Published in the June 14, 2017 edition
By MARK SARDELLA
LYNNFIELD – Her time as Executive Director of the Wakefield Lynnfield Chamber of Commerce will come to an end next Friday, June 16, but Marianne Cohen is justifiably proud of all that she and the Chamber have accomplished during her three-year tenure.
“This job has been one of the best professional experiences of my career,” she wrote in a letter to Chamber members informing them of her resignation. While she hasn’t yet decided what the future holds for her professionally, she says, “It was time for a change for me.”
Tom Mullen, president of the Wakefield Lynnfield Chamber of Commerce, said that the organization is sorry to see her go.
“I was terribly saddened by Marianne’s decision to leave,” Mullen said. “I thought she had just the right combination of gifts to be an excellent executive director — part salesman, part organizer, part evangelist. She will be greatly missed and hard to replace.”
Whoever eventually replaces her will have big shoes to fill, but Cohen’s three years at the helm have made the Chamber a force in the communities of Wakefield and Lynnfield and beyond.
One of her proudest achievements with the Chamber was the introduction of “Restaurant Week” in Wakefield and Lynnfield, an idea that spread to other towns thanks in part to another initiative that she pushed, the Restaurant Roundtable, where area restaurant owners get together periodically and share ideas.
Under Cohen’s leadership, the Chamber partnered with Beebe Library and the town of Wakefield to present “Wakefield 101,” an event that several times a year offers new Wakefield residents an opportunity to talk with representatives from town departments, community groups and local businesses, meet other new residents and learn why Wakefield is a great place to live.
She has worked to develop plans to launch a similar Lynnfield 101 program.
She has sought out partnerships with other Chambers in the area, an effort that led to a multi-Chamber “Women in Business” series, a program that started with Wakefield and Lynnfield and expanded to include the Reading–North Reading and Wilmington–Tewksbury Chambers. She also instituted a Young Professionals Networking Group.
Cohen worked to help the Wakefield Merchant Group become a force in the community and worked with them on “Wakefield Haunted Happenings,” where Wakefield businesses welcome families downtown for some healthy, safe Halloween fun.
She introduced many new benefits for Chamber members, including Staples Advantage and partnerships with the UPS Store and W.B. Mason. She initiated a Member-2-Member discount program and introduced ChamberMaster membership management software to allow members more access to their information as well as business referrals.
Under Cohen’s leadership, the Chamber has offered educational workshops on a variety of useful topics including social media, employment law and cyber security. Multi-Chamber networking and educational opportunities were also expanded during Cohen’s tenure.
Another initiative during Cohen’s tenure was the “Laughter in the Lynnfield Library” fundraiser jointly sponsored by the Chamber and the Friends of Lynnfield Library. A tri-town Golf Tournament with the Stoneham Chamber was introduced for local Chamber members to enjoy.
Cohen also increased the Wakefield Lynnfield Chamber’s social media presence and worked to develop and promote the Wakefield Community Calendar, an online central clearinghouse for information on local events.
She has developed plans to offer a Chamber-sponsored Healthy Living Expo.
“The organization has grown in all measurable aspects: membership, revenue, events and participation,” Cohen told members in her farewell letter. “Collectively, we have proven that local organizations and local businesses are not only relevant but required. As an organization powered primarily by volunteers, we all have added value to staying and shopping local.”
As she departs, she sought to assure members.
“The work of the Chamber will continue in this time of transition,” Cohen wrote in her letter. “Newsletters will arrive in your email; meetings will be held; events will be planned, and progress will continue to be made. In fact, the Chamber’s first Healthy Living Expo will take place on September 16 and the annual Golf Tournament is on September 25.”
She thanked Chamber members for “making these last years memorable. I have learned a lot from you. I have laughed a lot with you. I hope our paths continue to cross, and I will forever promote the idea of shopping locally.”
Cohen was philosophical as she looked back on her accomplishments and forward to the future.
“I’m very proud of what I’ve done,” she said. “I think the Chamber can continue to grow but it’s time for a change for me.”