Saline Chamber prepares to search for a new executive director as Larry Osterling plans retirement
The Saline Area Chamber of Commerce started the year with an unanticipated mission: Finding a new executive director.
Larry Osterling has told the chamber’s Board of Directors in January that he’s not planning on working full-time into 2012.
“I’ve asked them to start the process to look for a replacement,” Osterling said. But he could be around for a while. He added: “I’m not going to up and leave.”
Osterling has spent 12 years at the helm of Saline’s chamber, moving from his previous job as a banker at the former First of America.
During his years at the chamber, he’s tirelessly advocated for Saline business, growing the group from about 220 members -- only some of which kept up with their dues, he jokes - -to 485 today.
The chamber has made money every year, too, he said. Not that that’s the goal.
“But we don’t want to lose money,” he said.
The decision to leave is personal. He’ll be 65 soon, and his wife has been retired for several years. He’s ready to stop working full-time, but expects to stay in Saline and says -- laughing again -- that he could end up hanging out daily at Benny’s Bakery.
Osterling doesn’t really want to talk about himself or his job, and he’s not 100 percent comfortable that I’m writing this.
That’s been part of his leadership style: He’s the day-to-day leader of a volunteer team that’s worked extraordinarily well to set a vision for Saline’s business and make it happen.
Over the years, even during the financial crisis, Saline stood poised as an example of success: the job losses weren’t as deep, the retail closings weren’t as frequent and the rebound - with companies like Quantum Signal and Flatout Bread choosing the community and growing in it - took hold sooner.
Even the biggest looming disaster in town, the likely closing and sale of the former Visteon factory, now Automotive Components Holdings, was averted. Today, it’s running more lines and adding staff.
That’s not to say all of that is due to Osterling. He wouldn’t take credit for it, even if it were. But his interest in Saline’s businesses is undeniable and genuine, and many in the community say it shows.
What he sees is a community that’s built the infrastructure and the support to sustain and grow, all while staying fiscally conservative. The mix keeps the region, from Saline to its surrounding townships, strong.
And at the chamber, the leadership from Osterling and the efforts of what he called a board of “good, dedicated people” has built a solid organization. In the last year, it generated income of about $200,000.
They, in turn, appreciate Osterling. He runs the books and he runs the office - but he doesn’t want to have to run events. Still, he can be found doing anything needed to keep a Saline activity going.
Jill Durnen, the chamber’s president, said Osterling always goes above his job description.
He also will be tough to replace.
“Larry has done an amazing job,” she said. Some of that comes from making chamber membership valuable, she said, from a networking and community perspective.
“He’s tried to make it a community-based, multi-faceted (organization),” she said.
The next steps for the chamber will involve creating an updated job description for the president, a task the board planned to do for the full-time administrator and a new part-time position.
That task will help drive the next steps of the process, including soliciting applications.
He will be missed, Durnen added.
“He really does care about the businesses in Saline,” she said.
He also cares about the chamber. He describes his departure as an opportunity for the organization, too, since turnover can be an asset.
But, even as he expresses excitement about shaping his future, he doesn’t sound upset about his offer to stay on as long as they need him.
“I really like this job,” he says.