After nearly 10 years with the Washington Area Chamber of Commerce, Mark Wessels plans to retire after the first of the year.
Wessels, 65, was hired as tourism director in April 2005, a position he held until being named Chamber president/CEO in March of 2008.
“It’s been a lot of fun and I really love the job, but I think I’m ready to enjoy retirement,” he told The Missourian. “My wife and I really want to travel and do some other things.”
Wessels said he informed Joe Schneider, Chamber board chairman, of his decision last week and told his staff Thursday. An email also was sent out to the entire Chamber board of directors.
“I’m not rushing out the door by any means and I don’t have a drop dead date on when I want to leave,” he said. “I wanted to give the board plenty of time to plan and search for a replacement, and of course I have a lot of things I still want to get done here.
“Right now our focus is on the Fair and completion of our new main stage and event center, all of which will keep us very busy in the weeks ahead,” he added.
The Washington Town and Country Fair is a division of the Chamber. The Fair opens Aug. 1 and runs through Aug. 5.
Wessels said a search committee will be established sometime after the Fair ends.
“I’ve told the board I will stay and help through the transition, whatever is needed,” he said. “It’s really been a tough decision because I love what I do and being involved with the community. I always tell people I get paid to do what all of them volunteer to do.
“I also told my staff they’ve made it easy because they do such a great job,” he added.
Schneider said Wessels has been an “excellent” president.
“Mark is very enthusiastic and dedicated to making Washington continue to be a wonderful place to work and raise a family,” Schneider said. “He takes great pride in his staff and is always giving credit to others for their hard work. He not only is a fine manager, he is also a hard worker. Anytime there is a task to be done, Mark is there with his sleeves rolled up working side by side with others.”
Schneider said Wessels often asks for opinions on a given project or task, and never tries to force his views or opinions on anyone.
“He has established a great rapport with the city, Downtown Washington Inc., the Fair Board and the Chamber board and staff,” Schneider said. “He is always eager to be of assistance wherever he can. He may be retiring, but I know we will continue to see Mark working for the good of our community.”
The Chamber president/CEO is responsible for the overall operation of the Chamber, as well as the license office, and serves as the liaison to the Washington Town and Country Fair Board. Washington’s tourism director as well as Fair coordinators also report to the president.
This is not Wessels’ first retirement. He retired from the Washington School District in 2000 after 30 years in education. He served as principal of Washington Middle School for many years. After he left the school district he worked three years for Lindenwood University at the Daniel Boone Home.