Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kathy Feldbrugge resigns

Kathy Feldbrugge, 2008I first heard about Kathy Feldbrugge’s resignation last night via Suzy Rook’s tweet. I got the press release below this morning from Leah Rich at Neuger Communications.

It’s all nicely worded, of course, but I’ve long been a critic of Kathy’s leadership and her departure is long overdue IMHO. For example, see my remarks in this 2008 blog post and the attached thread of 100+ comments.  I’m guessing that the Chamber’s ongoing drop in membership numbers had something to do with her resignation.

Might this be an opportunity for the Chamber Board, the NDDC board, and the NEC Board to do something creative, organizationally speaking?

NORTHFIELD, MINN. (February 28, 2012) – After 31 years of service to the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce, Kathy Feldbrugge announced this week that she is resigning her role as executive director effective at the end of April 2012. She informed the Board of Directors on Monday at its monthly Board meeting and the Chamber membership was notified through an email from Chamber President Rick Estenson.
Estenson said, “On behalf of the members of the Chamber, we thanked Kathy for her tireless work and guidance to the business community. Thirty-five years of service in Chamber work – all but four of them with the Northfield Chamber – is a wonderful feat. We will be looking for ways to express our appreciation to Kathy in the days ahead.” The Chamber Board will meet again later this week with Feldbrugge to begin an Executive Director search and explore the ingredients of a smooth transition, according to Estenson.  

The Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce is a business organization that promotes the Northfield area and the local business community. Feldbrugge said, “The Chamber is comprised of local businesses and business-minded individuals who have banded together with one goal in mind: to advance the commercial, financial, industrial and civic interests of the community. In short, the Chamber is here to help businesses thrive.”

Feldbrugge emphasized that she is not retiring, but is merely looking to take on another challenge in her career. “I feel as though I have one more stop left in my career and I’m looking for a new challenge to energize me,” she said. “This was a very difficult decision for me. I knew if I was going to make a career shift, now was the time. I grew up in this Chamber. I’ve seen its highs and lows. I’ve come to love this community and the businesses it nurtures. I’ll miss my leadership role in the Chamber, but I’m looking forward to my next challenge.” Feldbrugge said she does not yet know what that challenge will be. “I’ve always been 100 percent committed to the Chamber’s success and the vitality of the business community in Northfield,” Feldbrugge explained. “I couldn’t maintain that commitment while at the same time looking for my next career move so I decided this announcement was the best for all involved.”

Estenson added, “This is a courageous move by Kathy. I wish her nothing but the best as she identifies her next opportunity.”
Estenson also said the Chamber is moving full speed ahead. “Although Kathy’s departure will leave a void,” he said, “it also creates opportunities, which is true with any transition.” He said the Chamber Board remains “committed to improving the business climate in Northfield and we are aggressively seeking ways to enhance the Chamber’s value to its members.”
Businesses and individuals interested in joining the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce are invited to call 507.645.5604 or visit online at


  1. kiffi summa said:

    Griff: I would like to suggest that in the beginning of your second paragraph i.e.,”but I’ve long been a critic of Kathy’s leadership, and her leaving is long overdue, IMHO” … you have violated your own rules of civility and respect , and especially your admonition to “restrain desire to promote a POV that is already formed”.

    February 28, 2012
  2. Griff Wigley said:

    Kiffi, I’ve heard from someone else re: my remarks that my timing was inappropriate and in poor taste, so you’re not alone.

    Kathy’s a public figure since the Chamber receives public dollars and takes public positions on public issues, so public criticism is not out of line. And my comments are as much a criticism of recent Chamber Board members as it is of Kathy.

    I don’t think it’s inappropriate for the public to hear one guy’s opinion. (I don’t know the details of anything, eg, whether or not there was a settlement.)

    I think I was being restrained by simply referring to the declining membership numbers. I think that that’s gone on way too long, to the detriment of local businesses and local taxpayers.

    But that’s not incivility or a lack of respect. And my POV has formed gradually over the years. I’ve been open to other points of view but I’ve really not been challenged.

    February 29, 2012
  3. kiffi summa said:

    Griff; Don’t misunderstand… and maybe you haven’t; I have been very critical of the Chamber , for a lot of reasons… mostly that members make complaints in private conversations, but then when they have a chance to tell the Council how they feel, in a big public meeting, they pull back and only one or two will speak to the issue, and then they get ‘labeled’.

    It was just that your comment seemed so personally critical, as if any shortcomings of the Chamber’s actions were all the fault of one person, whom you said, you had long thought to be ineffective.

    Don’t you imagine that running the NF Chamber and its board is a bit like the proverbial “herding cats” ?

    February 29, 2012
  4. Phil Poyner said:

    I’ve had no personal dealings with the Chamber, and know none of the personalities involved. Perhaps because of that I read Griff’s words at face value, without any greater context or ability to read “between the lines”. From my perspective his statement may have been too straight-forward for some people’s taste, but I didn’t find it lacking in civility.

    February 29, 2012
  5. Jane Moline said:

    Griff, I find your remarks offensive. You use locally grown as a bully pulpit to promote “one guy’s opinion”-yours. You could have put remark in the comment section rather than in the body of the news announcement.

    Kathy has worked hard and served under the direction of various boards of directors and their presidents–and they appear happy and satisfied with her work. Othere, mostly non-members, feel free to criticize the chamber. A drop in membership coincides with the economy. If it was the Chamber’s executive director’s fault, surely there would be no members left after 31 years!

    I wish Kathy the best. I do not find her move, in the words of Estenson, particulary “courageous.” I think it is probably smart on her part and not really risky since she has had a good job for many years and probably does not need as much income now.

    I hope the chamber will take advantage of finding a new director that will promote Northfield more in the way the Faribault Chamber promotes their town–with balance between downtown businesses and big employer’s–including lobbying for the existing businesses. Hopefully the board will do some “soul searching” before the executive search begins.

    February 29, 2012
  6. Griff Wigley said:

    Kiffi, criticizing Kathy’s work performance is not a personal criticism. How is it any different than my criticism of mayors, city administrators, councilors, school board members, superintendents or pastors?

    February 29, 2012
  7. Griff Wigley said:

    Jane, yes, LoGro is my bully pulpit. If people only want the press releases, there are several others media outlets in Northfield that provide that. And bloggers often opt to opinionate in their blog posts and then again in the comment thread/discussion with everyone else.

    I’m glad you chimed in with your positive comments about Kathy’s work. I wish her the best as well.

    February 29, 2012
  8. kiffi summa said:

    Griff: I believe it is different , Griff, because she does not speak for herself, but represents a board which directs her actions…. and maybe I am wrong about the ‘weight’ of that…

    It just seemed way more personal to me, when I read it, than the criticisms we all make of the categories of local gov’t , or churches, you named above, most of whom speak more autonomously.

    March 1, 2012
  9. Griff Wigley said:

    Nfld News editorial: Forward-thinking voice needed in Chamber

    Combined with an active and aggressive Economic Development Authority and the support of the Northfield Downtown Development Corporation, the new leader of the Chamber of Commerce could — and should — be a vocal steward of our community’s growth plan.

    March 7, 2012
  10. Griff Wigley said:

    Leah Rich at Neuger Communications has a blog post on asking people to fill out a short survey about what they’d like to see in a new executive director for the Chamber.

    I found it odd that the new job description says zilch about the person needing to have any technology skills. For a 2 or 3 person operation, this is essential IMHO.

    March 27, 2012

Leave a Reply