The 4 Chairs of WFIM

We asked the present and 3 past Chairs: “What’s it like being the Chair of WFIM?”

Donna Messer: (Past Chair)

Well, considering that I’m probably one of the oldest members of the association, I must like not only being a Chair, but being connected with such a vibrant group of professional women.

I was the Director of Agriculture when I first joined WFIM, and I was a speaker and a board member before I became Chair. I have been Chair more than once. The first time, I took over from Angela Holtham, who was the CFO for Christie Biscuits.

When I was Chair, I was an enabler. I believed in the team, and was always bringing in new board members. I recruited both Barb and Susanne and they have both been awesome Chairs and leaders!

I like WFIM because here we are all equal. There is no them and us, only “we”. We laugh, we work, we support each other and we thoroughly enjoy our time together.

At WFIM, while I was Chair, we grew; we evolved and learned the importance of building relationships. We recognized the importance of succession planning and with each new Chair, our association has grown stronger and more cohesive.

Susanne Mikler: (Chair: May 2007 to July 2009)

WFIM is an organization of extraordinary possibilities and it has enabled me to explore aspects of business and personal interaction that are new and innovative. Through WFIM I have been able to lead and be led, create and observe creativity, plan events and attend events, mentor and be mentored. The value of WFIM cannot be measured by general standards as it gives the gift of possibilities and a friendly, open group in which to share ideas.

Being the Chair of WFIM enabled me to set goals, work towards the end result and see the results implemented. There is nothing more fulfilling than seeing the final outcome of a worthy project.

Passing along the baton to a new Chair was bittersweet. Knowing that the organization is thriving and watching it grow under the careful, new leadership leaves a sense of well-being and a legacy for the future.

I’m proud of WFIM and our accomplishments. I believe we make a difference and have a positive impact on our membership.

Barbara Onyskow: (Chair: July 2009- June 2013)

I have been an active part of the Women in Food Industry Management board for many years. I’ve always been hands on, and passionately involved in whatever needed to be done as a part of the WFIM team. I am part of WFIM because I care deeply about the food sector and the women who are part of it. My platform as Chair was to “Pay it Forward” – to listen, learn and share what our members need most.

From my perspective the need was greatest in face to face connections. We live in a world of high technology and little contact. Everyone is a name or number with impersonal contact only via email – we need that face to face connection and WFIM provides that with our many networking events. I love the way we can connect and enjoy each other’s company plus make new, lasting and supportive WFIM friends!

My goal was to make WFIM our networking family; to lead a group of women who we can call upon for support and advice. I also hoped that I could inspire everyone, both board and members, to have passion for helping others within our industry, without expecting anything in return.

I love being in an organization where we are not in competition with each other; we are in support of each other. Our role is to give positive karma and a sense of belonging and being special to everyone who is part of the WFIM network. I do miss being Chair, but I know that the reigns are in good hands with Nancy, and she can always count on our support to help her make her mark on the organization.

Nancy Klassen: (Chair: July 2013 – present)

I feel like I am very new to WFIM compared to my predecessors! I became the Director of Volunteers shortly after becoming a member in September 2011. That role fit nicely with my HR career. Then, when Barbara’s term as Chair was coming to a close, she and the board “voluntold” me that I should be the next Chair. I was worried, because I felt like I had such limited experience with the association. But, when I thought about it, being Director of Volunteers (Dec. 2011-June 2013) helped me get to know the members of the organization, and arranging volunteers for all of the events helped me understand a little bit about event planning. I was also on a committee that streamlined our sponsorship program to have annual sponsors, and I made a connection with a winery to be a product sponsor, so I knew a little bit about that role, too.

In a few short months I have been learning the ins and outs of the website (one of my personal goals), and understanding the fine details of event planning & budgeting. As Chair, I am frequently introduced to potential members, sponsors, speakers and other associations that might make a good connection with WFIM.

I am thankful that I have such wonderful mentors to help me along the way! Barbara, Susanne & Donna are a great inspiration, and all of the board members are wonderful assets to the organization. And as well, thanks to everyone who volunteers at our events – it may seem like a small role, but the old saying “Many hands make light work” (John Heywood) is definitely true. I look forward to the rest of my term as Chair, continuing the vision of connecting, developing, and supporting our members to be The Best Women at the Table!

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