Aileen MacDonald stepped down as president of the Guyra and District Chamber of Commerce at the end of June, after three years at the helm.
“It has been both an honour and a privilege to be part of the organisation, and to see it grow,” she said.
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During Mrs MacDonald’s time, the Chamber formed the Armidale Guyra Business Alliance with the Armidale Business Chamber and Locals 4 Locals. It auspiced the Guyra Troutfest, held Christmas parties in the main street and ‘Welcome to Guyra’ events, and participated in the Guyra Lamb & Potato Festival. It also advocated for the Malpas Dam to Guyra water pipeline, and for the New England Rail Trail.
Under her, the Chamber was a finalist in the New England North West Business Chamber Regional Awards for ‘Chamber of the Year’ for two years running.
“It shows we are indeed a Chamber with a voice, and one that is heard,” Mrs MacDonald said.
Mrs MacDonald is succeeded by Guyra Shire Council’s last mayor Hans Hietbrink.
"I thought it was time that fresh eyes took on the role, and saw it from a different angle, and got to develop the Chamber differently," Mrs MacDonald said.
“I think Hans will take it to the next level of where we want to be. He’s confident; he’s well-connected; and he knows how council operates. Guyra will go from strength to strength, with him in that role.”
Mrs MacDonald will continue to serve the Chamber as its secretary.
“I’m still involved, not just at the face of the Chamber,” she said. “I feel good about that, because I always like to be in a supportive role.”
Mrs MacDonald didn’t expect to be president for so long. She planned to step down after two years and run for local government, but was encouraged to remain for another year.
Her time as president was a valuable learning experience.
“Being the front person, the one people look to for an answer, has given me more confidence,” she said. “I used to hate public speaking. Now, my butterflies are flying in formation, rather than all over the place!”
Mrs MacDonald saw her presidency as collaborative, a team effort. Her role was a facilitator, connecting people with ideas and vision to people who can make things happen.
“Working with a diverse range of people, and bringing them together,” she felt, was her biggest achievement.
“We don’t have to accept second-best; we can work together towards a better outcome, and not just accept the scraps off the table.”