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Doug Baxter, Flagler Chamber President Since 2007, Resigns Unexpectedly; DeLorenzo Leads

| November 28, 2012

Doug Baxter, the only unmasked man in a tie, in an October shot of the Flagler chamber’s staff. Rebecca DeLorenzo, who’s now interim president, is sitting to his right. (Flagler Chamber)

Last Updated: 7:02 p.m.

The Flagler County Chamber of Commerce & Affiliates announced early this afternoon, in a release, that Doug Baxter, president and chief executive officer since 2007, has resigned. The chamber’s executive board had met that morning and accepted the resignation.

Rebecca DeLorenzo, the chamber’s vice president since 2008, who’d always been seen as a strong successor to Baxter, was appointed interim president by the chamber board, with Baxter’s blessing. DeLorenzo was called into the board room and told of the decision by Chamber Board Chairman Garry Lubi, past Chairwoman Lea Stokes and incoming Chairman Scott Sowers. But it may be until March before a permanent appointment is announced, Lubi said.

DeLorenzo “will definitely be a candidate for that position,” Lubi said. DeLorenzo this evening said she was “certainly interested in moving into that role. It just takes some time for us to get there.” She said she was “as surprised as everybody else” to learn of Baxter’s decision to resign–which she learned about today.

rebecca delorenzo flagler county chamber of commerce

Rebecca DeLorenzo. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

“Rebecca and I have been working together for the last five and a half years and I’ve been grooming her to take over for me over that period of time,” Baxter said in a brief interview this afternoon. “Rebecca is very bright, she knows how the chamber functions, she knows the staff, so why would you want to bring someone else?”

The resignation may not have been a surprise to Baxter: there’d been internal discussions between him and the board over the chamber’s finances, which may not be as strong as the board would like them to be.

No one would speak for the record on the specifics of the financial issue. But beyond the veneer of Baxter’s amicable resignation, there were issues that led to what, in the end, is a very abrupt and unusual end of a relatively long tenure. These ends don’t take place in a void. People familiar with the situation said that over the last few weeks, the executive board of the chamber had met a few times to discuss a financial hole that may have grown to tens of thousands of dollars, more because of the chamber’s over-extension than because of any malice, with the chamber’s phone book playing a central role in the problem. Baxter was then granted an amicable divorce, while the chamber board itself will look to reorganize its mission, and possibly its relatively large staff of 13 (large for a county this size), scaling back some operations and focusing much more on supporting and promoting the small businesses that form the core of its membership.

Baxter himself said the chamber’s books were in good order.

“Everything is fine over at the chamber,” Baxter said. “People say that because the phone book is a dying breed that it’s going to be a revenue source we’re going to have to look at at some point, but right now the phone book is doing great,” with a distribution of 50,000 a year. With phone books, however, distribution is not necessarily an indication of success if the advertising content of the book is sub-par. A higher distribution may merely add to production costs without enough advertising to make up the difference, or generate the needed profits.

Lubi said the chamber’s finances are solid, too. “We’re still on solid ground, we’re a little bit off but—we’re in a good place,” Lubi said. “A little bit off” is as far as Lubi would go in describing the chamber’s finances. Aside from the chamber’s foundation, which is a non-profit segment of the operation, the chamber is a private entity. It is not required to open its books to public inspection.

He concurred that the phone book is no longer the source of revenue it once was, and membership’s fluctuations this year–between the upper 700s and the mid 800 members–is down from the roughly 1,000 members of around 2007 or 2008. (As of Monday, there were 797 members.) But today’s number is a truer reflection of what the membership may have been even then, he said, when many members had been “carried” through the years, without being purged from the system after their membership had lapsed. The economy, too, has shrunk the numbers. “As the economy gets better,” Lubi said, “that’ll help that membership grow.”

Lubi was more effusive in praise for Baxter in an interview late Wednesday afternoon, repeating several times the benefits Baxtter had brought to the chamber and the business community. But Lubi stopped just short of saying that the chamber board would have rather he’d stayed.

“His heart is really in the right place, he cares, and we wish him the very very best, I wish him the very very best,” Lubi said. “It’s just a decision he decided to make and we’ve got to respect it.”

Baxter, who hails from Australia, came to Central Florida in the late 1970s. He started, owned and operated two successful entrepreneurial businesses before joining the chamber as president in 2007.

