Call it kismet. Somehow, the tumblers all clicked into place and the stars aligned, so much so that Sheri Heiney feels her new position as president and CEO of the Prescott Chamber of Commerce was meant to be.
“We have family in the Sedona area and it’s been our dream to move out West,” she said. “We have been visiting here for 25 years and love it.”
It was “just by the grace” that she noticed a position available in the Prescott Chamber in an online trade magazine.
“I told my husband ‘I’m going to throw my hat in there,’” she said. “I think it was just meant to be.”
Heiney beat out candidates from across the country, said Sanford Cohen, who headed the nationwide search for the new president and CEO to take over when David Maurer retired after more than 13 years as the Chamber leader.
“She was far and away the top choice of the board,” Cohen said. “Just her professionalism, her depth of experience and the ability to field questions answered showed us she was well-schooled in everything that a chamber of commerce does.”
Heiney was president of the Rochester, Michigan chamber for 16 years.
Cohen said it did not hurt that she is from his home state. “There is something to be said for the Midwestern work ethic. She hit the ground running with the staff and a set of goals. It is going to be a very exciting and optimistic year for Prescott. She has earned many awards for her work.”
During her leadership, the Rochester Regional Chamber was recognized in 2008 as the Outstanding Chamber of the Year in Michigan, and was honored as runner-up in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2014. Heiney was also named the Michigan Chamber Professional of the Year for 2011 and 2014. The Rochester Regional Chamber was also named Non-Profit of the Year by Automation Alley in 2009.
Heiney and her husband, John, took their time driving West. They left Michigan on Dec. 23, arrived on Dec. 26 and found a place to live.
“On Friday, we were moving in,” she said. “This is the first time I have lived out of state.”
The couple has four children, ages 26, 24, 22 and 21. “They are independent and are following their dreams, which allows us to follow ours,” she said. “We are rediscovering each other after the kids left the house. It is really cool.”
They also have two spoiled Shih Tzus, Bella and Bailey. And John has accepted the position of community outreach manager for the City of Prescott.
“What is really special about Prescott is the tourism. Every time I am in the lobby of the visitors center, it is always packed,” she said.
The chamber she left has 1,000 members. Prescott has 860. She says she will be continuing to build membership.
“We are going to add some programs, listen to the needs of people and make those things happen,” she said. “We have a tremendous number of volunteers. I am very thankful for that.”
There have been only three CEOs in the last 47 years since the Prescott Chamber was founded.
“I have some big shoes to fill of someone who as been here so long,” she said.
She said David Maurer was eager to retire and was leaving on a cruise the day after her first official day.
“I am in my retirement place. I am not going anywhere anytime soon,” Heiney said, adding that she’s impressed by how friendly everyone is in Prescott.
In fact, when she returned to her car after her first day of work, there was a note on the windshield. Someone had seen her Michigan license plates and took the time to write a note to let her know they were from Michigan as well.
Heiney earned her degree in hospitality and tourism from the University of Michigan. She is also a licensed realtor and a certified business consultant.
“I love working with chamber members, business and community leaders. You get to wake up every day and every day is different,” she said. QCBN
By Patty McCormac, QCBN