Burbank leaves Chamber to lead Caregivers

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

Changing roles: Erika Gauthier, left, has taken over as interim executive director of the Guilderland Chamber of Commerce, after Kathy Burbank, right, left the position to work for the Community Caregivers as its executive director.

GUILDERLAND — The Guilderland Chamber of Commerce and Community Caregivers are losing past leaders and gaining new ones this month.
Kathy Burbank, who served as the executive director of the chamber of commerce for the past six years, will be taking over the role of executive director of Community Caregivers, as Thomas Tipple retires from that post.

Erika Gauthier, who worked as the program and membership manager at the chamber for the past four years, will step in as interim executive director for the next six months.

“Working as the director of the chamber is a fast-paced, demanding job, and I’m just ready for a change,” said Burbank, of her decision to move to Community Caregivers, a not-for-profit organization that uses volunteers to provide free services for Albany County residents in need. 

She said she wanted to stay involved with the Guilderland community, preferably with a not-for-profit, because she has roots and many contacts in it.

“I am not saying ‘goodbye’ to all of my chamber contacts, I am planning on carrying them along with me to benefit the Community Caregivers,” Burbank said.

Tipple, who worked for Community Caregivers for two-and-a-half years, said it was time for him to “kick back a bit, enjoy life, and do some of the things you don’t have time to do while you’re working.”

When he started at Community Caregivers, he had worked for New York State for 35 years, and said that, while his time with the Caregivers was “fabulous,” he was ready to retire.

While there, Tipple said, he had “improved the condition of the place on a financial basis” and expanded from Guilderland into the city of Albany, effectively doubling the client base.

“The advantage that you have as the executive director is that, almost everywhere you go in the community, people think highly of the organization and respect the services we provide,” said Tipple.

His favorite part of the job, he said, was when he was able to jump in and volunteer himself, which he called “such a simple act” to help the community.

“I worked with Kathy and the Guilderland Chamber to attract corporate support for our events, and she is very knowledgeable, very connected to the community,” said Tipple. “I think she’s going to do a great job.”

Burbank said that, while she was with the chamber, she successfully steered the members through tough economic times, and started new initiatives and events, such as Souped up on Guilderland, the Ladies Night Out, Health and Wellness Expo, and Guilderland Restaurant Week.

“I worked hard at trying to revamp and give our residents good workshops,” said Burbank.

She had also begun helping members — and non-members — navigate their way through the New York Health Exchange in order to purchase individual or small-business health insurance, as mandated by the Affordable Care Act.

Unfortunately, she said, the chamber may lose some of its members due to the ACA, which is something Gauthier will have to deal with.

“It’s a hot-button issue for chambers everywhere,” said Gauthier this week.

The Chamber of Commerce has, in the past, been able to offer small businesses and sole proprietors group rates on health-insurance plans, but now, said Gauthier, sole proprietors will not be recognized as a business and won’t qualify for the insurance plans the chamber offers, and small businesses might be able to get better rates through the exchange than the chamber.

“We are nervous about losing the sole proprietors,” Gauthier said. “We really need to get out there that we’re not just about health insurance; we’re about connecting, networking, and helping people promote themselves.”

“I’m ready to handle the nitty gritty and make sure everything is running smoothly,” concluded Gauthier.

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