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Chamber's new chief likes to stay busy

Chris Blasius starts Monday, March 4, as the River Falls Chamber of Commerce and Tourism's new chief executive officer. <i>Submitted photo</i>

After about two months of searching, the River Falls Chamber of Commerce and Tourism announced to its membership via email Friday, Feb. 15 that Chris Blasius had been picked to lead the organization.

Blasius said she received the news a few hours before that when she went to the chamber office for an event. There had been interviews and discussions, but she'd heard nothing official.

"I kind of learned as I walked in the door for Chamber coffee," Blasius said about when she knew she'd gotten the job.

She begins leading the chamber March 4 and works her last day as the administrative and communication coordinator for River Falls Municipal Utility Feb. 27.

Blasius has worked at the utility for 12 years and said she'll miss the job, including the leadership and mentorship of City Administrator Scot Simpson.

She says there have been big and beneficial changes within the city during recent years.

"It was a really difficult decision to leave the city because there are so many good things going on," she said.

The new chamber CEO ultimately saw the new job as a 'dream opportunity.' Blasius has served as the volunteer local chairperson or co-chairperson of the American Cancer Society's annual Relay for Life since 2005.

She enjoys that work and recalls thinking once: "Wow, it would be great to do something like this as a career."

Asked what she thinks stood out to the Chamber's CEO selection committee, Blasius mentions her work organizing Relay for Life since 2005 and for the past few years, the Halloween-themed Business Expo held in late fall. She also helps with other community events as a member and supporter.

Some of Blasius' work at the utility parallels what she'll be doing with the chamber.

She's organized customer-appreciation and other types of public events, planned exhibit and display opportunities and generally represented the utility. She also holds a bachelor's degree in business administration from UW-River Falls.

The new chamber CEO realizes she'll "hit the ground running" since three major events happen soon: The St. Patrick's Day bed races and downtown celebration March 17, the Bluegrass Music Festival starting April 5-7 and the Pierce County Relay for Life in River Falls April 5-6.

"I like that though," she says about the hectic horizon, "I like to stay busy."

Blasius is still involved with the Relay fundraiser to beat cancer but says she will be working to transition those duties to other capable event chairs and co-chairs.

The new chamber CEO says she and other planners will also be thinking about the 'big picture' of the city's big, annual, summertime community event.

"River Falls Days is an area we'd like to focus on to see if there are ways to increase participation," she said.

The chamber leader said her goals include getting to know all the members of the chamber and business community better.

Blasius moved to River Falls in 1999 with husband Russ, who works at WESTconsin Credit Union; daughter Emily, who's attending UW-Stout; and son Reed, who goes to River Falls High School.

She said in its early years, her family moved to a number of different communities, but River Falls stands out among them, "This is the first place where we've felt it is 'home' and somewhere we want to stay."

Chamber check-in

Board President Morrissette said the chamber received 25 applications for the job and interviewed six candidates.

The board and selection committee, both comprised of chamber members, worked cooperatively to name the six finalists.

The selection committee charged with helping find the Chamber's next CEO included a mix of members and past board chairs and members: Melissa Wilson, Dustin Hanson, Lisa Moody, Steve Leitch, Bill Rasmussen, and Morrissette.

Asked to give the main reasons why Blasius was selected, Morrissette said: "During the interview process, it became clear that Chris is the right person for the job. The answers she gave to the questions reinforced her experience and knowledge of the community.

"Chris' leadership on the Relay for Life event and the Business Expo gave her the experience to manage a volunteer organization with success."