Almost Election Time!

One of the privileges of being an American is the right to vote.  We are blessed to live in a county where our government is run by elected representatives.  I would venture further in saying that is more than a privilege – it is our duty to vote for these representatives.  And while not everyone may agree upon who is elected, the important process is there nonetheless.  Come June 12th, just a few short weeks away, are some important elections for our local community.

Being involved in our local elections are just as important for our community as supporting our local businesses.  Therefore, I urge you to get informed and vote and your Chamber is here to help!  The Chamber’s Government Affairs committee in conjunction with the Williston Herald will be hosting forums for voters to get to know some of the candidates in the upcoming elections.  Three forums will be held at the Williston ARC from 6-8pm and will feature those running in races where there are more candidates than open seats.   Please plan to attend one or all of the forums:

  • April 30th – District #1 State Representative – Republican
  • May 1st – District #1 County Commission and City Commission Seats
  • May 3rd – District #1 and District #8 School Board

Questions for the candidates can be submitted online.

To determine your voting district for the County Click Here.

You input your address in the search bar in the top left of the page. It will immediately show you what district you reside in. Then, if you click anywhere on the map it will show a new window that will list your polling location. Scrolling through using the arrows will also display what city limits you are in as well as contact information for your district’s County Commissioner.

Again, our upcoming forums are not for all the races – only those with more candidates than open seats.  We will be hosting more forums in the Fall before the general election.

I think it is wonderful to see so many interested candidates.  It reinforces what I already know about the potential for our community’s progress!   Participate in supporting those that will directly impact the growth and evolution of our community.   I urge you to be involved, get informed and get out and vote.


Almost graduation time!

One of the more discreet programs that the Chamber runs is the Leadership Williston program.  It silently transpires over the course of 6 months using the community as a classroom.  It teaches leadership skills, develops awareness of issues and challenges facing our region, inspires participants to influence others, and motivates them to become involved in the community.

Although it may be more intimate in nature, having only 10-15 participants per year, it is still impactful.  Over a dozen influential people in the community arrange different days which inform the participants on various issues and topics specific to our economy.  Developed and implemented by the Leadership & Education Committee of the Chamber, the LW program’s history of developing leaders dates back over 20 years.  Along with the instructional part of the program, the participants each tackle a project.  They often identify a need or lack in the community or focus on something that may be near and dear to their heart.  Some past projects include:

  • Marketplace for Kids
  • Frisbee Golf at Spring Lake Park
  • Dog Park at Spring Lake Park
  • Junior Achievement
  • Little Muddy Recreation Area
  • Childcare at Good Shephard Lutheran Church
  • Keep Williston Clean
  • Lemonade Day
  • Williston Parks & Rec Trail System
  • Downtown Improvements
  • Numerous clothing drives, kid’s camps, walks/5K’s for various fundraising efforts

This is just to list a few!  There are many more projects, some lasting, some once and done, still others in progress or continued by others.  Yet, every single one has made an impact on this community.  The full list of alumni cannot be listed here either, but many alumni now sit on boards around town or have employment as executive directors and executive vice presidents.  Even a current City Commissioner can claim LW Alumni status!

At the Chamber, we are very proud of this program, its legacy, and its future.  Our Leadership Williston Alumni are influencing and advancing our community.  Consider attending the graduation at the end of this month to learn about some projects and how you can help.  Consider applying yourself or having one of your employees apply to the program next year.  While a significant time commitment, you are certain to receive a benefit for investing your time to complete the program.  Not to mention the value you provide the community – when you help others you inevitably help yourself as well! To learn more, you can visit our website and see some of last years projects.

It has been said that true success and leadership is about influencing others to achieve their own greatness.  I consider the Chamber’s Leadership Williston program a lasting success.  I look forward to being a part of honoring the newest alumni for their hard work and dedication to themselves and this community.


Official from the Mayor!

