By ADAM ATKINSON
CANTON -- When Canton Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sally Hill retires Dec. 22, she has travel and spending time with her grandchildren in mind eventually.
First, however, she and her husband are already planning two months of surfside vacation in South Carolina starting Dec. 28th.
“My husband (John) said ‘Let’s get you of out of town, otherwise you will be right there involved,’” said Hill.
The director admitted that he is probably right.
On Thursday morning, Hill was shuffling papers in her office in the former jury room of Canton court in the municipal building. A new kayak sat along a wall, soon to be raffled off to raise money for the chamber, while the phone rang in the background during this interview. All the marks of a busy office.
Hill, employed officially as a part-time employee, by all accounts of most anyone you talk to in Canton who know her, ultimately works full-time, and at a variety of hours covering events, meetings and other activities.
The director first took over the helm of the organization in July of 1997. At that time, the office handled business memberships, and organized Canton Winterfest and half of the county Dairy Princess Festival. Now, 20 years later, with her retirement set to begin Dec. 22, the chamber’s activities have grown to encompass organization of the community’s annual Big Wheel Races, the entire county Dairy Princess Parade and Festival (possibly the biggest draw for people of any of the chamber events, said Hill), Canton Winterfest, Phantoms in the Park, and the townwide sales.
In addition, the organization works with several other entities, including the colleges, on other activities throughout the year. “I really do work full time, but its from my heart,” Hill said.
Hill said even with the chamber’s limited budget of $48,000, the organization puts together as many or more events to bring people into its community to do business as other chambers of commerce in the region.
With work on the Winterfest already underway, Hill is currently trying to pull as many of the strings together for that event before her last day Dec. 22, when the new director will officially take over. Organizing donations and the raffle, scheduling speakers, and choosing the menu of the annual dinner at Eben Holden at St. Lawrence University are all handled in the one-person office.
“The work is here but the funding is not here,” she said.
Often the director finds herself working on four events simultaneously. The job is a balancing act, said Hill, which requires organizational ability.
“We are very proud of what we’ve done with our half days,” said Hill.
In addition to handling the current workload, the new director will be called upon to increase business membership and enhance the chamber’s technology-based marketing and business with online social media and other tools, said Hill.
“Trying to get new businesses is not always an easy thing,” Hill said.
“I’m kind of old hat,” she said. “But I think we’ve marketed quite a bit. We do what we can with what we have.”
The chamber receives operating revenue from the village and town, much like other chambers in the North Country, but makes up the rest of its revenues from auctions and raffles, and membership dues.
The chamber board is currently advertising on the website for a new part-time director (http://www.cantonnewyork.us/chamber/), but earlier this summer the organization had requested additional funding from the town and village boards to fund a full-time position in the office. That request was denied.
Given the workload, the new part-time director taking over in December will need a knack for organization and the ability to multi-task said Hill.
“I’m a very hands-on person. I like to hit schedules, I like to hit deadlines,” Hill said. “You’ve got to be able to handle the events. It’s details. You have to be able to handle the details.”
“There is just so much more,” said Hill, referring to the amount of work involved at the office these days.
“But I’m going to miss it immensely,” she said.
“It’s a lot of outside work,” the director said. Set-up for events, fairs and other community gatherings where the chamber fields a presence, in addition to the chamber’s actual events, requires the director to be doing a fair share of physical work in addition to the legwork back at the office.
Hill said a few resumes have been received by the office thus far, but the chamber would like to receive more before the Oct. 20 deadline to apply. The chamber has budgeted to allow the new director to start Dec. 1 to work with Hill for a few weeks prior to her departure to get acclimated.
Looking back over her career running the office, the executive director saluted all of the businesses for standing by the chamber, and credited the chamber boards she worked with over her tenure, especially noting the efforts of the current board.
“We have a wonderful board,” said Hill, “This one is a working board.”
She also pointed to the family support she has received over the years, as well as a circle of “very, good friends” who often volunteer to assist her with various efforts. “I couldn’t do it without my husband John,” said Hill. “I thank my husband. I always get teary talking about him because he’s always been there.”
“I have a real love for the job,” she said. “We’ve grown so much. It’s hard to say goodbye to something you’ve been in for 20 years.”
She said the new person who takes over the spot will have an interesting adventure moving forward.