By Larry Kraft - Thank you to the Springfield Reporter for this wonderful article!
After six years at the helm, Caitlin Christiana is stepping down as Executive Director of the Springfield Regional Chamber of Commerce. Her last day on the job will be September 30.
Like many of the businesses it serves, the Chamber, too, was forced to furlough its staff during the Covid pandemic. Since May of 2020, Caitlin has been working only ten hours per week, a move that she herself had recommended to stabilize the organization.
In her "Letter of Gratitude and Resignation" to the Chamber's Board of Directors, Caitlin wrote "Words cannot express what an amazing experience it has been working with all of you! It’s been an absolute honor serving in this role - I’ve learned so much, and built so many meaningful relationships, and we’ve all accomplished so much together!" "Caitlin has done a fantastic job as our Director," says Julie Hayes, Branch Manager at One Credit Union, and current President of the Chamber's board. "We’re so lucky to have had her wonderful energy these past six years, bringing her enthusiasm and leadership skills. We’ve shared in so many challenges and successes together, helping to make good things happen here in town and working with our community partners to build a brighter Springfield."
Caitlin had been hired just weeks before the Chamber's biggest fundraising event, the annual Apple Festival, and just months before its "Roaring 20's" Centennial Gala. She not only survived that very steep early learning curve, but she also thrived. She continued to take the organization to new heights - in membership and events as well as community involvement and impact. Caitlin says that as a new Executive Director she "worked hard on organizational efficiencies." She infused the Chamber's traditional monthly mixers with fun and excitement, including a winter holiday extravaganza, and transformed its newsletter into an important source of community information. Under her leadership, the Chamber started the Local Loyalty Program to promote area businesses and increased the participation of Springfield's future leaders in its Leadership Southeast Vermont program.
During the pandemic, she established the Chamber as the primary source of resource information for area businesses and organizations. In addition to her duties at the Chamber, Caitlin has served on the boards of Springfield Regional Development Corporation, Springfield on the Move, and the Main Street Committee, which oversees the Main Street Master Plan, that has included the new Comtu Cascade Park in downtown Springfield. She has also served on the board of the Springfield Food Co-op and the River Valley Workforce Investment Board. Since January of this year, she has worked part time at the Black River Innovation Campus as its Program Manager.
In 2017, Caitlin was named one of thirty "Rising Stars" by Vermont Business Magazine for her "commitment to business growth, professional excellence and involvement in her community." Despite her limited hours in the Chamber's office over the past eighteen months, she secured Covid relief funding to replace the lost revenue from its two years of inactivity. In July 2020 the Chamber received a small grant through Vermont's Agency of Commerce and Community Development and then received a second larger one in December. Last month the Paycheck Protection Program loan that the Chamber had been awarded earlier this year was fully forgiven.
"She’s leaving us in great shape," says Hayes, "We’ve developed a robust succession plan with a clear outline of next steps for this transition phase, and we’ve got plenty of exciting ideas for future growth and development in the works." The Chamber hopes that its Office Manager, Alice Page, will continue on in the position of Administrative Director, and is actively recruiting a Membership and Events Director, a shared leadership approach that Caitlin wholeheartedly supports for the future of the organization.
For her own personal future, Caitlin says "I believe I’m here on this earth to create and evolve, and I feel ready for a change."