Last week, Mayor Klug proclaimed June 16, 2018 Lemonade Day Williston.  This will be the fourth year that kids in our community have been learning how to run a business through this fantastic program.  This year, we have another chance to empower our young entrepreneurs and teach life skills.  Additionally, we are excited about some changes which are sure to improve upon an already successful program.

  • Contests – a new judging method will be implemented for all participants. Contests include:
    • Entrepreneur of the Year
    • Best Stand
    • Best Tasting
  • Best Tasting will be judged on June 12th – participants will have a chance to practice their recipe before opening to the public. They also get a chance to present their business plan to the judges.
  • BBQ – the kids get to celebrate their success through the program and day of selling at a fun picnic on June 26th. Awards for the contests and prizes for many participants will be handed out at the BBQ.  A very special thanks to Williston Community Builders who have supported this program by providing the food and cooking for the BBQ each year.

More details on the program will follow as we get closer to Lemonade Day, but first, kids need to register!  Participants can start signing up for this free program on April 16th  – you stop by the Chamber or visit We will also have a booth at Kids Day Out April 21st at the UMV Fairgrounds.

The foremost objective of Lemonade Day is to inspire and educate our youth to become productive members of our society – the business leaders, social advocates, volunteers, and forward-thinking citizens of tomorrow.  It is a wonderful community event that not only teaches our youth but develops our community.  If you haven’t had the opportunity to be involved before, I highly suggest you do this year!  Sign up your kid or sign up your business as a safe stand location and simply come out to support the entrepreneurs of our community.

As the Mayor said in his proclamation:  all residents of the greater Williston area can participate and have a role: either selling or buying lemonade on June 16, 2018.


Open… Together.

Last Sunday, our area retailers united together to be open for a “Shop 1st Sunday” promotion. It was a concept brought about by members of our retail committee and turned out to be a big success. The weather even seemed to hold out for this first attempt. It emerged because people were open. The business owners opened their stores, true, but first they opened their viewpoint. They were open to alternative ideas, open to change, open to trying something new. Now, they are more open for their customers. The success, however, was not simply because they were open, but because they worked together to accomplish this. I often write about the Chamber’s mission “The Champion of Williston’s United Business Community” not to tote the company line, if you will, but by virtue of my belief in its truth and our purpose. Especially the ‘united’ part, in as much as when businesses work together, united with one voice, we become stronger. I keep talking about it considering it critical to our success as a community. The first Shop 1st Sunday confirms this for me and is just the beginning.

Why support local businesses? Because they are your neighbors and friends, or they employ your neighbors and friends. Because they are here with important goods or services when you need them. Because they help support your way of life – with their taxes going towards the roads, police and firefighters, etc. When our local businesses thrive, we all benefit. Local businesses are the backbone of our economy and our community and we cannot survive without them.


Member Relations Manager, Rachel Lordemann, was excited to see so many people out shopping and enjoying Shop 1st Sunday. She reported our retailers were pleasantly surprised at the number of customers they saw on Sunday and is confident that participation in the event will only grow in the coming months. We plan to continue to add participating businesses and get more people shopping Williston Wide on Sundays.

The result of people being open in more ways than one is a win win…well, win. A trifecta: for the business owner, the shopper, and for the whole community. We are proud that the Chamber can be the driving force for this. As after all, it is our mission.



If I have seen you in the past few days, you’ve probably heard me lament how much I am over winter and ready for spring.  But the other day, I wasn’t expecting snow when a brief and light dusting caused me to pause.  I happened to be driving when those large flakes hit my windshield, you know the ones in which you can see the intricacies and details of the shapes of the snowflakes.  It made me smile and as I considered their uniqueness and beauty, I temporarily forgot how cold it was outside.  I recalled something I had heard as a child: no two snowflakes are alike.  In my google attempts to verify this as fact, however, I was inundated with the new slang definitions of snsnowflakeowflake – an insult actually – and some even broadening the insult to a whole generation.  How terrible.  To take something beautiful and unique and turn it to something negative.  While it is accurate that snowflakes can be fragile, it’s not the whole picture.  By themselves, snowflakes are still beautiful and together they can be both breathtaking and a force to be reckoned with.  Just think of those snowcapped mountains which artists and skiers love.  Or how about the flurries turned to inches turned into feet of snow which will literally stop peoples’ daily life for a bit.

