HARTLAND – A local businesswoman with a passion for horses, polo and event coordination took the helm of the Hartland Area Chamber of Commerce.
Emmalyn Wheaton, a former member of the chamber council, was named the chamber’s new executive director. She started earlier this month.
Wheaton first got involved in the chamber several years ago, founding The Hartland Polo Classic, which began in 2017, after bringing the idea to former executive director, Katie Chuba.
“After attending the polo event for a couple of years, I became a board member (of the chamber) and became more deeply involved in the chamber,” Wheaton said.
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He served a one-year term as chairman of the chamber’s board of directors in 2021.
Wheaton moved to Hartland Township with her family more than 20 years ago after the Detroit Polo Club moved to the township from Milford.
A longtime polo player and polo instructor, she headed the Detroit Polo Club and founded the Detroit Polo School.
Wheaton said her husband, a club professional, will take over management duties for the Detroit Polo Club while she focuses on her duties at the chamber.
The Hartland Polo Classic has become a popular annual event and fundraiser.
Chuba, who attended the latest polo classic in June, left the classroom to work for the Livonia-based International Hearing Society, a membership association for hearing health professionals. She works as a director of the association’s members.
House members and events coordinator Jennie Ross acted as interim director for a short time after Chuba left.
“For a couple of years, I’ve been thinking about making a change for myself,” Wheaton said. “I was looking for a different challenge, a different adventure. At first, this (job) popped up and I said, ‘No, I have a business.’ But, I thought, I love working in the camera and I love companies, and I have a lot of experience in small businesses running my business in Hartland, so I think this offers a nice perspective. “
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As an “event driven” person, one of his goals is to bring new events to Hartland Township and involve the chamber more in other community events.
“One of my goals is to bring a summer event to Hartland, something that is family friendly,” he said. “We’re a pretty big bedroom community. A lot of people work outside Hartland, so what are the ways to get people involved in the summer when they’re in Hartland and the kids aren’t in school?”
She said she would like to see more events which include music, art and other activities.
“We have nice parks and outdoor activities, engaging, so maybe a run and a mountain bike ride, kind of festival stuff for kids,” he suggested.
He said he saw opportunities for greater collaboration with the local library and schools.
“We used to do a Room 101 event, pre-COVID, to highlight all the things the Chamber does and offers, and I want to bring them back,” he said.
The fledgling Livingston County Chamber Alliance is also bringing other events, including a series of speakers. The alliance is a collaboration of the Hartland Area, Brighton Area and Howell Area chambers of commerce.
Wheaton said the pandemic was tough on small businesses.
“Finding employees has been the biggest obstacle, especially for small businesses,” he said. “He’s making sure we push those resources where you can find employees. That’s a big part of what we’ve done over the past year.”
He is also entering the role as the House Council finalizes a new strategic plan for the next few years.
He expects to have a good working relationship with the council of all volunteers.
“I know the dynamics of all the relationships in the room,” he said. “It gives me the ability to get up and move relatively quickly. There’s a bit of a level of comfort that I have here, which is nice.”
Current House Speaker David Walker said: “She has been very active in the House.”
“He already comes with knowledge based simply (on the fact) that he was a board member. He has a very clear basic understanding,” he said.
He said the difference will be that his new job is to carry out the will of the council instead of serving it.
Contact Livingston Daily reporter Jennifer Eberbach at [email protected]