Last week's announcement caught most people by surprise -because Rick Kidder, who has served for nine years as President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce, was pretty much taken for granted. That's often what happens when someone like Kidder is good at their job.
Kidder is moving on. Technically, he's moving "back" about 2,000 miles. Kidder is returning to his home state of Massachusetts to take a job similar to the one he's leaving here at the New Bedford Chamber of Commerce, effective July 17th.
Eric Larson, a former Chairman of the Board of Directors at the Chamber, will serve as the interim President and CEO while a committee conducts a search for someone to fill Kidder's position. But don't be surprised if Larson, who is well liked in the organization and by the business community, is asked to permanently lead the Chamber.
Kidder steered the Chamber through the most stressful time in the organization's almost 70-year history. He had barely settled into his job of what he calls the Chamber's "chief cheerleader" when the Great Recession hit like a financial Haboob. It crippled, even wiped out, many businesses. As a result, the Chamber's membership and revenue both dipped to anemic levels.
While the Chamber's budget and staff shrank, Kidder remained steadfast in his commitment to see the organization through an especially tense period of economic recovery.
During the same period, politics compounded the Chamber's challenges.
In 2008 the Chamber supported Mayor Mary Manross in her re-election campaign against City Councilman Jim Lane. Unfortunately for the organization, Lane narrowly nudged out Manross in a run-off election. Mayor Lane didn't take kindly to the snub by the Chamber, and it took several years, plus a couple of lawsuits, for the relationship to be repaired between the Mayor and the organization.
Of course almost everyone recalls it was the same election that the Chamber ran afoul of campaign finance law with its "non-political" campaign supporting City Council candidates. The Chamber refused to disclose who paid for its six-figure direct mail and TV campaign, so a criminal complaint was filed against the organization. The suit was eventually dismissed. But following that ruling, the Lane for Scottsdale Committee filed a civil complaint against the Chamber that was settled out of court.
The campaign donors were never disclosed.
For nearly a decade Rick Kidder has been the face of the Chamber of Commerce. It's hard to imagine that anyone could have done a better job than Kidder through thick (politics) and thin (economy). His ability to rally Chamber members when some felt the sky was falling was nothing short of fantastic.
Kidder, who has worked at the Chamber for 15 years, will probably not be remembered as much for what he did, but for how he did it. Kidder built consensus and created compromises between strong personalities with diverse opinions in both the business and political communities. Those are some of the same techniques he has been successfully using to help advance the community outreach effort for the non-discrimination issue.
Non-discrimination Update: Last week, in record high temperatures, 24 canvassers for the LGBT Community took the non-discrimination issue to the streets. The two-dozen volunteers plan to knock on 31,000 doors this summer to discuss the issue with citizens and gather data about it.
Meanwhile, businesses are planning a community-wide non-discrimination forum for Tuesday, August 25th.
In his resignation letter to the Board of Directors, Kidder wrote that "for the last few years the siren song to return home has been powerful." In classic Kidder fashion, he continued: "I have loved my 15 years at the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce and am truly humbled by the show of support you have shown me and this great organization, especially during challenging times.
Recently, Kidder was asked what advice he would give young people. He said: "Look to do something you love, and never forget to give back because your success came with the help of others."
Rick Kidder will be missed.