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Chamber CEO Resigns, Search Begins.

Posted in: Front Page Stories, Falmouth News
Dec 5, 2008 - 3:26:55 PM
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FALMOUTH- Christine A. Ross, the president and CEO of the Falmouth Chamber of Commerce, resigned this week, and the search is already underway to find a new leader for the organization.
Ms. Ross, who was hired five and a half years ago from the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce in the Berkshires, submitted a letter of resignation giving 30 days’ notice to chamber board of directors president Christopher J. Megan on Monday.
She gave her notice to the rest of the chamber board on Tuesday. She said she is taking a new job as CEO and president at the Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce in Florida.
Ms. Ross said the Bonita Springs chamber is “a nice step up in size,” since it has 1,200 members, compared to Falmouth’s 700 members. She said it is also a “five-star accredited chamber,” a top designation held by only one percent of the chambers in the country.
The accreditation, Ms. Ross said, refers to the organization’s development, program of work, and how innovative and up-to-date it is. Applying for the accreditation, Ms. Ross said, involves quite a bit of paperwork and it is not something the Falmouth chamber has attempted.
“It’s an opportunity for me to do bigger picture visioning and economic development work,” she said of the new job. “It’s the next step in the career ladder.”
Ms. Ross said she will begin the new job on January 5.
Her husband, Robert P. Ross, who is a Spanish teacher and house administrator at Falmouth High School, will stay in Falmouth to finish the school year, she said.
Mr. Ross also serves as the advisor for the People To People International Club at the high school. He was one of the coaches for the annual Powder Puff football game for the junior squad last month.
The Rosses own a home, which they purchased in 2004, on Coonamessett Circle in Hatchville.
Ms. Ross said when she looks back at her years in Falmouth, she sees one of her main accomplishments as “renovating this beautiful historic building.” Ms. Ross oversaw the major project of renovating the 19th-century Lawrence Academy building on Academy Lane, which serves as the chamber headquarters.
Another accomplishment, she listed, was setting up the wireless connectivity for the community. “It’s a program I’m proud of,” she said.
Ms. Ross has also overseen the development of the chamber’s website, creating, she said, “a tourism and visitor portal.”
Besides Ms. Ross, other employees at the chamber include Michael D. Kasparian, who holds the title vice president of programming and special events, and Michele Fabiano Galasso, who holds the title vice president of tourism and business development.
Those two staff members were hired to replace Todd L. Bidwell, who had served as the vice president of the chamber for four years before leaving last year to serve as general manager at the Island Queen, a ferry to Martha’s Vineyard from Falmouth Inner Harbor.
Also on staff is Moira Aldrich, the member service manager, and Pamela Morin, the communications manager.
Betty Bailey serves as information specialist and administrative assistant.
Alice G. Dufresne, who had been at the chamber for almost 30 years, left earlier this fall to work for the Island Queen.
The staff members are all full-time except Mr. Kasparian, who works three days a week, Ms. Ross said.
“The professional staff is in place and it should not skip a beat,” Ms. Ross said. She said her final duties include locking in speakers for the chamber’s business education series scheduled for January and February.
Ms. Ross said that while the resignation may have come as a surprise to board members, she has been working on graduate degrees in order to advance her career for some time. In May 2006, she said she earned a master’s degree in marketing from the University of Maryland via Internet. She earned a master’s in business administration this past May, also from the University of Maryland.
Ms. Ross said her husband has recently finished a master’s degree in leadership and is certified as a principal and assistant principal.
Ms. Ross, who grew up in northern Virginia, said the Bonita Springs community on Florida’s Gulf Coast includes a campus in the Florida State University system and an international airport. “There will be a lot of opportunities to develop international trade because it is a free trade zone,” she said.
Mr. Megan, who is the owner and publisher of the fishing magazine On The Water, said he accepted Ms. Ross’s resignation on Monday. “It sounds like she has a great opportunity down there,” he said. “On behalf of the entire chamber of commerce, we wish her the best of luck.”
Mr. Megan said word travels fast in Falmouth and he has already heard from several people interested in the position.
“Interest in the position has been overwhelming,” he said, considering the opening has not even been formally announced.
 He said he is putting together a search/hiring committee made up of a diverse group from the board of directors, as well as other chamber members from the community. He said he wants input from the membership on the search.
“The Falmouth community is very unique. We need someone who understands our community. Christine did a great job,” he said. “I’m extremely proud of the work she did for the Falmouth Chamber. I’m extremely proud of the work she did bringing us into the 21st century on the web. We’ve really come a long way in a short period of time.”
Mr. Megan continued, “We have an extremely strong board with great representation across the board. That’s a real asset going forward. Chamber members can rest assured during the transition we’ll be in great shape.”
He said he will personally work with the staff that remains behind to ensure a smooth transition.
Mr. Megan said the job will be advertised and marketed immediately. He declined to give Ms. Ross’s salary but said a director of a chamber of this size normally makes between $70,000 and $100,000.
“The Falmouth chamber is in line with the average,” Mr. Megan said. But Mr. Megan said his personal feeling—and he said several board members agree—is that he would like the position to return to its former title of executive director, rather than that of president and CEO, but he will look for input from the board on that decision.