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Get to know the new Peoria Chamber of Commerce CEO/president

Carlson looks to help ‘community thrive’

Posted 7/14/22

Around seven years ago, Rhonda Carlson found her love for the nonprofit world when she began volunteering for an organization in the greater Cleveland area that helped under-served and at-risk populations.

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Subscriber Exclusive

Get to know the new Peoria Chamber of Commerce CEO/president

Carlson looks to help ‘community thrive’

Posted

Around seven years ago, Rhonda Carlson found her love for the nonprofit world when she began volunteering for an organization in the greater Cleveland area that helped under-served and at-risk populations.

It set in motion a desire to give back to her community that led her to go back to college for nonprofit management and today take a position to serve the Peoria community, particularly the business community.

Carlson recently took over the position of Peoria Chamber of Commerce CEO. She replaces former CEO Scot Andrews who stepped down earlier this year.

She said working in various industries over her professional career, the chamber sparked her interest to work for a nonprofit that directly serves the business community and works closely with government agencies to both promote the city and advocate for the businesses that call Peoria and its surrounding areas home.

“As a Peoria resident, I of course want to see my community thrive and feel fortunate to have found a role that will allow me to have a part in doing so,” she said.

Get to now Carlson more here.

City/town you grew up in: Cleveland, Ohio

Number of years you’ve lived in Peoria: 1.5 years

Personal background highlights:

  • I was born and raised by my parents, Dennis and Tammy, in Cleveland, Ohio with my older brother, Michael. My dad worked for himself for over 40 years painting/remodeling houses and my mom has spent the last 33 years working at a family-owned hardware store downtown, where she is currently office manager. My brother worked as a mechanic for the past several years but is currently back in school to become an MRI technician.
  • I received my bachelor’s degree in English from Ohio State University in 2005. Post-graduation, I served as President of the Young Buckeyes of Greater Cleveland alumni club and Vice President of Communications for the Student-Alumni Council alumni society. I currently serve as President of the Student-Alumni Council Alumni Society.
  • I began volunteering with the Carmella Rose Health Foundation in 2015, a nonprofit that provides patient navigation services to underserved and at-risk populations in the greater Cleveland area. It was through my involvement with Carmella Rose that I found my love for the nonprofit world and decided to go back to school. While working full time at the Center for Health Affairs in their group purchasing division, I took evening classes and graduated magna cum laude with my master’s degree in public administration with a focus on nonprofit management from Cleveland State University in 2018.
  • I currently live in Peoria with my husband, Eric, my two boys, Thomas, 12, Cameron,3, and our Australian Shepherd, Boomer.

Professional background highlights:

  • Post-graduation from Ohio State University, I worked in the title insurance industry until I was hired as an administrative assistant at The Center for Health Affairs in their oncology division. Over the 6.5 years spent in that division, I was consistently promoted, holding business operations and development roles and serving on the executive management team. One of my greatest accomplishments was the development and execution of the “What is a Cancer Registrar?” video to promote the profession and help recruit future cancer registrars for the company. The video was later showcased at the National Cancer Registrars Association annual conference.
  • I transitioned roles in 2014 to the organization’s group purchasing division, where I served in various account management roles to support 1,000+ healthcare and alternate market members. I was vital in the design and implementation of a member portal for clients to access real-time spend analytics and savings opportunities and also served as lead on several internal cross-division committees to enhance operations and employee engagement.
  • Shortly after graduating with my master’s degree, I was offered the role of executive director of Arizona Disabled Sports, a nonprofit organization based in Mesa that provides adaptive sports and recreation programs to people with disabilities. For four years, I dedicated my time to advancing opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in sports, building partnerships with other Arizona nonprofits, and implementing operational efficiencies to allow more time to dedicate to program activities. Most recently, I served as event director for the 2022 Desert Challenge Games presented by The Hartford, an international adaptive sports competition and World Para Athletics sanctioned event, bringing 340 athletes from 12 countries to compete in adaptive air pistol and rifle, archery, swimming, and track and field events.
  • I currently serve as secretary for the Mesa Regional Foundation for Accessibility, Diversity, and Inclusion.

What would you like the Peoria business community to know about you?

I am a strong advocate for collaboration to get things done. Coming from the nonprofit world, it is so vital to identify partnerships that can advance mutual, mission-based initiatives that make a greater impact in improving the community. I look forward to making connections with so many great businesses and agencies in Peoria, getting a better understanding of their successes and struggles, and identifying ways the chamber can foster growth and offer opportunities that will make Peoria an even better place to work, play, and live.

What are three positives about the Peoria business community?

While still a somewhat recent resident to Peoria (and the state of Arizona), I look forward to gaining a greater understanding of the many great businesses that call Peoria home. In the time I have lived here and even in just my first day with the chamber, I have found many within the business community are tremendous advocates for city-wide growth and are interested in finding ways to mutually support a more vibrant community not just for the sake of their own livelihood but for more of a shared benefit for businesses and residents alike. There is very much a “roll up your sleeves” mentality I have already seen in the way many give of their time in support of the community as a whole and as someone that considers herself a public servant at heart, appreciate that work ethic and selflessness.

What are three things that could improve about the Peoria business community?

There is so much opportunity for growth in Peoria and some exciting projects down the pike that will make it even more attractive for potential businesses to set up shop. I look forward to seeing an even greater variety of businesses that will decide to call Peoria home in the future.

What is your first order of business at the chamber?

My first steps as president and CEO will be identifying and strengthening partnerships that will reinforce the chamber’s standing in the community as a vital resource for businesses and residents. Part of that process will be re-establishing a physical location for the chamber, recruiting a dedicated staff that will best serve our membership, and implementing new opportunities that will add value to the resources the chamber already provides.

Name a few future goals for the chamber.

While developing a solid strategic plan for the chamber will be an additional priority for myself and our board of directors, the goals of the chamber should center on advocacy, connection and growth. The chamber should very much serve as a voice for its members, while also equipping those same businesses with resources to be more successful. Those resources often include events and networking opportunities that facilitate awareness and build relationships that will serve a common purpose, but it can go far beyond that. There is so much untapped potential for what the chamber can become, and I welcome the opportunity to lead the charge.

Know, Peoria, Chamber, CEO/president

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