Carrie Rengers

Lon Smith out as WIBA president; position now part-time

Lon Smith became president of the Wichita Independent Business Association on Oct. 1. He’s now left the organization, but he won’t say why. Nor will the organization.
Lon Smith became president of the Wichita Independent Business Association on Oct. 1. He’s now left the organization, but he won’t say why. Nor will the organization. The Wichita Eagle

Seven months after hiring Lon Smith as its president, the Wichita Independent Business Association has decided to make the position part-time.

Board members praised Smith’s work, but it doesn’t sound like he was offered the job.

“It doesn’t matter whether they offered me that position or not,” Smith says. “I wouldn’t have accepted it. I’m a guy who needs a full-time job.”

In the past few years, WIBA’s membership dropped from 1,100 to about 350 people. The organization was founded as a way for businesses to get good insurance rates together, but board vice chair Chad Stafford says that isn’t needed anymore.

“The executive committee, in reviewing … finances and budgets, made the decision that we were on the right path, but we needed to be cost conscious,” says Stafford, who also is president of Occidental Management.

Board president Emily Compton, who also is president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Kansas, won’t say how much the full-time WIBA president’s position paid. She says the overall budget is about $300,000 to $400,000.

“It’s not a lot,” Compton said.

Compton says the group considered disbanding WIBA but decided against it.

“We have a lot of members who appreciate having … a more intimate relationship and better networking opportunities than maybe another business organization could offer them.”

Stafford says it’s a chance for business owners to compare notes and seek advice from each other.

“You are sitting next to decision makers,” he says. “WIBA is very strong with that connection.”

There are three full-time and one part-time staff members at WIBA.

Ray Frederick Jr., president of Frederick Plumbing and Heating, will be the interim president of WIBA as he was before Smith was hired.

Smith calls his departure “an amicable separation” and says he has three possibilities for other employment.

“Some of that was already in process.”

Smith won’t say if that means he already was looking for a job.

“I know I’m being cryptic, but I’m just going to say that some of that was already in process.”

Smith won’t answer other questions about his time at WIBA or say whether he thinks the organization still needs a full-time leader.

“They’ll have to figure out what to do. … It’s not my problem anymore.”

Carrie Rengers: 316-268-6340, @CarrieRengers

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