So I say, forget the slang!  I will keep on believing that it is true: no two snowflakes are alike.  Just like people and just like businesses.  Each are unique, and they are strong when unified.

Small businesses make up over 70% of our Chamber membership.  They can be combined into categories as broad as retail or as focused as mortgage services.  They may have the same category, but they are all distinctive.  Add in the other 30% of larger businesses and you have the full Chamber membership – all businesses important to our local economy and united with one strong Chamber voice.


When you look at a field of dandelions, do you see a hundred weeds or a thousand wishes?

As creatures of habit, we can sometimes get stuck doing the same things and thinking the same thoughts.  This is not always a bad thing, depending on the habit.  But it could prove to be troublesome when our habits are keeping us in a constant place with the unchanged perspective.  It doesn’t allow us the chance to adjust, grow, or improve.  If you have been following my writing, you know that my personal tagline since I started at the Chamber is “always improving”.  It is something that I constantly keep in the back of my mind.  How can we improve upon what we do and why we do it?  How are we bringing value to our membership and the business community?  What else can we do?

They say you can change your life when you change your habits.  In fact, there are numerous books and YouTube videos on it.  Even a small change such as simply driving to work on a different road can open your eyes to things you don’t normally see or maybe even to what you didn’t even know was there.  Try it!  Seek out the new, changed, or different offerings in the community.

At the Chamber, we are adding new and improved possibilities: besides our new Network before 9 (next one is February 27th), another new opportunity we’ve identified is for consumers.  We’ve been preaching the importance of shopping local and now you’ll have more of an opportunity to do so.  Next month we will begin our ‘Shop First Sundays’ promotion – where our area retailers will open specific hours on the 1st Sunday of every month.  You can get out of the mindset that shopping must happen anywhere but here in your own town!   You get to save gas and time and find the great treasures that are here locally.

Perspective is defined as a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a way of considering something.  Do you see dandelions as weeds or as wishes?  I believe that changing your perspective can lead to a change in habit.

I also believe our area is in a unique position to take advantage of the growth and utilize the possibilities…the ‘thousands of wishes’ out there.  With the right perspective, hard work, good strategies, and input from our members, our community will reach its great potential.  The Chamber is here to drive our business community to that potential, to serve you and your needs and to help us all have a more unified business community.  It is my vision, my mission as I see it in this role, and I am determined to use a new perspective to allow us all to ‘be better than yesterday’.


Looking forward while remembering the past

They say you can’t change the past.  Look ahead.  Move forward.  And I agree.  However, every now and again, it is good to stop and look backward to see how far you have come.  Just a few short years ago, the Eagle Ridge golf course (Williston Country Club as it was called back then) was only a 9-hole course and one of the few places for fine dining in town but ended up in financial trouble.  Our 2014 Western Star Awardee, Dr. Salem Shahin, stepped in to help.  Dr. Shahin purchased the golf course and worked with the Corps of Engineers to turn it into an 18-hole golf course.  Additionally, at the time, there was a full-sized kitchen, but no one to run the restaurant.  He worked with potential clients and got a full-time chef in the restaurant.  This filled a big void for fine dining in Williston at the time.  This goes to prove again, the many people in this community who have stepped up to make it a better place – hence our long list of Western Star Awardees.  It’s why I love our awards banquet so much because we get to honor them and recognize their contributions.

