The Chemainus & District Chamber of Commerce executive underwent some personnel changes in the latter part of 2020, providing a change of focus into the new year.
Stephanie Ballantyne, an associate broker at Re/Max Ocean Pointe, was elected president in August, succeeding Paul McGregor, who eventually retired from the board in late November. Michael Pickard and DP Singh Monga were added to the executive in September and Sara Gibb in November.
The shuffling also included Emily Weeks essentially combining her previous duties as the Visitor Centre manager with Lori Frankson’s executive director role to become the managing director for the Chamber. Frankson was relieved of her duties in late October 2020.
“We had to take a hard look at the finances and day-to-day operations to determine where we could save and be more efficient,” said Ballantyne. “Where can we cut? Where can we improve?
“We determined there was an opportunity to restructure, to basically have a managing director role that would oversee both the Chamber and the Visitor Centre.”
Weeks was quintessential in the Chamber’s ability to move forward, streamline operations and transition easily without impacting service to members and the greater community, Ballantyne added.
“She had the requisite experience as a frontline person at the Visitor Centre and knew what was required to manage the Chamber. She truly brings a creative, fresh approach to our communications and is a positive, solution-oriented young woman.”
The Chamber needed a seamless transition and it would have been difficult to bring someone in and train them without any staff resources to support that, Ballantyne indicated, and there was so hesitation in hiring Weeks given her ability to handle the position.
“We are extremely fortunate that Emily was willing to accept this new role,” she emphasized.
“We appreciate everything Lori did while she was here. We wish her the best in her future endeavours. It was a difficult decision, but necessary.”
Ballantyne has only lived in Chemainus since August 2019, but has completely entrenched herself in the community during that relatively short period of time.
Taking on the role of Chamber president was a big step. But she comes by her community service naturally inspired in part by her parents’ contributions.
Ballantyne was born in Ottawa in 1970 and grew up in nearby Aylmer, Quebec. She went to Carleton University where she studied psychology and political science. She worked for municipal government, co-operative housing and ran her own marketing and communications company for 10 years before starting her career in real estate in 2012.
Ballantyne moved to the United States in 1999, spending four years in Nashville, Tennessee and two in Urbana, Illinois before returning to Ontario. She spent time in Kingston and Sharbot Lake, a small town of 1,400 before returning to Ottawa.
A trip to Maui, Hawaii in 2016 caused a reflection for her, husband Rob Watson and son Mason about what they valued most in life.
“We just started really thinking about it, where do we want to be?” she contemplated. “We knew we did not want to endure many more Ottawa winters and sweltering summers.”
Ballantyne’s parents, Emery and Pat, have always been active community members. They made the move to Chemainus in 2013 where Pat immediately became an active volunteer at the Senior Centre. She helped run the weekly bingo and, more recently, took on the assistant treasurer duties. Emery did his volunteer service in Aylmer, Quebec where he engineered the building of a recreational sports complex for the community.
Ballantyne admits that while she loves living close to her parents, it wasn’t necessarily the reason she followed suit with Rob and Mason.
“There’s no better place in Canada than here on Vancouver Island,” Ballantyne said. “We considered Victoria and Nanaimo. But we just kept coming back to Chemainus. This is such a safe community where Mason, who is now 12, can walk to school and has more freedom to venture out on his own than would be possible in a larger city. It’s such a quaint seaside community. You feel that people of Chemainus are committed to doing great things for each other.”
That mentality and outlook leads perfectly into her present role as Chamber president for Ballantyne and what she hopes to accomplish.
The Chamber’s new website recently launched. “We are working on a new site for the Visitor Centre that will aim to promote all attractions and tourism-related business, services and amenities across our district which includes Saltair, Chemainus, Thetis Island and Crofton,” Ballantyne added.
It’s hoped it will launch by the end of February.
Simone Diamond, a young artist from Cowichan Tribes who has been working with Native Northwest for more than 10 years, has been engaged to design the Chamber’s new Coast Salish inspired logo.
“We are also developing an online education workshop series for the spring that will focus on relevant business topics,” Ballantyne pointed out. “These are just a few of the projects we have under way. Others are still in the preliminary phases of review and too early to discuss.”
A strong working relationship with the Chemainus Business Improvement Association was deemed essential to improving service. The two boards recently approved ex-officio exchanges for Weeks and CBIA executive director Krystal Adams.
“It’s a fairly simple focus in just exploring every opportunity to collaborate and work together – not only for our businesses, but the community as a whole,” said Ballantyne.