Interim Chamber of Commerce chair says finding new CEO is top priority

Finding a new CEO will be the chief concern for incoming Prince Albert and District Chamber of Commerce board chair Phil Hounjet.

Hounjet took over from former chair Tracy Fehr on an interim basis following a short ceremony on Monday. He said the interim tag won’t stop the chamber from continuing business as usual, and that means finding a new CEO to replace Elise Hildebrandt, who was fired in August after three years with the organization.

“I wouldn’t call it a challenge. It’s more of an opportunity,” Hounjet said following the Chamber’s AGM on Monday. “Finding a new CEO replacement is going to be exciting.”

The chamber has already posted a job opening for the position, and Hounjet said a few resumes are already coming in. He said the chamber has no deadline for filling the position, but they want someone in place as soon as possible.

Chamber members did not discuss the position during the AGM. Hounjet said they’ll discuss it during monthly board meetings.

Hounjet takes over in place of Bill Powalinsky, who was set to become chair before getting injured in a recent car accident. First vice-chair Kelly Disiewich was unable to fill the role due to work commitments, so the job fell to Hounjet.

“This is a position I planned on taking in a couple of years through the vice-chair position,” he explained. “It’s exciting, and I’m ready to take on the challenge.”

How long Hounjet’s appointment lasts will depend on how quickly Powalinsky can return to his role. The Chamber plans to monitor the situation, but Hounjet said they don’t know for sure how long that will take.

“We’re just hoping for the best,” he explained. “That’s what’s important him and his family—to not worry about the chamber right now.”

Outgoing chair Tracy Feher said COVID-19 have made the past year difficult, but the chamber is in a good position regardless. They’re hoping the next CEO will continue to build on those successes.

“We had, I think, as good a year as we could have expected, based upon the kinds of things that were happening,” Feher explained. “I think we pivoted well. We did a good job of getting on to Zoom and getting businesses involved in the chamber and keeping folks appraised of what was going on.”

When asked if there were things they would have done differently over the past year, Feher the chamber always tries to keep improving.

“That’s always the goal going forward,” she said. “You want to be as good as you can possibly be. I think we did a good job, based upon what we were given, and how we were operating.”

The Prince Albert and District Chamber of Commerce saw their revenues increase by around $10,000 last year, while expenses increased by around $4,000.

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