Southington chamber announces new executive director

Barbara Hekeler

By SHERIDAN ROY

STAFF WRITER

The Southington Chamber of Commerce has hired Barbara Hekeler as their new executive director.

Hekeler worked her first day on July 9, but she is not new to the chamber—she served in this same position from 1993 to 1999, tripling the membership while establishing the organization as a key leader in the community for economic and business growth.

“At the time that I left, we had an incredibly thriving organization in all aspects. We were strong economically with close to 600 members,” said Hekeler.

Ultimately, though she loved her job, she left after the birth of her two twin daughters. She had her interview with the chamber board of directors on the same day as her daughters’ 20th birthdays.

“It’s a little ironic. Not many people get the opportunity to go back to the same position they loved,” she said. “I feel very fortunate.”

Under Hekeler’s watch, the chamber earned national accreditation from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Hekeler was named Chamber Executive of the Year in 1998.

“The board of directors was impressed with Barbara’s knowledge for our community and her past experience at the helm of the Southington chamber,” said board of directors chair Dawn Miceli. “She will be able to jump right into the position and gain ground immediately with moving the chamber forward in a positive manner from strengthening our member base to forming civic and community partnerships.”

Hekeler said when she entered the position in 1993, the chamber was undergoing an insecure economic situation, and even talked about closing its doors.

“It was a very difficult time,” she said. “I believe having gone through that dire situation that they had the trust in me to guide and build the chamber, and that experience is going to help me move forward now.”

The new director is currently in the process of settling in, and assessing the current standing of the chamber. Although the business economy, political climate and technology have changed since she left, she feels the chamber is in a much stronger position than it was during her first go-around.

One of her tasks will be to review the program of work and determine what staffing positions are needed, and how to fill them in the most beneficial manner. Several positions have opened recently, and the board of directors has given their confidence to Hekeler to determine what the program of work should look like at the chamber.

“My goal for the chamber is to ultimately be relevant, and be responsive to the needs of the community by focusing on relationship-building,” she said. “I’d like to meet with business owners and community leaders on what they perceive as the value of a chamber of commerce, and find out what they’d like to see.”

Hekeler said her passion for the position is echoed by the board of directors, and that will be a crucial component of the chamber’s success.

As an accomplished executive with more than 20 years of organizational and operational management experience, Hekeler most recently worked as a business development consultant for PSC International in New Britain. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications and organizational management from Villanova University and various professional certifications including a sixth year certification as a U.S. Chamber of Commerce executive.

The Southington chamber currently has 300 businesses and organizations as members in good standing. For more information, visit www.southingtonchamber.com.

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