Caillier steps into Chamber’s top job

Mark Caillier, a former Keizer city councilor and omnipresent Keizer volunteer, will lead the Keizer Chamber after the departure of Danielle Bethell.

Mark Caillier once joked that becoming Keizer’s First Citizen was a gateway to additional service to the city and its residents.

The former city councilor, member of several city committees, current Rotary Club of Keizer member, past Rotary president and, of course, First Citizen is now the interim executive director of the Keizer Chamber of Commerce.

“It was one of those things where I came in to meet with the board to get more information and then they were congratulating me on accepting the position,” said Caillier. In Keizer parlance, this is known as being “voluntold”

Danielle Bethell, the former director, resigned from the role to take on a new full-time job as a Marion County commissioner. Bethell was elected to the office in November. Caillier’s commitment is part-time.

Caillier is putting a focus on the “interim” in interim director. He was already drafting a schedule to search for a permanent replacement.

“I think it’s a job that will have local and regional interest, but I think we might even have interest from the multi-state area if we try,” Caillier said. He’s hoping to have the next director hired within six months, but the COVID-19 pandemic may create delays.

In the meantime, members of the chamber and its board are still making plans for some of the regular annual events the Chamber sponsors, such as the annual First Citizen Banquet, which would normally take place this month, and KeizerFEST in May.

It’s not as simple as having a plan and pulling the trigger on it as soon as a pathway opens up.

“Both events take hundreds of hours to plan and that depends on volunteers,” Caillier said. First Citizen may end up being a virtual affair, but there’s no real way to pull off 1,000 people in a concert tent safely while the pandemic rages.

“The good thing is that we are operating on a budget that doesn’t require either event to happen this year and that is thanks to Danielle,” Caillier said.

In terms of budget, membership has fallen during the pandemic, but Caillier is hopeful the chamber will qualify for a Payroll Protection Loan as part of the new COVID-19 relief package passed before Christmas. He also hopes that some of the non-profit members of the Chamber will also qualify. Non-profits might even qualify for retroactive benefits from the first COVID relief package.

Despite the pandemic, Chamber members have kept a weekly meeting schedule. Aside from networking, education regarding pandemic guidelines and funding relief opportunities is a new priority.

Caillier, who spent 29 years as a police officer, is no stranger to business affairs. After retiring from public safety, he worked as a consultant to businesses, agencies and vendor implementing new public safety technology.

He said that experience gave him understanding of some of the daily business struggles, but he sees the role of chamber director as more closely related to his work as a community leader.

“There is the day-to-day aspect of the job, but one of the director’s biggest roles is as a volunteer recruiter and coordinator, those are things I am definitely familiar with through my work with Rotary and as a Keizer city councilor,” Caillier said.

Caillier lives in Keizer with his wife Kristen.