“I’ve got some other opportunities I’m wanting to explore, I thought now was a good time,” Baxter said, sounding as cheerful as if he were hosting one of the chamber’s special events. “This is a serious decision that I’ve made and I thought the timing was right because I thought the chamber is in good hands, we’ve come a long way since I’ve come here, and I’m happy and at peace that I’m leaving the chamber in good hands.” He credited DeLorenzo as well as the chamber’s staff and its board.

In its release this afternoon, the chamber reflected polite applause for Baxter.

“Doug played a key role in turning the chamber into the largest member organization in Flagler County,” Lubi is quoted as saying in the release. “Since 2007 he has demonstrated a passion for and commitment to supporting the local business community. We value his contributions to our chamber, and wish him the very best in his future endeavors.”

Baxter, 56, said he planned to spend some time with his family — his 27-year-old son and 25-year-old daughter are moving back to Australia, though Baxter who lives in Flagler Beach, has no plan to return to his homeland. “I’m going to take a little bit of time off and spend sometime with the children, and that’s always good.”

Asked about his next move, he said: “I don’t know just for the simple fact I don’t know where my next career path is going to take me.” He said he won’t look for work until after the new year.

“There’s no downside to me leaving at this point. One chapter of my life is ending and another one will start,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of good at the chamber.”

Every year in early to mid-January, the chamber goes through a strategic planning process. The vision for the new presidency will be part of that process this January. Lubi said the board won’t rush the decision, expected in March. Meanwhile, he had no doubts that the chamber would be led well by DeLorenzo and the rest of the staff. “As good as Doug has been, you’ve got to remember one thing about a chamber, it’s not about one person, it’s about many people,” Lubi said, noting the staff, the board and the membership served.

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37 Responses for “Doug Baxter, Flagler Chamber President Since 2007, Resigns Unexpectedly; DeLorenzo Leads”

  1. Will says:

    Wishing Doug well, whatever he does and wherever he goes.

    Best wishes too, to Rebecca DeLorenzo in her new leadership role!

  2. Barbara says:

    I am saddened to hear Doug Baxter is leaving the Chamber. He has been such an integral part of this community. I have had to the opportunity to get to know Mr. Baxter thru fundraisers and special events and he has always been hard-working and he truly cares about Flagler County and it’s citizens. He will be sorely missed.

  3. confidential says:

    Oops! About time….Happy Trails Dough!
    What about this Chamber try some administrator/s that will take few days of the month and visit the member businesses and ask them “how are you doing?” and how the chamber could help you to be more successful? Other than contacting us only to sell us advertisement and other of their profitable goodies. .
    Chamber administrators feel themselves as higher ups as their Board on their pedestals and seriously busy only planning how best to support outsource and frivolously spend the membership funds as well as the taxpayers monies handed to them by the local government.

  4. Will says:

    Hey there “confidential”…

    Why don’t you call the Chamber one of these days and ask for William or for Catherine, just to suggest two, for they do meet with chamber members as you suggest to help them with their businesses. Maybe they can help you with whatever you need.

    And if you get active in the Chamber – join committees and attend functions – I think you’ll see that no one is on a pedestal as you suggest – but working together for the community’s good. If you have the facts, you might change your mind about outsourcing, frivolous spending, and even handling of “taxpayers'” monies. It’s easy to criticize from a distance, but maybe more fulfilling to get involved. Just a suggestion.

    • "My Daily Rant" says:

      Hey Will;
      Been a member for 14 years never seen much come out of this Chamber.Tried once to get on a committee they chose the NEW Manager of Hilton instead.

  5. tulip says:

    I find it very strange that Mr. Baxter abruptly resigned like this. There has to be a back story behind this decision.

    Now we have Mr. DiLorenzo on City Council, whose wife is now the president of the Chamber of Commerce——hmmm.

  6. PJ says:

    Thanks Doug for doing the best you can during the most troubled of times. Good luck!

  7. Will says:

    Tulip – what’s with the “hmmm” ?

    We have a talented and intelligent young couple working to better the city. Their skills and affiliations are out in the open so there’s no conflict of interest – no hidden deals. On Council, Jason is only one of five votes, and can easily be outvoted if the four retirees (semi or full) choose to vote against the working guy. In the Chamber, the President is subject to the direction of the Board of Directors – so you shouldn’t expect any sudden shift there regarding business/governmental relations.

    Ms. DeLorenzo has been or is about to be certified as an association executive – a credential that’s very valuable to professionals in that field. I hope the politics of this town don’t create a glass ceiling to block her way.

