Embracing Change in a World of ‘What’s Next?’

Lorraine Clarno, ACE
Lorraine Clarno, ACE

I’ve gotten used to waking up each morning and asking myself “What’s Next?” as I drink my coffee and prepare for the day. The chamber world has always been about leading forward, preparing yourself and your team to see just enough ahead to successfully deliver on relevancy, and be nimble and flexible enough to adapt on a dime. Today it seems like we have to do all three every day and with added vigor.

My tank was filled at our recent W.A.C.E. Conference. What an amazing three days of jam-packed quality education and inspiration. Congratulations to this year’s conference chair, Whitney Diver McEvoy of the Yountville (CA) Chamber, and her remarkable team. With over 400 participants, 128 of which were first-time attendees, there was something for everyone. The highest rated conference of all time!


2023 will be a year of transition, change, and transformation for W.A.C.E. With Dave Kilby stepping out to retire and Nick Ortiz stepping in to lead our charge, I believe that we have the opportunity and the leadership in place to build on our strong foundation and past success. We can honor our past while defining what is needed for the future. Our industry is facing major headwinds when we look at impending retirements combined with the new challenges our organizations face. Addressing our talent pipeline is a priority. Finding ways through W.A.C.E and our own chambers to identify, train and retain top talent must be on our short list.

With these changes for 2023, it is important to focus on what we do well and to make it better and stronger. To that end, W.A.C.E. will not be adding a lot of new “to-do’s” this year, with one exception. Last year, eight board members piloted PEER groups of 8–10 CEOs through two or three virtual meetings with great success. Please complete the survey you will receive shortly if you would like to be in a PEER group for 2023. Our goal is to accommodate all that are interested. We will make sure the groups are diverse from size of chamber to geographic location, program interest and more. Our Emerging Leaders Council will also form PEER groups for all chamber staff that are interested.

Program Priorities

Ongoing program priorities will be to execute the following:

• Mike Neal, Tulsa (OK) Regional Chamber, is ready to deliver a top-notch Roundtable in Denver on May 11th focused on workforce and advocacy best practices.

• Whitney Diver McEvoy, Yountville (CA) Chamber, will lead the design and development of this year’s Academy-Plus to be held in August in conjunction with Academy.

• Talia Hart, Healdsburg (CA) Chamber will lead our fall webinar series.

• Patrick Ellis, ACE, Murrieta/Wildomar (CA) Chamber, will lead the conference committee to set us up for our 100th birthday celebration in Orange County, CA, home of Disneyland, for our 2024 conference.

• John Brewer, Billings (MT) Chamber, will work with a team to grow W.A.C.E. membership to ensure we are reaching as many chamber professionals as possible with our outstanding education and resource tools.

• Jeremy Harris, ACE, Long Beach Area (CA) Chamber, will oversee the launch of our formal PEER groups for 2023.

I am honored to serve as your board chair for this exciting year of transition and committed to delivering on our goals and priorities. Kindness and belonging are more important than ever in this “what’s next” environment. If you are new to the chamber world, welcome! You are surrounded by fellow colleagues vested in your success and ready to make you an integral part of our W.A.C.E. community.

Lorraine Clarno, ACE, is president/CEO of the Discover Kalispell (MT) Chamber and 2023–2024 chair of the board of W.A.C.E.