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President and Chief Executive Officer - Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce

Posted: 09/12/2021

President & Chief Executive Officer Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce _________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The Opportunity
The Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce (“the Chamber”) in Cape Girardeau, Missouri is seeking a dynamic leader to become its next President & Chief Executive Officer. The new CEO will work with an engaged Board and committed Chamber and CVB staff to drive the Chamber’s mission to improve the economic prosperity and quality of life in the Cape Girardeau region, and to be the principal advocate for, and provider of services to, its business community. Cape Girardeau has a population of 40,000 with the surrounding metropolitan population totaling 134,000 and is the economic center of Southeast Missouri and home of Southeast Missouri Sate University. The Chamber’s CEO is the chief executive and administrative officer of the Chamber and reports to the Board of Directors. The CEO will oversee and manage all aspects of the organization, with a particular focus on maintaining the Chamber’s high level of engagement with membership through a variety of programs and services and continue to promote the work of the Convention & Visitors Bureau team. In addition, the successful candidate will function as the chief strategist, innovative thinker and collaborative team leader, especially regarding advocacy, messaging, and overall program development. The Chamber’s current President & Chief Executive Officer, John Mehner, has served since 1993 and recently announced his plan to retire, effective at the end of 2021. The Board of Directors has therefore embarked on a national search to recruit a new leader to guide the Chamber and its prominent business leadership activities within the region.

The Chamber:
The Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce is the leading business and community development organization in the region. Since 1917, the Chamber has focused its efforts on issues of economic development and community betterment, resulting in a better quality of life for its citizens. With more than 900 members, the Chamber serves as the “community connector” among its membership and constituents and continues to be a progressive force in the region working to improve the economic, educational, physical and spiritual well-being for residents. This is accomplished through exceptional communication and a strong committee structure that provides a wide range of opportunities, continuing education, local, regional and state advocacy efforts, and a variety of additional membership support services. In additional to traditional chamber activities, the organization holds a 5-year rolling contract with the city to manage the Convention & Visitor’s Bureau (Visit Cape). The Chamber and CVB combined $1.6MM budget is generated through hotel and motel tax, membership investment along with revenue from special events and annual programs. The Chamber continuously endeavors to help members grow their businesses and offers a variety of networking, educational, and training opportunities year-round. The Chamber is well-respected in the community and members appreciate that its leadership and staff value getting to know members and their unique needs. Historically the Chamber has worked well with neighboring Chambers in smaller communities and is often consulted by the same. Rather than viewing as competition, the Cape Girardeau Chamber has recognized that a “rising tide lifts all ships” which has contributed to an unusual comradery between communities in southeast Missouri. In response to the impact of the Covid-19 global pandemic, the Chamber staff and volunteers have creatively ensured that relevant programs and events are offered virtually and through continuous communication with membership.

Position Profile
President & Chief Executive Officer ~ Cape Girardeau Area Chamber
While the ongoing pandemic has altered “business as usual” the collaborative efforts of the staff have minimized negative disruptions and provided a trusted source for up-to-date information to the community, thus continuing to demonstrate the value of the organization to the region.

The Chamber works in close collaboration with several local partners to champion the Cape Girardeau region including:
  • Cape Girardeau Area MAGNET: 501(c)3 public-private economic development organization, focused on retention, expansion, creation, and attraction of jobs and new investment. This historically stand-alone organization is currently being managed via contract by the Chamber, however MAGNET will launch a search for a new leader within the next few months. MAGNET investors include the Chamber, County of Cape Girardeau, the cities of Cape Girardeau, Jackson, and Scott City, and large employers in the area.
  • Southeast Missouri State University: Comprehensive public master’s level university with approximately 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students offering 120 undergraduate and graduate majors, 80 minors, over 170 concentrations and over 20 certificate programs.
  • City of Cape Planning & Development: Incorporates innovative solutions, trends, and technologies to ensure an efficient, cost effective, and predictable development process.
  • Small Business Development Center: Offers comprehensive services at little to no cost to business owners and entrepreneurs seeking to start a new venture, expand an existing business, or develop innovative technologies.
  • University of Missouri Extension Center: Through a network of county offices, the UM solves problems and engages with communities across all 114 counties in the state, assisting in the identification of interests and issues, then offering relevant programming and resources to meet the unique needs of the Cape Girardeau region.
  • Missouri Business Portal: Available to find state permits, registration and other information on an as requested basis.

