Twitter faux pas lead to Dexter Chamber of Commerce resignations
Editor's note: This article has been updated with comments from Mary Ann Falzon and Joe Nowak.
The president and executive director of the Dexter Area Chamber of Commerce have both resigned after a local news website criticized the director's use of social media.
Executive Director Mary Ann Falzon, who held the position since early July, resigned "on her own terms" Tuesday, a press release issued Wednesday night by the chamber's board said.
Chamber President Andrew Kudwa was asked to step down following Falzon's resignation, the release said. He also resigned from the board of directors on Wednesday, with a commitment to continue volunteer involvement in Dexter as a member only. The board appointed former president Joe Nowak to serve as interim-president until elections in November.
Falzon said she resigned after concluding she didn't have the support from Kudwa that she needed to continue in the job. She said she agreed with some of the criticisms in the article and wanted to improve the campaign, but felt she couldn't go on without adequate support.
Kudwa couldn't be reached for comment.
Nowak said the problems with the campaign were the chamber's collectively. "The campaign to do things locally was executed poorly, but there are no one or two people to blame. I would fault the entire board for a lack of guidance. We’ll pick up and rebuild.”
"I’ve heard from several people that the Twitter feed leaves a lot to be desired, and I unfortunately have to agree with them," Heritage writer Sean Dalton said in the column. Dalton wrote he had heard complaints about mentions of a shoe-shopping expedition in Ann Arbor and other tweets that had nothing to do with Dexter and there were few tweets about Dexter.
Twitter is a social network site that allows users to post 140-character updates that are disseminated to "followers."
Falzon said she never tweeted about shoe-shopping in Ann Arbor but agreed with other points in the article. "I wasn't doing a good job of Tweeting," she said. "I was doing a good job of Doing Dexter. The social networking was a way to follow what I was doing."
Paula Palmer Burns, secretary and member of the chamber board of directors, said that halfway through the 60-day local campaign that kicked off on Aug. 1, board members felt it wasn't as effective as they had hoped.
"We needed to get the message out to the public better," said Palmer Burns. "Mary Ann has fantastic ideas, but the board wasn't happy with the execution of them. Mary Ann didn't feel the board's expectation was made clear to her, and I think that we as a board did not give her enough feedback."
Falzon said she is relatively new to Twitter and didn't really understand how to make the best use of it. After the article came out, she said she had a better understanding. "Every time I spend money I should Tweet about it," she said.
Falzon said once the campaign started, she didn't do anything outside of Dexter except go to a Detroit Tigers game, and "I was honest about that."
She said the campaign was her idea. "I really thought this was a chance for me to have a really positive impact on my community. ... I don’t want any of this to reflect negatively on this community," she said. "I love Dexter."
Falzon is a graduate of Dexter High School and said her father owned a business in Dexter. Her grandfather started the Dexter A&W.
Regarding Kudwa, Palmer Burns said the board has nothing but thanks for his dedication, but the board needed to make a statement and move forward.
"When Mary Ann was hired, we put Andy Kudwa in a position to manage and guide her, and we don't believe he did that," Palmer Burns said.
The board plans to hire a new executive director as soon as possible and has a few possible candidates. The job is described as part-time and "requires someone who opens the mail and promotes the town all at once," Palmer Burns said.
She said the chamber board will continue to promote supporting local busineses in Dexter, and plans to turn the 60-day Doing Dexter campaign into a year-round effort. She said the board wants people to realize how much Dexter has to offer, including shopping, restaurants and theater.
For more Dexter news, visit AnnArbor.com's Dexter page.
Lisa Carolin is a freelance writer for AnnArbor.com. To contact the news desk, call 734-262-2572 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.