Hundt set to retire June 27

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After 28 years at the helm of the Chatham-Kent Chamber of Commerce, Gail Hundt is to retire later this month. In fact, her husband is set to retire the same day as well.

By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

On June 27, Gail Hundt will mark a watershed moment.

On that date, the long-time president and CEO of the Chatham-Kent Chamber of Commerce will retire, and if all goes according to plan, her husband Jim will step away from his engineering career the same day.

“Rather than retire at different times, we’re retiring at the exact same time,” Hundt recently told The Chatham Voice, noting the couple plans to make the most of their new-found freedom.

Hanging out with three grandkids and helping out with her elderly parents are top priorities. Cycling, hiking and boating are also on the agenda, as is travelling to Australia where her husband has family.

Hundt, who has served with the chamber for just over 28 years, said she’s has witnessed sweeping change since 1995.

When the former bank manager started with the chamber, technology was in its infancy.

“It was the days of faxes and we were just getting computers,” said Hundt. “The first thing I did when I came to the chamber was buy a computer and my own chair.”

Navigating the Internet’s influence on the business community has been a constant through the years, Hundt said, and more change is coming as technology evolves.

“We’re on the cusp of AI (Artificial Intelligence) which is going to change things again,” she said, noting that can be both a “blessing and a curse.”

But when it comes to the greatest challenge she faced on the job, Hundt said manoeuvring through the COVID-19 pandemic tops the list.

“On the turn of a dime, the world changed,” she said, noting “endless” Zoom meetings with member businesses, other Ontario chambers and officials from all levels of government became the new norm.

“Everyone had to work through a crisis no one had planned for or encountered before,” she said.

“Change was made,” Hundt explained, with agencies and governments subsidizing and supporting business “the best we could.

“We learned a lot about how you can do business differently and efficiently,” she added, as remote and hybrid work practices became acceptable.

Hundt hired on with the chamber just prior to Chatham-Kent’s amalgamation in 1998 – a period that transformed the municipality.

Relationships were – and remain – key, she stressed.

“From an advocacy point of view, when we met with our elected officials, it went from being Chatham to Chatham-Kent,” Hundt said. “Working with our council, working with our MPs and MPPs, it changed dramatically to the benefit of most.

“The majority of what our members and our community sees is the tip of the iceberg. What is happening behind the scenes is the advocacy, the relationship building and the appreciation of having the same goals as our community and our elected officials,” Hundt said, while at the same time respecting there may be a difference of opinion of how to get there.

Under Hundt’s leadership, the C-K chamber has won several awards and she has personally been chosen by her peers as the winner of the James Gordon Carnegie Memorial Award for her role as a mentor and innovative business leader.

Currently, the C-K Chamber has 350 members. The board has 15 directors who are elected annually.

“We have amazing people and volunteers who work hard for the betterment and prosperity of the community,” Hundt said. “There are so many people who want to do good things for us and it’s often behind the scenes. They’re not looking for credit, they’re looking to make a difference.”

Rory Ring has been chosen to succeed Hundt.

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