More information about the Chamber, its programs and partners can be found on its website:

The Position:
Location: The position is based at the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce offices at 220 N. Fountain Street, Cape Girardeau, MO 63701; telephone (573) 335-3312. Visit Cape and Cape Girardeau Area MAGNET offices are co-located with the Chamber’s offices.

Reporting Relationships: The President & Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”) of the Chamber reports to the Chair of the 5-member Executive Committee of the Chamber’s 19-member Board of Directors (7 additional ex officio). Both the Executive Committee and the full Board meet monthly. The CEO leads and directs the Chamber’s 5 person staff (Vice President; Bookkeeper; Membership & Events Specialist: Marketing & Communications Specialist; Administrative Coordinator), 2 person Visit Cape staff (Executive Director; Senior Director of Sales and Strategy) and MAGNET Executive Assistant (currently reporting to CEO based on Chamber-MAGNET contract).
Other important interactions include: representatives and employees of Chamber member organizations; county and municipal elected and appointed officials; state and national elected officials and their staffs; representatives of other public and private sector organizations with related community and economic development missions; university, technical college and K-12 education officials; CVB Board of Directors; MAGNET Board of Directors, and members of the media.

Position Charter: The President & Chief Executive Officer is the chief executive and administrative officer of the Chamber. This executive is ultimately responsible for all activities of the Chamber and Visit Cape organization.

This includes, but is not limited to: the annual business plan; the strategic plan; organizational structure; motivation of volunteers; budget; employment, training and supervision of staff; interpretation of policy; and other necessary functions of a highly effective chamber of commerce. The CEO is the chief spokesperson of the Chamber and operates with a focus that includes public/member relations and advocacy activities.

