Board of Directors 2022-2023, elected April 6, 2022
Chair Brenda Whitehead; Past Chair Wendy Parsons; Vice Chair Mishka Balsom; Treasurer Peter Chirico; Secretary Kim Whitehead
Directors: Trevor McPherson, Allan Lafontaine, Jennifer Anderson, Jackie Kavanagh, Rory Ring and Sharon Worsley (OCC ex officio)
Past ChairWendy Parsons
Wendy Parsons joined the Leamington District Chamber of Commerce in October 2003 as Office Support and in May 2014 took over the position of General Manager. Working closely with her staff of one, and the volunteers, the Leamington District Chamber of Commerce has become a recognized advocate in the community for business. The open-door policy allows concerns and questions to be answered while maintaining a pleasant composure when dealing with issues.
Over the last couple of years, Leamington District Chamber of Commerce secured grants with Employment Ontario, Workforce Windsor Essex and the Ontario Trillium Foundation and completed studies on Labour Market Research and a Feasibility Study for an Agri-Business Centre of Excellence. This has helped the Chamber become a strong voice in the business community.
Wendy plays a significant role in the community and embraces new opportunities. She is currently on the board of the Leamington BIA and South Essex Community Council, is an engaged Rotarian, past president and District Outbound Youth Exchange Coordinator. Wendy and her husband have two grown children, one golden retriever, enjoy traveling, concerts both country and rock and roll!
Brenda has been the CEO at the Port Hope and District Chamber of Commerce since January of 2018. Her extensive experience in community development, primarily involved with recreation, economic development and sales, have positioned her well to make impacts in the business sector. She has spent most of her career, and continues to act, as an advocate for enhancing quality of life, primarily for children and youth. She is a recipient of the HIGH FIVE® Child Smile Award for Advocacy, the Parks and Recreation Ontario Trillium Award for commitment to the recreation sector and a Premier’s Award Nominee for College Graduates. Brenda has strong community connections to the Port Hope area and has been described as the driving force for the Chamber’s board of directors and members. She is proud to lead one of the oldest chambers, marking its 145th anniversary in 2019, and will continue to carry on it’s long history of advocacy for businesses, strong partnerships and ensure it meets the Accreditation Standards for years to come.
A very proud mom of two she can be found with her husband at a sporting event, travelling or just chilling with the family – her most favourite thing to do.
Mishka Balsom is the President and CEO of the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce (GNCC), responsible for developing and implementing initiatives that are designed to strengthen the business climate in Niagara and support the economic prosperity of the region. Under her leadership, the GNCC launched a number of new programs, collaborative partnerships not only within the region but throughout Ontario and NY State.
Mishka has positioned the GNCC as one of the region’s most credible and visible voices of business. Determined and passionate, she is positively advancing change through collaboration, adaptability and sound decision-making. In an effort to support the growth of Niagara’s economy, Mishka is actively involved with a high number of community organizations within Niagara, other municipalities across Ontario and internationally, with organizations such as the Buffalo-Niagara Partnership and many more.
Prior to joining the GNCC, Mishka has successfully held senior management positions within the Canadian media industry as well as owned her own communication’s company.
Peter Chirico, of North Bay, Ontario, is the President and CEO of the North Bay & District Chamber of Commerce. Peter assumed the role in April of 2017 and was a Senior Commercial Banker for over 32 years. In 2000, Peter was elected to North Bay City Council as a councillor and served 12 years as an elected official. In 2004, 2008 and 2012, he was elected to the role of Deputy Mayor and Budget Chief for the City of North Bay. After a three-year stint as Managing Director of Community Services for the City of North Bay, Peter semi-retired, until the position as President & CEO of the Chamber became available.
Peter has served on most of the Agencies, Boards & Commission’s within the City of North Bay and has been a volunteer for most of his working career on many worthwhile not-for-profit agencies both locally and provincially. Peter has been married to Peggy for 40 years, with three grown children and six grandchildren.
SecretaryKim Whitehead, General Manager
Since February of this 2017, Kim Whitehead has served as the general manager of the Woodstock and District Chamber of Commerce. After graduating college, Kim’s career started as an advertising sales representative for Woodstock’s local newspaper. She was promoted to advertising manager and spent close to 29 years at the newspaper. After a short period of selling commercial printing, Kim joined a human resource firm as a workforce development manager for the Woodstock office until joining the chamber.
In the past, Kim has been involved in the community by volunteering on the Canadian Cancer Society’s Relay For Life Steering Committee for 11 years, 4 years as co-chair. She has also served on the United Way of Oxford communications committee for several years as well as Campaign Cabinet for a year. Kim has been a member of the chamber of commerce Woodstock most of her career. Kim volunteered on the communications committee for the chamber of commerce before being elected to the board of directors in 2013 and moving onto the executive in 2016. Kim is currently sitting on the Fanshawe College Foundation Board. In her spare time, Kim likes to golf, curl and travel.
