MCALLEN, Texas – Annette Franz, chair of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce, has not returned calls from a reporter regarding the abrupt resignation of Steve Ahlenius as chamber president.
The Rio Grande Guardian would like to include commentary from Franz to balance those being made by McAllen business leaders who would like Ahlenius reinstated.
Ahlenius served as president of the McAllen Chamber for 24 years. He shocked many board directors by announcing he was quitting at a board meeting held Oct. 19. The Rio Grande Guardian understands he offered to stay on for two more weeks to help with a smooth transition but a majority of the board of directors decided he should leave immediately. The board held an emergency meeting on Oct. 25 and has another one scheduled for today.
The Rio Grande Guardian understands the working relationship between Ahlenius and Franz became severely strained over the last few weeks with Franz creating a “CEO Compensation and Evaluation Review Committee” to look at Ahlenius’ salary.
The Rio Grande Guardian also understands that the board of directors has been told the chamber could face legal exposure over Ahlenius’ departure. Accepting a senior executive’s resignation so quickly could, in the eyes of the law, be deemed the equivalent to terminating that person from an organization, the board was told.
While Chair Franz has yet to return calls or an email to the Rio Grande Guardian, supporters of Ahlenius have been writing letters to the board of directors. Indeed, the Rio Grande Guardian understands a letter writing campaign to bring Ahlenius back has been started by business leaders in McAllen.
Here are two new letters the Rio Grande Guardian has received. One is from a real estate company owner. The other is from a retired banker. Both previously served the McAllen Chamber of Commerce as chairman of board of directors.
Dear Steve Taylor,
As a former Chairman of the Board at the McAllen Chamber I was fortunate to serve alongside Steve Ahlenius and witness firsthand his love and endless dedication to our community. He is one of the hardest working men I have ever associated with and was saddened to hear Steve resigned from the Chamber. Steve and his amazing staff have received Statewide recognition for their outstanding programs and projects. I was amazed at the number and quality of community activities the Chamber conducts ever year to promote local businesses and innovators. I have the greatest respect and admiration for Steve and hope he will stay on for the betterment of our community.
Charles Marina, ACoM, CCIM, CRB, GRI
Commercial & Investment Properties
First American Realty Company
Dear Board Members and Officers:
I send you this email as a concerned citizen of this great city and as a past chamber chairman. You have been asked to serve the McAllen Chamber of Commerce as a board member because of your integrity, ability to make sound decisions and to represent the Chamber and the City of McAllen. You were not appointed to run the chamber but to support the President, officers and employees. The past history of the Chamber and management is remarkable and will stand tall against any city in the country. Please stand up and be heard and make sure your vote represents the good citizens of McAllen. Because of my concerns and what I have been hearing about the Chamber, I have sent the following text to 100 Citizens in McAllen. Please pull together, unify and make the right decision for the chamber and city.
I am really disappointed in the newly elected board and controversy/disruption the Chairman and Officers have caused. The McAllen Chamber is known in the community and state as a well organized and managed organization, mainly because of Steve Alhenius and staff. It is a sad day for our community and city. Individual (sic) have been appointed as directors and officers to support and guide the employees of the chamber, not run it to meet their means or desires. It is probably time for a group of business minded individuals to meet and discuss the future of our chamber. We should start with the City, MEDC, and other organizations/businesses that benefit from the well managed Chamber that we have grown to admire and be proud of.
I sent this text because of my concern for the future of the chamber and our good city and I hope each one of you read it that context. Please do the right thing.
Past Chamber Chairman
Editor’s Note: Ron Whitlock of Ron Whitlock Reports contributed to this story from McAllen, Texas.
Editor’s Note: We are keen to hear all sides in this dispute. If you are a business leader in McAllen please contact us. Please call Rio Grande Guardian editor Steve Taylor at (956) 605-9380 or email [email protected]. Or call Ron Whitlock of Ron Whitlock Reports at (956) 778-7903 or email him at [email protected]. Thank you!