Chamber Fires Ms. Converse, Names Interim President
By: James Kinsella
The Hyannis Area Chamber of Commerce announced Tuesday that the organization was dropping Deborah G. Converse as the chamber’s president and chief executive officer.
Ms. Converse, who lives in Centerville, has held the position for the past two years. The organization has about 650 members.
The chamber’s board of directors yesterday afternoon announced that it had appointed Jessica Tinti, the chamber’s vice president of operations, as the organization’s interim president and chief executive officer.
Ms. Tinti, who has a bachelor’s degree in management and is pursuing a master of business administration degree, has worked at the chamber since 2006.
The board further stated that the process is under way to find a permanent president and chief executive officer.
The chamber board of directors initially conveyed the news of Ms. Converse’s departure in an e-mail sent out late Tuesday afternoon, and followed up with a slightly expanded announcement on Wednesday.
Stanley W. Hodkinson, chairman of the chamber’s board of directors, said the board reached its decision at its meeting Tuesday at the chamber offices above the John F. Kennedy Museum on Main Street in Hyannis. Ms. Converse did not attend the meeting.
“At this point, we wanted to make a change in leadership,” said Mr. Hodkinson, who works at TD Bank in Hyannis. “I know it seems abrupt.”
He did not specify the factors that led to the decision.
According to Wednesday’s announcement, the interim president and chief executive officer will serve at the board’s pleasure until a new president and chief executive officer is appointed.
The board stated in Wednesday that Ms. Converse “has assisted many local businesses during these challenging economic times, worked tirelessly to increase tourism and build business relationships in Hyannis and made some very tough decisions with a limited budget.
“The board thanks her for her considerable contributions and wishes her every success in the future,” the announcement continued.
Ms. Converse could not be reached for comment.
Elizabeth N. Wurfbain, appointed earlier this year as executive director of Hyannis Main Street Business Improvement District, said she was surprised by the announcement.
Not only do the Hyannis chamber and the Main Street business district work on projects together, but they both have offices across the hallway from each other on the second floor of the Kennedy museum.
“She’s wonderful to work with, and passionate,” Ms. Wurfbain said.
Wendy Northcross, the chief executive officer of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, who at one point worked as executive director of the Hyannis chamber, said she was “shocked” to hear the news.
“I had no sense that it was imminent,” Ms. Northcross said.
“These jobs are always a lot more than people think they are,” she said. But Ms. Northcross said Ms. Converse adapted “quite graciously” to the demands of the job.
“She took on that mantle without a lot of drama,” Ms. Northcross said. “I thought she did quite well. I didn’t see any major gaps. But at the end of the day, you serve at the pleasure of your board.”
Deborah L. Krau, vice president of the Greater Hyannis Civic Association, said she was disappointed by news of Ms. Converse’s departure.
Although Ms. Krau and her husband, Ralph M. Krau, are not members of the chamber, both have volunteered much time to the organization, and have worked with Ms. Converse in her tenure as chamber president.
At the chamber’s most recent annual meeting, held October 6 at Willowbend in Mashpee, Mr. and Mrs. Krau received the John F. Kennedy Jr. Community Service Award. The chamber board selected them for the honor.
Ms. Krau has worked closely with Ms. Converse in particular on the Main Street Initiative, a cooperative effort among Hyannis residents, businesses and nonprofit organizations to address the presence of homeless individuals in downtown Hyannis.
Ms. Converse has done “a great job balancing the needs of the homeless people [in Hyannis] with the needs of the business community.”
Ms. Krau, who saw Ms. Converse at a meeting Monday of the Main Street Initiative, said Ms. Converse did not give any indication that her job might be in jeopardy.
Todd A. Marcus, president of Cape Cod Beer in Hyannis, a member of the chamber, said he had no inkling before the release of the announcement that Ms. Converse would be leaving. He called her a great advocate of small and medium-sized business in the community.
Robert DuBois, executive director of the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce for the past two decades, said he had cooperated closely with Ms. Converse on tourism initiatives.
“We’ve always had a very good working relationship,” Mr. DuBois said of Ms. Converse.
Geoffrey M. Converse, the husband of Ms. Converse, who holds a part-time position as the chamber’s director of sales and marketing, will continue in his position, Mr. Hodkinson said.
Deborah Converse previously had worked at the Hyannis chamber as an interim director. Then, in 2008, she replaced Monica Parker as president and chief executive officer of the organization.
Before her appointment to lead the chamber, Ms. Converse had worked for more than 20 years at nonprofit organizations, where her assignments included development and raising funds.
Ms. Converse has served on several area boards, including the Centerville Historical Museum and Cape Cod Center for Sustainability, and several affordable housing committees on both the local and state levels. At present, she is an elected commissioner on the Barnstable Housing Authority.
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