Lacey chamber wrestles with leadership

November 1st, 2016 by Ken

What’s the purpose of a chamber of commerce?  Is it to promote the idea that the city is a good place to live, work and raise a family?   Is the purpose of a chamber to promote tourism and fill the beds and seats of hotels and restaurants?   Is the purpose of a chamber to stand up to government and promote business ideals?

The Lacey South Sound Chamber of Commerce has a leadership problem to solve.

I’ve been a member of the Lacey Chamber since 1971.   I’ve seen it change its name three times.   I’ve seen it go through nearly a dozen executive directors – some who leave for promotions and more money – – and some who leave for incompetence or criminal activities.

I’ve seen nearly 50 people step up and serve a term as the president.  All of them have had one thing in common.   They were either a business owner, a business manager, an employee of a business or an entrepreneur.

Therein lies the problem facing the Lacey chamber.   Tomorrow, the leadership of the Lacey South Sound Chamber of Commerce will be introduced to the membership.   One name stands out – – Graeme Sackrison.  Graeme will be the president-elect of the chamber and will automatically become the president next year.

Graeme has one problem.   He has never met the qualifications of involvement with business.   As far as I know, he has never even worked for a business – except perhaps when he was working his way through college.

Graeme has a great record of service to the Lacey community.  He served more than a decade on the Lacey City Council including a term as mayor.  He has headed the North Thurston citizen for schools committee for longer than that and has been involved with the North Thurston Education Foundation.   He is currently an elected member of the North Thurston School Board.   He founded the Alternative Fuels Fair and has been involved with the Summer’s End Car Show.   He has worked long and hard for the Lacey community

But, he has no business experience.   He spent his whole life working for government in various capacities.

Is business experience a requirement as laid out in the chamber’s by-laws?   No.   I helped rewrite them several years ago.   But, it is expected that the president of a business organization has some business experience.   And, the fact that Graeme is an elected official is also another reason he shouldn’t be representing business.

Two decades ago, then Lacey City Manager Greg Cuoio was working his way up the chamber leadership ladder and was in line to be president-elect.   I pointed out that he had no business experience.   He felt that running a city gave him the skills necessary to run a chamber.   I pointed out that government and  business were mortal enemies.   Government wants to regulate and tax.   Business doesn’t want to be regulated and taxed.   Cuoio said that he could abstain from any issues in conflict between business and government.   I countered that the chamber president shouldn’t be abstaining, but out in front leading the fight against government actions.   Cuoio stepped down from the president-elect position.

Those are the same arguements I make now.   Graeme Sackrison should take the opportunity tomorrow to thank the chamber for its confidence in him.   Then he should step down.   He can remain on the board, but he shouldn’t take a leadership position.

That move will be good for the Lacey business community and good for Graeme Sackrison.

Posted in The Real News

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