Grand Lake town board, chamber heal rift
May 10, 2009
Sitting in a half circle in the fire district room, members of the Grand Lake town board and chamber took what could be considered a “time out.”
With a viscous village rumor mill and lack of proper communication building a rift between the two groups, Thursday evening’s session entitled “Building our Future Together” was an opportunity to put business aside and simply focus on creating better relations.
Team building consultant Fred Schroeder, retired in Grand Lake, led the two groups in workshop exercises that helped individuals contemplate the roles and responsibilties of each elected board, discuss how conflicts might arise, and suggest how to enable better future relations.
“I think it went well,” said Schroeder. “When two boards have to work together, it can often lead to misunderstandings and some conflicts. I thought everybody was real involved with what was going on last night, and I think that we built some bridges that will be helpful and move things forward in a better way for all the Grand Lake area.”
News and rumors of past chamber-town strains have ranged from conflicting personalities to conflicts over special events and financials.
Asked following the joint workshop, Grand Lake Trustee Kathy Lewis, who has served as the town’s chamber liason for half a decade, said issues that arise can mostly be attributed to “lack of communications.”
“Rumor mills flowing,” she said, “people not getting the story straight. I think there was a lot of that this year.”
Chamber President Don Neumann agreed, pointing out that the constituents of the chamber are not the same as the constituents of the town (although they may overlap), which naturally creates challenges. “Sometimes (each board’s) consitituents’ views will conflict,” he said.
Neumann also acknowledged the chamber board has experienced considerable turnover in recent years, which can also lead to discomfort between boards.
At one point in the meeting, a chamber board member suggested that “not letting go of the past” can lead to conflicts between the boards.
The room fell quiet, then Town Trustee Jim Peterson provided some welcomed levity when he joked, “Even if your right?”
Toward the end of the three-plus hour meeting, of which considerable time was spent in organized groups to encourage exchange of ideas, board members suggested ways to improve communications. A “plan of attack” was accepted to have town and chamber directors meet to organize committee meetings, which may serve to work out lingering issues. Board members also resolved to make joint meetings an annual or bi-annual event.
“I was really proud of our town tonight,” said Pastor Jim Weber of Stillwater Community Chapel, a meeting bystander.
“I don’t see this current state of relations between the chamber and the board of trustees particularly troublesome,” said Schroeder, who has spent a career resolving conflict in government and corporate trenches. “I think it’s a natural process of busy people with strong feelings, trying to do what they think is best from their role perspectives.”
Although the small community of Grand Lake may have its share of ongoing, unresolved tensions among elected boards, it can know that it’s not alone, Schroeder said.
“I actually believe it happens everywhere. Busy people ” people who have strong ideas or they wouldn’t get on these boards ” lack of time, and all of those things together lead to misunderstandings and conflicts. It actually looks like it’s a little more intense in these small population areas, when in fact, it’s just that it’s a little more visible than in the bigger, metropolitan areas.”
– Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.