By Tom Fitch

On Jan. 17, the board chair of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, Tom Fitch, announced that the organization had parted ways with Steward Sandstrom, who had been president and CEO of the Chamber since the summer of 2012.

In light of Sandstrom’s departure, the Springfield Business Journal asked the Chamber to reflect on what is ahead for the area’s premier business group.

The board of directors of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce has never been more confident or optimistic about the organization’s future, despite parting ways last month with our CEO.

By now, you’ve probably heard that we intend to “go local” for our next CEO. We have a wealth of homegrown talent in Sangamon County, as District 186 has reaffirmed with its recent hire of Jennifer Gill as superintendent and Memorial has enjoyed for years with Ed Curtis at the helm; as nonprofit leaders like John Stremsterfer and Jackie Newman prove as stewards of the community good; and as the Brandt, Bunn, HD Smith, Hanson and Kellner families demonstrate. And this short list of success in the national and world markets only scratches the surface.

Interestingly, the state’s other Five Star Chamber, the Naperville Chamber of Commerce, recently announced that a longtime local business owner and native would become its new CEO.

With a well-defined set of strategic goals already outlined for the coming three years (see sidebar), the board seeks an energetic business or association executive who possesses an intimate knowledge of Sangamon County’s business community and climate, plus a few other key traits.

Energy and passion for our members

The Chamber’s chief executive is a people person. Of course you’ll enjoy vacation days, but in a position as visible and important as The Chamber job, there is little time to be “off.” You’ll need an innate passion for our community and the people who work to make it strong. Our members will want to see you out at community events and gracing their doorways as often as possible.

Connections, communication and teamwork

Relationships are key to the success of The Chamber’s CEO. Whether working with the city on economic development, responding to business needs, or coalescing Q5 members toward a common objective, the abilities to clearly communicate and forge authentic connections will be required skills.

Focusing on what’s important

To better focus on our members’ needs, the new CEO will assess Chamber services with fresh eyes and, together with the board, prioritize them. Our reaffirmed goal is to super-serve our members, which may mean eliminating activities that are better executed by other local organizations.

Are we describing your capabilities, or the talents of someone you know? Interested executives should submit a confidential letter of interest and résumé to Express Employment Professionals by mail to 3000 Professional Drive, Springfield, IL, 62703 or by email to

Tom Fitch is the 2014 Chairman of the board of directors for The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce and the director of business development at Harold O’Shea Builders.