Search for new Wabash Chamber executive director ‘put on hold’; Agness named interim project manager

Shelley Agness (center) poses for a photo with Wabash Chamber of Commerce Board members (from left) Rich King, Chair Paul McCann, Missy Lundmark and Douglas Mays. Agness took over the role of the Chamber’s interim project manager in August. Photo by Emma Rausch

By Emma Rausch

The search for a new Wabash County Chamber of Commerce executive director has been put on hold and a new interim project manager is overseeing the organization’s duties in the meanwhile, according to Paul McCann, Chamber Board chair.

“That decision was put on hold,” McCann told The Paper of Wabash County. “We were not going to replace an executive direction position at this time. We have not been advertising for that at all.”

In April, the former executive director, Kim Pinkerton, announced her retirement, but she did not leave the position until July. During that time, a search committee was formed to find her replacement.

Now, the search has stopped as the Chamber’s board aims to make the organization “more effective,” according McCann.

“We are currently looking to align the resources of Wabash County to be more effective at a regional level,” he said. “That is primarily the reason, to speak with one voice, to be much more effective at a regional or even a national level for what Wabash County can do, not just for our members but also for the citizens of the county, of the city and our schools as well. So that’s why we’ve chosen to put it on delay.

“There are ongoing talks with the transition board. We are looking at how we can more effectively manage the programs and offerings that we offer as a Chamber and realize some cenergies with other organizations where we can more clearly define how we can speak and communicate with one voice.”

Locally, the Chamber is looking to align with like-minded organizations, McCann later told The Paper in a follow-up interview.

“Starting several months ago, multiple organizations including municipalities and all membership organization in the county were contacted to start the discussion of how our organizations can collectively produce more benefit for Wabash County and our membership,” he said. “Talks have been ongoing and we are excited and optimistic that the outcome of this will impact our community with greater communication, trust and mission.”

McCann did not confirm or deny if the North Manchester Chamber of Commerce was one of the municipalities contacted.

Meanwhile, as the board works toward its goal, none of the Chamber’s services or programs have been cut thanks to the organization’s interim project manager, Shelley Agness, according to McCann.

“We have not cut any programs,” McCann said. “We have a program manager, Shelley Agness, … and she has done a great job. We have asked a whole lot of her and she has stepped up to the challenge and filled in initially as needed, and she has been a wonderful asset to the Chamber. I really hope that people can get out and meet her. … I think she’s having fun and we’re excited about having her because she has been able to help keep us going.

Agness quietly stepped into the role in early August and has since acted as the community’s main Chamber contact.

“We started out by being board managed (in the office),” McCann said. “We were very quickly trying to find the next transition. Shelley came along and we hired her. She’s been on in a part-time basis and she’s done much more than we could have asked.”

Although this is her fourth month in the position, Agness has been a member of the Chamber family for many years.

“My husband (Lance) has been with the Chamber many years,” Shelley told The Paper. “He works at Ford Meter Box and he’s been board chair and we as a family have always done Chamber events. … I can remember sitting in the rain under an umbrella sitting at holes (for the Chamber golf outing) because you have to watch to see if someone got a hole-in-one.

“We would just always do that. Signs had to be put up for the expo and my son and my husband would take the signs around and put them up and we’d go as a family and go take them down.”

When the opportunity came to serve the Chamber as her husband once had, Agness said she jumped on it.

“I was like, ‘Oh my golly. It’s my turn to help. Lucky me,’” she said with a smile. “I think of family when I think of the Chamber and all of the businesses coming together, because we’re after one thing. We want to see everyone succeed, and what do families do? They’ve got your back and they’re helping and that’s what I think of when I think of the Chamber.”

Agness is available at the Wabash Chamber of Commerce office, located at 210 S. Wabash St., Monday through Thursday 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. or by appointment.

For more information about services, contact Agness at or call at 260-563-1168.

Posted on 2016 Dec 20