Since taking the position of manager of the Cranbrook and District Chamber of Commerce in August 1983, Karin Penner has been the driving force behind the local business organization.
But this December, after 31 years in the position, Penner will retire and hand over the reins of the Chamber.
President Dave Butler announced Penner’s retirement on Monday, June 30, a week after Cranbrook’s successful 50th celebration of Sam Steele Days.
“I speak for every Chamber President over the past three decades when I say that working with Karin is – and has been – a true honour and privilege,” said Butler in a press release..
“Karin’s dedication to the Chamber, to Chamber staff and volunteers, to area businesses and to the entire community is unparalleled,” he said. “Her deep understanding of the inner workings of both the Chamber and Cranbrook has been a steadying factor through many years of change … changing faces on the Chamber Board, changing elected officials and community issues, and an ever-changing economy.”
Over the course of her career, Penner has worked with a long list of Chamber Presidents and Directors and she has been active in the BC Chamber Executives Association. In 1997, Karin was honoured by her Chamber colleagues around BC when she was presented with the Gerry Frederick Memorial Executive of the Year Award. And in 2011, the Cranbrook and District Chamber of Commerce was named “Chamber of the Year” by the BC Chamber of Commerce.
Karin’s 30 years of inspiring community contributions were celebrated last December in a special Chamber luncheon with a touching tribute by Chamber administrative assistant Laura Kennedy and outgoing president Mike Adams.
Kennedy said that over Penner’s 30 years in the manager position, the Chamber’s membership grew from less than a hundred to 500.
“In the beginning I would say, okay, we aren’t going to make payroll, Karin, would you go out and get some members? And she did,” said Kennedy.
Since she began working at the Chamber, Penner has been instrumental in bringing the BC Summer Games to Cranbrook, bringing about the annual Awesome Auction, now in its 18th year, and taken part in committees for the Cranbrook centennial celebration, the Hockeyville pitch, and participated in the Olympic Torch and Rick Hansen Man in Motion 25th anniversary relays.
“She is well known throughout the B.C. Chamber world. She has been president of the B.C. Chamber executives. Many people throughout the B.C. chamber look to Karin for her words of wisdom,” said Adams.
Kennedy said that the Chamber’s staff and volunteers share a total of more than 100 years of service to the organization. They are a family, she went on.
“In all of the letters of congratulations I have received for Karin there is not one that doesn’t talk about her dedication to the Chamber, her love of Cranbrook and her willingness to get involved to make our community a better place to live. Cranbrook is a better place because you are in it,” said Kennedy.
In accepting the tribute, Penner pointed back to the many people she works closely with.
“I have been blessed and you are part of those blessings,” she said. “It’s been a journey that I would never have dreamed would be so rewarding, so much fun, and something I loved so dearly.”
Cranbrook council also honoured Penner’s 30-year anniversary at its January 20 city council meeting.
Before her departure, Penner will continue to work with the Chamber board to make it even more relevant to local businesses, with many new networking and professional development opportunities coming on-stream.
“Karin will leave behind very big shoes to fill,” said Butler. “The Chamber’s Executive Committee, working with Karin, has already begun planning to fill those shoes. We’ll have more information available soon on what will be a very exciting opportunity for an individual to take on a key leadership role in our community, building on Karin’s legacy.”