Replacing Jean Gaines isn't easy for Geneva Chamber

Replacing Jean Gaines isn't an easy task for Geneva Chamber of Commerce

Posted5/10/2018 9:55 AM
  • Geneva Chamber of Commerce executive director Jean Gaines, who has been at the helm of Geneva's business engine for 40 years, is planning to retire.

    Geneva Chamber of Commerce executive director Jean Gaines, who has been at the helm of Geneva's business engine for 40 years, is planning to retire. Daily Herald File Photo, 2013

The applications are coming in and the interviews have begun. For the Geneva Chamber of Commerce, it means reality has set in and the task of replacing its longtime president is in full swing.

Chamber board members may have been stunned when Jean Gaines announced her upcoming retirement a couple of months ago, but all eyes are now focused on the future.

The chamber is hoping to have the position filled by the end of June, but it won't be an easy task. After all, Gaines has been at the helm of Geneva's business engine for 40 years. Her influence and vision of what Geneva has been and could be have affected virtually every aspect of community life.

But this is to be expected from a community leader who oversaw a chamber of 60 members when first taking on the lead role -- and helped shape it into what it is today as a vibrant business organization with more than 500 members.

"We were much smaller when I first started," Gaines acknowledged. "But I remember going home after my first day (with the board) and thinking, what did I do, and that I would never remember all of that stuff."

She remembered all of it and more over time, though she understands best how it has all unfolded for herself and her chamber colleagues.

"I have had such support from the board and the membership, and I have every confidence they will find the right person and things will move along nicely," Gaines said.

"I would stay on for a time to make it a smooth transition," Gaines said of what will likely become somewhat of a part-time role through part of the summer.

"Fortunately, we have a very seasoned staff in place, so the general public won't see a difference."

Well, maybe not. But just the fact that the city and chamber have taken on far more community events and festivals during Gaines' tenure indicates she knew exactly what kind of setting Geneva offered for its residents and visitors.

"We only did one festival when I first started," Gaines said. That, of course, would be Swedish Days. Since then, the chamber has embraced the Festival of the Vine, the Geneva Arts Fair and the Concours d'Elegance classic car show.

It won't hurt the chamber's confidence in the future in knowing that Gaines plans on staying in Geneva and continuing to be a member of the chamber board for at least another year. She'll also continue her roles with the city's mental health board and the Community Chest.

"I'll still be volunteering in Geneva and living in Geneva," Gaines said.

That's good news for the rest of us.

Last time for lobsters:

When TriCity Family Services hosts its annual Lobster Fly-in on June 16 behind Geneva's Third Street courthouse, it will mark the end of this fundraiser.

The logistics of offering this type of event have become more difficult over time, but it also falls in line with many other events from various organizations we have seen over the years.

They sort of run their course, and it's time to move on and explore other ideas.

So those who really enjoy lobsters will want to take advantage and help the agency in this way one more time.

Driving through easily:

Whoever came up with the drive-though system at Portillo's when things get really busy sure had a good idea.

The system in which employees take orders outside as cars line up, put a number under your windshield wiper to correspond to the order and call in your order via a walkie-talkie gadget certainly keeps things moving.

There is no dread when pulling up and seeing as many as 10 or more cars in front of you. It's going to move along pretty well.

Another employee comes outside with the order to match the number on your car window, and you are on your way without even talking to anyone at the actual drive-through menu board or pickup window.

Some of this may change over time as well because far more mobile order-and-pay-ahead apps are becoming the norm for quick-service restaurants.

Regardless of what you've read in this column a million other times, it will surprise you to know that I did not order an Italian beef on my latest run to Portillo's. I am completely sold on the cheeseburgers at this wonderful place as well.

The borers war:

We've lost so many ash trees to the emerald ash borer the past several years, you almost forget those bugs remain a significant threat.

We remember because we treat the autumn purple white ash in our backyard every year. So far, it has held up. But the minute we stop treating it, that tree will surely suffer its demise.

But readers in the Wild Rose area of St. Charles have sent notes to me about the loss of ash trees in that area, which essentially provide residences a wooded setting. That means the trees are a significant reason people chose to live there.

"When we moved to St. Charles 50-some years ago, we chose this area to build our house, close to the city, because of the woods," said Rosemary Leppert.

"Many at the time would consider this 'country.'" The mass destruction of trees is easy to spot if you drive through Wild Rose Woods, Leppert added.

"Over the last three years, I have had over 12 dead ash trees cut down just in front of my house."

For now, Leppert, and likely many others, are simply hoping that homeowners in that area will plant new trees to replace those removed to keep the country feel of this area on the west side of St. Charles for years to come.

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