Ian Litzenberger) has said ‘absolutely, Elise, let’s do this.’”