Zephyrhills native Melonie Monson has been named as the new executive director for the Greater Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce.
She was appointed to the post on Feb. 16 and will begin work on Feb. 29.
She replaces Rod Mayhew, who held the job about three months before stepping down in January.
Monson, 54, spent the past year working as assistant city clerk for the city of Zephyrhills.
The Zephyrhills High graduate previously was the chamber’s member services coordinator for about a year, where she worked alongside former chamber director Vonnie Mikkelsen.
Mikkelsen left the position in July 2015 to take on a similar role in Springfield, Oregon.
Monson stood out during the hiring process because she’s a local resident, is familiar with the inner workings of the city and is a former chamber employee, said Tim Linville, chamber president and search committee chairman.
Another bonus for the selection committee was Monson’s business experience, Linville said. She owned and operated a hair salon business in Utah for more than 30 years.
Her background gives her perspective that will help in her new role, the chamber president said, noting, “our chamber is made up of mostly small business owners, so that makes it easier to understand their concerns.”
Linville said Monson’s familiarity with the city’s business and political leaders makes her an ideal fit for the position.
“Her starting point is so much quicker as compared to if we hired someone from the outside, where it would take six months to a year to get somewhat familiar with who the different players are and understand the (city’s) makeup,” he explained.
“We really haven’t had an official leader for about nine months. It’s about…making sure things are running correctly and then…make sure we’re on our strategic plan which we have set up for March.”
Monson, who’s been living in Zephyrhills for the past five years, said she’s “excited to get back in the community and make a difference.”
One of Monson’s main objectives is to facilitate the development of downtown Zephyrhills.
“The nice thing about me being over here at the city for the last several months is I now see the vision the city has, and the direction they’re trying to go with form-based code and “reimagine” Gall Boulevard. I also understand the direction the CRA (Community Redevelopment Agency) is going in our downtown corridor… so I really think we can work together and find some businesses that will do great here,” Monson explained.
“The Zephyrhills Brewing Co., is going to be coming downtown. I’d love to be in on that, and help find a couple other businesses to come in and bring more people downtown,” she said.
Monson acknowledged that it will be a “bit of an adjustment” to go from being a member on the chamber’s staff, to assuming the leadership role.
“There’s always a challenge when you were working with people side-by-side and then you go back in, and now you’re over them,” Monson said. “But the (staff) is amazing, and we work well together, so I don’t anticipate too much of a challenge.
“I’m not sure if any confidence has been lost with things being changed so quickly, so I’ll watch for that and see if that needs to be addressed when I get in there,” she said.
In addition to her own ideas, Monson wants to garner feedback from fellow chamber employees on additional programming.
“It’s a team effort. It’s not a one-person job,” she said. “We all have to work together with the same type of goals.”
When she worked as the chamber’s membership services coordinator, Monson said she “learned a lot” from Mikkelsen about the duties of the executive director position.
“I learned how she interacted with people…and understood that relationships are far more important than anything monetary. …Most of the executive director position is being out there in the community and seeing what’s needed,” Monson explained.
“I learned a lot about understanding the role of a nonprofit, which was new to me and a little bit different,” she said.
Monson will make her own daily agenda.
Her first plans in office include completing the new chamber directory and locking in a permanent venue for the chamber’s annual Pigz in Z’Hills BBQ and Blues Festival.
Published February 24, 2016