Chamber name proposal spurs member opposition

By Julia Green
An effort to change the name of the Greater Margaretville Chamber of Commerce to the Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce hit a snag lat week when one of the chamber’s members questioned both the need and the process for the change.
“This decision is the result of more than one year of discussions with many businesses in our service area, both members and potential members,” Board President John Riedl wrote in a letter to chamber members dated July 14. He called the proposed name change “a more inclusive name,” and said that the decision was made by a unanimous vote of the chamber’s board of directors.
The board’s plan was to officially adopt the name change at its August 11 meeting; however, concerns raised by some membership have postponed the change pending a meeting of its membership and a vote. Due to its status as a membership organization and in accordance with the bylaws, chamber members have the opportunity to vote on the proposed name change.
In a letter to the board of directors, chamber member and Margaretville businessman Peter Molnar expressed concern at the name change and the process by which the board had gone about it, citing procedural flaws in the process as well as other concerns.
At Monday’s meeting, Executive Director Carol O’Beirne said that Molnar “was not correct on a number of issues,” citing his claim that a vote by the majority of members was required. She clarified that the vote must be passed not by a majority of the total membership, but rather a majority of the members who submit a vote.
O’Beirne added that the board has held all votes in the past in the same fashion as this one, and that there are “a lot of positive reasons” to go ahead with the name change.
“It’s time we come up with a common denominator,” she said. “It has to be comfortable, define where we are, and be inclusive.”
She added that businesses have refused to join the chamber unless it is more inclusive, and estimated doubling the membership if the name change were to be approved.
“They’re counting on this to happen now,” she said.
Riedl added, “There is only one person who has really taken issue with the process, and we have to respect that. We want to be inclusive.”
David France, board member and owner of the Galli-Curci Theater building, added that the focus shouldn’t be on promoting the chamber itself, but rather its members.
“I think when we begin the campaign under the new umbrella, we will be promoting members, not the identity of the Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce. What we have to do is promote the villages,” he said. “If we do that well, it doesn’t matter what we call ourselves.”
The board approved a motion to hold a special membership meeting for the purpose of discussing the name change on Monday, Sept. 15 at 5:15 p.m. at the Margaretville Telephone Company, at which time chamber members will be invited to vote on the issue. The votes will be counted at the regularly scheduled board meeting on September 22. Board members are inquiring as to whether previously submitted votes will count, or all new votes will need to be cast.