With Brenda Rhodes now engaged in her new roles as Bracebridge’s deputy mayor and one of the town’s representatives around the District of Muskoka’s council table, she’s reflecting on her eight years with the Bracebridge Chamber of Commerce.
Her last day was on Dec. 30, 2022.
“It’s been unbelievably busy,” says Rhodes.
As a first-time councillor, Rhodes has sat through orientation meeting after orientation meeting learning the ropes. “The learning curve has been through the roof, but that’s what I love,” she says.
Rhodes says the Chamber’s staff and board, along with herself, were able to accomplish a lot in her eight years. Notably, she says she’s most proud of what they were able to do during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We did a lot of work connecting with members making sure they were relatively okay,” says Rhodes. “I know that was a tremendously stressful time for them.”
With businesses and the Chamber not knowing what was ahead during the pandemic, Rhodes says they wanted to be a “strong voice” for businesses and be there to support them with whatever they needed. “All of a sudden we were the ones trying to help lead this charge in trying to keep these businesses open and making sure their employees are safe,” she adds. Rhodes points out how the Chamber was quick to start providing rapid tests to businesses that needed them.
“It’s been a team effort,” she says.
Rhodes points to Marny Mowat and Benjamin Little as two people that have helped her during her time with the Chamber. “Without them,” she says about Mowat, Little, and the other Chamber staff. “We wouldn’t have been successful.”
Rhodes’ successor as executive director hasn’t been chosen yet.
However, since she stepped down, four new members have joined the Chamber. Marc Baudendistel, Emerson Blackman, Kevin McKinnon, and Rahim Premji are directors, while Barry Hammond, a first-time Bracebridge councillor, is the town council representative.
“My hopes and dreams for that person is that they’re engaging, they’re enthusiastic, that they want to jump into this wholeheartedly because it really is a job that, I think, you need to be completely passionate about it and wanting to build those relationships,” says Rhodes about the Chamber’s next executive director.
“The businesses in Bracebridge are growing and adapting,” she adds. Rhodes points out that the Chamber needs to be ahead of that and be prepared to change as well. “You have to have a wide view of the whole community and make sure you stay focused on the businesses but still have that wide view so you can support the community as a whole,” she says.