It was 2:30 in the afternoon and chamber executive director Andi
Hake sat in the conference room eating a takeout lunch.
She was in
good spirits as just another busy day at the chamber had her
schedule out of order -- again.
Hake took the time between bites to talk about the major
changeover in personnel at the office.
Just over two months ago, Ally Leesman, the membership services
director, left, and then last month, Heidi Browne, the events
coordinator, also left for another job.
That meant bringing in new people and getting them up to speed
with a golf outing imminent and another art and balloon fest rapidly
Although Hake said that the previous group, along with office
manager Robin Keys, got along famously, the new group is jelling
quickly, and they have to, as busy as the chamber year is.
"We were like a family," said Hake, talking about the old group.
"Heidi was the mom, Ally was the young girl, and Robin gave us the
balance we needed in the office."
Andi and Heidi were friends before Andi hired her, and although
the director was saddened to see Heidi leave the chamber, it isn't a
personal loss. "I lost an employee, but I got my friend back," Andi
said with a smile.
Things were a little hectic for this year's annual golf outing.
Kelsey Nye had only a month on the job, and Rachel Smith didn't
start until the day of the event. Keys said the new summer office
assistant, Jennifer Lovett, did an excellent job of helping get all
the logistics for the day handled.
To be sure, the old group had an office dynamic that was
visitor-friendly, very competent, and it was apparent they all got
along with each other. It appears that all the new employees are
creating their own office personality, and although they are
different people, they are doing well, getting along and creating a
new, friendly, outgoing, enthused-to-get-the-job-done atmosphere.
Rachel Smith, the new events coordinator, grew up in Lanark
before attending Illinois State University. Among her jobs were four
years as a math teacher and 21 months in the Peace Corps in
Smith has solid credentials, including a master's degree in
applied economics with a focus on community development. Those
qualifications make her a good choice to manage all the logistics of
the huge art and balloon fest. She admits the one thing she doesn't
have for managing our signature event is experience, and that can be
a little intimidating unless you enjoy challenges like she does.
Rachel says she is really enjoying getting to know members who have
important roles in the balloon fest.
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Kelsey Nye, the new member services director, attended Millikin
University, majoring in communications as well as taking dancing and
writing. She spent a semester with Disney Entertainment at Disney
World and played many characters during her seven months in Orlando.
Kelsey said she loved that experience and enjoys meeting new people,
which is a constant for a "newbie" at the chamber office. A graduate
of Illini Central in Mason City, she's going to marry Eric Horn of
Lincoln in July at Wildlife Prairie Park.
Jennifer Lovett will be on the job as summer office assistant
until the art and balloon fest is over. She knows her days are
limited, but she knows the experience she is getting will help when
her duties at the chamber are over. A business administration major
at LCU, Jennifer wants to stay in administrative assistant work and
would be delighted to find such a job in Lincoln.
With the new help all learning, maybe it wasn't the perfect time
to bring in an entire new computer system, but that also was on the
agenda of the chamber staff last week.
All in all, according to the pragmatic Robin Keys, everyone is
doing well. "Better than I expected," she admitted.
All three of the new staff members said that meeting new people
was one of the things they enjoyed most, and that is an essential
quality for those at the chamber office to have.
Hake seems to also be pleased with how the new staff is
acclimating. When asked what she would put at the top of her wish
list for the chamber, nothing was said about staff having more
experience. "We could use a new Melon Truck to replace the Melon
Car, which is no longer reliable," she laughed.
Maybe the Melon Car is having trouble running, but the new staff
at the chamber seems to be headed toward running on all cylinders.
Of course, they have to. That's what the chamber staff does: the old
and now the new.