Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Whistler Chamber of Commerce CEO steps down after five years

Melissa Pace ushered resort’s business network through some of its most trying years
Pace Resigns 29.15 SUBMITTED
Whistler Chamber of Commerce CEO Melissa Pace will be leaving her position at the end of the month

If there’s one thing the past two uncertain years have taught outgoing Whistler Chamber of Commerce CEO Melissa Pace, it’s that she doesn’t have to—nor should she—steer the ship alone.

“I learned it’s OK not to think I can do it all. I’ve had to really overcome that. I cannot and don’t have to do everything alone,” said Pace, who announced last week she’ll be leaving the chamber after five years at the helm.

Part of that was a desire to spend more time with family, and part of it was an acknowledgement that, after leading the resort’s largest business network through what have undoubtedly been two extremely lean years, it was simply time for a recharge.

“There’s nothing here at the chamber that should have changed or anything that could have been done differently. It’s the times,” she said. “I stepped into COVID as most of us did, thinking it would be a couple months, maybe six months. We went at a pace where we were just on fire. We were on the frontlines. It was seven days a week. We all know what it was: the changes in government, the pivoting, the new strategic planning, letting go of staff. All of this, including my own personal uncertainty of my future and the world’s future, it was pretty impactful.”

It was a hard-won lesson for the former managing partner at Landsea Tours & Adventures, who first joined the chamber staff as member relations manager in 2015, and became CEO in February 2017 after a brief stint as acting CEO. The bristling pace of the pandemic also served to reinforce the need to support Whistler’s business owners following the past two-plus years.

“We need to, as chambers, really consider what mental health looks like in the workplace, and what can we do as a chamber community to bring in the resources, the tools and work with Whistler Community Services to bring these things to life,” Pace noted.

Along with ushering Whistler’s business community through COVID-19, Pace was instrumental in shifting the chamber more towards an advocacy role than ever before. Some of those efforts, which began with past Chamber CEO Val Litwin, bore fruit last week when the federal government announced the easing of certain rules on temporary foreign workers aimed to stimulate areas of the economy that have been particularly hard hit in the pandemic, including hospitality and food services.

“That was a big one. We’ve been working on that for years,” Pace said.

Another of the chamber’s signature initiatives, the Whistler Experience customer service training program for employers and employees, grew more localized under Pace’s leadership.

“Even taking it from where Val had taken it, to then bringing it local, was a big undertaking. It took a lot of effort and a lot of planning to get that done,” she explained.

Pace also credited her team for being nimble enough to shift the chamber’s mandate into more of a recruitment role as businesses struggled even more than usual to fill positions and scores of foreign workers left the resort at the onset of the pandemic.

“One of the things we’ve definitely changed since COVID starting was being a recruitment organization,” she said. “All of a sudden you really have to do what you have to do to support the community. I think that’s where our resort partners and stakeholders really came together, because it’s not something we’ve ever done before, and it literally took a village to decide how to move this forward.”

To that end, Pace said the chamber is putting the finishing touches on its Whistler Community Talent Plan, essentially an all-encompassing guide for local employers as they look to recruit and hire staff. It’s expected for release next month.

“That is literally speaking to the national, provincial and local organizations that have anything to do with employment, employment resources, tourism, and bringing it all together to really understand how we’re going to work together and what this chamber can do with our partners to ensure that we recruit and retain the best talent we possibly can,” she said. “Right now we do a lot behind the scenes, so we need to put it in front of the members and say, ‘This is what we’re doing all the time and this is what we’re going to achieve by this date.’ That way they have a better insight into not only what the chamber is doing but also what the rest of the community is, along with provincially and nationally, to help our community.”

As a committee led by board chair Diana Chan now undertakes a search for the chamber’s next leader, Pace had some words of advice for whoever steps in to fill her shoes.

“Enjoy the ride, enjoy the journey and be bold. Be bold, with compassion.  That’s really important,” she said. “And take a rest when you can.”

Pace’s last day on the job is April 29.