Chamber director will step down this fall

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Christine Whitlatch

Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture Executive Director Christine Whitlach will be moving on from her position in the coming months as she and her husband are moving to Billings. She will stay with the chamber until a new director is found.

Whitlach has been with the Chamber since 2016.

She said she had been watching the transition the chamber had been going through for awhile after moving back to Eastern Montana a few years prior and wanted to get involved, but felt she never found the right time to do it.

She said that all changed when she got the opportunity to interview five young women from the Chamber’s board. Whitlach was impressed with the commitment and dedication that the board members showed and decided to join in.

“I remember leaving that day, thinking that ‘this is a group of young people and a board that I could work along side,’ and so I put in my application, they hired me and as they say, a lot is history after that,” Whitlach said.

She described her time at the Chamber as “fast-paced and furious” but noted that her past experience as a nonprofit director in Missoula gave her a strong idea of what would be required from her.

Under Whitlach’s direction, the Chamber has become a driving force in connecting the people of Glendive and the members of the Chamber. The Chamber has taken steps promote events through things like their community calendar and the Chamber’s social media, as well as attempting to connect people to information that will aid them in anything they are doing.

“I’m really humbled by how strongly, once we started doing that work, our business members and the Glendive community have been our cheerleaders and supported us to do that,” Whitlach said. “My firm belief is that anyone in this job isn’t doing this job for a board, they’re not doing the job for the building of the Chamber, they’re doing a job that doesn’t belong to them. It really belongs to the greater good of their membership and their community.”

Chamber President Gina Roos said having Whitlatch as director has been a very positive and credits her for much of the Chamber’s progress.

“She really is a blessing,” Roos said in regards to Whitlach. “She’ll be greatly missed.”

Roos noted the success that Whitlach has been able to achieve is due to her creativity and her ability to manage things effectively. She specifically credits Whitlach with progress made with the Chamber’s paddlefish caviar program and starting the Cornerstone program.

“There isn’t one thing that she has left untouched for the better,” Roos said.

The progress with the paddlefish caviar program is of particular interest since the sale of the caviar funds grants used to enhance Eastern Montana.

When she started, Whitlach said the paddlefish program was about to be unsustainable but the Chamber was able to pull it back and make it successful.

“I have literally, stinky fish egg by stinky fish egg, fallen in love with that program and I will truly do whatever I can to help any new leadership here make sure that continues to thrive and continues to evolve,” Whitlach said.

Other programs and projects that Whitlach hopes to continue seeing growth in include the “Barbecue in the Badlands,” the Makoshika water project and partnership connections with the community, including a partnership with the Greater Glendive Community Foundation starting this month.

Whitlach said she has planned an open transition from the Chamber, giving the board time to find another executive director. She currently has no solid plans for what she is going to do once she gets to Billings, but is sure she will easily find work.

She would like to work in the areas of economic and community development, teaching and advocating for young adults or advocating for children and special education and alternative education options.

Whitlach says she will mostly miss the people and the connections that have been established with the chamber, as well as the energy that the job of director required of her.

“We have so many great assets here in Glendive, but it’s the people, those connections that I’ll miss the most,” Whitlach said. “None of us do any of this in a vacuum. It is only with the combined efforts and support of a collective that any positive growth is possible and it’s really been my privilege to be in this position and have all the support that I’ve had from the Glendive community, personally and professionally, and it’s really been a pleasure to work with all the people and projects I’ve been able to work with here.”

Contact Hunter Herbaugh at rrreporter@rangerreview .