Millbrook chamber members skeptical of new leadership

Posted by: Melissa McKinney - bio | email

MILLBROOK, AL (WSFA) - For months the City of Millbrook has been trying to pick up the pieces to a crumbling Chamber of Commerce. Last year many board members quit without notice.

Months later there was a heated financial meeting between members and the board.

Just when leaders think they're moving forward, some chamber members aren't so sure.

Harris Garner's involvement with the chamber is hanging by a thread.

"We went ahead and renewed our membership, but I can always take that back," he says.

He says the turmoil within the chamber hurt Millbrook's business community.

"It certainly I don't feel like is doing us any good."

Board members are trying to turn the organization around. They started by hiring a new executive director--Montgomery resident Jon Dow.

"I'm able to say ok, let's see what we need, see what the businesses need and how can we merge those two together?" says Dow.

His name may sound familiar. Dow ran for mayor in Montgomery in 2007 and 2008.

Now, he hopes to fill the late Willie Cook's seat on the Montgomery City Council in addition to running the Millbrook chamber.

That's leaving Garner and other Millbrook business owners with one concern:

"That we have an executive director that can represent us as businesses and that be his number one job," says Garner.

Dow says Millbrook is his priority.

"They're very important to me. Every business that provides the services and residents of Millbrook is important to the chamber."

But board members say his involvement in Montgomery weighed heavily during the interview process.

"He was asked about having a position in Montgomery if he saw that as being any kind of a problem and also being an executive director for the chamber, and what came back was no. And everybody felt comfortable with that unanimously," says Millbrook Chamber of Commerce Board President, Dan Dannenmueller.

Garner just hopes new leadership helps the chamber turn over a new leaf.

"We still want to do what we can to make this chamber flourish."

"The past is the past and the future is what we're looking to," says Dannenmueller.

Dow believes his outsider's point of view will actually help the chamber.

His says his first priority is to meet with members and try to recruit more businesses to the organization.

Dannenmueller says out of 99 applicants, the board believed Dow was best qualified for the job.

The board has completed a strategic plan.  They hope to implement it within the next few weeks.

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