One of the most important leadership decisions in Green Valley and Sahuarita this year is about to be made, and you’re not going to be part of it.

That’s because they’re ignoring history over at the Green Valley/Sahuarita Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center.

Two years ago, when they were looking for a new chamber director, I asked the board to make the process more transparent by sharing the names of the finalists or by holding a public Q&A with them.

Why is this important? Two reasons, which I outlined in a column shortly before they named the winner.

The first is that the chamber director’s work affects hundreds of businesses and thousands of employees in Green Valley and Sahuarita — not to mention anybody who spends a buck here. This is one of the most important jobs in our community.

“The chamber largely exists to support businesses — everything from marketing and hiring, to moving through the permit process to get the doors open,” I wrote in March 2017.

“But they’re a lot more. What happens inside the chamber building has a direct effect on your home value; which stores and restaurants will open (and close); special events in town; tourism. The chamber, particularly in an unincorporated community, is often the backbone. In Green Valley, where a lot of people think they’re the boss, a capable chamber executive director probably has the strongest claim.”

“That’s why it’s important to talk to the candidates before one is named to the job — because Green Valley has a lot going for it, but it’s also facing struggles.”

Those struggles, I wrote, include lack of vision for economic development, competition with other communities for businesses, and a history of obtaining grant money but doing little with it. Lots of great ideas, but no real progress.

“Hiring the right person as head of the chamber could help solve a lot of these problems,” I wrote.

Outgoing director Joe Erceg has done a lot of good for the chamber and the communities; there’s still much to be done, and we all have a stake in it.

The other reason it’s important to make this a more public process is that we’ve seen missteps in the area when it comes to choosing our leaders.

Our newspaper uncovered two of them. In 2013, Kent Blumenthal was named executive director of GVR. The other candidate, we learned, had been “accused by a national non-profit of looting its assets to establish a separate charity in a dispute that lasted months and landed in the courts,” according to a story we published the week he was out here interviewing for the job.

Either nobody caught that during the sifting of the résumés, or they were fine with it. Both concerning.

Sahuarita had three finalists for police chief in 2014, all chosen by a “blue ribbon committee.” We quickly discovered a very public and embarrassing lapse in judgment on the part of one candidate that led to a couple of key people in his community losing their jobs (he should have been one of them).

Nobody wants to do the selection panel’s job. They make the call; it’s a chamber decision. But giving the public a look at the candidates and offering input sends a message that the chamber understands the broad influence of the job and values community input.

Two years ago, I was able to find out the names of the three candidates, talk to them and put something in the paper before a decision was made. This time around it might not happen.

Kim DeMarco, who’s heading the five-person panel, says they are interviewing five candidates on July 3, and that I’ll be the first to know when they have picked a new CEO. History tells us that may be too late in the process.


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