HARTLAND – A local businesswoman with a passion for horses, polo and event coordination has taken the helm of the Hartland Area Chamber of Commerce.
Emmaline Wheaton, a former chamber board member, was named the chamber’s new executive director. She started earlier this month.
Wheaton first became involved with the chamber several years ago, founding The Hartland Polo Classic, which began in 2017 after she took the idea to former executive director Katie Chuba.
“After being involved in the polo event for several years, I became a member of the (chamber) board of directors and became more deeply involved in the chamber,” Wheaton said.
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She served a one-year term as chair of the chamber’s Board of Directors in 2021.
Wheaton moved to the town of Hartland with his family more than 20 years ago after the Detroit Polo Club moved to the town from Milford.
A polo player and longtime polo instructor, she directed the Detroit Polo Club and founded the Detroit Polo School.
Whitten said her husband, a club professional, will take over the management functions of the Detroit Polo Club while she turns her attention to her chamber duties.
The Hartland Polo Classic has become a popular annual event and fundraiser.
Chuba, who attended the most recent polo classic in June, left the gym to work for the Livonia-based International Hearing Society, a membership association of hearing health care professionals. He works as a member director of the association.
Chamber Membership and Events Coordinator Jenny Ross acted as interim director for a short time following Chuba’s departure.
“I’ve been thinking about how to make a change for myself for several years,” Whitten said. “I was looking for a different challenge, a different adventure. At first this (job) popped up and I was like, “No, I have a business.” But, I thought, I love working in the chamber and I love business and I have a lot of small business experience running my own business in Hartland, so I think that brings good prospect.”
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As an event-driven person, one of her goals is to bring new events to Hartland Township and get the chamber more involved in other community events.
“One of my goals is to bring a summer event to Hartland, something that’s family friendly,” she said. “We’re a pretty big bedroom community. A lot of people work outside of Hartland, so what are ways to engage people in the summer when they’re in Hartland and the kids are out of school.”
She said she would like to see more events that include music, art and other activities.
“We’ve got good parks and outside, fun activities, so maybe running and mountain biking, sort of like a festival for kids,” she suggested.
She said she sees opportunities for more collaboration with the local library and schools.
“We used to hold Chamber 101 events, before COVID, to highlight all the things the chamber does and offers, and I want to bring that back,” she said.
The newly formed Alliance of Livingston County Chambers is also bringing more events, including a speaker series. The alliance is a collaboration between the Hartland, Brighton and Howell Chambers of Commerce.
Whitten said the pandemic has been hard on small businesses.
“Finding employees is the biggest hurdle, especially for small businesses,” she said. “It’s making sure we’re targeting those resources where you can find employees. That’s a big part of what we’ve done in the last year.”
She also steps into the role as the chamber’s board finalizes a new strategic plan for the coming years.
She expects to have a good working relationship with the all-volunteer board.
“I know the dynamics of all the relationships in the room,” she said. “It gives me the ability to get up and go fairly quickly. I have a little bit of a comfort level here, which is nice.”
Current chamber president David Walker said: “She was very active in the chamber.”
“She already comes with knowledge based simply (on) having been on the board. She has a very clear basic understanding,” he said.
He said the difference will be that her new job is to carry out the will of the board rather than serve on it.
Contact Livingston Daily reporter Jennifer Eberbach at [email protected]