The Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce will say goodbye to two longtime senior staff members over the next few weeks: Steven J. Katz, senior vice president, and Fran Wells, director of Leadership Stark County. Katz is set to retire effective Jan. 30, while Wells will vacate the full time directorship on Feb. 17, remaining in a part-time capacity through the conclusion of Leadership’s 28th Signature Class Program in June.
Katz has served as senior vice president of the Canton Regional Chamber for 14 years. His primary responsibilities have included economic development, government affairs, human resources and management of internal operations alongside the president and CEO. His oversight has also included some aspects of events, finance and information systems. Katz joined the Chamber in 1982 as manager of Government Affairs and has also served as vice president of Economic Development and Government Affairs.
Katz graduated from Kent State University with a master’s degree in public administration. He recently served on the boards of Ohio Means Jobs, Canton Community Improvement Corporation, Stark County Minority Business Council, and the Stark Development Board Finance Corporation.
Katz is looking forward to spending more time with his family and pursuing personal interests.
“Steve’s leadership, strategy, guidance, and friendship will be greatly missed,” said Denny Saunier, president and CEO of the Canton Regional Chamber. “Steve has managed our economic development program, served as the Chamber ‘face’ for business and manufacturing, worked hand-in-hand with the City of Canton, and led our Mills Business Park efforts. His impact through the years is truly extraordinary.”
Stepping into Katz’s role is Mike Gill, who has been promoted to vice president for economic development. “I can’t think of a more qualified or capable person to follow Steve,” said Saunier. “This is an extension of the economic development work that Mike has been doing downtown for years.”
Wells, a graduate of Leadership Stark County’s 14th Signature class, has served as director since summer 2002. Under Wells’ direction, Leadership Stark County added the annual Local Government Leadership Academy for elected and aspiring officials, as well as a short-course for young professionals, Spotlight Stark County, in 2006. Most recently, Leadership Stark County has begun offering customized training for businesses and organizations.
An honors graduate from Indiana University’s School of Education, Wells taught at the elementary school level for five years. In 1979, Wells and her husband, Dr. P.J. Wells, moved to Canton when her husband established a Dentistry practice in the Canton South area. Prior to Leadership Stark County, Wells served as an instructor substitute for the Stark County Board of Mental Retardation for 12 years, followed by seven years as a Learning Resource Specialist at Canton Country Day School. Wells is looking forward to spending more time with her family, including her young grandson.
“During Fran’s 12 years as director, she has elevated Leadership Stark County’s Signature class to a highly regarded program in our community and beyond,” said Saunier. “She has expanded Leadership’s brand and programming to include Spotlight Stark County, Government Academy, and custom leadership training. I wish her the best as begins a new chapter of life.”
Darren Faye, chairman of the board for Leadership Stark County, added, “Leadership programs around the country and locally have molded some of their programs to mirror what Fran has developed right here in Stark County.”
Saunier and Faye will be working together in coming weeks to secure Wells’ replacement.