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6-13-2012

Will chamber find calm
after the storm?

by PJ Rooks
Landmark reporter

Andrea Priddy, formerly the vice president of the Weston Chamber of Commerce and now the organization’s acting president, ensured city aldermen Monday night that the sort of heated altercation that took place during a recent chamber meeting “will not happen again.”

As reported by the Weston Chronicle, an argument broke out at the chamber’s May 24 meeting regarding the decision of the organization’s then-president, Scott Low, to hire his daughter for “part-time, temporary, fill-in only work.”

According to The Chronicle, Low requested resignations from Priddy and board member Mary Jo Heidrick, calling them the “‘mean girls’ of the board.”

Low’s wife, Michelle Low, also a board member, said that the concern was less about the daughter’s employment and more about them “finding a way to pick on Scott until he resigns.”

In the end, The Chronicle reports that both Scott and Michelle Low resigned from the board after a 20-minute volley of accusations between the two sides.

At the meeting of aldermen Monday night, Mayor C. R. Carter said he wanted the board to review the agreement between the city and the chamber and also to ensure that the chamber was in agreement as well.

Carter read from the agreement then, stating that the chamber is an independent organization funded by two-thirds of the city's three-eighths-cent sales tax and is charged with providing services to expand sales and sales tax revenues, developing economic growth, maintaining the city's information center and providing monthly reports to the board.

He emphasized that because the chamber’s staff members are not city employees, recourse for the city is limited to funding.

“For a black eye like that to shine on the front page of our local paper and to be spoken about on, most likely, a regular basis for the last couple of months is not good for the city and not good for the retention or attracting of new residents and businesses,” Carter said, likening the chamber information center to “the face of Weston,” now bearing the black eye.

He asked that the chamber board review its bylaws and general meeting guidelines in addition to bringing back plans for marketing, increasing sales tax revenues and attracting new residents.

“I do not believe that boards and groups should agree on everything, because once you start having group thinking, you miss the outside-the-box stuff,” he said. “But there is a difference between healthy and unhealthy and I just think that we really need to step back and look at what is the right thing for the city.”

Priddy, who is also the owner of Nelson and Taylor, called the meeting’s argument “unfortunate” and said that it was “a very small situation that got blown out of proportion.”

“The chamber has taken great measures to ensure that we are very serious about taking care of the tax dollars and respecting the integrity of our office,” she said.

Since that meeting, she said, the chamber has had its hiring policies and procedures reviewed, and will present the recommendations at its June 14 meeting. The chamber is also currently scheduling a training course to help ensure that meetings don’t get out of hand in the future.

“Truthfully, it could have been handled—and we are trying to handle it—very professionally,” she said. “It will not happen again and we definitely take your recommendations seriously and the chamber will do anything that we need to ensure that our funding is safe.”