Suzie Ahlstrand said the problem with working full time is it leaves little time to volunteer.
That won’t be a problem at the end of this month.
That’s when Ahlstrand will officially depart from the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce after nearly three decades.
“I’m not sure where (volunteer interests) it’s going to be taking me … but I’m not going away,” she said Thursday.
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Ahlstrand was most recently the chamber’s executive vice president of community advancement.
In February 2011 the chamber asked her to step in as interim president and CEO following the departure of Bryan Derreberry, who left for a chamber job in North Carolina. She served in that role until Gary Plummer was hired in September of that year.
When chamber officials quickly huddled to discuss Derreberry’s interim replacement, “Suzie immediately rose to the top,” said Lynn Nichols, Yingling Aviation CEO and chairman of the chamber in 2011.
“Truly, she has the leadership skills that carried the chamber through that period,” Nichols said. “There was no disruption … there wasn’t a hiccup.”
Almost a month into the chamber’s top interim post, Ahlstrand was tapped to serve as interim president and CEO of the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition, after Vicki Pratt Gerbino resigned. She served in that post until February 2013, when Tim Chase was hired.
Through the years, Ahlstrand has served in a number of roles and led a number of initiatives. She has led such varied efforts such as the city-to-city visits and Visioneering Wichita. She was involved in developing the Wichita downtown master plan and helped launch the chamber’s Leadership Council.
Jon Rolph worked closely with Ahlstrand when he served as chairman of Visioneering. He said she has a passion to see the city be the best it can be.
“I just love that she takes that passion and puts it to action,” he said. “I’ve seen her in so many different circumstances, in rooms with elected officials and business people, and citizens in large groups and small groups. “She’s very consistent in wanting to listen, to find common ground in moving the community forward.”
Ahlstrand’s previous chamber roles also have included manager of membership services, vice president of membership development, executive director of the Business Education Success Team and marketing director for the Wichita/Sedgwick County Partnership for Growth, an economic development group managed by the chamber. She joined the chamber in 1987.
“She was one of the first clients I worked with at SHS (Sullivan, Higdon & Sink),” said Vera Bothner, managing partner of Bothner and Bradley and a member of the chamber’s executive committee. Bothner said she first met Ahlstrand when Ahlstrand was at the Partnership for Growth.
“I’ve had the privilege of working with her on multiple community initiatives since then and have … watched her take on new roles and responsibilities within the chamber every few years. She’s an incredible role model and mentor to a lot of people.”
Ahlstrand said that beginning next year, she’s looking to ramp up her volunteer work, including working with arts organizations. She said she also would like to serve on more community service boards.
She said she will miss her colleagues at the chamber and others with whom the chamber brought her into contact.
“The thing I love are the relationships that I’ve built with lots of people,” she said. She said she has been able to “work with the best and brightest business minds in the community on significant issues.”
“It’s been a great job.”