By Pete Banda
After four years of working up the Chamber of Commerce from scratch, Lionel Betancourt has resigned as the President of the group’s board. The decision comes after a talk with several members of the Chamber led Betancourt to believe others were not satisfied with his approach, preferring a more aggressive stance. Betancourt expressed his displeasure with not being able to see his project all the way through as he still had several projects he wanted to finish, but was proud of what the board was able to accomplish over the last two years in operation.
“I offered for my board to choose a time for an effective change of command and last Friday was selected for that day of change. It wasn’t really my choice, but it appears that the board members were ready for this change a great deal faster than I.” Betancourt said in a statement. “I cannot thank (the people of this city) enough for the support to our group during the past four years, but there is still much more to accomplish and continued support is extremely important.”
A little over four years ago, Betancourt decided that the city had gone long enough without a chamber of commerce and started working to develop a strong relationship with surrounding businesses. Two years of planning later and the chamber was off the ground, hosting a variety of events within the community, including the popular “coffee with” events held every Wednesday morning with a different guest speaker every week.
Betancourt stressed that he hopes the chamber can continue to grow, even without him. His goal of 200 members in the chamber was never met, though there are over 100 members currently involved with the chamber.
On Tuesday at a regular city commission meeting, Betancourt asked commissioners to continue supporting the chamber after his exit.
“We have a community of terrific contributors and they all have one thought in mind. San Benito can do better and will do better,” he said. “There are many who believe their way is better and no doubt that is true. Continue working with them. Work to aid in the completion of what we began together. Anything else would be a setback.”
According to Betancourt, lawyer and Vice President Tony Crane will take over as the head of the chamber in his absence. Crane was not available for comment as of press time. Sandee Alvarez, who will continue in her role as Executive Director of the chamber, noted that while Betancourt will be missed, the foundation he has laid will stay for the chamber to continue to grow.
One of the main areas of discontent came from the cities lack of funds from the hotel/motel tax that Betancourt noted is guaranteed to the Chamber by the State of Texas.
“The fact that the Chamber exists has some entitlements,” Betancourt wrote in his letter. “I understand that Texas law provides for a significant percentage of the hotel/motel tax to be awarded to a Chamber simply because it is a Chamber. That alone would give revenue that would guarantee the future of the Chamber.”
Betancourt would finish his letter by again asking for continued support from commissioners.
“Regardless of how this organization turns out, I know I have had your collective support. I know it is time to leave, I know there are others who can do more and do better. For me the time I have had has been grand. I will always appreciate the opportunity given. May God bless you all and God bless our wonderful community.”
The Chamber will continue with all planned events at this time.