Leppert leaves Chamber of Commerce

Janeen Leppert of Stamford is leaving her post as executive director of the Wilton Chamber of Commerce for a position at a marketing and public relations firm in Charlotte, N.C., two hours south of where she went to college. Her last day will be Oct. 15.

“I’ve been here for four years and I’ve really gotten to know the business owners, our members and our board members. I’ve learned so much from each of them, and I’m definitely going to miss Wilton, and working with my colleagues and friends,” Leppert lamented, “but I’m excited for the next chapter of my life.”

Leppert started with the Chamber in September 2011, in a part-time marketing capacity, before being promoted in 2012 to the only full-time employee position at the association. Previously, she attended High Point University, where she earned two degrees, bachelor’s in both marketing and management, and worked as a communications professional for a membership association similar to the Wilton Chamber in Chicago, Ill.

To Leppert, the Wilton Chamber of Commerce was always somewhat of a marketing entity, in and of itself.

“You’re marketing the town of Wilton,” she said. “First, you’re marketing the Chamber. Then, you’re marketing the businesses that make up the Chamber. And then you’re marketing Wilton as a destination.”

As executive director, Leppert’s responsibilities included financial management, marketing and communications, event planning, business development, building relationships with community leaders, and collaborating with organizations.

During her tenure, the Chamber of Commerce, and some would argue the town of Wilton itself, was rebranded.

“We created a Shop Wilton, Dine Wilton, Enjoy Wilton initiative that’s really helped us encompass all of our members, because we have 300 members, and they are retailers, restaurants and professional services, and Shop Wilton, Dine Wilton, Enjoy Wilton really encompasses all of those businesses,” Leppert said.

Leppert also helped to secure new space for the Chamber to go along with the new slogan. In September 2014, the Chamber of Commerce relocated to 86 Old Ridgefield Road, emerging from its old location out back of the property across the street from Bank of America.

“We saw it open up and we jumped on it, just because we knew it would make a great move for the Chamber,” said Leppert. “This space has been instrumental in making the Chamber what it is today. We are able to have a hub where people can stop in to find out what the Chamber’s doing, what other businesses are doing, but also events going on in town. The goal of this space was to be a hub for all things Wilton, and I think we’ve really done a great job of doing that.”

Next door to the Luncheonette, the new office is visible from the street in the heart of Wilton Center and features a digital screen in the window that shows a rotating event calendar and advertisements the Chamber sells to its members and other businesses.

“During the lunch hour, there’s a lot of foot traffic there, so that’s just another way for our businesses to reach different audiences,” Leppert said.

One of Leppert’s most significant contributions to the Chamber of Commerce was the development of the annual Street Fair and Summer Sidewalk Sale, which saw its fourth return in July of this year.

“It’s here to stay,” Leppert said. “It’s one of our most successful events.”

Two of Leppert’s colleagues commented on her departure.

Ann Nash, co-owner of Signature Styles, member, board member and vice president of the Chamber of Commerce, said, “Janeen has been such a tremendous asset to the Chamber. She will be incredibly missed but we are excited for her in her new venture.”

Vice President Carol Johnson of Fairfield County Bank said, “During the past four years, the Wilton Chamber of Commerce has experienced a period of unprecedented growth and success. As executive director of our Chamber, Janeen has demonstrated a willingness to work tirelessly to make it a valuable resource for our members as well as for our community. Her Shop Wilton, Dine Wilton, Enjoy Wilton message helped to give our town a brand and to make it a destination. Janeen is an extraordinary young woman who will be missed by many, and we wish her continued success in all of her future endeavors.”

The Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors will now put together a search for Leppert’s interim replacement.

Reflecting on her career, Leppert said, “I have been very fortunate to work in Wilton. I got to meet a lot of great people, very knowledgeable people. That was one of my biggest takeaways. I got to really grow my skill set by working with so many dynamic community and business leaders.”

“I came to the Chamber with a skill set that was marketing- and public relations-based, but working for the Chamber and being essentially a one-person operation, you get to really understand all of the moving pieces in running a business. Not only did I learn the different operations that the Chamber has, but also I learned the different operations of our member businesses. The retailers have different needs than the restaurants, and the professional services like the banks and real estate agencies, they have different needs than the retailers. I got to learn all of those things through working with our members and the businesses — working to figure out their needs and how the Chamber could meet them.”

“We’re in a really good place to grow. We have a great, steady, solid foundation, and I think the next executive director and the board of directors are in a great place to guide the organization to the next level,” she said.

Of the town she’s leaving behind, Leppert made the following observation.

“People oftentimes compare us to neighboring towns, but I think what makes Wilton Wilton is its people. I was always impressed with the level of volunteerism that the citizens here possess. It’s cool to see that they have an understanding that the business owners and community members have a stake in the longevity of Wilton, and everybody is very involved, working together to make Wilton what it is.”