White Bear Lake Chamber leadership transitions with familiar faces

Tom Snell, left, retires as executive director of the White Bear Area Chamber of Commerce. Shari Wilson, right, will take the lead at the chamber while Snell remains part-time.

Tom Snell, executive director of the White Bear Area Chamber of Commerce, will step down from his role in March and Shari Wilson, current director of marketing and member relations, will take the helm.

Snell has led the chamber for almost nine years. A 1968 White Bear Lake alum, he has lived in White Bear Township most of his life. His career took a path to White Bear chamber after he started selling chamber memberships in the western suburbs. He eventually became director of the Metro North Chamber in Anoka County before landing the position in his hometown.

The White Bear Area Chamber has over 400 members from 12 surrounding municipalities, said Wilson. That is many more members than there were before Snell took the lead; members tend to stick around when they see the value of the chamber, she added. “Tom worked hard,” she said. “It has grown ... it continues to each year.”

Snell said he has planned interesting chamber events and meetings, discussing such topics as a humanoid robot at Century College and a Mars lander with high school students, to bring attention to the community. He hopes to bring more young, creative entrepreneurs to the White Bear Lake area to move it into the future.

“That would be my parting shot,” he said. He'd like to see White Bear Lake and Vadnais Heights listed on national sites as one of the “best medium-sized communities for millennials to move (to),” he added.

The chamber is currently working on a project to bring an automated car to the area, which will also be an opportunity for college and high school students to learn about automation.

One of the biggest projects Snell is most proud of over the last decade was advocating for a bonding bill for the rail line. It saved hundreds of jobs. “That would not have happened without the chamber,” Snell said.

Snell will continue to work part-time for the time being. His focus will be on membership sales and legislative work. In his time off, he plans to spend more time with his grandchildren and on his hobbies — astronomy, playing guitar and following the New York Mets.

Wilson will assume the leadership role at the chamber. For now, the chamber plans to stick with its three employees, including office manager Maureen Francis.

Wilson has been on staff at the chamber four years but has been around for two decades. She joined the chamber in 1998 when she worked for Muller Family Theatres, now rebranded as Emagine White Bear. Through her career and chamber involvement, she learned the value of chambers for business networking and growth.

“I truly believe in what it does and can do for your business,” she said. Wilson was on the White Bear Area chamber from 2001-2011 and was chair before she came on staff. She recently received training from the U.S. Chamber Institute of Organizational Management.

“I'm excited to work with this community, and we have so many businesses coming into this town,” she said. The chamber is currently working on a new logo it expects to unveil soon.

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