It isn't often that both halves of a couple are both employed in the public sector, and both are deserved of praise for work in their respective communities. But John and Sheri Heiney are exceptions, and ones we will miss as they take their talents to Arizona.
Sheri, president of the Rochester Regional Chamber of Commerce, was recently hired as the incoming president and CEO of the Prescott Chamber of Commerce in Prescott, Arizona, and John, executive director of the Birmingham Shopping District, is interviewing for positions in the sunbelt as well.
While we're thrilled for them and their new adventure, which will also allow them to be closer to family in Arizona and Colorado – including a new grandbaby – both Sheri and John leave big shoes to fill in Rochester and Birmingham. They have each been anchors of their respective communities. John has led the Birmingham Shopping District for over 17 years, and Sheri has been the leader in Rochester for 16 years. That's a lot of cumulative knowledge to fill for local leaders.
As president of the Rochester Regional Chamber of Commerce, whose mission is "to provide leadership and resources in order to advance business development in partnership with civic, cultural, and educational interests for the benefit of its members and the community," Sheri Heiney did just that. The greater Rochester area has grown in the last decade and a half, with the business community flourishing. From the growth and prominence of the Rochester Hometown Christmas Parade, which the Chamber sponsors and is a prime mover behind, to the Sunrise Pinnacle Awards, which honors the accomplishments and contributions of Rochester, Rochester Hills, and Oakland Township's most visionary leaders, entrepreneurs, businesses and non-profits, to the annual Community Outlook Breakfast, Sheri has crafted the chamber into a dynamic organization benefitting local business, all while making it look easy.
John, who began in Birmingham in 1999, has been just as vital a cog in the wheel that makes the central business district competitively turn. He has worked with a strong executive board to combat first, the threat from the Somerset Collection, helping to capitalize on the unique identity of the downtown shopping area. In 2007, Heiney worked with the city of Birmingham to develop and market its bistro ordinance, with the goal to enliven the walkability of the streets by having outdoor dining, open windows to invite the public in, and to create a synergism between the retail and restaurant community.
Later, a retail marketing consultant, Julie Fielder, was hired to reach out to national and regional retailers to augment the unique local boutiques in the city, to have destination stores in light of the demise of the Jacobson's stores in 2002. That successful outreach has resulted in lululemon, West Elm, Paper Source, Francesca's, Allen Edmond's, Sara Campbell, J. McLaughlin, Evereve, and others setting up camp in downtown Birmingham.
One of John's strengths has always been his sense of optimism, even in light of the Great Recession. He consistently worked collaboratively with the business community, local government leaders, merchants, and landlords, to not only create and sustain a vibrant downtown area while also promoting events which would draw residents and visitors in, he fostered a sense of harmony among all of his constituencies, which is no small feat.
Now, the Heineys are on to warmer climates and new faces. We are sure they will warm the hearts of their new community as they have done with their old ones. Our loss is Arizona's gain.