President voted out of AMI chamber

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Deb Wing, former president of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce is seated with members July 27 at the Beach House Restaurant, Bradenton Beach, following a chamber ribbon-cutting. Islander Photo: Sandy Ambrogi

After an almost decade-long stint at the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, the president has been dismissed.

Deb Wing, who served in various positions, including four years as vice president prior to two years in the top position, was handed a termination letter Dec. 1 by the chamber board president, Eric Cairns.

Wing said she submitted a resignation letter almost a month prior, but was asked to take two weeks to think over her decision.

In a letter dated Nov. 8 to the chamber executive board, comprising appointed local business leaders, Wing resigned.

“I just wasn’t getting the support I felt I needed,” Wing said about the resignation.

She began her chamber career in 2009 as an administrative assistant.

Wing said her decision followed months of frustration over issues with the chamber. During that time, she was vocal about issues, such as long hours and shortness of staff.

Then came a fray with Anna Maria General Store owner Brian Seymour, an Anna Maria city commissioner, regarding his complaints about Bayfest, a chamber organized-event held Oct. 21 on Pine Avenue in Anna Maria.

Seymour said he experienced problems at his business during the festival with the chamber’s alcohol restrictions and its private security firm and he shared his complaint at a city commission meeting.

The commission discussion included possible changes needed in the city’s special event permit related to security — private security versus Manatee County sheriff’s deputies, who routinely patrol the city.

“These issues culminated at Bayfest where commission issues were brought up again and things were said that weren’t true during a commission meeting regarding Bayfest.” Wing said in a Dec. 2 email to The Islander.

“I reacted more assertively and displayed my intolerance over comments made about me and the organization I love,” Wing wrote. She also said she may have crossed some boundaries.

Upon learning the news that Wing was fired from the chamber, Seymour said, “I’d like to hope that it’s not all over a disagreement about Bayfest security. I’d like to think they had other reasons. I’m sorry to hear that, I wish her well. I enjoyed working with her for the last several years.”

Wing took two week’s leave — as suggested by Cairns — after submitting her resignation letter to the board.

Cairns said he told Wing at the time she submitted the resignation letter that he could not “accept or reject the resignation at the time,” as it had to go before the chamber board.

Wing said she was surprised by the termination.

She said Cairns met her in a parking lot Dec. 1 as she was leaving a personal appointment and handed her the letter, telling her the board had “accepted” her resignation and she was out of a job.

The notice came the day she and the chamber staff and volunteers were preparing for the annual holiday tree-lighting event at the chamber office.

Cairns said the decision to accept Wing’s resignation was made at a special meeting of the chamber board on the evening of Nov. 30 at the chamber office.

Wing said she was unaware of the meeting.

Cairns gave a statement via phone to The Islander Dec. 2, clarifying the chambers actions around the dismissal.

“After ongoing discussions with the board, we accepted Debbie’s resignation Nov. 30 — with heavy hearts, we accepted it.” Cairns said.

“Please, join us in wishing Deb all the best in her future endeavors. We at the chamber will remain strong and tied to the community as we have been for years,” Cairns continued.

“Standing at the helm will be Terri Kinder and Cathy Pizzo, two very capable individuals that we are very fortunate to have until a replacement can be procured,” Cairns said.

He added that the search will begin immediately for Wing’s replacement and will be both local and national in scope.

“As all our members know, our ongoing commitment to the community remains undaunted,” Cairns said.

Cairns tenure as chair of the chamber board is up Dec. 31, when Island Coffee Haus proprietor Beverly Lesnick will take the gavel and head the search for a new chamber president.

“I saw an opportunity to elevate the status of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce and take it to the next level. I had a lot of plans left undone. The only thing I have to say is that I was always fighting for our island, our businesses and our community,” Wing said.

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