By David Palmer
The Cullman Times
Leah Bolin has been hired as president of the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce after serving in an interim capacity since June 2012.
Bolin’s hiring was recommended by a chamber search committee that included Chester Freeman, Susan Guthrie, Fred Cespedes, John Apel, Rickey Kreps and Charlie NeSmith. The search committee’s choice was approved by the chamber’s board of directors.
Bolin stepped into the interim role after longtime president Kirk Mancer left for a chamber job in Shelby County. Bolin originally was not going to be considered for the permanent position, but that changed after requests were made to the search committee to allow her to become a candidate, said NeSmith, who is the current chairman of the chamber.
“Prior to naming Bolin as the interim President, the Executive Board decided that the interim President would not be a candidate for the permanent position. This was put in place to avoid any possible awkward situation should the interim ask to be included as a candidate. Prior to the deadline of collecting resumes for the permanent position, numerous chamber members and Board members requested that Bolin be given the opportunity to apply,” NeSmith said in a prepared statement. “This request was thoroughly discussed and supported by both the Chamber Executive Board and Search Committee. Bolin was then notified that she could apply for the position if she so chose.”
During the search, which began in July 2012, the search committee received more than 50 resumes. NeSmith said the resumes came from as far away as Massachusetts and Washington to one from overseas. A number of the resumes were also submitted locally.
The search was eventually narrowed to six candidates.
“The committee then compiled a series of specific questions that were asked of each candidate during personal interviews. The finalists were gradually narrowed down based on these interviews until the decision was made final,” NeSmith said. “Leah’s performance during the interim period was exceptional. She has professionally represented the chamber already at a number of very important city/county functions. Membership revenues are 15 percent higher now than at this time last year. She has consistently demonstrated her creativity and marketing skills, worked long hours, and sees tremendous opportunities for the chamber to be active in marketing the Cullman area. We feel fortunate and look forward to have her serve as our newest chamber president.”
Bolin’s mission in the coming months is already under way, NeSmith noted. She has spent time visiting members and rebuilding membership for the organization, a job she said will continue this year.
“Our plan is very simple: We are going to continue the path that was established for the chamber when it was established 70 years ago,” Bolin said. “We want to offer stability, support and solutions for the local economy. I can guarantee we’ll be moving forward.”
As a native of the Cullman area, Bolin said she has deep appreciation for the role of small businesses in establishing and maintaining a high quality of life for the community.
“I was reared in small business. I have a real love for the local economy. I’ve seen the impact the local economy has on families,” Bolin said.
Bolin’s goals coincide with the initiatives NeSmith brought to the chamber as chairman over the past year. Both leaders have stressed building and maintaining membership and driving up the emphasis on tourism.
“You can expect a lot more from this office in promoting outside the area what our community has to offer. We’re already doing more things to increase our promotions, and we’re going to be reaching out more to businesses and local governments to see what they need us to do to promote the area,” Bolin said. “Even though the chamber wears the official tourism hat, we need to have a lot more collaboration with the community on what is needed and what is expected.”
Bolin’s appointment as president was effective Tuesday.
‰ David Palmer can be contacted at email@example.com or 256-734-2131, ext. 213.