CEO tabbed for proposed organization
By Joseph Slacian | The Paper of Wabash County
Keith Gillenwater has been named the president and CEO of the proposed combined Wabash County Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Group of Wabash County.
Gillenwater, currently president and CEO of EDG, won’t assume the new post unless the merger is approved by members of both organizations.
He was named to the post by the Transition Committee on Monday, April 17. It was done even though is not expected to take place until mid-May.
“During this time of transition, it is imperative we select leadership that will champion a combined vision,” Transition Board chair Emily Boardman said in a press release. “Keith is an excellent match for the aspirational vision of the new organization and his ability to collaborate with community partners will be key to its success.”
The Paper of Wabash County posed a series of questions to both Boardman and Jason Callahan, CEO Selection Committee chair about the decision.
“The vote to merge organizations has not yet taken place,” Boardman said, explaining why the CEO was named prior to the vote. “The Transition Board felt it was our obligation to solidify leadership for the new organization to ensure a smooth transition without interruption of service to members.
“The process of a merger like the one being proposed is very complex. To the extent there is a highly qualified candidate like Mr. Gillenwater available who meets the high expectations of the Transition Board, we felt it was in the best interest of both organizations - and the new one - to engage his leadership as soon as possible to assist in and help shape the transition.”
Asked if the vote was merely a formality, she said, “The vote by the members will determine whether or not the two organizations merge. This action is a requirement in the articles/bylaws of each organization. While the selection of an executive to lead the new organization is not subject to membership ratification, the Transition Board felt strongly that the membership of both organizations would appreciate knowing before they vote if there is a clear choice for President/CEO of their new organization.
“The Transition Board and Mr. Gillenwater understand that if the merger is not approved, Mr. Gillenwater will retain his position as President/CEO of EDG of Wabash County.”
She then explained how the ballots will be counted.
“The vote to merge the two organizations will be conducted in accordance with the requirements of the existing bylaws of each organization,” she said. “Inspectors of the election will be representative of the Chamber Board, EDG Board and the Transition Board.”
Boardman did not say if the ballots will be available for inspection by members of either organization following the vote.
Chamber chair Paul McCann said that anyone interested in serving in the leadership post for the new organization would be given the opportunity to apply.
Boardman didn’t say how many people, if any, applied for the post, or if and when it was announced the committee was seeking applications.
“The Transition Board carefully evaluated the CEO selection process by first developing a robust position description and considering an executive search/application process,” she told The Paper. “To the credit of those involved from across our community, the Transition Board determined that we had a unique circumstance in that we believed an internal candidate may possess the qualities we were seeking.
“A sub-committee of the Transition Board, with the addition of another Chamber representative, participated in an interview with Mr. Gillenwater moderated by an outside consultant. The sub-committee unanimously determined to recommend to the Transition Board that Mr. Gillenwater be offered the position of President/CEO of the proposed new organization. At a meeting on April 11, the Transition Board voted unanimously to offer Mr. Gillenwater the President/CEO position.”
Callahan did not respond to The Paper questions.
However, in the news release announcing Gillenwater’s new position, he said, “Keith has demonstrated his commitment to the success of Wabash County by working with various local and regional stakeholders to ensure we are collectively working toward a prosperous Wabash County.”
Boardman, discussing Gillenwater’s qualifications, said, “The above-referenced sub-committee conducted a rigorous interview with Mr. Gillenwater to assess not only his qualifications for the position, but also his passion and commitment for our community.
“We are unanimous in our belief that Mr. Gillenwater shares our vision and will provide outstanding leadership for the new organization. He demonstrated a clear understanding of our community's strengths and challenges. He is intensely focused in his current role on developing solutions to those challenges and is collaborating with other community groups and businesses to build on our strengths to position Wabash County for long-term success.
“Mr. Gillenwater's leadership will benefit us greatly with a new, more collaborative county-wide organization to guide our community economic development efforts.”
Gillenwater has been the President & CEO of EDG since December 2014. Gillenwater has experience in community and economic development and represents Wabash County on various boards in the state, including the board of the Regional Chamber of Northeast Indiana, Mid-America Economic Development Council and Indiana Economic Development Association.