OTTUMWA — After months of searching, Ottumwa has a new chamber director.

Timothy Tracy, 55, of Ault, Colo., is the new head of the Ottumwa Area Chamber of Commerce. He steps into the role vacated in May by Rick Johnson.

Tracy was most recently president of the Greeley/Weld Chamber of Commerce. The Greeley/Weld chamber has 750 members. He begins work in Ottumwa on Oct. 17.

Ault is in Weld, Co., north of Denver on the Wyoming border, and is a small town of 1,500 people. There is a significant Latino population in the area; 30 percent of Ault’s residents have Hispanic ancestry.

Tracy left the Greeley/Weld chamber on Dec. 17, 2004. The chamber said only that he left to pursue other opportunities. He has also served as executive vice president of the Oskaloosa, Iowa Chamber of Commerce and president of the Greater La Crosse, Wis. Area Chamber of Commerce.

When asked why he left Greeley/Weld’s chamber, Tracy pointed to a merger.

“It was time. There was a merger going on between the chamber and the convention and visitors’ bureau,” he said. The separation between the two groups in Ottumwa was a selling point.

But Tracy’s main reason for targeting Ottumwa was personal.

“We’re native Iowans, first of all, and we’re looking to come back,” he said. Tracy’s parents have their roots in Ottumwa. He said he recalls driving from Des Moines with his parents when he was a child to visit his grandparents in Ottumwa.

The drive is a bit quicker now, something Tracy noticed when he came to Ottumwa to interview. He said he had a chance to meet with the people in the chamber’s offices and was impressed.

There’s a more recent area connection, too. Tracy arrived in La Crosse from Oskaloosa in 1995. He left in August 2000, submitting a resignation that was “effective immediately.”

Tracy started work in Colorado in January 2001. He departed that position in December 2004, in what the local newspaper described as an unexpected departure.

Ottumwa has seen sudden shifts within the chamber in recent years. Johnson resigned only months after taking over the helm. His departure came almost exactly one year after Joy Madison left the chamber. She departed when Partners In Progress eliminated its executive position.

Terry McNitt, president of the Ottumwa Area Chamber of Commerce, called Tracy someone who “kind of instinctively draws respect,” and said his departure from prior employers is not a concern.

“The process was long, thought out. There was a lot of determination that went into the decision,” McNitt said. “Just based on the information that the board was presented … we don’t feel that it is going to be an issue.”

McNitt added that the board was told Tracy departed after a realignment in Colorado.

Chamber officials in Ottumwa have expressed a desire to have a longer-term director this time around. The chamber did not announce a salary for Tracy, though a range of $40,000 to $50,000 was given during the search for a director. Office Manager Louise Davis said the pay scale is based on experience, and that Tracy is at the upper end of the advertised range.

The chamber claims more than 400 members in and around Ottumwa.

Matt Milner can be reached at (641) 683-5359 or via e-mail at mwmilner@mchsi.com.

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