JULY 07, 2016 - VOL. 51 No. 10

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Ambassadors celebrate 50 years

By Amy Smolik
Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce

Good ideas are worth tweaking - and the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce´s implementation of another community´s idea of a "PR" committee evolved into the Ambassador Committee, which is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year.

According to former Membership Services Director Betty Ordal, the Ambassadors started when someone who did business in Sioux Falls and Sioux City suggested that Sioux Falls should use an idea from the neighbors from the south and form a group to be the public relations effort for the Chamber and the city. Ordal worked at the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce for 48 years, retiring in 2014. When she started at the Chamber, the Ambassador Committee was in its early stages.

"They initially were the group who welcomed new business owners to Sioux Falls and VIP visitors to the city, presenting them with the key to the city," Ordal said.

In a few years, the Chamber Board of Directors realized they needed an organized sales effort to grow the membership, so they turned to the Ambassadors for this responsibility. The next item added was to attend ribbon cuttings. Both of these charges continue today.

"The Ambassador Committee has been the force that explains the benefits of the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce to businesses, individuals and organizations," Ordal said. "They do this on a volunteer basis and have been successful in continually adding new members to the Chamber."

In the early days they wore uniforms, selected by a committee within the Ambassador Committee. Uniforms were worn up until the mid-2000s. A number of styles were implemented over the years, from different colored jackets, to matching ties to scarves for women. Ordal recalled the group wearing glittery dinner jackets in the early days.

Today Ambassadors sell the benefits of Chamber membership to businesses across the region. The structure has changed over the years, but they continue to work in teams, currently in groups of three. The teams receive points and other incentives for selling memberships, retaining memberships and attending ribbon cutting ceremonies. Twice a year, membership drives are held as a friendly competition. Each Ambassador Team is allowed to recruit additional volunteers, adding to the cadre of Chamber volunteers out in the community during the drive time, usually two to three weeks.

"The Ambassadors are a very close-knit group of people who have sales and marketing experience," Ordal said. "Competition is keen within the group. I think we have probably averaged about 30 committee members over the years. They have always worked in teams for competition in sales campaigns and annual goals. Annual sales goals are set based on the budget needs of the Chamber´s program of work, economic outlook and attainability."

Some of Ordal´s favorite memories in working with the Ambassadors were setting sales goals at the beginning of a themed sales campaign and reaching or beating the goal at the wrap-up. The volunteers who served on the committee over the years have gone on to serve in other leadership roles in the community and within the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, with many serving on the Board of Directors or as Chair of the Board.

When more and more women became leaders in the business community, they also became part of the Ambassador Committee. Because of the intense time commitment to serve, the committee membership has always voted on new committee members. The process was pretty structured, recalled former Ambassador Gary Junck, CorTrust Bank.

"I had recently returned to Sioux Falls from Rapid City. Earlier I was active in the Sioux Falls Jaycees where relationships were bonded that where instrumental in my being considered as an Ambassador," Junck said. "In those days it wasn´t instinctive that one would be elected on the first vote, or at all. Fortunately I was elected."

Junck said after 20 years on the committee he resigned, "exhausted." The benefits he gained, however, were lasting.

"I think incoming Ambassadors may believe a priority benefit will be business contacts. While that is true, as most of us can identify business successes, I believe personal development, visibility and relationships that continue are the rewards that keep on giving," he said. "The challenge – the allocation of time, resources, goal setting and success, functioning as a unit/team are incredible career development skills one can achieve professionally and perhaps more importantly, individually. Looking out into the community, current and past Ambassadors continued to contribute and excel."

Junck is one of many Ambassadors and Chamber volunteers who set an example for others, including his son, Adam Cooper with Howalt+McDowell Insurance, A Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC company. Cooper became an Ambassador in 2014 and still serves on the committee.

"My father really encouraged me to join the Ambassadors as he experienced not only professional success, but life-long friendships as well," Cooper said. "I wanted to be very involved in the community and this was the perfect steppingstone to getting that accomplished."

The personal and professional connections are the biggest value he´s received, Cooper said. The friendships he´s made with his fellow committee members and mentorship have helped him grow in his professional career.

"I would encourage everyone to volunteer in some capacity with the Chamber as we can really attribute our great community to the work the Chamber has been doing," Cooper said. "I would strongly encourage someone looking to ambassadorship as their means of volunteering – it starts with saying ´yes´ when asked to be an associate ambassador during one of our annual drives."

