The search committee has narrowed the field of candidates for the executive director job at the Blue Springs Chamber of Commerce to Dale Walkup and Lara Vermillion.

One candidate is a former Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce  president, and the other is a current Blue Springs School District board president and former Blue Springs Chamber of Commerce chairman.

And they are both finalists for the much-coveted position of executive director at the Blue Springs Chamber of Commerce.

And judging by their excitement, they both want the job.

“This is exciting, I’m excited,” said Lara Vermillion, 38. “I’ve seen how chambers help build up businesses, and it’s exciting to be able to help do that again.”

Dale Walkup conveys his excitement in a more subdued tone. At 63 years old, Walkup has seen it all in the business sector – from his experience at Wal-Mart during its formative years to owning local carwashes.

“Someone from the chamber told me that I should apply for this position,” Walkup said. “I’ve always been a big believer in the chamber. I’m excited about the opportunity.”

Both candidates, identified publicly Wednesday by the Blue Springs Chamber of Commerce, bring with them unique experience. While Vermillion served as president of the Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce for four years, Walkup has served on the Blue Springs chamber as a chairman.

For Vermillion, her first exposure to the chamber was in college. In her marketing class, she examined economic development through the efforts of local chamber organizations.

“I learned quickly how it works, how they promoted, how they worked with businesses,” she said. “And I learned how they worked with people.”

After holding several managerial positions at the Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce, Vermillion was eventually promoted to the executive director position, or president’s position. 

She held that position for about four years.

“When I got pregnant, my priorities changed,” she said about why she left. In 1996, while she was serving as president, she and her family moved to Blue Springs, a move she’s cherished. She is now employed as a marketing consultant with Kwik Kopy on Main Street, a position that keeps her in touch with businesses throughout the city.

“I’m connected to everyone,” said Vermillion, who was born and raised in Topeka, Kan. “Working with businesses throughout the city here and in other places, I’m reminded just how effectively a chamber can build businesses up again.”

Walkup, whose wide range of employment includes business consultation, farming, livestock raising, and running a travel agency, said holding officer positions at the Blue Springs Board of Education has been the most effective training.

“That’s been the best training ground,” he said.

Walkup understands businesses, too, and he understands how to communicate with them. He was the acting manager for the first Wal-Mart in Blue Springs, located at what is now Hobby Lobby. In fact, it was Wal-Mart that brought him to Blue Springs back in 1977.

Walkup said he understands the executive director’s position.

“The main job is to be an advocate for businesses,” he said. “I’m there.”

A member of the school district for 16 years, Walkup said he doesn’t see any conflicts with being a school board member and an executive director. He said if anything, he would not be able to serve as an officer.

“But that would have to be discussed,” he said.

Walkup said he looks forward to the challenge of serving as executive director. In spite of the difficulties during the last year, Walkup said the current board has handled it well.

“I think they’ve done an admirable job,” he said. 

Both candidates were two of seven applicants for the position.  

Todd Farley, a selection committee member for the chamber, said in a release that both candidates are impressive.

“Although (they) have different backgrounds, each of them have very strong skill sets and experience levels we feel will be instrumental in managing and leading the Chamber,” Farley said.    

The process of interviewing the two final candidates will include a private meeting with the entire Board of Directors. Following that meeting, the candidates will each be given 5 to 10 minutes during the Feb. 19 chamber luncheon to introduce themselves and tell the membership a little about their background, qualifications, and their vision for the chamber. A final decision is expected after that.