Rumors swirled and conspiracy theories bloomed in the days following Brenda Steen’s abrupt resignation as the Apex Chamber of Commerce’s executive director.
The truth, said Steen, is personal.
Dealing with her many responsibilities at work while coping with her son’s medical issues caused far too much stress.
So, after five and a half years on the job, Steen stepped aside effective July 16.
“There’s no real story here,” said Steen. “I need to devote more time to my son’s health issues. It’s been pretty intense along with all the stress at work. There’s only so much of me to go around.
“I felt I needed to step back and recharge my battery. It was a hard decision but I feel very comfortable with it. I’ve felt significantly calmer since I made this decision.”
Steen did not want to discuss her son’s medical issues.
“It’s totally personal,” said Steen. “It’s nobody business. Our family and good friends know what we are dealing with right now.”
All the questions surrounding her decision, she said, are a perfect example of the stress involved with such a high-profile job.
“People think we sit around at the chamber and wait for another ribbon-cutting,” said Steen. “There is much more to it. I asked my friend, ‘How many people do you know who resign from their job and then get called by the media about it?’
“Executive director is not an elected position but it’s a very public job. Any decision you make the media wants to know about it. That’s just not my style.”
Chamber president Jeff Hastings, who is serving as interim executive director, said he was shocked by Steen’s “sudden” resignation but completely understood her decision.
“It came as a complete surprise to everyone but she felt like she needed to spend more time with her family,” said Hastings. “I can relate to that. But Brenda has left the chamber in a wonderful position with our staff and our membership.
“She was able to take charge of the chamber and see the strengths we had and also see places where we needed to improve. She has left us with a plan that will continue to work as we move ahead.”
Steen said she believed the chamber, with its more than 500 members, had made great strides in recent years despite the loss of town funding and Apex’s overwhelming ratio of residents versus businesses.
“Apex is truly a bedroom community yet we still have a strong membership,” said Steen. “But I didn’t do it alone. We had a board who worked very hard on all of it.”
Steen said she will help the chamber’s board of directors with “anything they need” as they undergo a search for her replacement. She also plans to continue serving as director of the Peakfest committee but plans to relinquish her duties with the Apex Rotary’s Christmas parade.
“You have to be a business person to be involved in the Rotary and I’m no longer a business person,” said Steen.
Hastings said the chamber has formed a search committee for a new executive director.