Candidates from as close as Beverly and as far afield as Texas make up the field of four finalists for the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce's executive director's job.
Members of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce have had the chance to meet with all four finalists over the past week, with the last of the four, Sean Grant of Saugus, greeting area business leaders Thursday evening at the Windward Grille in Essex.
With second interviews and the meet-and-greet sessions with members now out of the way, the chamber's board will finish off the search and is expecting a new director by the end of the year, according to Chamber President Sal Frontiero of Frontiero Law Offices.
The finalists come mostly from in-state chambers. Members met with a vice president of the North Shore Chamber, a former director of the Fall River Chamber, Grant, the head of the Saugus Chamber, and from farther afield, the director of the Roundrock Chamber in Texas.
One of the finalists will fill the spot left by retired director Bob Hastings. Peter Webber, the chamber's Rockport manager, is serving as interim executive director.
Stephen Crowder met with members last Friday evening. Crowder is the vice president of operations for the North Shore Chamber of Commerce, based in Danvers. Crowder, who lives in Beverly, said he wasn't looking for a job when the Cape Ann position opened, but decided to throw his hat in the ring.
"I thought this might be a good opportunity to grow my career," he said.
Peter Kortright, like Crowder, comes with a few years under his belt at a Massachusetts chamber of commerce. Kortright headed up the Fall River Chamber until he resigned in 2008 to pursue a consulting career in urban planning.
Cape Ann, he said, reminds him of Fall River, a fishing city near New Bedford,
"I have a lot of experience with fishing communities," he said.
The meetings were part of the chamber's second interview process, Frontiero said. He added that the chamber hopes to wrap up the search process by the end of the year, with plans to have the new executive director start on the job in following weeks.
The chamber board interviewed 10 candidates hoping to succeed Hastings, who, in July, announced his plans to retire this January, then stepped down in November by what he and Frontiero called "mutual agreement" with the board.
Whoever proves to be the new executive director will have to manage all aspects of the chamber well, Frontiero noted. He said the next director will need to focus on the chamber's membership, finances and programs.
Robert Heidt, another finalist, says he can do that. He's from the Roundrock Chamber of Commerce in the Austin area of Texas, and worked in member services at the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, where small businesses, he said, not the large casinos, make up that chamber's backbone.
Owner-operated shops, he noted, are also the spine of Cape Ann's Chamber. With the chamber nearing it's 100th year, he added, he's looking to take it further.
"This is an opportunity to take it to a new level," he said.
Saugus Chamber leader Grant, meanwhile, says he'd look at pursuing partnerships with local organizations, such as the Essex Merchants Group, run by Bob Coviello. Those partnerships, he said help the chamber function as a nexus in the community. He said he's fascinated by Cape Ann.
"This would be an incredible opportunity," he said, "and one I'd like to be offered,"
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.