Dick Brown, South Dakota Parks & Wildlife Foundation, served on the committee for more than a decade. Brown served as chair of the Ambassador Committee as well as the Chamber´s Board of Directors. The Ambassadors´ role of high-profile community outreach, promotion of the Chamber´s mission and most importantly securing new and enhancing existing membership in the Chamber was and continues to be most inviting, he said.

"The opportunity to be part of an energetic, pro-active community leadership team which individually and collectively had a strong commitment to the future of the quality of life and quality of place we live, Sioux Falls, was perfect for me," Brown said.

Personally, the involvement with so many men and women who care about the quality of life, building friendships for life, sharing a commitment to serve the larger community in such a positive way was most fulfilling for him. Professionally, Brown was able to meet and become involved with community leadership-social, economic/business, political and family – an invaluable experience that enabled him to feel he made a real difference in the lives of all who lived in, around or visited Sioux Falls.

The camaraderie of those who served on the committee over the years was built doing the work of the Chamber, as well as through social and team-building activities. Brown had fond memories of his service: the opportunity to serve as Chief Ambassador, the ribbon cuttings, great team building partners, the membership drives and all those wonderful character-building social functions including of course the Leech Lake fishing trips, hunting and golf outings were so memorable and uplifting. There are so many stories, he said, but one stands out: a major pheasant hunting trip to the White Lake/Chamberlain area.

"We entered the big cornfield and were to meet our blockers at the end of the field and then have lunch. When we arrived at the end of the field with pheasants in hand, Ambassador Al Cooper (owner of a couple of Perkins) had changed from his hunting attire and greeted us in a full tuxedo, table with white linen and a high-class meal with wine. This is one of many great times of Ambassador camaraderie. While all Chamber Committees are important and make a difference, in my experience none has the excitement, energy and prideful recognition as being called an Ambassador."

Many more stories will be shared when the Ambassadors gather for the 50th Reunion and Anniversary Party on Friday, July 15. For more information about becoming an Ambassador or other Chamber volunteer opportunities, or to RSVP to the reunion, contact Membership Sales & Retention Manager Amy Farr at (605) 373-2013 or

Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce Past Chief Ambassadors/Committee Chairs

1966 • Chris Christopulos
1967 • Chris Christopulos
1968 • Chris Christopulos
1969 • Chris Christopulos
1970-71 • Lynn Albers
1971-72 •  Paul Willadsen
1972-73 •  Paul Willadsen
1973-74 •  Izzy Pitts
1974-75 •  Bernie DeWald
1975-76 •  Steve Olson
1976-77 •  Russ Ediger
1977-78 •  Kon Peters
1978-79 •  Don Isaacson
1979-80 •  Art deWit
1980-81 •  Joe Henkin
1981-82 •  Don Dunham, Jr.
1982-83 •  Rod Carlson
1983-84 •  Rod Carlson
1984-85 •  Dick Brown
1985-86 •  Bob Wiedeman
1986-87 •  Jim Owen
1987-88 •  Jim Schmidt
1988-89 •  Tom Van Wyhe
1989-90 •  Mike Breidenbach
1990-91 •  John Heisler
1991-92 •  Mark Wahlstrom

1992-93 •  Cathy Novak
1993-94 •  Gary Junck
1994-95 •  Bill Kullander/Dick Beck
1995-96 •  Dick Beck
1996-97 •  Dave Stadheim
1997-98 •  Dale Thorpe
1998-99 •  Dave Anderson
1999-2000 •  Jack Hopkins
2000-01 •  William J. Peters
2001-02 •  Dean Buckneberg
2002-03 •  Lyle Dabbert
2003-04 •  Kerry Hammel
2004-05 •  Lynda Billars
2005-06 •  Mark McClung
2006-07 •  Tom Shields
2007-08 •  Dean Karsky
2008-09 •  Eric Anderson
2009-10 •  Ritch Noble
2010-11 •  Rex Pruitt
2011-12 •  Mike Hauck
2012-13 •  Rick Rysavy
2013-14 •  Liz Lloyd
2014-15 •  Corey Weide
2015-16 •  Amy O´Connor Hoback

2016-17 •  Nathan Stallinga
2017-18 •  Mark Luke

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