Jeff Williams isn't very happy that Dave Ryan is retiring from the Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce.
“He's got that gift to corral everyone together,” Williams said. “It seems so easy for him. He brought a lot to the table.”
Ryan has been the chamber's executive director since Williams first started working with the chamber 18 years ago. Now Williams is the chairman of the executive committee, facing the fact that his now “friend” will be leaving.
“Very few people can do what Dave Ryan has done,” Williams said.
Ryan's biggest accomplishment, Williams said, is leading the effort to combine the East Chicago and Hammond chambers about 20 years ago.
“Dave Ryan loves making Lake County and the surrounding communities … get along together as one,” Williams said. “(He's) all about let's be one and not separate.”
Starting in 2001, as chairman of the board of the Hammond Chamber, Ryan helped negotiate the deal that combined the two chambers, according to a 2017 VoyageChicago article. It took about a year.
Since then, the chamber has grown and helped countless businesses thrive. But about Nov. 1, Ryan told Williams his intention to retire.
Williams said a search committee was formed, and they are taking resumes until Dec. 9 for a replacement; however, Ryan is committed to sticking around till they find someone suitable.
But Williams said whoever takes Ryan's place will have some pretty big shoes to fill.
“I will miss most that I don't have to worry about the job being done,” Williams said.
He said he always knew Ryan was out doing his job and making connections. Because that's what Ryan does best.
Ryan owned The Colonial Inn in Kentland for 28 years, was involved in economic development in Newton County, and was manager of communications and public affairs for NIPSCO for 12 years.
He also helped establish the Lake County Economic Alliance by collaborating with the Crossroads Regional Chamber in Merrillville in 2013.
Williams said Ryan plans to do some traveling with wife Mary in retirement. And he still sits on several boards, including the chamber. He is hopeful Ryan will continue to stop by.
“I think he will still be active with our chamber as well,” Williams said.