A new business opportunity has led Peachland Chamber Of Commerce president Rob Campbell to resign from his leadership role on the chamber board.
Campbell, who has served as the president of the chamber for nearly six years, offered his resignation to the board last week. Following Campbell’s resignation, the chamber board of directors voted and accepted Patrick Van Minsel as the interim president until the membership elects a new board in May.
As well, both Dave Collins and Trevor Neyedli have been appointed by the board to fill the vice president position, replacing Gabi Haas, who stepped down back in December.
“I think there are other people that have joined our board and there are some new people coming along that have some great ideas and leadership skills and I think it’s time for somebody else to take the reins and run with it and see where they can take the chamber,” Campbell said in an interview with The View. “If they can get it to the next level, great.”
Campbell says he will stay on for a while as past president in an advisory role and will remain available as a resource through the transition.
Campbell’s new business operates as the Canadian distribution arm for an Australian manufacturer of specialty lighting, which keeps him out of town often enough that it became no longer possible to continue his role with the chamber.
Campbell came to Peachland semi-retired in March 2008. Soon after, Campbell and his wife joined the chamber and he quickly grew to lead the organization.
“When I saw what was going on at the chamber, I realized they needed some help so I joined the board in July of 2008. At that point the chamber was pretty well in collapse…It was kind of running loosey goosey. The organization was there but there was no substance to it,” Campbell said. “It was pretty obvious it was lacking some leadership.”
In October of 2008, only a matter of months after Campbell joined the board, he was appointed interim president. Later, at the May 2009 annual general meeting, Campbell was elected president by the membership and continued to be reelected each year.
“This is not typical for a chamber to have a president be president for more than two years. Most presidents will rotate but there wasn’t really anybody that wanted to step up and take the job because it is a huge time commitment. If you look at the amount of volunteer time I’ve put into this chamber over the last six years, it is a huge amount of time,” Campbell said.
Compared to most other chambers, Campbell’s situation was unique in that most of the other chamber presidents run businesses and only have a limited amount of time to contribute to the organization.
“Those other chambers usually have more than one staff. We have one staff member so it meant that there was a lot more of my personal involvement and I had the time and if you have the time it is by natural osmosis that you end up working that time,” Campbell said.
Over the past six years Campbell has focused on a number of key areas to help move the organization forward.
Campbell says when he became president of the chamber the first thing he realized was the previous board did not have a good working relationship with the mayor and council.
“It was lacking. Badly lacking,” Campbell said. “What that reason was, I don’t know, but the first thing I did was make sure we change the relationship with mayor and council and staff. They are an important working partner and if you don’t have that relationship, it can be very difficult to get things done, so that was my number one goal and we accomplished that.”
Campbell says he also worked hard to establish positive relationships with the local MP and MLA.
“You’ve got to have those relationships. They’ve got to know who you are and what your chamber is about. We represent our local businesses. They need to know what challenges and expectations they have of our local government representatives so there has got to be that relationship and flow of information. You’ve got to keep them updated because otherwise you disappear and become a non-entity.”
Campbell also developed relationships with the other chambers in the valley, particularly the ones in West Kelowna, Penticton and Summerland.
“We as a collective group from Vernon to Osoyoos started meeting regularly to discuss everybody’s issues because there are always common issues between chambers and it is typically, they don’t have enough money to operate, how do we give value to our membership, what does that value look like and how do we increase that value?”
Four years ago representatives from several Okanagan chambers, including Peachland, formed a policy group and developed a policy to abolish B.C.’s antiquated liquor law that prohibited the interprovincial transfer of wine.
“We introduced it, it was unanimously approved and from there it went into the policy book that was sent to every minister in the provincial government and of course to our MLAs and our MPs,” Campbell said. “MP Dan Albas then took that further two years ago at the AGM in Penticton and he took it to Ottawa to try to create this bill to abolish that and it has been passed. That is the type of thing that the chamber needs to do for its membership.”
The Peachland chamber has also met with representatives from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to advocate for a business case study that explores the issues and viability of both four-laning and a bypass. Campbell says the chamber’s contributions have helped support local government efforts with regards to that issue that eventually led to a commitment by the ministry to fund a study.
“It is issues like that that the chamber gets involved in, in conjunction with local government, with the idea that everybody cooperates and works together and the information is shared and one helps the other. I think that has been the role of our chamber anyway, to get involved as much as possible in those areas. Those are the things I felt were important and we did accomplish. I was appointed to the PEDC [Peachland Economic Development Committee] as a chamber representative because the mayor wanted to have chamber representation as well as members at large, which has also been a good move for the chamber.”
Campbell was also invited to join the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission (COEDC), which means a representative from Peachland has had an awareness of opportunities for investment, immigration, high tech and other economic development possibilities.
“You need to know what is going on out there and you need to bring that information back. It’s what starts the ball rolling. If you don’t get engaged and you just leave it, you get forgotten about. I wanted to make sure Peachland doesn’t get forgotten about,” Campbell said.
As a result of Campbell’s engagement in these areas, the Peachland chamber has experienced a significant increase in profile.
“You need to get out there and get active. You speak your opinion and your voice and you get noticed and that had been lacking before. I wanted to make sure that Peachland had a face in the valley in the chamber world…if you want to move the community forward, people have to know you’re there and engaging and you’re looking for opportunities,” Campbell said.
During Campbell’s tenure, the chamber reinstituted the Peachland Business Expo and was also involved in organizing last summer’s Okanagan Paddlefest event, as well as the Christmas Light Up.
Campbell also started the chamber’s annual golf tournament fundraiser, which sold out in its first year.
In 2010, former chamber manager Darlene Hartford established the bat preservation and education program. Last year at the B.C. Wildlife Federation conference, the Peachland Chamber of Commerce received the B.C. Wildlife Foundation award for wildlife preservation and education, which is an unusual accomplishment for a chamber of commerce.
“The big thing for me personally was being able to work with Loretta [Robinson] to get the application as a key tenant for the primary school through and actually be assigned as one of the anchor tenants. That was a big win for us. It was a collective effort. We have a good team.”
“The chamber is so much more than just membership. It is the policy making, it is the involvement with the other chambers and local, provincial and federal governments. All of that is important,” Campbell said.
“I encourage our board of directors and staff to continue this good work and push forward. Continue to create that cooperative working network, build further on our relationships with our three levels of government and in particular with our mayor, council and staff and our community groups. Most importantly, give that ‘value’ of chamber membership to each of our existing and new businesses,” Campbell wrote in his letter of resignation.
Campbell’s resignation was effective January 28. A new board will be elected at the chamber’s annual general meeting this spring.
Joanne Layh / Peachland View