This example also shows how far we as a city have come when it relates to the quality of life and what we have to offer our citizens.  In a town where there was only a handful of places to eat out, we now have an abundance of really great restaurants both fast food, for the quick meal or sit down places to enjoy a meal with friends or family.  We have chains and specialty restaurants in addition to the numerous caterers!  Our Chamber membership directory lists over 40 places to get food and that doesn’t include many of the bars in town.  This is where our annual Taste of Williston event came to exist.  It is a night where people from the community can come to one place and sample food from various restaurants and caterers in town.  Our local businesses will offer samples of their specialty food & drink items.

Our Taste of Williston event is a great way for them to gain exposure for their business, but also a great way for people in the community to see and ‘taste’ all that Williston currently has to offer!  I am still surprised when I talk to people in town and they do not realize that (for example) there is now an Italian restaurant in town – one that has been open for over a year!  This applies to people who have recently made Williston their home, but also for those who have been here for decades!  Williston has so much to offer in the sphere of dining, so make plans to attend our 2018 Taste of Williston.  Attendees get to vote for their favorite food/drink and there is a band for entertainment as well.  It falls near the St. Patrick’s Day holiday, when everyone is Irish for a day.  It is a fun and delicious night!  We look forward to seeing you there!


Ask the right question, Get the right answers

The thing about asking questions is that you will get answers.  Not always the answers you are looking for, however.  My kids have taught me this precisely because their usual answer is “I don’t know”.  Why did you leave the toothpaste open?  Why didn’t you clear your plate after supper?  What were you thinking when you tried to ____? (paint the dogs toenails, create a twister with your spaghetti… You can fill in the blank!)  Kids have a fantastic way of keeping you grounded and in the moment.  I find that they are very literal.  And inquisitive.  Mostly because they are still learning about the world and the English language in all its intricacies.  My kids inspire me daily to stay focused on the here and now.  And to ask questions.

The trick is to ask the right question.  My new question to them is “what do you think I am going to say?”  It works famously!  I get their attention focused on the situation (example: the kitchen table) and ask, “what do you think I am going to say?”  Often there is no other words that I have to say, they know and fix the situation (example: clearing their plate) often with a grunt or a groan of course, but nonetheless, I got the right result

In my job, I enjoy asking questions and feel it is extremely important.  Why are we doing this?  Why are we doing it that way?  How can we partner?  What else can we do for our members?

Fourth quarter of 2017 as we were looking to update our strategic plan, we sent a survey to our membership and asked for feedback.  A good solid strategic focus for 2018 was determined by our staff and our board of directors out of that survey and additional member feedback.  It prompted us to start a new networking opportunity:  Network before 9!  We had our first meeting this morning at Gramma Sharon’s and we had a good turnout and even better connections.

Network Before Nine

We plan to continue this monthly – the 4th Tuesday of the month.  Our attendees got to make contacts, exchange cards, introduce themselves, their businesses and other things they are involved in and flat out just interact over coffee and caramel rolls.  Good old-fashioned face to face interaction.  What the Chamber does best – making connections happen.

I mentioned it at the meeting this morning but want to reiterate – the chamber is here for you, our members.  Any and all feedback is not only welcomed but requested and vital to our continuing to serve the business community.

So, some questions I have for you are:  What was the last Chamber event you attended?  If you haven’t attended any in a while, why not?  What can we add, change, or do differently that will help you?  What are your needs/frustrations?  What do you think the Chamber can do differently?

I cannot wait to hear some answers…


Mission & Meeting

Reflecting back to my first blog as Chamber President, I talked a lot about being excited and overwhelmed, which I suppose is appropriate for starting a new job.  A year and a half later, however, I still find myself excited and overwhelmed, only with a slightly different twist.  I am still excited to be working at the chamber, facilitating the programs and events that connect and engage our members.  I enjoy building those relationships in the community and connecting people.  As our area continues to grow, there are even more occasions to do so.  I am excited at the numerous and increasing opportunities to advocate and serve the business community.  Yet, I am still overwhelmed at the scope of this as more and more issues come across my desk.  I am overwhelmed at the generous volunteers and committee members, which give of their time and abilities which enable us to do so much more that would be impossible with just our small but dedicated staff.  As we prepare for our Annual Awards Banquet (in 10 DAYS!!), I wish we could give out more awards and recognize more people – we had over 28 nominations this year!  It is a testament to the quality of people living and working in this community.