    • "My Daily Rant" says:

      We need fresh ideas in the Chamber, not the same that just get a pay check. I also believe theres a conflict of intrest.We also need to check into the tourism board.I see them spending our bed tax money
      but not putting people into Motel/Hotel rooms.

  8. Magnolia says:

    Not to begrudge anyone a good time, the photo above shows a less than serious attitude of the Chamber which has always been the problem.

    This is not party time. It is time to stop the business bleed leaving Palm Coast.

    • Johnny says:

      When was the last time you set foot in the Chamber? Are you familiar with any of the staff by name? Do you know how hard they work? If you want to blame businesses leaving Palm Coast, the blame lies with the business, not with the Chamber and it’s staff.

      • Magnolia says:

        Johnny, your response to my comment is a classic example of what I am talking about. Yes, I have done business with the chamber, have set foot in their offices.

        Do you know what the mission statement of the chamber is, Johnny?

        • Johnny says:

          As a chamber member yes I do know, the mission of the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce & is to help our business community thrive. That doesn’t mean keep your business in business. They are tool to help facilitate your business in finding new prospects, through networking and other means, how you choose to use that tool is entirely up to you. From a small biz perspective, I’m doing just fine.

    • Will says:


      The photo was for a Halloween Chamber publication – trying to have some fun with member relations, which in this tough economy helps get through the day. .

      I’d rather see some smiles pffering to help when I go there instead of grumps hovering around the coffee pot! :)

  9. Old Harley dude says:

    I find the phone book excuse strange. I sold ads at chamber memberships for a couple of years. The sales jobs are paid by commission and you use your own car and gas. I quit when the commission was cut to a point I would have been working for free. The delivery of the phone book is done paying $10 /hr over 3 days by about 8 people and the vans were provided either free or at little cost. The in-house administration on the other hand are paid very well with great benefits. When I worked there we were 1 of about 5 phone books in the county. The writing has been on the wall for the decline of phone book and print media with the use of the internet. I believe their financial woes are somewhere else. BTW, the phone book was more profitable before Doug became the pres.

  10. confidential says:


    After 15 years of faithful membership were we recommended and obtained many newcomer members for the chamber, also donating items for their events besides assisting those events and receiving after 2005 not only never a thank you word, but further more instigated competition from out of state vendors thru chamber endorsements, we decided not to renew our membership following the path of many other businesses in this county. The cost outweighed the benefits and currently we are doing just fine.

    Their administrators also get too busy often organizing the plush “charity” events to show us just Who is Who around here and pat each others back…in events like aboard the Ginn’s Sundance with selective invites (by closed fake “first come first served”) make the majority feel left out and sorry, but that do not help our businesses. Easy money to be made by these administrators….for nothing now. Since the times of late Kevin Henderson past President and Linda Jaroz former assistant administrator when the chamber really had a cordial and helpful attitude with the membership and made us feel welcome… the last 5 years were the opposite. Also the number of chamber administrative positions have multiply like rabbits in the last 5 years utilizing plenty of nepotism, while the membership numbers to pay for them, have dwindle. Just look at the photo above.

    Probably something else will be disclosed regarding their finances and latest events…just wait and see as is very difficult to keep a tight lead on an over boiling pot.

    • Will says:

      @ confidential

      Your note back to me had one thing where I might agree in it anyway – you seemed to compliment a very nice lady, Linda Jaroz.

      With all due respect, you seem to be harboring a seven year old grudge – or at least it reads that way. I’ll leave it to others to respond to several of your observations, but I do take issue with the comment “plenty of nepotism”. I do know of one employee’s daughter who answered the phones for a while, with the approval of the board. The job needed to be done, she needed work, and was good at it. She moved on to other things away from the Chamber at least two employees ago in that position. That’s hardly “plenty”.

      At the top of this thread I suggested that you call William or Catherine to see how they could help and how willingly they would do it. You can reach them at 386-437-1016. Maybe you might benefit from getting involved again, and having some fun along the way.

    • Old Harley dude says:

      @ confidential. Right on! A lot of people don’t know how non-profits work. They have all the same issues as for profit business. They have salaries, income, expenses like churches or other non-profits. The chamber here has a couple of entities on taxes. The non-profit part is public record and you could do some research. I did 4 years ago. Very revealing.

