By Jordan Huether
At the January meeting of the Gordon Chamber of Commerce, the chamber voted to accept Ray Misner as the new Chamber Director. Former Director Bea Lou Hardin stepped down from the position at the end of 2016.
Hardin became Chamber Director about five years ago. As director, she was heavily involved in the formation of a Board of Directors and a Retail Committee, which in turn led to the Junkers’ Jaunt, Fall Festival and more. “Everyone said it would never work,” Hardin said of the retail committee. “Well, it did. We took the retail committee, and we made a board, because everybody said, ‘oh, you can’t have a board. It won’t work.’
“Well, you’ve got to have a budget and you’ve got to have a board. Somebody’s got to check up on what you’re doing.”
Hardin also helped the chamber regain 501(c)(3) non-profit status with the help of Carol Child, formed new bylaws and brought back more formal, business style meetings. She also helped rescue the chamber from a small office tucked away in the basement of the city building, relocating to a storefront on Main Street, where she has worked long hours to ensure the chamber remains. The store is one of Hardin’s proudest accomplishments, as is the Chamber’s joining the Historic Highway 20 Association. “Most people don’t think that’s a big deal,” said Hardin, “but it really is. So many people come by.”
The national mean salary for a chamber director is $45,445. Bea Lou has done all of this as an unpaid volunteer. Hardin claims no credit for the accomplishments, instead saying, “It wasn’t me that did anything, it was the membership. The retail committee, the volunteers, everybody wanted to do something better and keep the chamber going. It wasn’t me. It was the membership – the businessmen and women of this town.
“I’m just proud of my community for supporting the chamber and caring about the town. I want to see it go forward and I’m sure Ray will do a real good job.”
Hardin intends to remain active with the chamber and help out however she can.
Misner recently moved to Gordon with his family and wanted to do something to help the community. When he saw the chamber was seeking a new director, he saw it as an opportunity to apply his unique skills and resources to do just that.
Misner majored in accounting and business law and has certifications in mediation and arbitration. He has served as a quasi-judge, an alderman, water commissioner and a public works commissioner, as well as a federal fiduciary. He has also served on multiple boards and commissions, and has worked at the federal, state and local level. He has also had a practice in regulatory affairs, representing businesses.
Another asset he hopes to use to help the chamber is the many business relationships he has developed over the years to potentially provide support or sponsorships and donations.
Misner wants to continue with the direction the chamber is heading, while also pursuing other community improvement opportunities. “I looked at all the bylaws of the chamber and was very heartened to see in the bylaws where it just didn’t focus on business, but made it very clear that the mission of the chamber is a community at whole – a partnership between the businesses, the government and the community,” Misner said. “I think that in itself is leaps and bounds.”
One of the ways Misner hopes to help the community is by pursuing grants and corporate support to bring a rec center to Gordon. “I don’t know how viable that is yet, but I think it’s something that needs to be put on the radar,” he said.
Misner remembers his home town in Wisconsin building a rec center, and the impact it had on the youth of his community. “It went from, in the summertime not having much to do, to having a place to go and really spend your day, and I could imagine how much trouble it took kids out of. Now, it didn’t work for every kid, but at least the community had provided something to occupy their time.
“We have a responsibility to offer our kids something other than the alternative choices,” Misner added. “At the end of the day, if it’s out of reach, at the very least, it’s a goal that needs to be established and an effort that needs to be made, because there is no excuse for not trying. If you’ve tried and you’ve failed, at least you can say you tried. If you didn’t, then you’ve got to take some of the blame.”
Misner sees a lot of opportunity with the chamber and the direction it goes, and notes that there are a lot of good things that have already happened that he hopes to build on.