Back in July of 2016 I wrote: “As I continue on the weeks ahead, I invite any and all feedback from our members…stop by, call or email me.  Keep an eye out for all the great things you are used to as well as the new things to come… I trust that I’ll continue to be excited and overwhelmed.”

True.  I always welcome feedback.  One of my biggest challenges is finding the time to meet with members.  There are still some I have not yet gotten the chance to visit.  I also titled the blog: Same mission.  Also true.  Our focus remains on our mission:  the Champion of the Williston Area United Business Community.  For over 110 years, the Chamber has been in the Williston area advocating for business interests, promoting prosperity for the businesses and likewise promoting the general welfare of the area.  One of the common misconceptions I have heard out there is that we are division of the city.  We of course have a very close working relationship with the city and county, however, at our core, the Chamber distinguishes itself in order to advocate for the businesses.  While often we have the same objective as the city, other times, we do not.  And likely, if something is impacting you, it is impacting others.  As a membership organization, the Chamber has a strong voice – it is the over 500 businesses united verses one person or business.  The Chamber is working on your behalf while you are working on your business.  We keep your interests near and dear to our heart and constantly work so that you don’t have to, especially alone.  We know how busy you are.

Reflecting on where we go from here, it is all about our focus.  The backbone of all that we do is our mission.  In 2018, our strategic focus, while tweaked a bit, continues to be focused on improving in a few key areas: Advocacy, programs and services, strategic partnerships, and organizational excellence.  Plan to attend our Annual Meeting on January 23rd to find out more.  And as always, please reach out – email, call or stop by!  We will continue to visit you, and of course, advocate for the united business community.


The secrets of a good resolution

The impending new year usually gets people talking about resolutions. Personally, I am not one for the typical new year’s resolutions…I mean why wait for January 1st to make the changes in your life that you feel are important? There is something to be said about having a deadline to get started on a goal, however. Especially a deadline that is only days away.

For many, the new year seems like a fresh start and so often they decide on a ‘lose weight’ or ‘get healthy’ sort of resolution. It’s why the number of gym memberships spike in January. Those are great resolutions, so why is it that within a few weeks, those same gyms see a drop in people attending?

Besides having a start date, the trick to a good resolution is that it is not just a wish. It should be measurable. Specific. Resolutions are firm decisions, to do or not to do something; the action of solving a problem. Just like other goals you may have for yourself, you have to know HOW you are going to get there. It is the difference between saying ‘In 2018, I am going to go to the gym more’ and saying ‘For the next 4 weeks, I will be going to the gym on Mondays and Wednesdays for 30 minutes over the lunch hour’. Measurable. Specific.

One also has to have the right attitude toward them. Resolutions are only as good as the belief that they will be successful. Believing that you can and reminding yourself of the concrete steps you are taking can be powerful in overcoming the cynicism that the change is too overwhelming. Baby steps. Continuing daily. Abraham Lincoln has said, “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.” Have faith in yourself. Celebrate the small successes. Remind yourself where you are headed and that you are progressing.

Another trick to resolutions is to have the disposition that they are life changing. The desired result of a resolution is usually permanent. If your resolution was to lose 10 pounds and you achieved it, you will not likely say to yourself “Well great! I did it. Now, I can just gain those right back.” I think the reasons most new years resolutions fail, is because people don’t view them as the long-term changes that they need to be.

“How few there are who have courage enough to own their faults, or resolution enough to mend them” Benjamin Franklin said. If we are honest, most of us know what it is that we lack or need to change in our lives. Take time to consider and make a specific, measurable resolution this year to prove my theories correct. Don’t quit because it gets hard and don’t be afraid to enjoy the small good right now. When you look back over the year, you will see the journey was worth it.


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