SOUTHINGTON — The leader of the Southington Chamber of Commerce during the 1990s will return to her former position as executive director next week.
The chamber’s board hired Barbara Hekeler to fill the job vacated by Taylor Crofton, who resigned in May.
Hekeler, a Cheshire resident, was the chamber’s executive director from 1993 to 1999 before resigning to raise her twin daughters. Dawn Miceli, board chairwoman, was impressed with Hekeler’s experience and knowledge of the town and its businesses. During her tenure, the chamber tripled its membership and posted surpluses.
“She will be able to jump right into the position and gain ground immediately with moving the Chamber forward in a positive manner — from strengthening our member base to forming civic and community partnerships,” Miceli wrote in a statement announcing the hire.
Hekeler’s official first day is July 9, but Miceli said she’s already begun working.
“She’s already heading into the office today and checking in,” Miceli said Monday. “She’s just so ready to get started.”
Hekeler said board and chamber members suggested she apply for the position.
“I’m really going to be spending my first few weeks at the chamber on the internal structure of the organization,” she said.
Hekeler will also be looking to hire and fill vacant positions. The chamber had a number of recent departures.Embrace the mission
Membership in the Southington Chamber of Commerce has declined by about half over the past four years, according to Lisa Jansson, the chamber’s former events and communications coordinator who left at the end of May. Jansson and other former chamber employees cited an increase in fees for chamber membership as a reason for the drop.
Hekeler hopes that new chamber employees will love coming to work.
“We need to have a staff in place that understands the underlying principles of the organization, the function,” she said. “I really want a staff who is going to embrace the organization of the chamber of commerce with as much passion and enthusiasm and understanding as I do.”
The chamber should be a cheerleader for local businesses, Hekeler said.
Hekeler first took the executive director job in her 20s. In some cases she’s seen three generations of local business owners.
“Their children and grandchildren are now running the businesses,” she said of owners she knew during her first tenure.