Parker Chamber of Commerce names new president

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After a three-month search, the Parker Chamber of Commerce has named its new president.

The 742-member organization announced the hiring of Dennis Houston, who will leave his position as president of the Norfolk (Neb.) Area Chamber of Commerce at the end of the month. He will take over as the Parker chamber president and chief executive officer Dec. 1.

Houston (pronounced How-ston) was among 48 applicants for the position, which was vacated at the end of July when Dan Rodriguez submitted a letter of resignation.

Interim president Jo Ann Frost, who will resume her duties as the chairwoman of the chamber board of directors, said the organization is looking forward to refocusing on programming and membership growth and retention with a new leader in place.

“It’s been challenging with the transition and putting things on hold until we got someone in place,” she said. “Our priority has been getting a president/CEO. It’s nice to be in this position now instead of feeling like we’re catching up all the time.”

The top selection from a narrowed-down field of three candidates, Houston demonstrated the experience, dynamic personality and professionalism the chamber was seeking, Frost said. The board has a list of goals and will get Houston’s feedback and input once he is settled.

“We’re anxious to see where he can take our chamber, as going into 2014 we have lots of exciting things going on,” she said. “We want to expand on programs that are just now taking shape.”

On a professional level, Houston says he is looking forward to learning about the challenges and opportunities in the business community. He is also eager to engage in strategic planning with Town of Parker officials, the school district and Douglas County.

“I’m looking forward to that collaboration so we can all make sure Parker grows in a positive way that we’re all proud of,” Houston said.

The Norfolk, Neb., area shares similarities with Parker because it’s a growing community in a semi-rural area. The town of Norfolk has a population of about 25,000, but the service area contains about 125,000 people, said Houston, who spent more than four years at the helm of the town's chamber.

His experience in working with different sectors — from home-based businesses to small retail shops to industrial companies —was a quality the search committee took notice of, Frost said.

After a weeks-long “listening tour” to learn the lay of the land, Houston wants to discuss with the board the chamber’s role in helping Parker achieve its goals.

On a personal level, the move to Colorado has been a long time coming. Houston visits Colorado about twice annually with his wife and two boys, and a permanent move has been one of the family’s objectives.

“The lifestyle is a big part of it for us,” Houston said.