Most know me as a Riverton Ambassador, and also as a reporter for County 10. I was also briefly the Editor for the Riverton Ranger, Lander Journal and Wind River News. But I am not here tonight as a reporter, editor, or writer. I’m here as a citizen of Riverton, a Chamber member, and one of the founding Board members of the Riverton Ambassadors.
However, as a reporter…the why questions seem to always be the hardest ones to get answers for. Who, what, when, where, and how…not too hard to get, most of the time. But then there’s the “why”?
In regards to Riverton’s Chamber of Commerce:
What is a Chamber, and what does a Chamber mean for businesses and the community?
Who is at the helm of a Chamber? How are they nominated and voted in?
When and where does a Chamber meet, in consideration of business hours, community activities, and personal/family time?
How does a Chamber serve its members and its community?
In the forming of a new WYRiverton Chamber and Visitors Center, and the still yet unconfirmed merge with the Riverton Ambassadors, why was there suddenly a breakdown of communication, transparency, and a departure from current Bylaws and mission statements that were supposed to be about moving Riverton forward? When did working as a whole team fail? Why did they start excluding and ignoring members and volunteers who had given so much of their time, talent, and treasure? What do Bylaws or Mission statements even mean if they are not even adhered to?
Most of the time, we do what we’re told without questioning. Many things are passed in city councils and commissioners' meetings where the public might be unaware or uninformed beforehand. I’m not creating an excuse for the public; quite the opposite. An example…
Riverton City Council has its agendas, agenda packets and minutes posted on its website for the public. That type of transparency is commendable and should be a structure for many organizations. The Mayor doesn’t act alone; even he and Tony [City Administrator] do not act alone. No Councilmember, no city staff acts alone. Given that no system is perfect, at the very least there should be teamwork, communication, and transparency for things to not only work and flow but to establish that element of trust. If any one, few or even all of our City Council…or even law enforcement…just made their own decisions, pushed their own agendas, and just categorically passed ordinances without oversight, transparency or notice, how would that fly with the public? Or just appointed yourselves another term of office, without nomination or a vote? Or as we are doing now…what if the City Council just ignored public comment or input without discussion or consideration? How would that fly?
So why would that fly with a Chamber membership, with any membership? Why would the assumed positioning of a brand new Board (even an ad hoc Board) without nomination or vote by its general membership be acceptable? What about those who don’t agree with this merger, or those who haven’t been given enough information to make an educated decision about it and cast their vote?
Under current Chamber Bylaws…In May, there was supposed to be a Nominating Committee set up for elections of a new Board. This was not done. Notification of nominations was to be sent out to all Chamber members. This was not done. The Executive Director was to notify the membership of their right to petition additional candidates. This was not done. Ballots and voting instructions were to be distributed by the Executive Director to all members. This was not done.
According to Chamber Bylaws, after 30 days, ballots were to be gathered and tallied by the Executive Director. The next Chamber Board meeting is this Thursday. As a Chamber member, should I just blindly accept this merger and its new Board created by a committee without any oversight or regard to current Bylaws, not to mention a vote from their General membership?
And why, when real questions and concerns were being raised, they were skirted or ignored with “Stay tuned, great things are happening!” That is not an answer.
I know it’s cliche to say “There is no “I” in TEAM”, but I believe it is applicable here. When we make it about ourselves and our own agendas, there is no team. When we ask the who, what, when, where, why, and how questions and get no response or are ignored, there is no team. When we give concessions to a select few, ignore and take a departure from rules and procedures, whether it's local/state/federal/tribal laws or bylaws, and push agendas without any oversight, there is no team. When gossip and backbiting occur, hurting peoples’ businesses and livelihoods, hurting friends, families, and neighbors…there is no team. So if this is how the Chamber…a business organization…does business? Again…what does a Chamber mean, and what does it mean to be a “Member” of an organization that does these things? You cannot just pretend there’s a team when there’s not.
I stood right here around this podium in April, excited about the merger of the Chamber and the Ambassadors. You all know I’ve given of my time, talent, and treasure and I had planned on continuing to do so. But along the way, I had been excluded. Plans and decisions were being made behind closed doors. When I questioned processes happening without oversight or vote, I got ambiguous responses or was ignored. Apparently, I wasn’t a valued member of the team anymore, as if anything I had to say or contribute wasn’t worth consideration or merit.
United we stand. Divided we fall.
This seems to be a theme with variations, not only in this situation with the Chamber, but even a few corporate businesses who come into town outside of Wyoming to assume control, who fail to listen and discount the voices of locals who have been here, lived here, have experience, ideas, insight, and expertise to lend in order to work together in making a vision come to fruition. Unfortunately, this has been my experience in some job capacities and as a volunteer. I don’t do what I do because of some agenda, aspirations, position, perks, or title. I do what I do, whether it’s as a job or as a volunteer, or even as an individual…to serve and support my community in the best way I can.
Lastly, (again, my example as a reporter) I hope that everyone knows that there are many sides to a story. Even when the truth is difficult to find, I always hope to find some facts, some threads of truth and not be distracted by “fake news”. That (at least for me) could be that “I” part of any team I’m on, in that: “I hope we can do this. I hope that we’re all on the same page. I hope we can all contribute our time, talents and treasure to something great.” But when there is little or no transparency, oversight, communication or trust…how can anything be made rock-solid if the very foundation is made of sand?
Thank you for listening.