Phelon’s final chamber breakfast is ‘bittersweet’

Chamber directors Julianne Krutka and Caitrin Ferriter present a plaque and flowers to retiring Chamber Executive Director Kate Phelon Sept. 18, 2020. (MARC ST. ONGE/THE WESTFIELD NEWS)

WESTFIELD- The Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce Sept. 18 finally had its first Chamber Breakfast this year at Tekoa Country Club after the annual March and June breakfasts were cancelled due to COVID-19.

The scaled-down breakfast was also the last such event for Chamber of Commerce Director Kate Phelon, who will be retiring from the role next week after a decade in the position. 

The event was attended by dozens of local officials and business leaders. Tables were spaced according to COVID restaurant regulations and the attendance was about half of what it would have been in a normal year. 

Phelon was torn about her feelings at her last breakfast.

“It is with a heavy heart that I am leaving the chamber. While we are all experiencing unprecedented times, my departure is bittersweet, as I am feeling a great sense of loss, yet some excitement for a new beginning,” said Phelon in her closing address. 

Phelon emphasized that Westfield’s Chamber of Commerce plays a very important role in the success of local businesses. 

Phelon said that the accomplishments she is most proud of in her tenure were increasing the reputation of the chamber across the state, establishing a member-to-member program encouraging chamber members to shop first at other chamber member businesses, establishing the Westfield Education-to-Business Alliance, and awarding more than $10,000 in higher education scholarships. 

“We have a great chamber, and the members should be proud of the work we are doing,” said Phelon. 

She said her final days as executive director will be spent assuring the future success of the chamber and its business members, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt businesses and lives globally.

“Please know that it has been my pleasure to have served as your executive director for the past 10 years. I hope to maintain the connections and friendships I have made with many of you. So I will not say goodbye, just ‘see you soon’. Thank you,” said an emotional Phelon as she closed her remarks. 

The breakfast is typically hoseted at the Westfield-Barnes Regional Airport, but that was not possible this year due to the pandemic, so it was moved to the Tekoa Country Club. 

Other speakers included Mayor Donald F. Humason Jr., who presented Phelon with a citation praising her work for the community and congratulating her for her retirement. 

“It’s just a piece of paper. You can’t possibly express the appreciation I feel and all of us feel,” said Humason, “But I hope that when you are retired and on a beach with you toes in the sand, or on a golf course, whichever you choose, you will remember us and you will think fondly of the chamber and all of your time here in the City of Westfield.”

State Sen. John C. Velis said he also had a citation for Phelon, but said somewhat jokingly that he forgot to grab it off his coffee table before he left. He pointed out that Phelon already got back at him for that, as his nametag on the front table read “Representative Velis,” which drew laughter from Phelon and the crowd. 

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