ST. ALBANS — A new group of executive officers is set to lead the Franklin County Regional Chamber of Commerce (FCRCC) after recently getting elected. Among them is Alisha Sawyer, who will be the chamber’s president come 2021.
Sawyer, who works at Northwest Medical Center (NMC) and is the current vice president of the chamber, will be taking the president role for the first time after being on the FCRCC Board of Trustees for nearly three years. She previously served as the chamber’s executive director 15 years ago.
Filling the vice president seat Sawyer is leaving will be Candace Lewis, associate academic dean at the Community College of Vermont. Aaron Reynolds, chief financial officer at Peoples Trust Company, retains his treasurer role while Cari Kelley, campaign coordinator for the United Way of Northwest Vermont, rounds out the executive officers as the immediate past president.
While Kelley had been a long-serving president of the chamber, Sawyer said the group would like to shift to a one-year term model moving forward to allow for “some responsibility to be balanced among different board members” and to give chances for others to bring about new ideas and energy.
What is your title and role at NMC?
“I’m the physician recruiter here at Northwestern Medical Center. I recruit physicians and advanced practice providers, which would be physician assistants and nurse practitioners.”
In your own words, what does the FCRCC do for the community and its member businesses?
“I think really what it is, is a connector. We’re the place, physically, that people can come to if they have questions about where to eat or what there might be to do. But COVID has shifted that as well.
“Our web presence is important — keeping that directory of businesses and making sure we’re available for people who are relocating to the area or who are visiting the area. But there’s also responsibility, I think, to keep those members connected and in front of the community around what they’re offering and how we can connect potential consumers to those businesses.”
How much of a focus does the chamber have on bringing in new members?
“We’re always trying to bring on new members, but we’re also trying to maintain our membership that we have and make sure that they feel valued and that they’re getting what they paid for with their chamber membership. So that’s why checking in with them, seeing how they’re doing, seeing how we can adjust our services, and what we provide to them is so important right now.”
What will be your duties and responsibilities as president?
“It’s a little bit of staffing personnel, a little bit of vision and long-term planning, adjusting to what the needs are with our current environment, and making sure that we’re in tune with what’s going on in the community.”
How does it feel to have been nominated and then voted to serve as president?
“I’m really thankful for the work that Cari Kelley did over the last year, and, with her leadership, we came through the COVID pandemic with some staff restructuring and changes. The chamber is, I think, better off financially. I’m impressed by her work and leadership, and I was happy to do my part, to step into this role, and help bring the chamber through 2021 — to identify what the goals are that we should be working on and how we can best serve our members.”
What are your goals for the next year as president of the FCRCC?
“I think what we really need to do this year is to focus on our members and making contact with them, seeing how they’re faring during this pandemic, and seeing how the chamber can support that — either through connections with our state or other officials, or through other avenues that they may be eligible for: access to federal grants or state grants, or if they can be helped with promotion.
“Typically, the chamber’s been seen as a business networking tool; that’s been taken away from us a bit during COVID. So we need to readjust that and figure out what is the different way to network and make connections in this COVID world; what does that look like now? So I think those are some of the things that I’d like to think about, but I’m not a party or team of one. This will go to the whole board and to staff to identify those goals and make a plan for the year. It’s a great team to take on 2021.”