Following a busy holiday season with many local Greater Kirkland Chamber of Commerce events, Bruce Wynn’s resignation from his position as executive director of the organization came as a surprise to some in the Kirkland business community.
Wynn’s resignation letter specified Dec. 31 as his last day with the Chamber.
“The Board of Directors would like to thank Bruce for his five years of service and wish him well in future endeavors,” the chamber said in an official release.
Former Director of Communications and Membership Samantha St. John has been named interim chamber director by the Chamber Board of Directors, according to outgoing Kirkland Chamber Board president Scott Becker, whose term ended on Dec. 31.
“According to Bruce, he is leaving to pursue other options,” Becker said.
Wynn said that it was just time for a change.
“What I’m proud about is the phenomenal growth of the chamber membership … I took risks. Some paid off like startup weekends and cash mobs,” Wynn said.
Despite starting with the chamber during the recession, Wynn and St. John more than doubled membership from 217 to 450.
“He was really involved in the community, as most chamber directors are, and I think he got (membership) as high as 460, but we lost a few when Parkplace closed,” Becker said.
Surplus revenue each year allowed the chamber to pay off all its debts, which accumulated during the recession, and create a $50,000 rainy day fund.
He also introduced new events, such as Startup Weekend, which supports the growing tech industry in Kirkland. In partnership with Google, the first three Startup Weekends focused on cell phone apps, big data and hardware development. The 2016 Startup Weekend focused on Smart Cities.
Wynn said that he really values his relationship with the City of Kirkland: “(City Manager) Kurt (Triplett) and (Economic Development Manager) Ellen (Miller-Wolfe) are amazing to work with.”
Wynn also helped to bring in many high-profile speakers to the chamber luncheons, including Seattle Seahawks players Doug Baldwin and Bobby Wagner, along with King County Executive Dow Constantine.
Wynn thinks the new Kirkland Urban and Village at Totem Lake developments will have a big impact on the chamber.
“The new development will create new opportunities for chamber membership with all the new businesses coming in,” Wynn said.
Wynn said that he would like to see his successor focus more on bringing businesses from outside of the downtown core into the chamber.
The search for a new director will begin with new Chamber Board President Jessica Beck.
Becker said that St. John will also be considered by a committee that will be formed to find a new, permanent chamber director.
“The biggest thing that Sam brings is that she can bring the chamber and the (Kirkland Downtown Association) together,” Becker said. “There is a lot of overlap and she already works closely with the KDA management. … She will be able to hit the ground running.”
St. John is a lifelong resident of Kirkland and she said that she knows the unique challenges faced by local businesses. She was recently awarded the Teddy Overleese Community Service Award from the Kirkland Downtown Association.
“I am up for any of the challenges this role will bring and I hope to make this transition as smooth as possible,” St. John said.