Chamber hires from within
The Vail Chamber & Business Association, formerly the Vail Community Chamber, has enlisted the help of one of its founding members to help out in the office.Kaye Ferry, a member of the chamber’s board of directors and a former president, has agreed to work part-time for the nonprofit association with an aim to promote and support commerce and enterprise within the town.”I’m just going to be keeping things alive,” Ferry said Tuesday.Ferry, who resigned as president of the chamber in October, has lived in Vail for 16 years, 12 as owner of The Daily Grind, a coffee shop on Bridge Street. Her resignation coincided with a decision to close the business and focus on other things in life, she said at the time. Since then, she’s remained active as an outspoken advocate for Vail’s merchants, religiously attending Vail Town Council sessions and writing a weekly opinion column for the Vail Daily.Steve Rosenthal, who assumed the president’s role when Ferry resigned, said Ferry volunteered to work for free. After all, the chamber had been getting by with just one employee in a clerical role after the Vail Town Council pared the organization’s funding to $200,000, down from $225,000 last year and $285,000 the year before.The directors, however, decided to hire Ferry part-time at an hourly wage, Rosenthal said.Ramping upWhile business in Vail typically drops off in the fall, Rosenthal said, it’s also when many promotional activities – such as organizing the Turn it Up! and Premier Impressions programs and publishing the Vail Guide – ramp up. Also in the works, he said, are improving and updating the chamber’s Web site, http://www.vailchamber.org, and securing a health insurance policy for chamber members and their employees.”There are a lot of things that go on behind the scenes,” Rosenthal said. “We have a board of nine to 11 people – all volunteers. Kaye came to us and said “I’ll do it. I know the territory.'”The chamber has been in need of direction, Rosenthal said, since this summer, when its executive director, Rob Chiles, resigned and efforts to establish a business improvement district in Vail fizzled.Ferry and Rosenthal said the chamber is now waiting for Vail’s new town manager, Stan Zemler, to take over in October before launching a new effort to “resurrect” the business improvement district idea. Another campaign in the wings, Rosenthal said, is coordinating with the Vail Valley Convention & Tourism Bureau in its efforts to hire a retail consultant to advise Vail merchants.”We’re getting things back on track,” Rosenthal said.The chamber’s bylaws, meanwhile, do allow for the creation of “positions of employment that can be said to further the goals and purposes” of the association as long as the individuals hired have no “conflict of interest with, bias for or against, any member or associate member.”The chamber’s board can include association members who hold business licenses with the town of Vail – or their agents – and chamber employees.”This is the normal running of a nonprofit business,” Rosenthal said.DetractorsFerry does have her detractors, however, as letters to the editor – most of them sparked by her opinion column – continue to pour into local newspapers. And last month, quotes by Ferry in the Denver Post concerning visitors from the Front Range prompted the chief executive officer of Vail Resorts, Adam Aron, to openly criticize her in his own guest column. Aron said she “both glorified and spread a rumor about our supposed plan to raise local merchant season pass prices” and called her comments “irresponsible and untrue.”Vail Town Councilman Dick Cleveland, who represents the town on the chamber’s board of directors as a non-voting member, said he believes the chamber can use some help, but he’s not sure if Ferry is the right person for the job.”Certainly, one person cannot do it all, so maybe another employee is necessary,” Cleveland said Tuesday. “But when she speaks for the Vail Chamber & Business Association, it often doesn’t represent my views or the views of others in the town government or the business community.”Finally, there’s the persistent rumor Ferry plans to run for the Vail Town Council, on which four of seven seats are available come Nov. 4, with the mayor’s seat open in a special election set for Jan. 27.”I have no intentions to run for council,” Ferry said Tuesday.Despite all the commotion, she added, truly the most important development in her life lately is the addition of an as-yet-unnamed cat.