Dec. 25 , 2006

Chamber executive director retires after 14 years

Lisa Blodgett will no longer get calls asking what the theater’s phone number is

By Ryan Gueningsman
Managing Editor

With thoughts of traveling, and snowmobiling on her mind, Delano’s Lisa Blodgett is looking forward to retirement following her 14 years as executive director of the Delano Area Chamber of Commerce.

“When I first started, there were quite a few retail businesses in Delano,” Blodgett said. “But, we’ve lost a lot of them.”

She said that in the past eight or so years, the city has started to see some rejuvenation of those businesses, along with growth in residences and at the industrial park.

Membership at the chamber has stayed consistent, averaging between 100 and 130 members. She said the chamber was started in the early 1970s by a handful of Delano businessmen.

“If they hadn’t done what good things they did, I wouldn’t have had as much fun as I did,” Blodgett said about the association’s founders.

Now, the chamber has five committees that meet on a regular basis to help the work of the chamber get done.

Blodgett said, now, the chamber operates with a “business plan” that helps members to thrive in Delano.

From working out of her home initially, Blodgett has seen the chamber grow and change in many ways. She did not have a computer, or even a dedicated phone line for the chamber at her home.

After moving out of her home office, Blodgett said the chamber had an office on River Street, between Linda’s Photography and Downtown Beauty Shop, and also office space in two different portions of the Granite Works building, which the chamber currently calls home.

She took over the executive director position from Jane Shaffer in the early 1990s after serving on the 1993 comprehensive plan task force for the City of Delano.

“I said ‘I’m not a business person. I don’t even know what a chamber of commerce is,’” Blodgett recalled, when she was approached about the position.

She said, right away, she had a “ton” of questions, and the help of three people who have been mentors for her since she started the job, through her retirement – Dick Grinley of Grinley and Tukua Law Office, John Reuter of John V. Reuter Ltd., certified public accountant, and Steve Gilmer from State Bank Delano.

The two most common requests she received over the course of her tenure were asking her what the phone number of the movie theater is, and requests to send out new resident packets.

Blodgett was born in West Virginia, and grew up on the east coast, before meeting her husband, Jim, in Minnesota. The couple spent time in Chicago and Canada before settling down in Delano.

“Jim worked for General Mills,” Blodgett said. “General Mills is on the west side of the Twin Cities, so we drew half a circle from General Mills to the west and found Delano.”

She said the area’s rolling hills, good soil, and the Crow River all attracted her to the town.

“Another reason we moved to Delano was the schools,” she said, adding that she hopes to continue to travel to visit children Donn, who lives in Wisconsin; Dustin, who lives in Arizona; and Eric, who lives in California.

Now that retirement is upon her, she also hopes to spend some time redecorating their home, and in the summer months, getting into the garden.

“I love working outside,” she said, noting she primarily does vegetable gardening.

Right now, in the winter months, the couple hopes to take several snowmobile trips out west. She said they also enjoy riding bike and fishing.

Blodgett is involved with the General Federated Women’s Club of Delano, the community education advisory board, and said she plans on eventually doing more volunteer work.

As for the future of the chamber, a replacement for Blodgett has already been working with her for some time, learning the ropes. Lisa Koenecke will take over the reins of the chamber now that Blodgett is retired.

“I’m really excited for Lisa, and have really enjoyed working with her,” Blodgett said. “I feel comfortable leaving the chamber in her capable hands.”

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