Chamber election may be 'huge overhaul' for board
An election that ended this week could bring a “huge overhaul” to the Haines Chamber of Commerce, said president Barbara Mulford.
Seven open seats attracted only six declared candidates – Scott Sundberg, Thom Ely, Bill Kurz, Rod Hinson, Kyle Gray and Stan Mazeikas – meaning all six will be seated unless two strongly supported write-in candidates emerge.
Mulford said the chamber will count the ballots Friday.
In addition to almost an entirely new board composition, the chamber also hired new manager Shori Heaton this week.
The board will hold its first meeting Jan. 10, when it will elect officers and vote on a president.
Mulford said she expects the board to use the Haines Borough’s Comprehensive Plan as a map for improvement in the upcoming year. The plan outlines goals such as encouraging development of a boatyard, working to increase value-added processing and implementing the Downtown Revitalization Plan.
Mayor Stephanie Scott and Mulford are also talking about putting together an informal economic development summit this winter, where groups like the Port Development Council and Tourism Advisory Board can update one another and the community on individual projects and goals.
“It’s just to be communicating to see the direction everyone is going,” Mulford said.
Ely, who owns Sockeye Cycle, said he decided to get on the board after witnessing a politicization of the group. “It seemed like the chamber kind of had a Tea Party angle to it,” Ely said.
“I’d like to see the chamber be more broad-based and inclusive of the community, not so much a political arm but more of a business arm,” he added. “It seemed the chamber was a couple of individuals running the show with personal opinions and I think we need more broad-based opinions.”
Sundberg, the co-owner of Southeast Alaska Backcountry Adventures who served on the board from 2003-2006, said he has seen the chamber’s high turnover rate and decided to get involved again to ensure some kind of consistency. “I decided to run because the chamber does need active participants. There were a lot of seats to fill.”
He added he is interested to learn why more businesses aren’t members of the chamber and what he can do to change that. “Maybe people want more out of it, or they don’t see that their dues go toward anything. For the most part, I am curious,” Sundberg said.
Though Sundberg and Ely have squared off in the political arena due to their differing views – mainly on the heli-skiing industry – Sundberg said he doesn’t anticipate too much friction between them to occur on the chamber board.
“I think (Ely) is passionate about a few things and everybody has their passions. I’m hopeful to create a broader interest for the chamber. It is business-minded, but it doesn’t have to be all business and everything else set aside,” Sundberg said.
“I think (Ely) and myself and other chamber members should be able to work together. There might be a few issues, but I think that is normal,” he added.
Bank manager Gray, who moved to Haines in August, said in addition to being an active member of the community, he also wants to act as an economic and financial resource for businesses in Haines.
“It’s almost implied – not that I be a member of the chamber, but that I’m involved with the business community. It’s part of what I do,” Gray said.
Seats belonging to Mulford and Patty Campbell are the only two on the nine-member group not up for grabs this year.