  11. Will says:

    @ Daily Rant

    You said “Hey Will; Been a member for 14 years never seen much come out of this Chamber.Tried once to get on a committee they chose the NEW Manager of Hilton instead. ”

    1) The Chamber has many committees that meet often. Have you tried before or since?

    2) Tom Grimes, the Hilton manager, managed two other hotel properties locally before being hired by the Hilton. He was active in the Chamber and tourism with the prior hotels too. He has big time experience from Boston and up north. I wasn’t involved with that committee selection process so I don’t know specifically why he was chosen or what you have to offer, but I know he’s good. If you want to get involved, I’m sure there’s a way in one or more of many activities

  12. Confidential-2 says:

    Aren’t Chambers supposed to help their members run their business instead of competing against their members to try and afford a beautiful office? I am not speaking solely about the yellow pages but advertising in general, a $ spent in their phone book which is not needed when we have 2 others is a $ the cannot be spent with a local business in other forms of advertising.

    Let’s focus on brining more business into the County and keeping the $ local.

  13. Biz owner says:

    As a local business owner I was an active member of the chamber for five years. I attended mixers, made donations when asked, and advertised in the phone book. I always ask clients how they found me. Not one has mentioned the chamber having referred me and never has anyone mentioned the phone book. When I addressed this with Doug and Rebecca they implied I Renee my business improperly. When I explained my business is thriving but not thanks to them they were speechless.

  14. Michelle says:

    I sorely miss the Chamber of old. I will be meeting with Rebecca to talk about what has gone by the wayside and hope to help improve it.

  15. confidential says:

    I will be very very foolish if, as you accuse me, I would hold a 7 year grudge against anyone in particular in this chamber while the organization would have been a plus to mine and or my colleagues local business owners, as was before 2007.
    We gave the Chamber and its new President plenty of time to treat us fair and recognize also our supportive efforts for decades to help the organization. But Heck No!. Doug was too busy promoting and advertising the new arrivals many operating from their home base, marketing products produced out of this county and state, competing with us local producing vendors that operate instead from rented or purchased local store fronts, buy insurance policies from local agencies, pay local taxes and utilities and generate jobs by doing so and employ local workers.

    Doug’s selective shinny chamber lights were aimed only to his few favorites while we the old folks operating and generating wealth and jobs in this community for decades, were slide down the side or left waving on the dock while himself and his close buddies sailed away on the Ginn Sundance into his papier mache horizon. Mrs De Lorenzo is from the “same boat”…and sure another expert at turning her face on many as another 47% case.

    The Chamber elite needs to learn allover again to smile, welcome, greet, sponsor and support all its members to be really successful. Leave the phone alone when a member shows up in Airport Road and cordially greet them other than “he/she is busy on the phone on a long call”. Ask yourselves how many minorities are or have been represented in this chamber board or president and assistant position? I only recall one few years ago and she didn’t last long…less than 12 months? Please properly document me if I am incorrect . Not very cleaver approach nowadays, a maybe “unintended or oblivious exclusion” of minorities. Otherwise ask Romney. Chamber Needs Change if they really care to get back the membership numbers they used to enjoy, also make it more affordable in this second highest unemployment county in FL and leave politics to the politicians.

    • Luis says:

      I wish Mr. Baxter well and Mrs. DeLorenzo has my vote to head the Chamber. My experience with all the staff has always been positive from the start. Mr. Baxter opened the door for me and helped in any way he could. I was treated with respect and help was only a phone call away. The team is very professional and take their jobs very seriously. As a result of the staff efforts and business programs I became a member and look forward to the weekly meetings which has been a good fit for my small business.

    • Will says:

      @ confidential

      Please elaborate on what you call the Chamber elite. I don’t understand.

      Also, I don’t know where you’re going with your comments on minorities. What’s a minority to you? African Americans? Asians? Hispanics? Men? Gay people? The Chamber certainly has or recently has had a pretty good mix of the community. Again, please tell us more.


  16. Barbara says:

    I’m confused why anyone thinks his departure was “abrupt”. When would it NOT be “abrupt”? Next week? Next month? Next year? Last year? The chamber has been the best networking tool/organization I have found and I wish Rebecca well in her new position. I hope she brings the same professionalism and enthusiasm that Doug Baxter brought to the chamber.

  17. Up Front says:

    Great Picture showing Doug and his HAREM…13 Employees, 11 Female! Business as usual throughout his administration!

