After Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce President Gail Loefgren announced her retirement in July, the board of directors searched for a replacement to live up to the work that Loefgren did.
The board finally found a winner.
"The chamber is in my blood," said Kim Verreault, the new president of the Chamber of Commerce, whose first day on the job was Oct. 9.
“It's my biggest passion. I love the opportunity to lead within a community and be able to make a difference for many.”
“When I told the board that I was going to retire, I asked for three things: they need to be young, they need to be good with technology and No. 3, the person has to have a chamber background,” said Loefgren on Oct. 19 leading her final Networking at Noon. “And we got all three with Kim. So, the board did a good job.”
Verreault is originally from Old Orchard Beach, Maine, where she led a number of hospitality businesses. This got her involved with the Old Orchard Beach Chamber of Commerce, where she spent 11 years on the board of directors. In 2015, she became the executive director and spent four years leading the Old Orchard Chamber.
Throughout her past chamber experience, Verreault has been a hands-on leader. She organized many chamber events such as a charity car show, a Halloween party with the fire department and Beach Olympics which raised donations for Special Olympics. She partnered with the local college as an adjunct professor to teach refugee students how to prepare for the workplace with resume workshops and job fairs.
She plans to bring these experiences to leading the Longboat Chamber, especially partnering with other community organizations and pillars.
“I consider this to be, in many ways, a helping profession,” said Verreault. “It's really about assisting others to elevate their businesses. If you are elevating people's businesses within a community, then the community is strengthened and the region is strengthened and your state is strengthened. So it starts with a grassroots effort, and businesses need support. chambers (of commerce) are an opportunity for that kind of support, networking, learning and growing.”
In 2019, Verreault moved to Sarasota to be closer to her parents who have lived in the area for 17 years. She got her real estate license but her passion for chamber of commerce work stayed strong.
Verreault leapt at the opportunity to be involved in a chamber again. She shared that the similarities, such as the size and passion, between the Longboat Chamber and her previous chamber are a great comfort.
“That's why I'm embracing this particular chamber so much because it feels like it fits like a glove,” said Verreault. “I feel like I have a foundation of historical knowledge from my experiences in the past, but there's still plenty for me to learn, and so many people for me to meet. I look forward to really digging in and establishing relationships and learning as much as I can.”
Verreault started shadowing Loefgren this month. She said that her goals have stayed the same since she first applied for the position.
Her vision for her first 90 days includes: updating the chamber's website, making a 2024 Longboat visitor’s guide, having a board retreat to set goals for 2024, establishing meaningful connections with the board, staff and members, immersing herself in current chamber events, brainstorming new events, and highlighting and honoring members in the Longboat community.
She said that her guidelines are to be always improvement-based, foster a team environment throughout the chamber and capitalize on the strengths of the staff and community. Verreault plans to focus on marketing and building membership as her first priorities.
“I have a good sense of what the chamber needs and the members within it,” said Verreault. “I want to be able to elevate them and showcase them. Their success will be my success. People who know me understand that I have a big heart for others. If they're succeeding, then that makes me happy.”
Loefgren is excited that the board found an outstanding replacement to follow in her footsteps. She said she trusts Verreault to continue to take the chamber in the right direction for it to succeed.
“Kim has a whole different skillset than I do,” said Loefgren. “I think she is going to go in a different direction, which I think will be good for us. New blood is always good for an organization.”
Verreault said that she knows this chamber is a dedicated group of hardworking people and that she is honored to be a part of it. She looks forward to giving back to it as much as she can and carrying on the legacy Loefgren has left her.
“One of my greatest skills is being able to tap into the talents of many and bring people together,” said Verreault. “I’m excited to team up to move a chamber community forward. I know I could never do this by myself. So my goal is to learn as much as I can about the people of the chamber. It's about locking arms with people who are just as enthusiastic and excited about the chamber and the community.”
Petra Rivera is the Longboat community reporter. She holds a bachelor’s degree of journalism with an emphasis on reporting and writing from the University of Missouri. Previously, she was a food and drink writer for Vox magazine as well as a reporter for the Columbia Missourian.