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Chamber's longtime membership director is out

Judy Braatz

The Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce's well-known membership director has abruptly parted ways with the organization.

Judy Braatz , who was the longest-serving employee at the chamber, was removed from the chamber's website Thursday morning. She had recruited members for the chamber for 24 years.

Chamber President Rob Miller did not return a call Thursday asking about the change. Braatz confirmed she is no longer at the chamber, but declined to answer more questions on the advice of her attorney.

Under Braatz's tenure, the Rochester Area Chamber 's membership grew to be the largest in the state. She has long been a high-profile person at networking events , like the chamber's Business After Hours and others.

"To me and everyone I know, Judy is the chamber to all of us," said Cindy Schumacher, co-owner of "Shop Rochester," a direct-mail magazine. "She's the glue for all of us … I've met more people through Judy than anyone. She's been a tremendous help to us."


Schumacher said she called the chamber office Thursday afternoon after hearing of Braatz's departure and canceled her membership. There were unconfirmed reports of other businesses also dropping their memberships.

Jimmy John King, the mayor of Stewartille, called Braatz "an integral" part of the Rochester chamber.

"The City of Stewartville is a member, solely because of Judy Braatz," said King.

Braatz' s best known run at the chamber was during the tenure of previous chamber president John Wade. Wade stepped down at the start of 2014 and Miller was hired six months later.

"During our 12 years together at the chamber, Judy was an exemplary member of the chamber team and had a large role in the chamber's growth and success, "Wade said via email on Thursday. "Her commitment and dedication to the organization was only exceeded by her deep care and advocacy for all members, both large and small alike. Wherever life takes her, I'm certain Judy's star will continue to shine brightly."

Braatz's exit is the latest in a string of recent staff departures from the chamber. Government Affairs Director Julie Fiesel and the leader of the Rochester Area Chamber Foundation, Julie Brock, both left the chamber in May.

At the end of 2016, Membership Events Coordinator Becca Stiles-Nogosek left the chamber to go the Minnesota Children's Museum of Rochester.

"She (Braatz) was a really incredibly employee. She was really dedicated to the organization … an incredible sales woman," said Stiles-Nogosek. "I really enjoyed my time working with her."


After the departure of Brock and Fiesel, 2017 Chamber Board Chairwoman Lisa Clarke characterized the staff changes as normal turnover seen at all businesses. Clarke is also the executive director of the Destination Medical Center Economic Development Agency.

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