CHATHAM – Lisa Franz, executive director of the town's chamber of commerce for nearly a decade, has stepped down.
Franz's resignation was effective last Friday, March 30.
“I just thought it was time to move on,” she said in a phone interview Tuesday. She said the decision was hers, and while there's “ever a good time,” with most of the work for the upcoming season – completion of the 2018 chamber guide book and negotiations with the town over funding – “it was time to move on.”
During Franz's nine-and-a-half-year tenure, the chamber grew along with the town's profile, boosted largely due to publicity about the great white sharks that have become a summer mainstay, earning Chatham regular mentions in the national news and on popular “Shark Week” television programs.
“Definitely the whole shark thing was big for the town,” she said. Franz was involved in launching the popular Sharks in the Park exhibit, and was a founder and first director of the Chatham Shark Center.
The town has also received a number of accolades in the travel and tourism industry, most recently being named one of “10 Great Small Towns for Big Vacations” by The Travel Channel.
The chamber has gotten more involved in issues such as legislation that impact both its 340 members and residents, Franz said.
Competition among resort communities has also become more fierce, highlighting the need for things like branding and aggressive social media promotion.
“I think the chamber is finally working alongside the town in that sense in trying to promote it and brand it,” she said. “You just can't sit back on your reputation.”
In a press statement, Franz thanked the chamber board of directors, staff and membership as well as the business community and the town for their “confidence and support during my nine and a half years at the chamber. It has been my honor to be the executive director of the Chatham Chamber.”
The chamber's board of directors plans to form a search committee to begin looking for a replacement “immediately,” said President Stephen Williams. Ideally, he'd like to have a new director on board by the summer.
“That would be a good goal,” he said, but added that he's not sure how swift a search can be done. “It depends on what the board feels the urgency is,” he said.
While summer is the town's busiest season, much of the work of the chamber is done during the off season, including promotion of Chatham as a vacation destination. That said, the chamber booth and Bassett House headquarters are busy throughout the summer and shoulder seasons.
Franz will be missed, said Williams.
“She's been there a long time and she's been great,” he said.
Franz said she will follow through on a few final projects for the chamber, but “right now, I'm just kind of taking it easy,” she said. “I don't really know how to do that; it will take a while.” After a break, she said she plans to re-enter the workforce and will remain in the area.