Eight months into her tenure as executive director of the Otsego County Chamber, Barbara Ann Heegan points to a list of accomplishments and promises more.*
“The chief goal for me was to be a resource to our members and to reach out to all of the members in finding out what their needs are, learning about their business, touring their businesses,” she said, adding that chamber has gained 50 members since she took over in last July.
Heegan was chosen in May and took over a month later. She replaced Rob Robinson, who was fired in November 2011 for allegedly creating a fictitious category in the chamber so that individuals living in the New York City area could enroll in its health plan.
The controversy created some problems initially, Heegan said.
“I had to build some relationships,” she said. “That did come up.”
Carolyn Lewis, director of the Otsego County Economic Development Department and a member of the chamber’s board, acknowledged that the transition wasn’t easy.
“When you have a longstanding leader and director like we did with Rob, when there’s nobody in that seat and you now have a board that has to step up and people have other jobs, it causes some stress,” she said.
It made some businesses reluctant to renew their memberships, Heegan said. But after meeting with them to “share with them the value of the chamber,” they decided to renew, she added.
“Barbara Ann makes a concerted effort to reach out to be part of the Oneonta community,” said Deborah Taylor,
director of the Otsego County Tourism Office.
Aside from membership gains, Heegan cited several other successful initiatives, such as a monthly Bagels and Benefits breakfast.
“We started with about six people,” she said. “It was very small, and it’s grown in the last month to 20, 25 people attending.”