Major Duties and Responsibilities
  • Communications: Function as the chief spokesperson for the Chamber and clearly communicate the organization’s position and vision on community, public and political issues.
  • Governance: Serve as the Chamber staff liaison to the Executive Committee, Board, and Chamber committees, or oversee staff on the same. Work with the Board on key volunteer leader identification and training and encourage active participation and engagement of Board members and other volunteers.
  • Strategic and annual planning: Work with the Executive Committee, Board, and Chamber Staff to develop and regularly update the Chamber’s annual program of work and strategic plans. Make a clear connection between the Chamber’s activities and annual/strategic plans including measurable outcomes against plans that are regularly communicated to membership.
  • Advocacy/public policy: Oversee and manage the public policy and advocacy efforts by monitoring issues of importance to business and legislative activity on the local, state and federal level and develop plans for support or opposition as necessary. Develop meaningful relationships and communication with elected officials to provide information and advocacy on behalf of the Chamber’s members and direct all messaging as it relates to public policy.
  • Public relations/outreach: Responsible for maintaining the Chamber’s positive and highly responsive public image, including strategies for marketing, communications, public speaking and relations with members, the community and media.
  • Fundraising: Manage a comprehensive marketing process that promotes the Chamber, serves the membership, attracts new members, and supports Chamber initiatives. Serve as the chief fundraiser for the organization, directly involved in any formal capital campaigns, investor solicitation and sponsorship efforts.
  • Convention & Visitor Bureau: Together with the Executive Director of Visit Cape, continue to focus on efforts to expand the hospitality and tourism portion of the regional economy.
  • Fiscal management: Develop the Chamber budget and relate the budget to program goals and maintain responsibility for all expenditures within the framework of the budget. Present financial statements to the Executive Committee and Board and ensure financial records are audited annually.
  • Staff leadership: Responsible for the employment, supervision, evaluation, training and leadership of all staff. Provide stretch opportunities for professional growth and ensure staff work is connected to goals of the Chamber. Foster a daily working environment that values ethics and teamwork and ensures the highest levels of customer service.
  • Membership: Responsible for the overall performance of membership activities, including membership recruitment, stewardship and retention. Motivate members to financially support Chamber programs, analyzing and interpreting the needs of members and recommending revisions and enhancements to improve service and assistance and to make membership more valuable and relevant.
  • Economic development: Presently responsible for MAGNET contract, involving business recruitment, retention, and expansion. When MAGNET once again becomes a co-located but independent organization, work in collaboration with economic development staff team and city and county government on ED projects.
  • Event/program management: Responsible for the evaluation of programs and events making appropriate adjustments as necessary to maintain relevancy. Provide guidance and approval to the overall look and operation of all program and events.
  • Relationship management: Responsible for developing and maintaining relationships and communications with a broad constituency including:
    • Board of Directors: Responsible for preparing meeting agendas, implementing approved plans and programs in accordance with established policies, serving as representative of the Board for all contacts with staff, initiating programs for Board consideration, and advising the Board on all matters under consideration.
    • Key Employers: Develop and maintain ongoing relationships with key employers and business leaders to stay informed regarding ongoing and future issues/challenges/opportunities.
    • Government Officials: Maintain strong communications and relationships with elected and appointed officials and their staffs in the City of Cape Girardeau, Cape Girardeau and Scott Counties and other municipalities, communities and counties throughout the region. Maintain a high level of ongoing communication with officials at the State of Missouri and Federal levels.
    • Related Organizations: Maintain and/or initiate effective working relationships with organizations within the southeast region of Missouri. Regularly convene meetings of other economic development organizations, area chambers, and key volunteers.
    • Community: Through personal contacts with key regional and community leaders, help shape the future direction and well-being of Cape Girardeau, Cape Girardeau and Scott Counties, and the entire area. Take a strategic leadership role in local and regional issues, projects, or community organizations to assure presence and involvement of the Chamber to accomplish its strategic objectives.
    • Education: Continue to foster stronger relationships with representatives of higher education institutions and school districts.
    • Media: Serve as the official spokesperson of the Chamber with print and social media outlets.
Other duties: Perform other tasks and duties as may be assigned from time to time by the Board.

The President & Chief Executive Officer is expected to earn an attractive compensation package; appropriate benefits and some relocation assistance will be provided.

The Candidate:
A Bachelor’s degree is required; graduate of U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Organization Management or Certified Chamber Executive designation and experience with an accredited Chamber of Commerce is desirable.

Professional Qualifications
The ideal candidate will bring 5+ years of progressively responsible experience, with a minimum of 3 years in senior leadership and may come from a variety of backgrounds such as, but not limited to: the top executive of a progressive and comparably sized chamber of commerce, economic development organization, or related significant business association; experience as a “second in command” or other senior-level executive at a larger like-enterprise as noted above; an executive with a strong record of community involvement from a complex private or public-sector entity. Board interaction, experience leading large numbers of volunteers, experience leading within a growing community, and demonstrated experience overcoming challenges are all strongly desired.

