Suzie Ahlstrand, Executive Vice President of Community Advancement, is leaving the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce at the end of this calendar year. The information about her scheduled departure was shared with the Chamber’s Board of Directors at today’s monthly board meeting.
Ahlstrand said, “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with Chamber members, board and staff to advance important community issues like downtown development and education. The Chamber plays a vital role in working with business leaders, community partners and elected officials to ensure that Wichita has the best possible environment for businesses and families to grow. I’ve developed some lifelong friendships with a very diverse group of people who are devoted to doing what’s best for Wichita. It’s been a special honor to be part of that important process. I’ve enjoyed mentoring and being mentored by Wichitans with different backgrounds who represent different generations, industries and interests.”
2014 Chairman of the Chamber Board of Directors Wayne Chambers said, “Her expertise will be missed. She led our Visioneering Wichita process where thousands of local people set a 20-year vision for the community and has led numerous City-to-City visits that have resulted in important initiatives. One of those initiatives involved working with the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation to develop the downtown master plan.”
Through her 27 years with the Chamber, she has had numerous jobs, including some she performed simultaneously. “Through her entire Chamber career, Suzie has been one of those people that Chamber and community leaders have turned to when we needed someone to work with a group to solve a big challenge or advance an important issue,” Chambers said, “She has taken on a number of different responsibilities and at some point has touched every aspect of the Chamber. As Visioneering Wichita Chairman and then Chamber Chairman, I have enjoyed getting to know and work with Suzie on a variety of community issues and treasure that time and her counsel.”
Ahlstrand began her career as Manager of Membership Services and was quickly promoted to Vice President of Membership Development when she helped recruit and provide services to members and supervised a staff of four with fundraising and volunteer responsibilities. After that, she served as Director of Marketing for the economic development organization the Wichita/Sedgwick County Partnership for Growth (WI/SE) with responsibilities including air service and marketing for business development and recruitment. Starting in 1995, she was Executive Director of the Business Education Success Team (BEST) working to bring various educational entities and businesses together to sustain high expectations in the region’s education and training systems. For three of those years, she was asked to simultaneously serve again as Vice President of Membership.
In 2004, she was named Vice President of Community Advancement where she launched and managed the community’s Visioneering Wichita effort that eventually touched more than 16,000 people. Ahlstrand simultaneously served as Interim President of the Chamber and GWEDC in 2011. She continued serving as Interim President of GWEDC until 2012, until the search for a new GWEDC president was completed.
In 2012, she was named Executive Vice President of Community Advancement and has been instrumental in working with Jeff Fluhr and other partners to develop Project Downtown, the master plan for Wichita’s downtown. She also led nine City-to-City visits, helped launch the Chamber’s Leadership Council and worked with the Business and Education Alliance. In addition, she serves as the resident agent for the Wichita Educational Foundation, an affiliate organization housed at the Chamber.
Chamber President Gary Plummer said, “I’ve always appreciated her resourcefulness and willingness to lead in so many important areas of the Chamber, including membership, fundraising, economic development and community advancement. The Chamber will continue to benefit immensely from the relationships she’s developed and fostered with our members, elected officials and community partners.”
Rather than retiring, Ahlstrand plans to re-charge during a short sabbatical and then redirect her talents and experience in the next phase of her career. Ahlstrand said, “I have a passion for Wichita and its people, and I look forward to spending time with family over the holidays before determining what’s next in this journey, working to advance our community,” Ahlstrand said.
That commitment can be seen in Ahlstrand’s service to the community before her Chamber career. She was a founding member of Botanica – the Wichita Gardens, Ronald McDonald Houses, the inaugural Zoobilee and the parent support organization for Wichita Collegiate School. She was also president of the Junior League of Wichita and the Sedgwick County Medical Auxiliary boards of directors. In addition she has served and continues to serve on multiple community boards.
A reception honoring Ahlstrand is planned for early next year.