Kenai chamber transitions to new director

Carol Bannock’s last day at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce will be July 4.

The annual July Fourth celebration planned by Kenai’s Chamber of Commerce will commemorate more than just America’s independence this year. It will also mark the official change in executive directors for the chamber.

Independence Day will be the day Carol Bannock, the current executive director, will officially hand over the reins to incoming Executive Director Johna Beech.

Planning the celebration will be Beech’s first duty for the new job. Bannock said the transition would happen this week, with Beech providing Bannock with direction throughout the planning process.

“I’ll be taking orders from her,” Bannock said.

Bannock said one of her main accomplishments in her tenure came while planning the 2010 Fourth of July celebration.

While trying to communicate a myriad of details without sending hundreds of postcards or emails, she noticed how corporations were using Facebook to communicate nationwide.

And then she realized that the social media site answered the question “how do we get the message to the public?” Since then, the chamber has garnered a following of more than 300 users, she said.

Bannock said her accomplishments as director include building the chamber’s partnerships with local organizations, including the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center, and the city of Kenai.

Kenai Mayor Pat Porter said she has enjoyed working with Bannock on a variety of projects, and has known her personally for many years. Porter described her colleague as someone who loves the city and is easy to work with.

“She’s been a real asset,” Porter said.

The duo, plus KVCC Executive Director Natasha Ala, worked together earlier this year on a Kenai display for the Innagural Gala held in honor of Gov. Sean Parnell at the Peninsula Center Mall in January. They got along so well, Porter said, that they kept working together after that project was finished.

“We meet once a month now,” Porter said.

The three talk about their common goal of advancing Kenai, Porter said, and are now all part of the All-America team.

“All three of our goals are the same thing,” she said.

Bannock said that Beech’s biggest challenge will be to continue to draw in the business community and show them that the Kenai chamber is the premier networking opportunity in the city, she said.

“It’s a happening place,” Bannock said. “To communicate that to the businesses that don’t already know that is going to be her biggest challenge.”

Bannock isn’t going far. She will be doing marketing and community relations for Kristie Babcock’s State Farm office. That position will be less public, but draw on her experience at the chamber.

“There will be some aspects that will be similar,” Bannock said.

And she’ll still be part of Kenai.

“She’s staying here and she’s still going to love the city of Kenai,” Porter said.

Bannock agreed.

“It has been an honor,” she said, choking up over the phone on Monday afternoon. “I love Kenai, I love the Kenai chamber and I am definitely not retiring from the Kenai chamber. I will still be around.”

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