Past ChairGail Hundt
Gail Hundt joined the team of the Chatham-Kent Chamber of Commerce in 1995, having previously volunteered as a Director. Noting first-hand the Chamber benefits to business, it sparked interest when the opportunity came for the employed position of President and CEO. Prior to this position, Gail was an employee with National Trust for 18+ years, leaving her management role to lead the CK Chamber of Commerce.
Her involvements have provided input on numerous Municipality of Chatham-Kent initiatives over the years, most recently with the Business License Review Committee, Capitol Theatre RFP Committee and the Municipal Council Compensation Committee. Gail has volunteered with many community action groups including the inaugural 2016 ‘Positivity Day in CK’ Steering Committee. She is a Past Director of the YMCA of Chatham-Kent and was Chair of their Building Committee for their new building and facilities. Gail is a past member and Director with the Rotary Club of Chatham. Gail considers herself a ‘freelance’ volunteer, assisting where she can to fill mutual needs while serving as advocate for the business community.
As a lifelong resident of Chatham-Kent, Gail enjoys and shares in all that her community provides. She truly appreciates the balance of family, friends, work and play which fits right along with her 3 life philosophies… 1. Work hard, and have fun doing so 2. Mistakes are made only by those who try… and, 3. Believe (in yourself, your community, your passions…)
Jackie Kavanagh is the General Manager of the Carleton Place & District Chamber of Commerce. Since coming to the Chamber in 2009, Jackie has worked to build the profile of the Chamber by engaging with community organizations, municipal government, and key stakeholders to initiate programs and develop partnerships to support the local business community. As a Board Member of the Lanark County Tourism Association, she works to bring visibility to the region, and promote collaboration across Lanark Highlands.
Before taking on her role at the Chamber, Jackie spent almost 2 decades in the communications and media fields working in both book publicity and television production.
Jackie was born and raised in Carleton Place, completing her post secondary schooling in Ottawa, at Carleton University (BA Communications) and Algonquin College (Radio and Television Broadcasting). She lives just outside of Carleton Place on Mississippi Lake with her husband and two teenage boys.
Allan Lafontaine is the Executive Director of the Orillia District Chamber of Commerce that represents the City of Orillia, Townships of Oro-Medonte, Severn, Ramara as well as Rama First Nation. The area is also known as “Lake Country”. In his capacity with the ODCC, Allan manages Port of Orillia, Service Ontario, and Festivals such as; Orillia Perch Festival; Spring Boat/Cottage, and Outdoor Show; Waterfront Festival; Port of Orillia Pirate Party; and Santa Claus Parade. Making member services a priority, Allan has engaged Municipal, Provincial and Federal Governments to advocate for businesses in the region.
Allan was the CEO of Tax Recovery Group for 3 decades and worked primarily for Municipalities, First Nations, Non-Profits, Charities, Federal & Provincial Crown Corporations such as Defence Construction Canada, Hibernia, and Straight Crossing Inc. Allan joined the Orillia District Chamber of Commerce in 2018 and was previously on the Board of Directors of the New Hamburg Board of Trade. Currently Allan is President Elect of the Rotary Club of Orillia and an active volunteer in his community.
Trevor McPherson assumed the role of Vice President, Member Services at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce in October 2017. A passionate advocate for the Chamber Network, Trevor leads the OCC’s efforts to provide services aimed at increasing member value – both now and into the future. Trevor also oversees the OCC’s annual Advocacy Day at Queen’s Park, one of the most successful and well-regarded Chamber Network activities of the year.
Prior to his current role, Trevor served as Director, Strategic Initiatives and Governance since joining the OCC in 2006. In this capacity, Trevor managed the Ontario Economic Summit (OES) initiative, and the Economic Leadership Series (ELS) – a program aimed at strengthening chamber-led, community level economic leadership. In this role, Trevor also provided support to the OCC Board of Directors on matters of strategy and governance, serving as the staff resource for signature projects such as the renewal of OCC by-laws and the development of the OCC’s 2017-2019 Strategic Plan. Prior to the OCC, Trevor was employed with the Province of Ontario in the area of international trade development.
A graduate of Queen’s University (Political Studies) and Seneca College (International Business Management), Trevor resides in Burlington with his wife and two school-aged daughters.
Rory Ring, CEO of the Sault Ste Marie Chamber of Commerce came to helm the Sault Chamber February of 2016. Prior to this role he was President & CEO of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce. Rory has led and collaborated on many projects that strived to bring exceptional value to the Chamber membership, Network and community. He sits on the Board of Directors for the Chamber Executives of Ontario, Chamber of Commerce Executives Canada, Sault Ste Marie Downtown Association and the Sault Ste Marie Economic Development Corporation.
Over the past 25 years Rory has been involved in traditional commercial lending, run a $12 million innovation loan fund, connected businesses to private equity and venture capital to support high growth innovation. He has dabbled in entrepreneurship and has always been a strong advocate for small business and private sector led economic prosperity. He has a BA in Political Science from the University Western Ontario and MBA from Queens University.