Chamber Board meeting addresses concerns

Dewain E. Peek/OCN photo

Livingston-Overton County Chamber of Commerce President Ralph Robbins addresses the Board of Directors during a called meeting held Thursday, Aug. 29. Chamber Executive Director Greg McDonald, left, also spoke during the meeting concerning the emergency hiring of Shannon Cantrell, right, as interim Chamber of Commerce director of marketing and tourism.

By Dewain E. Peek,

OCN Editor

Livingston-Overton County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors held an emergency business meeting Thursday, Aug. 29 to address the recent resignation of Director of Marketing and Tourism Rita Reagan-Underhill.

Chamber President Ralph Robbins opened the meeting and said action had to be taken to fill the vacancy left by Reagan-Underhill’s sudden departure.

“As you know, Rita resigned. She’s no longer with us, so we had to make a decision,” Robbins said.

He informed the Board that Shannon Cantrell offered to help out.

“So, the executive committee has hired her on a temporary basis,” Robbins said.

He asked if anyone disagreed with that decision, and no one objected.

An application process will begin in a few weeks or a few months, though Robbins said he would like to see things settle down before a permanent replacement is hired.

He noted the retirement of Chamber Director Greg McDonald may not be too far in the future, so stability will need to be established before that happens.

Cantrell was told that she could apply for the regular job also, whereas some interim job holders are not allowed to apply for the job, according to Robbins.

Past-President Bob Shartrand addressed the Board, saying that he is a personal friend of Reagan-Underhill and did not hold it against her leaving so suddenly, but he agreed that it was not protocol.

Robbins then turned to the the Chamber’s need for more funds.

Raising fees was mentioned.

“I think we need to raise them,” Robbins said.

Along with the need to address the fee structure, Robbins also mentioned having quarterly meetings as required in the by-laws.

“I can assure you, we’re going to have quarterly board meetings like we’re supposed to,” Robbins said.

Time of Board meetings was also considered to be moved to 7 a.m., and Board members appeared to agree.

“We may try that this next Board meeting,” Robbins said.

Robbins also informed the Board that auditors brought it to the Chamber’s attention that checks should be signed by two people. So, Chamber President Ralph Robbins and Chamber Executive Director Greg McDonald were designated as authorized to sign.

Robbins then turned the floor over to Executive Director McDonald, who began by speaking of how much Reagan-Underhill will be missed.

“Rita put her heart and soul into the Chamber,” he said.

McDonald said he learned of her leaving in a text message.

He then turned attention to the bylaws, which were written by John Roberts in 1997, and that they call for four meetings a year.

“The four Board meetings a year is basically three Board meetings a year and the annual meeting,” McDonald said.

He also explained that the executive committee consists of the Chamber president, past-president, and the executive director.

He also explained that the city mayor and the county executive hold non-voting positions on the executive committee, serving as advisors only.

McDonald also pointed out the Chamber responsibilities in the by-laws: Economic Development; Community Development; Free Enterprise System; and Organizational Improvement.

McDonald wanted to clear the air about the office structure at the Chamber.

“Rita did not work for me, by the way, I just want to make that clear,” he said. “That’s been a misunderstanding. I was the executive director by title, and the reason I was the executive director by title is my job was totally different. I work with our politicians, our government as well as our businesses.”

Trying to recruit businesses is a major area of his job, McDonald said.

“I did not manage Rita, we respected each other and had an excellent working relationship,” he said.

“We’re in a transition period right now, there’s no question about that.”

He stated further, “She retired on her own and we miss her. She did a great job. She did an absolutely outstanding job for this Chamber of Commerce.

“We’ve got to move forward. And when we come out on the other side of this, I hope we are bigger and better and stronger.”

McDonald admitted it has taken a toll.

“It’s been a tough couple of weeks, but we’ve got to move on,” he said.

McDonald then turned his attention to events the Chamber is involved in and talked about starting up Leadership Overton again, now that more “new blood” is in the community to justify renewing the effort.

He noted that Fall-O-Ween, which he credited to Rita Reagan-Underhill, needs volunteers for a committee to plan this year’s event.

He also noted that planning for the Christmas Parade will begin in October.

After the group viewed a video about AARP Livable Communities, Tennessee College of Applied Technologies at Livingston President Myra West informed the Board that Livingston and other area schools are applying for million dollar grants that will be available from a $23 million pool.

And she said the school has applied for a 3-Star Grant to add an electrical and plumbing construction program.

West mentioned that a CDBG grant will provide a new building for an auto technology lab and for expanding welding training.

She also informed the Board that the school is adding a logistics program.

Robbins returned to the lectern to adjourn the meeting, assuring the Board that the Chamber is strong, will remain strong, and will continue to lead the community.