Search is on for new chamber head |

Search is on for new chamber head

Jeff Munson
Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune/ Mike Patton has applied for the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce executive director position.

As the recently merged South Shore chambers prepare to pick a top leader, one candidate for the job says the business community is ready for a change.

Careful in choosing his words, Mike Patton, 52, says South Lake Tahoe is at pivotal junction economically. New development at Stateline will buoy economic growth there, but for merchants outside the casino corridor, there needs to be a serious effort to revitalize other parts of town.

“What I read and hear is there seems to be a lot of red tape and bureaucracy. I think the only way to solve that is to insist on team work and partnerships to execute the plans to deliver results and to be accountable so the city can grow and prosper,” Patton said.

One part of town that Patton is familiar with is Al Tahoe, where the grocery store anchor that he managed, Albertsons, is set to close for good Aug. 6.

In a June Tahoe Daily Tribune story, Patton criticized the city for delaying a sign for the grocery store on Highway 50. He told the Tribune it took the grocery store two years for the sign to get approved, a time which was critical for the store as it was under scrutiny to beef up its bottom line.

He says the South Lake Tahoe chamber should have recognized the issue with the signs and stepped up to help expedite the process.

“I think it is time for a change. The one thing I don’t see is our people shopping locally, keeping our dollars locally, and I don’t see enough people hiring locally to keep the revenue circulating. It’s one of the many reasons why Albertsons is closing and the 65 associates being displaced.”

He stopped short of blaming any one entity for the store’s demise, but adds that an engaged chamber would have been behind the grocer as it fought for regulatory approval of the signs from the city and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

“Obviously people are going downhill to Wal-Mart and Costco and it is obviously taking away jobs up here,” he said.

As chamber director, Patton said he would forge partnerships among merchants on both sides of the state line. Merging the two chambers and bringing ideas to the table from the Tahoe Douglas and South Lake Tahoe chambers is something he would implement immediately. Then he would call for partnerships, bringing chamber issues directly to city and TRPA leaders to forge agreements.

“It will take a change in leadership to make this happen,” he said.

Joint chamber update

The joint Chamber of Commerce will tentatively accept applications for a new executive director until next Tuesday, Tahoe Douglas Chamber President Sue Lowe said.

It’s unclear how many applications have been received as the selection committee is not releasing information on the search, committee member Don Miner said Wednesday.

The search is expected to be narrowed in the next few weeks.

The South Lake Tahoe Chamber’s current Executive Director Duane Wallace said he applied but declined to be interviewed in the Tahoe Daily Tribune because he didn’t “want to taint the process” or “campaign in public.”

“I can tell you that I’m vigorously applying, and I look forward to the interview process. I intend to work very hard at staying with the chamber,” said Wallace, who has worked with the chamber since 1994. He served on the board 12 years prior and graduated from the Institute for Organizational Management from University of San Diego.

Tahoe Douglas Chamber Executive Director Kathleen Farrell resigned from her post or any future endeavors with the chamber to take a director’s job for the Tallac Association.

Meanwhile, the chamber has signed a $286,000-a-year leasing partnership at the Prim building on the corner of Highway 50 and Kingsbury Grade. The chamber will share office space on the top floor with the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, which plans to sell its building on Ski Run Boulevard and chip in the proceeds to fund the visitors center on the first floor. Douglas County Administration intends to occupy the second floor.

Lowe said she expects by-laws to be written by the end of the month. Ambassador teams to the two chambers have been renamed the “Blue Crew.” And the merge may occur as early as the Tahoe Douglas move from Roundhill Square on Nov. 1.

– Susan Wood

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