Embattled Chamber To Go Forward With New Director

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Tina Bruess was relieved of her duties as director of the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce, as of Wednesday morning.

Chamber Business Coordinator John Stanton was named interim manager.

Bruess had been Chamber director since January 2004.

The move came after a series of questionable actions by the Chamber, including the revocation of contract for services for up to $76,000 with the town in August, after questions from Mayor Bob Edwards about the Chamber's fiscal responsibility.

The Chamber faced criticism after it announced support for the county justice facilities on Main Street, after conducting a poll of its members. Many members have since claimed they were never surveyed.

Chamber members slammed the Chamber members slammed the board with instances of bias and favoritism at the quarterly meeting.

The Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce Board heard complaints from its members during an open general meeting Wednesday.

The chamber is also seeking a "voluntary assessment" donation to make up for the $76,000 contract with the Town of Payson that it withdrew in August.

Diane Enos, board president, said Director Tina Bruess had been let go and Chamber Business Coordinator John Stanton would be taking over, a move that many members openly supported as the first step toward progress.

"I think for the most part the membership has been treated fairly," Enos said. "That is what the board and the chamber attempts to do. That doesn't mean we can't do it better and that's what we're here for."

Several chamber members expressed frustration or anger at perceived bias or questionable actions.

"I joined the chamber because I wanted to help support the community and the chamber made promises to me about helping support my business," small-business owner Anthony Anderson said.

Anderson, who is a plumber, recalled an instance where a customer had called the chamber looking for a plumber and the chamber failed to promote him.

"I'm real borderline about not supporting it at all, anymore," he said.

Referring to the chamber's support of the county facilities on Main Street, Carol McCauley, marketing director for the Mazatzal Casino, objected to a chamber taking a stance on a political issue.

"Unless they can get 100 percent of their membership to support the same thing then you have just turned your back on whatever percentage of members you have who don't support it," she said.

"I'm not happy at all seeing the chamber take a stand on a political issue," she added.

McCauley expressed hope for a united front between the chamber, the Tonto Apache Tribe, Payson Regional Economic Development Corporation and the new Tourism and Economic Vitality Director for Payson.

"There should be a committee formed by this quadrangle that meets...to make sure that information is out there, that communication is out there," she said. "There'd be no stopping us."

PREDC Director Barbara Ganz opted for optimism.

"We are at a crossroads," she said. "Let's be thoughtful about what changes we make. It's time to put our best thoughts together and let's go forward because Payson does have some incredible potential right now."

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