Milton chamber seeks new leader as JoLynn Burden prepares to leave for Forward Janesville

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Neil Johnson
Friday, June 13, 2014

MILTON—The Milton Area Chamber of Commerce is trying to fill its executive director seat for the second time in two years.

Chamber Executive Director JoLynn Burden resigned this week to take a job with the private economic development group Forward Janesville as the group's director of events and membership development.

Burden's departure comes at a time when Milton and local businesses are struggling to find equilibrium amid the completion of the Highway 26 bypass, which has shifted traffic and slowed commerce on Milton's east side.

Burden said she's felt the challenges through the frustration some business owners have expressed. 

"I think it's opened my eyes to collaboration between businesses, the community and the city. We've worked to find common goals to make sure Milton stays a alive,” Burden said.

Chamber board Chairman Mark Warren said the chamber has gotten a number of “unsolicited” inquiries for the open director's seat.

He said the chamber has formed a special committee of business stakeholders who'll decide in the coming weeks whether to immediately hire a new director or a part-time interim director.

Its recommendation would go to the chamber's board of directors for a final decision.

“It could mean you'd hire somebody, or the committee will determine to bring in a temporary person through some of the busy times of the year,” Warren said.

Burden has led the chamber since February 2013, a few months after the former the group's former director Christina Slaback, left to take a part-time job leading the Evansville Area Chamber of Commerce.

In her new role at Forward Janesville, Burden will manage events including the annual Forward Janesville business expo. She'll also handle the group's fundraisers, ceremonies and outings along with member recruitment.

Burden said she looks to expand skills she's honed in Milton leading big events like the chamber's annual chicken barbecue and its annual summer golf open.

“It is a professional development opportunity that invented itself,” Burden said. “The responsibilities just aligned very well with my experiences.”

In the past, Burden has worked with the Boys & Girls club of Janesville and Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Rock, Jefferson and Walworth Counties.

Warren said the chamber had been pleased with Burden's work in Milton, and that Forward Janesville is getting a boost with Burden coming aboard. He believes Burden's ties to the Milton chamber will continue to help even though she's leaving.

“It's so important that our chamber works with other business organizations, leaders, like Forward Janesville. With Jolynn there, that will increase a strong relationship (with Forward Janesville),” he said. “Hopefully, we can replace Jolynn with somebody as good as she is."

Burden said she expects leaders in the business community and the chamber to continue to push for long-term plans to adjust to the bypass.

“The chamber is a great group of volunteers with strong leadership. The community has business people who will stand up and tell anyone their voice is important," she said. "They'll persevere through all the bypass issues and business Highway 26 projects. I know they'll come out strong.”

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