Starting a new job always presents challenges.

Transitioning to a position demanding contact with lots of people in the middle of a pandemic raises the bar to new heights.

But Brenda Case continues to do her best to adapt to her new role as the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce’s executive director.

Case took over after Maia Crespin stepped down in May. Crespin served as director for two years and left after welcoming a child with husband Matt Crespin.

The chamber’s monthly luncheons had switched to Zoom video events for several months because of COVID-19. On Tuesday, Sept. 15, Case served as master of ceremonies at the first in-person chamber luncheon at Mazatzal Hotel & Casino since March 3.

Things were different.

Instead of a large gathering for lunch that routinely attracted between 80 and 100 or more chamber members and others, Case oversaw two separate smaller functions. There was a breakfast gathering that ran from 8-9:30 a.m. and a luncheon from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Both allowed a maximum of 24 people to meet the mandate for smaller group meetings.

All participants had their temperatures taken at the casino entrance, and masks were required. No more than four people were allowed at each table. Diners picked personalized plates from a no-touch buffet with plexiglass barrier.

All seats were pre-paid to avoid lines and limit transactional contact.

“The chamber’s number one concern as we work to bring back networking events for our members is to ensure that health and safety mandates are reinforced and those who feel comfortable are able to begin the process of returning to a new normal,” Case said. “To do that, we set things up a little differently.”

Case was glad to get back to in-person gatherings.

“It was exciting to get to meet many chamber business owners mask-to-mask for the first time as well as reconnect with many who I have known for years,” Case said. “Both groups seemed equally eager to get back to networking, even if it looked a bit different than it did pre-COVID.”

It’s simply a different world than it was in 2019.

“The COVID-culture has impacted everyone,” Case said. “Businesses, communities, schools, and families. It is something that is unprecedented, unpredictable, and it is requiring us to change how we do everything.

“Change is challenging for all of us, but it’s not something we need to fear. We just have to be willing to do things differently.

“For the chamber, the goal continues to be supporting the local businesses within our community and provide opportunities for networking and professional growth. In 2020, it just looks a little different.”

Andy Strader, branch manager at National Bank of Arizona, spoke at both sessions about scams and frauds.

“I believe everyone left knowing something new about how to protect themselves and their businesses against financial predators,” Case said.

“Sparklight was our official business sponsor and along with great information, they gave away two Amazon Firesticks as door prizes.”

She may be wading into a different role in a challenging time, but Case has the experience to deal with this unique situation after spending 37 years in public education, including the past seven working with the Payson Unified School District as the director of curriculum and instruction and assistant superintendent.

“Although this was my first official chamber event, I have been running similar events for decades in my prior profession,” she said.

She said positive feedback let her know chamber members welcomed the event and benefited from it.

“The energy in the room was real and one of our members commented that being able to connect and collaborate with other business owners was refreshing and fueled her tank again,” Case said.

Speakers at future chamber breakfast/lunch networking include: Oct. 20, James Menlove, Gila County manager; Nov. 17, Troy Smith, Payson town manager; Dec. 15, A reveal of the chamber’s new website.

Because of limited seating, these events are open to chamber members only. Anyone interested in finding out more about joining the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce, can contact Case at brenda@rimcountrychamber.com.

Contact the reporter at kmorris@payson.com

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