Preferred Knowledge, Skills and Abilities
  • Executive leadership experience (strong staff leadership, delegation and human resource development; has led a complex corporate, chamber, community or economic development organization).
  • Collaborative relationships (demonstrated track record of developing effective relationships and strategic alliances built on trust among all sectors and constituents).
  • Staff leadership (demonstrated background of leading, managing and developing staff; inclusive while providing basic direction;  allows senior staff team to execute without excessive personal involvement).
  • Public policy (capable of advocating sound public policy and developing effective and even-handed working relationships with elected/appointed officials and their staffs). 
  • Volunteer organization experience (demonstrated ability to motivate and utilize volunteers).
  • Economic/business development (works collaboratively with established public sector delivery systems and private sector resources to effectively promote the economic development of a community or region).
  • Convention & Visitors Bureau (background of working with hospitality and tourism partners to promote attracting visitors and conventions to a community or region).
  • Planning (proven record of successfully developing and executing operational and strategic plans).
  • Membership development (has effectively promoted a membership-based organization; track record of membership development, retention, increased value and appropriate expansion).
  • Community/regional development (able to identify both local and regional issues and effectively manage interactions with and among regional organizations to achieve common goals).
  • Governance (involvement with board development and recruitment, governance issues, and interactions with multiple levels of business leaders serving as directors).
  • Fiscal management (demonstrated ability to manage financial affairs of an organization; experience with an annual budget).
  • Inclusion (experience working with diverse groups; promotes diversity programmatically).
  • Media/public relations (ability to effectively articulate goals, objectives and policy positions of theChamber to the media and the community).
  • Fundraising (experience with varied successful resource development activities including capital campaigns, sponsorships and advertising, special events and other non-dues revenue campaigns).

Desired Personal Traits
  • Communication skills (good listener; excellent written and oral communication skills; experienced public speaker).
  • Executive presence (polished; self-confident; credible; able to rally others and command the respect of Board, staff, business, government and community leaders).
  • Strategic thinker (able to envision “the big picture” beyond daily operations and lead an organization toward strategic goals and ideas).
  • Integrity (possesses the highest ethical and moral standards; trustworthy).
  • Interpersonal relations skills (viewed as a “connector” who facilities discussions among constituents; relates well with all people; builds constructive and effective relationships).
  • Displays leadership (a take charge individual; can manage, motivate, challenge and delegate to others).
  • Executes for results (focused; proven history of getting things done; makes a connection between activities and short/long term strategic planning; holds others accountable).
  • Resilient (able to cope with leadership challenges of role and bounce back when things do not go as planned; has a “thick skin” mentality when facing challenges and criticism).
  • Growth mindset (not limited to traditional ways of doing things; recognizes by working collaboratively and synergistically, the sum is greater than its parts).
  • Persuasive (able to synthesize various viewpoints and mobilize support for policy objectives).
  • Teamwork (does not seek to build own brand at expense of others; recognizes that many parties are necessary to accomplish big things; speaks of “we” first, not “I”; relishes in sharing credit with others).
  • Servant leader (humble; excellent human relations skills; builds constructive and effective relationships).
  • Change agent (willing to facilitate conversations that stimulate, facilitate and evaluate conversations surrounding possible change).
  • Energetic (genuinely enthusiastic; strong work ethic, sense of urgency, and a “can do” attitude).  
  • Critical thinker (inquisitive on a wide range of issues and open-minded to a variety of viewpoints; willing to analyze, assess and reconstruct traditional ways of doing things if appropriate).
  • Regional knowledge (has or able to develop an appreciation for Midwestern US culture and ways of doing business).
  • Political acumen (known as an advocate for constituents; demonstrated ability to effectively navigate among municipal, county and state leaders; strong negotiator).
  • Sense of humor (genuinely light-hearted; can see the humor in sometimes difficult situations).
Challenges and Opportunity
Key accomplishments and challenges for the new President & CEO in the first year and beyond include:
  • Establish presence as the Chamber’s CEO by immersing him/herself into the details of the day-to-day operations of the Chamber and the CVB to become knowledgeable about the work of its staff, finances, programs, committees, Board members and committed volunteers.
  • Initiate formal and informal introductions and connections with the Chamber’s membership and investors, along with key constituents in the hospitality industry through varied communications and in-person meetings. Identify ways to specifically communicate the Chamber and CVB’s relevancy and value to existing and prospective members by connecting investment with tangible outcomes thereby increasing perceived value of membership.
  • By listening and observing, form effective working relationships with key municipal, county, regional leaders, business owners and corporate executives, economic, community partner organizations, university, college and other educational officers. Make a concerted effort to reach out to local community, cultural arts and nonprofit leaders to foster strong, collaborative partnerships and opportunities for synergies.
  • Work with the Board and staff to evaluate existing programs and committee structures to ensure continued relevancy to the mission and make changes if necessary. Continuously seek to connect staff activities and actions around priorities of both operational and strategic plans in a way that is clearly tied to the organization’s goals.
  • Become actively involved in the Cape Girardeau community, attending multiple Chamber and non-chamber events; become known as “the face” of the Chamber within the regional community.
  • Help guide the Chamber staff, Board and volunteers through the ongoing issues the pandemic has fostered within the community. Continue the Chamber’s creative and effective measures in offering programs and services virtually and through direct communication with members and stakeholders.
The President & Chief Executive Officer position of the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce is an outstanding opportunity for a chamber of commerce, association, or perhaps private sector executive to lead an organization committed to the success of growing the Cape Girardeau region. The Chamber enjoys outstanding member relations and an excellent reputation with key organizations in the area along with strong fiscal results. The CEO will inherit an enthusiastic, knowledgeable and dedicated Chamber and CVB staff and a committed Board of Directors. The Chamber CEO is a highly visible leadership position and, as such, the new CEO will have considerable influence on the growth and development of the city in the years to come. While the Chamber is in a strong position today, the Chamber’s volunteer and staff leaders are not content with status quo and have high expectations for the Chamber’s new leader as the CEO leads them into “the next chapter” for the Chamber, the CVB and the Cape Girardeau regional community in the years to come.

