The Next 100 Years
By Ettie Berneking
To celebrate the Chamber’s 100-year anniversary, three of its future leaders—Kristin Carter, the 2018 chairman of The Network, Paden Wilcox, the 2019 chairman of The Network, and Ryan Sivill the 2020 chairman of The Network—talk about what attracted them to get involved, where they see Springfield and the Chamber headed in the future and the energy they see in Springfield’s class of young professionals.
Ettie Berneking: How did each of you get involved with The Network?
Kristin Carter: This is part of my love story with Springfield. I’m from St. Louis and moved here in 2011, and one of my dear friends said I really needed to come to The Network, so I started coming to events. Six months later, I applied to be on leadership council.
Paden Wilcox: My boss’s wife started The Network 10 years before I started at the company, so my boss was very involved in it. I had just moved back to town and was looking for a way to get plugged in and meet other young professionals. I really loved The Network and the mission behind it. Six months later I applied for a leadership position in the group.
Ryan Sivill: I started at BKD right after college, so I started my career here and was looking for ways to get involved in the community. My mentor Gary Schafer told me about The Network (he happened to be the first chairman of The Network). It was almost a decade later that I applied for leadership council.
Berneking: What’s your big pitch for The Network to young professionals who haven’t joined yet?
K.C.: One of the things that stuck out to me is you think it’s going to be about networking, but it’s about so much more than that. It’s about engaging young professionals in the development of Springfield. It’s easier to make an impact here, and you feel like you have a say in Springfield.
R.S.: We were kind of joking about this earlier, but one thing that gets people excited in Springfield is how leadership is looking at young professionals to help guide where we go the next 100 years. We are at the table, so what do we want Springfield to look like for our kids and grandkids?
P.W.: The Network has earned that seat at the table. It started as just a group for young professionals, but it put us where senior leadership saw us as a talented pool of people. Now they’ll come to The Network as a resource.
K.C.: Also kudos to the Chamber because they had the foresight to reserve a seat on the Chamber board for the chairman of The Network, so you can be directly involved in what the Chamber board is doing.
Berneking: What role do you think the Chamber plays in Springfield’s growth?
P.W.: The Chamber serves as the glue that brings the different organizations together. It brings the city, the public and the business community together.
K.C.: It’s the trusted convener.
R.S.: Those on the Chamber board of directors just get it.
Berneking: You’ve all served on The Network leadership team, so what developments in town are you most proud to have been involved with?
P.W.: For me, I go back to Uber and the conversation we helped start about allowing ride sharing to come to Springfield. I don’t think people weren’t going to come to Springfield because we didn’t have Uber, but it was one of the many things on the list of why Springfield was behind the times. Through The Network, we talked with City Council, and now we have ride sharing. I think about that all the time. That’s something that really impacts a lot of people’s lives, and it wasn’t here two years ago. That’s a big one for me.
K.C.: For me it was the OTC ballot initiative during my term. Voter turnout rates were very low, and the average age of voters was in the mid 60s. Through our grass-root efforts, we made an impact in voter turnout and we have a hashtag that people still use. It lives on. It just started this excitement, and when the issue passed it reaffirmed the effort you put in.
R.S.: You don’t have to say, “I think it made an impact.” You’ve heard it did have an impact. Folks involved know you had an impact.
K.C.: That’s true, and now other groups like Friends of SPS come to The Network and ask for our help when they need to get voter support on upcoming issues.
R.S.: I’m optimistic that my moment is yet to come, but I’m excited for The Network to be out front about what we want our city to be and what we want it to look like. We’re trying to retain young professionals in Springfield, so I don’t think we can shy away from the possibilities that are out there.
Berneking: What do you see as the next big focus for the Chamber and for Springfield in the next 100 years?
P.W.: For me, the next 100 years need to focus on making Springfield a beautiful place to live, work and play and not just make it good enough. To not set out to build something that gets the job done but make something that we’re proud of. And as a community, we need to make people feel more welcome and work on diversity and inclusion.
K.C.: To illustrate Paden’s point, one quote I heard was if the St. Louis Arch was in Springfield, it would be 6 feet tall. Sometimes we’re so focused on the resources it takes to get a project done, we don’t think boldly. And I think in the next 100 years, we have got to think big. We just have to set our sights higher.
R.S.: We probably need to spend some time telling our story. We all love Springfield, but we have to get better at telling people why. And really, we have this awesome story—we have the outdoors and large national businesses headquartered here. We have incredible public education here. If we craft the message and tell that story, that will lead people here.
K.C.: It’s not bad to humble brag. Ryan, can you tell that same exact message at your 2020 Network speech?
R.S.: That’s the 2020 mission!