Time for change

Holden satisfied chamber became better in 2004

Outgoing Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce Chairman Charles "Chic" Holden congratulates Katherine "Kathy" Pierce, the 2005 chairman, Thursday night at the group's annual banquet.

MICHAEL C. WEIMAR/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Saturday, January 29, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 28, 2005 at 10:54 p.m.
Before relinquishing the gavel as Chairman of the Board of the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce at its annual meeting and dinner Thursday night, Charles "Chic" Holden said he felt satisfied that the business community has made inroads in better communication with government and in diversifying its operations.
Holden, who was the 2004 chairman, said the chamber had grown since he took over with the theme of "Business: It's our Job."
One of his more important objectives, he said, was to see how the organization could "truly represent the demographics of this community, its minority businesses and different cultures."
He appointed a diversity task force of Odetta MacLeish-White, Liz Reyes and Rondre Baluyot, who worked for nine months and hundreds of hours interviewing businesses in the community. At the fall chamber retreat, "they presented, by far, the best task report I have ever seen," including an action plan. There is now a standing Diversity Committee.
New board of directors members include three blacks, two Hispanics and two women. In addition, a Hispanic Council has been established.
Holden said he was convinced the chamber needed to become more proactive in business issues.
"We were able to broker a solution to the impact fee impasse that had been going on a long time. We took the Gainesville-Alachua County Association of Realtors, the Builders Association of North Central Florida, Women for Wise Growth and the Sierra Club and, outside of the public forum, sat down and reached a consensus for presentation to the county commission that could be adopted," he said.
"This is a first step. This is the first time this has happened in this community, that we took diverse interests with a diverse agenda, sat down across a table, and came to some kind of consensus. Everyone's not necessarily happy, but we are able to live with the results. This way was better than the contentious, antagonistic things that come out in a public forum, where there is a showdown of adversarial relationships."
The impact fees passed last fall, which take effect in March, are levied on new construction in the unincorporated areas. They are expected to raise $19 million to pay for new roads, emergency services and parks.
An aggressive membership campaign attracted 198 members, with a net gain of more than 100 members at the end of the year, he reported.
Several awards also were presented Thursday night.
The Chairman's Award is usually given to the individual who was the most supportive to sitting chairman. Holden said "so many people assisted me this past year, it's impossible to select a single individual. But there is a group that made my job very easy. These are the unsung heros that make this an effective, efficient organization, always with a smile on their faces. I give this award to the collective staff of the chamber."
Brent Christensen, chamber president and CEO, accepted for the staff and administration: Sonia Winters, chamber vice president and COO; Jan Neal, executive assistant and office manager; Sabrina Abbott, events manager; Trevilynn Blakeslee, membership director; Morgan Dunn, communications manager; Karen Fiore, finance director; Alison Glover, director of government relations; Joe Johnson, director of workforce development; Kim Tesch-Vaught, director of community improvement; and Pauline Williams, information specialist.
The J. Wayne Reitz CEO Leadership Award, given to the person who had the most positive impact on economic development, was given posthumously to Pat Polopolus, a prominent real estate agent for nearly 30 years who was also known for her involvement in community service. Polopolus died in 2004.
Incoming Chairman Katherine "Kathy" Pierce is senior vice president and chief financial officer of Environmental Consulting and Technology, which she helped co-found in December 1988. Holden, a practicing attorney since 1965, is a partner in the law firm of Holden, Rappenecker and Eubank.
Nearly 420 business representatives, city and county officials and chamber staff attended the event at the Hilton University of Florida Conference Center.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Comments are currently unavailable on this article

▲ Return to Top