The Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce prepares to say goodbye to President Nancy Bruns
Nancy Bruns, president of the Lee’s Summit Chamber, is retiring after more than 15 years serving the organization, and nearly 30 years in the industry. Bruns herself points to her upbringing on a dairy farm near Concordia, Mo., as the foundation for her strong work ethic. It’s there that she learned many important lessons, molding her into the person she is today.
“As soon as we were old enough, we would have chores,” recalls Bruns, the third child of four. “My brother and I lived outdoors and had a carefree life, but we also worked hard. I guess that’s where I learned you could work hard and accomplish things, while still having a good time.”
After leaving the farm, Bruns’ first job was with the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad. She started as a file clerk and moved up the ranks to become the first woman in management in the sales and marketing department as the assistant to the vice president.
After returning to the Kansas City area, she spent a few years working for Lee Jeans. She frequently traveled to deal with sewing contractors, mainly in the southeast. Tired of the commute, Bruns kept her eyes open for a local opportunity.
Little did Bruns know that when she answered an ad in the local newspaper for an officer manager position at the Independence Chamber that she would find her career path. “At that point in time, I thought all the Chamber did was answer letters from kids when they were writing papers and hand out maps. My, how much I have learned since then,” says Bruns. She eventually served as vice president of the organization before leaving in 1996 to become president of the Raytown Chamber.
Bruns started as the president of the Lee’s Summit Chamber in 2000. At that time, the organization employed three full-time staff, operated with a $300,000 budget and had a membership of 500 members. Since beginning her tenure, the Chamber has grown immensely, gained financial stability and operates debt-free with a $1.2 million budget, employing seven full-time and two part-time employees. Membership has doubled to 1,000 members and the Chamber continues to attract businesses to the area.
“There have been lots of changes over the years. Businesses have had to tighten their belts and they don’t have as many employees to get out and volunteer as in the 80s and 90s,” says Bruns. “Even with the popularity of social media, people still want to have personal interactions. They want to know who they are doing business with and develop relationships. I can’t imagine a time when chambers will not play a huge role in communities. It is so much more than just networking; it’s the legislative issues and organizing of people to get goals accomplished.”
Bruns has been a successful leader throughout the years and has the accolades to back it up. Last year, the depot underwent renovations made possible by successful fundraising events, and additional staff was brought on to produce all special publications in-house.
“I’ve always said I was going to end up at a chamber on the beach where I could just retire and stay,” says Bruns. “I even interviewed a few years back with one, but at the end of the interview, I had to ask why? Why would I want to leave a community that has embraced me and supported me for so many years? I may not have lived in Lee’s Summit all my life, but it is home to me.”
After retiring, Bruns plans to continue traveling, one of her favorite hobbies, because “there are still so many places to explore.”
“I have been blessed here in Lee’s Summit. I have had wonderful chairs of the board, board members, Chamber members and, very importantly, have hired really good staff. Together as a community we have done great things and I’m glad to have been a part of it all.”
This article provided with our gratitude by our friends at the Lee’s Summit Chamber and the Catalyst magazine.