Cape Girardeau, Missouri Located in Southeast Missouri, Cape Girardeau (known to locals as “Cape”) has a population of 40,500 with the surrounding metropolitan area totaling 134,000 residents. The city is the economic center of Southeast Missouri and an established college town as the home of Southeast Missouri State University. It is located approximately 100 miles southeast of St. Louis and 150 miles north of Memphis. Its local airport provides daily non-stop service to Chicago.
Residents of Cape believe it is the perfect place to live with medium town values of hard-work, friendly people and a “get it done” attitude. Cape serves as the regional hub of healthcare, education and retail with shopping experiences ranging from unique boutiques to favorite national chains. Within Cape, there is a strong sense of community, a thriving arts and entertainment environment with year indoor and outdoor events and festivals along with intercollegiate athletics. With a cost of living below the national average, affordable homes, and plenty of green space, it is a wonderful place to live, work and play. Four distinct weather seasons provide a variety of leisure and cultural activities year-round.

There are numerous K-12 education choices including a strong public-school system along with private schools in the area. There are five colleges and universities within a 30-mile radius of Cape Girardeau including Southeast Missouri State University, Career and Technology Center, Southeast Hospital College of Nursing & Health Sciences, Franklin University and Shawnee Community College.

More information on the Cape Girardeau region can be found on the following websites: 
  • Cape Girardeau Area MAGNET:
  • City of Cape Girardeau:
  • Cape Girardeau Convention & Visitors Bureau:
  • Cape Girardeau County:
  • Cape Is Home (quality of life):
The client organization we represent, and WAVERLY PARTNERS firmly support the principle and philosophy of equal opportunity for all individuals, without regard to race, color, religion, age, sex, national origin, disability status, protected veteran status, sexual orientation, or any other characteristic protected by federal, state or local laws. If you are aware of an outstanding chamber, association or business executive who meets the profile requirements, please contact WAVERLY PARTNERS, the executive search firm retained by the Chamber Board on this search and the preferred provider of executive search services of the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives.
Deborah M. Galbraith, Managing Director & Principal
WAVERLY PARTNERS, Kansas City, Kansas
O: 785.856.9273; C: 785.764.2920;

Eric N. Peterson, Managing Director & Principal
O: 440.892.5961; C: 440.463.0988;