Thursday, 19 October 2017 15:30

Email details chamber president's decision to resign

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An email sent to members of the Roanoke Valley Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors details the reasons the organization’s president decided to step down.

The chamber sent out a press release on the matter dated Wednesday, but a letter Jim Trzinski sent to the board gives more detail to the reasoning behind his decision to step down.

Trzinski came onboard as chamber president in March. He tendered his resignation Wednesday, according to the statement by Charles Guerry, chair of the chamber board.

“In this short time Jim has demonstrated his ability to advocate for business, build partnerships and drive the chamber of commerce forward,” the statement said. “He has brought a lot of positive energy to the Roanoke Valley and we are sorry to see him go.”

Guerry credited Trzinski with forming the Roanoke Area Networking Team and the Young Professionals Network.

He also enhanced the chamber’s web and social media presence.

“I appreciate the opportunities I have been given during my time with the chamber of commerce,” Trzinski said in the statement. “I will treasure all of the friendships and business relationships that I have gained during my time here.”

In an email to the chamber of board of directors, which was obtained today by, Trzinski details the reasons why he decided to resign.

The subject line of the email he sent was tagged A Heavy Heart and begins with him saying, “The past couple of weeks have been very difficult for me at the Chamber. I have not gotten a lot of sleep and it is starting to take a toll on my health and my marriage.

“As I have shared with you over the past couple of months, the Chamber has been in a difficult financial situation. This financial situation has been ongoing, I am told, for the past number of years. The Chamber has been kicking the financial problem can down the road and we have finally caught up with it.”

This week, he wrote, “We will not be able to meet payroll and pay our bills. The Executive Committee thought that we could use a line of credit to get us through, but nobody renewed the line of credit last year and it expired. CCB Bank will not extend an unsecured line of credit to us at this point because of our financial situation.”

Trzinski said he tried to cut expenses in any way he could. “We eliminated all of the employee credit cards, we eliminated our monthly beverage contribution to the Business After Hours and I have not renewed any state or national Chamber of Commerce memberships to name a few.”  

To remedy the situation, he wrote, “The only way that I see out of this predicament is to release employees to cut the expenses even further.  Being I am the only employee that does not have a home mortgage or a family in Roanoke Rapids, I see my departure is the way to save the most amount of money.”

He said the chamber owes him close to $2,500 and with this week's payroll, it will be more than $4,000. “My wife is not happy that I am working and incurring this shortfall in reimbursements.  This amount is a culmination of my moving expense balance and a car allowance balance for over three months.”  

He said in his effort to save the organization money, he hasn’t turned in any meal receipts, very limited fuel receipts and has not taken a health and dental insurance policy, which he said was promised him in his initial agreement, because it surpassed the allotment for the health insurance reimbursement.

He said he uncovered some "situations after I arrived that were not made known to me when I accepted the position.”

He said a $10,000 credit card debt, multiple past due accounts, a $3,000 debt to the chamber foundation, loans on existing savings accounts were just some of the situations that were not brought to the forefront before he was hired. “These situations have all added to the dismal financial situation that we find ourselves in.”

Trzinski said he has tried to bring back excitement to the chamber by promoting new programs such as networking and young professionals to name a few. “I have solicited new businesses and past chamber members to start new memberships or renew memberships that had expired.   Along with the staff, we have also updated our social media and website presence. I have enjoyed working with the Chamber member businesses and I do feel I have brought new excitement to the Chamber.”

Trzinski said he believed, “ … the Chamber has been living outside of its means for a number of years and now is a serious time for the Chamber's ultimate existence. There are difficult decisions that will have to be made by the Board of Directors to insure the longevity of the Chamber of Commerce.”

Guerry this afternoon said the board has discovered no malfeasance within the books. “Everything was handled appropriately. The chamber has been operating on a very tight budget.”

The vital issue is fundraising, Guerry said. While tourism has an occupancy tax, the chamber’s budget relies on membership and fundraising.

The board doesn’t have immediate plans to name an interim president, Guerry said, and believes the current staff will be able to do the job. He said the board will be looking at how to improve the budget situation. “It’s something we’re going to address.”

Guerry said the chamber remains a vital part of the community. “Small business is too vital. We have to keep moving forward.”

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