Chamber director choice draws fire |

Chamber director choice draws fire

Susan Wood
Betty Gorman

Amid rekindled divisiveness between Nevada and California over the merger, the newly forming South Shore Chamber of Commerce tapped an Oakland woman lauded for her leadership skills to run the bi-state business organization set to be established Nov. 1.

Betty Gorman, 49, will begin the job Oct. 2. Her most recent professional experience includes four years as the regional director of Northern California for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, an organization she’s worked for since 1997.

Gorman handled a $5 million net fundraising budget for nine district offices and managed 45 full-time staffers along with associated business plans, staff development, events, sponsorship sales and development. She’s also worked as a public relations director at Ironstone Vineyards in Murphys and as banquet and conference director at Copper Mountain ski resort in Colorado. On the weekends, Gorman worked as a ski instructor at Heavenly Mountain Resort. She began skiing at age 6.

“I wanted to develop and grow – and feel I can make a real contribution to the community,” she said.

She also has a law degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law and Bachelor of Science degree in marketing from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.

“She’s a dynamic, incredible lady with great ideas and a passion for Lake Tahoe. What struck me most is her leadership qualities. With what we’re trying to do at the chamber, this was important,” said Chase International real estate agent Sue Lowe, the Tahoe Douglas Chamber board president.

Members cry foul

Gorman’s appointment by a selection committee of a dozen chamber members split between the Tahoe Douglas and South Lake Tahoe boards sparked a wildfire of criticism. Nine of their businesses have Nevada addresses. This has caused a bit of a stir among some California members who cry foul over the perceived snub of Duane Wallace – the South Lake Tahoe chamber executive director.

Gorman said the selection committee warned her of the merger’s divisiveness.

“They described this as a time of transition. Any time there’s a transition – there are those comfortable with the chamber and those uncomfortable. My goal is to listen to the needs of the community. I think coming in from the outside in many ways is beneficial. I don’t come in with preconceived notions,” she said. “The choice of that person (Wallace) versus me has nothing to do with me.”

Wallace was one of seven applicants whittled down to five by the Human Resources Committee made up of chiropractor Don Miner for Tahoe Douglas, and Sierra-at-Tahoe personnel director Brittany Clelan for South Lake. Tahoe Douglas Chamber Executive Director Kathy Farrell declined to go for the job, instead taking a parallel post with the Tahoe Tallac Association.

“I thoroughly enjoyed these last 12 years. I’m interested to see what God has in store for me. I’m going to miss it,” Wallace said. He wants to wait out seeing his two children in their senior year get through high school.

The latest division among chamber members appears reminiscent of the internal struggles over the new offices going in on the Nevada side, and the Tahoe Douglas chamber’s apprehension over having the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority take over its award-winning visitor center now at Roundhill Square.

Tom Davis, who has been involved with the South Lake Tahoe chamber for 30 years, accused the selection committee of being biased. He and South Lake board member Dave Borges pointed to a flawed process and mentioned Miner made it clear someone from the outside would have the director job. Miner has not returned phone calls to the Tahoe Daily Tribune.

“I’m upset by the whole thing. I’ve known Duane for years, and he’s fallen on the sword for this chamber many times. Maybe we ought to rethink the merger. I don’t feel this is my chamber anymore,” said Davis, who served 14 years on the board while running Tahoe Keys Resort. Davis shared reservations on the merger during the meeting in which the two boards voted a few months ago to join forces – after some consternation. He contends the merger was done “in a dictatorship” and pointed to the stacked Nevada businesses to make that point.

Davis may pose the question of possibly rescinding the vote for South Lake’s new meeting scheduled Sept. 21. And he may have some company.

Insurance agent Bob Attinger, a South Lake chamber member, took his gripe to the South Lake Tahoe City Council during its budget workshop Tuesday. He asked for the panel to withhold funding for the LTVA and chamber, which may receive $225,000 and $101,474, respectively, in the 2006-07 budget due to be adopted Oct. 1.

“Our chamber executive Duane Wallace will be replaced and has become a victim of a political hatchet job. Duane has been more effective as a community leader than any city manager, county manager or elected public official in any county surrounding the lake,” Attinger said in a statement he read to the City Council.

Although she “didn’t know he was coming,” Councilwoman Kathay Lovell said she wasn’t surprised by the dissension based on how the selection committee was “weighted on Nevada.”

As for marketing subsidies, Lovell said the council “still needs to engage in a serious dialogue” about them.

Tahoe Douglas Chamber President Lowe all but dismissed the dispute as resistance to change, while South Lake Tahoe Chamber President Carl Ribaudo cited the nostalgia that goes with his chamber’s 50 years in existence.

“There are all kind of positions I’ve learned in this community. I understand how they would feel threatened by it. It was an incredibly emotional decision,” he said.

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