Chamber takes next step in city leadership
by Glendale Chamber of Commerce on April 6th, 2017

By: Carolyn Dryer, The Glendale Star

Glendale Chamber of Commerce became active on the political scene during the last election, when it endorsed candidates for the first time. March 23, it formed a political action committee, which gives it the authorization to contribute financially to candidates who support the business community.

Robert Heidt, chamber president and CEO, is the administrator of the PAC. He gave some background about how the PAC was created.

​Heidt said, “When I came on board in October 2013, Dave Mitchell was chairman of the board, and he expressed interest in a government affairs committee being formed. In 2014, that occurred.

“In 2015, we discussed what our views were on political development, discrimination, and on our website (a link to any viewpoints).

“In 2014-15, we went through identifying the process, researched what other chambers were doing to create our process on how we interview and endorse candidates.”

Last year was the first time the chamber endorsed candidates.

As part of the candidate endorsement conversation, which led into 2015 and 2016, the next step was to create a PAC.

“It was a natural progression,” Heidt said, because the chamber had a seasoned government affairs committee.

“We took another year, researching PACs, what works, what doesn’t work,” Heidt said. “In every instance, from government affairs committee to endorsements (by the chamber board), it’s been a unanimous vote.”

The exceptions were the three non-voting, ex-officio members, Mayor Jerry Weiers, City Manager Kevin Phelps, and Police Officer Mike Turney. 

The chamber identified small business owners for the PAC.

Dave Mitchell was chosen to be the first chair of the PAC. Then, for PAC treasurer, former vice mayor, former chair of the board, someone who has been through the process, Yvonne Knaack, a business owner invested in the community, was chosen to fill the position.

One other addition, the chamber created a secretarial role. It is filled by Judy Connell, who is in the business of working on PACs, to make sure when the chamber does its filings, “we do not miss dotting an I or crossing a T,” Heidt said.

“Being a chamber of commerce, we want to make absolutely sure we bring about what we’re doing and why,” Heidt said. “In our conversations with members at large, all were very favorable comments, as we got into the business of endorsements, the Convention and Visitors’ Bureau downtown area. They said they feel they’ve got someone watching what’s going on, has got their back.”

The PAC has been well received, no negative comments, Heidt said.

“Our whole goal is making sure the right people are elected to office, ultimately making Glendale better and being mindful of the business community,” Heidt said. “This ensures the Glendale chamber is actively engaged in supporting candidates who are mindful of what’s good for Glendale and this community.

“We are the first chamber in the West Valley to do this. This speaks volumes for the business community. This chamber is focused on business interests and how things impact the bottom lines of members. It’s no longer just an organization cutting ribbons and having a happy hour.
“What we do is vital to all business. We’re an organization that makes a difference. I hope this (PAC) makes candidates reach out to us. This is very pivotal for us. This is a huge step. It puts us on the map in a whole other paradigm.”

As chair of the chamber board of directors, Jean Higginbotham said, “We’re very excited the board moved forward with the PAC. I know we are the lead chamber with being the first to establish a PAC. We’re excited about this movement as we continue to monitor the halls of government, continue to advocate for small businesses, and work to ensure that appropriate candidate review is taking place.”

“We’re looking for candidates who have a friendly attitude toward the business community and have the business community at heart,” Mitchell said. “We have put some thought into some criteria for different areas. We certainly want to take a look at those who touch on all the different aspects of business.

“We’re coming to a progression as a chamber. When I was the board chair in 2014, we hired Robert in 2013 toward the end there. Part of what I had envisioned for the chamber is we become more relevant as an advocate for the community, be able to voice views to the city.”

When Robert came aboard, Mitchell said one of the first things the chamber wanted was to get to the point where it endorsed candidates.

“A few people were quite surprised by this, but in 2014 we had our first open forum and heard from candidates on what they thought,” Mitchell said.

“We have become a strong voice, an advocate for candidates.

“As we go forward with the PAC, (we will) provide funding for those who are favorable toward the business community and the chamber. So, we are looking to those who are business friendly, looking for ways those candidates can actually help our business community become stronger.

“That’s the path we’ve been headed and the board has come along with us; financial support for those who favor the chamber’s thinking as well. The board has been better directed under Robert’s leadership. It’s entered into a new dimension, a progressive type situation. It’s not the same chamber of commerce, rah rah rah. It is now important to the city. (We may) not always agree with the city, but when we do, there’s a diversity of opinions, we take collectively a conceptual view, do surveys, take a pulse for what the chamber members want to do, at least go along with the way the business community is actually feeling.

“Endorsements and PAC money – let our voice be heard.”

Knaack spoke about the need for the PAC.

She said, “When I ran for office, the chamber would have liked to have helped me, but there was no mechanism to do so. Since that time, they have realized they need to be more active in support of candidates, referendums or propositions that are business friendly."

“I was asked to be involved because I have been a candidate and elected official, and I’m a business owner, and a past board chair, and I serve on the chamber government affairs committee."

“I agreed to do it in hopes that we will be able to help the business community by supporting those candidates that we feel will support business initiatives. I’m hoping in the next election, the track records of the candidates who have served will speak for themselves.”

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