  18. Barbara says:

    @ confidential….So you don’t think the chamber should “promote and advertsie the new arrivals”? WOW. I thought that is part of the chamber’s mission, to introduce and promote everyone, including new arrivals. Would you have the chamber ignore them? Now who is discriminating? And I can’t believe you would even imply that anyone at the chamber is discriminating against minorities.

    Doug Baxter and the staff have always been welcoming and cordial! I personally appreciate and understand how busy they are on a daliy basis, and I completely understand if they don’t jump everytime someone walks in the door.

    Anyone can go to any fundraisers/events/festivals, to include the Ginn Sundance, so I really don’t understand what you are talking about the ‘buddies salied away”.

    I’m sure the chamber and the readers here understand that there will always be the type of business people/citizens that will NEVER be satisfied no matter who or what is being done or said….

  19. Palm Coast business says:

    The chamber needs a refourm. I am so tired of the good old boy network. They built that big new place and now they cant pay for it. They hold business owners hostage telling them they must advertise in their phone book. just fed up with them. SEE YA DOUG. I wish you would take the rest of them with you.

  20. Will says:

    @ Up Front

    I don’t know what you’re trying to suggest with the comment “harem”. If the employees are good, work hard, and do their jobs well, what does their gender matter? These people are smart, diligent, and get along well with the public. What’s your gripe?

  21. confidential says:

    You mention the skills from Boston’s Mr. Grimes Hilton Garden Inn Manager and I agree with you on that as he is very cordial as well. What about for a change the Manager of the local Palm Coast Ruby Tuesdays have you seeing this excellent local professional at work and his staff? Also the Manager of the local Outback..? Flagler Chamber needs to diversify and be more open minded to attract local professionals and business owners from our local cultural melting pot to be part of their board or administrators VIP’s!
    Well at least I see that I am not the only one that you describe as having grudges or gripes… I will seriously advise you go to Amazon and buy a copy of Joan Walsh’s “What is the Matter with White People” and after you are done reading it, lend it to the chamber board.

  22. confidential says:

    @Will. I am talking here at the make up of the “Flagler Chamber Board of Directors” NOT its affiliates; the Palm Coast, Bunnell or Flagler Beach Chambers. As excellent attorney Mrs Raven Sword, Mr. Luis Medeiros and Mrs Mari Molina, are members on those.
    Just look at the current “Flagler Chamber Officers and Directors listed elite” now and past as well:
    Regarding what still comprises a minority in our country we all know very well, except you, that incorrectly included men on that group!
    If you and Barbara really want to asses the reality of local business issues, versus the wrong image about them gather within the chamber, you both get together in your car and go around and ask them yourselves and invite DeLorenzo to go along. Figure out that with well over 5,000 businesses in this county only 790 are currently chamber members…? Something is wrong with this picture…So many of us have grudges and griples? Chamber needs to concentrate more in its motus and less in generating revenues to pay for so many administrators and luxurious infraestructure.

    • Johnny says:

      The board and its directors (affiliates included) are nominated, any member can self nominate themselves, if no minority chooses to step up, it’s obvious who to blame. Your grasping at straws.

  23. Will says:

    @ confidential – I only mentioned Mr. Grimes because the other writer grumbled about the Hilton’s manager. I don’t have any comments on the other businesses you mention, except I recall seeing a laudatory article about the Outback manager in the press earlier this year.

    Joan Walsh – if she’s the one connected with Salon – is a good writer. I might just look for that book. Thanks.

  24. I wanna know says:

    How much does Baxters position pay and what is the pay scale of all others employed by the Chamber?

    Why does Doug Baxter not discuss what and where his future options are?

    Any news of the possibility of former county commissioner Milissa Holland getting in on this game now that she is unemployed?

  25. pamala zill says:

    Oops! I found a phone book by the other phone underneath. S fabulously. Well. Written. Book about the history of this part of California. Is Catherine. Wickline Wilson’s. Book about Flagler County in the hotel rooms there? Hmmm. Obviously, a smart, no brainier idea. Maybe

  26. Michelle says:

    The board and its directors (affiliates included) are nominated, any member can self nominate themselves, if no minority chooses to step up, it’s obvious who to blame. Your grasping at straws.

    @Johnny. The last time I looked, you had to have so many signatures to even get considered to be nominated for the Board. I hope that changes, it is hard enough to get folks to volunteer and should not be only available to those that are popular. I would rather have hard working folks than ‘partiers/social butterflies’. Not saying that any on the Board presently are that, just want some changes back to the ‘old’ chamber…. user friendly.

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