Katy Errington Named CEO and President of Estero Chamber of Commerce
By Cheryl Mandell
Former Estero Mayor Katy Errington was a pillar of the community long before Estero was officially incorporated as a village. In March 2015, she became one of the original Village Council members, serving eight years – the final two as the village’s first female mayor.
She gracefully stepped down at the end of her term, handing off the mayor’s seat to Councilmember Jon McLain last March. It didn’t take long for Errington to be called to leadership again, quite literally.
In April, Errington received a call from a member of the Greater Estero Chamber of Commerce asking if she would be interested in replacing a board member who had left. Soon she was asked if she would consider becoming president and CEO. After much thought and prayer, she decided to take the opportunity, seeing it as a way to bring local businesses together. She started leading the chamber in June.
“My goal for the Estero Chamber is to make it a chamber that is very functional,” said Errington. “Members will be looking to us to provide different activities for them, to give businesses the opportunity to meet one another, and help build Estero to the place people want to live and work.”
Many strides have been made for Estero during Errington’s eight years on Village Council. In the beginning, the council was essentially starting from scratch and met frequently. In the first year, the council accrued nine-foot stacks of meeting materials on agendas, Errington said. Council members addressed a range of foundational issues including interlocal agreements on utilities, roadwork and power and negotiations for an official Village Hall location. The council also initiated many studies to determine what Estero needed.
“The major ones were stormwater management, roads and streetlights,” Errington said. “It was dark here until we got on council. You’d drive home, and it would be pitch black.”
Estero Parkway was the council’s first big roadway improvement. The design was important because they wanted all Village-owned streets to have a similar aesthetic.
Errington also insisted that a security guard be present at all meetings. While some members didn’t anticipate any trouble and therefore did not see the need, this was a non-negotiable for Errington in order to ensure order and safety.
During Errington’s time on council, Estero underwent many transformations. One of the most impactful additions was the opening of Lee Health’s Coconut Point facility. Another major change in which Errington was personally involved was the negotiation and purchase of over 60 acres of land at the northeast corner of Corkscrew Road and U.S. 41. The southern part of this property along the Estero River is the future site of Estero River Park, which will include hiking trails for community use.
The luxury apartments on U.S. 41 at Estero Parkway are the successful end result of a long opposition to developers’ original plans, a battle that Errington started as a concerned neighbor and ended as council member. Subsequent development of The Shoppes at Estero Grande, including the Sprouts grocery store, Texas Roadhouse and Starbucks, was a welcome addition to the village.
One of Errington’s greatest sources of pride was the civility that she and other council members brought to Estero’s governing body. Errington had zero tolerance for name-calling or any form of disrespect – she adhered to and insisted upon honesty, transparency and respect between council members and citizens alike.
“We had a reputation of being one of the most civil-acting councils in the whole southwest Florida. This came back to us several times from different people,” said Errington. “We didn’t always vote with each other, but we respected each other.”
Gold Star Mother
Errington is a Gold Star Mother. Her personal accomplishments can be attributed to a tragic and ultimately pivotal time in Errington’s life. In 1992, her son, Sgt. Philip Kesler, a flight engineer with the US. Air Force, died along with 11 others after their helicopter crashed during a training exercise over Utah’s Great Salt Lake.
Errington’s faith and the support from her community and loved ones sustained her during those dark years. Through her grief, she realized that she wanted to live her life with more purpose.
With the help of Rotary Club members, she created and distributed a coloring book called Philip’s Granary, in honor of her son. The book’s theme centers on love and the biblical Fruits of the Spirit such as kindness, goodness and patience. It was distributed to 60,000 children in Bosnia.
Errington also participated in humanitarian work through Rotary and helped provide educational scholarships for children in Nicaragua and Mexico. From all of her experiences, Errington learned something valuable – your life’s purpose can evolve.
Chamber CEO & President
Now as CEO and president of the Greater Estero Chamber of Commerce, Errington wants to grow the chamber’s core team and increase membership to maximize the organization’s effectiveness. There are currently just over 200 members, but Errington has her sights set higher. She also wants to expand the chamber’s network by connecting with organizations such as FGCU’s veterans’ program and nonprofits addressing issues of mental health.
She also believes the chamber’s website should include more current and comprehensive information. Errington’s vision for the chamber is to be the ultimate resource for people looking for local businesses and more. Storm preparedness and mental health resources are other areas she would like to see on the chamber’s website. She would also like to expand the chamber’s social media scope to broadcast their resources and offerings.
Online tools could help promote in-person activities, which are the cornerstone of the chamber, such as “Lunch and Learn” events, the chamber’s ongoing leadership program, monthly networking events, and workshops for small business owners who may be struggling.
Errington knows the chamber isn’t just there to entertain. That can certainly be a part of the mix, but the main function is to help local businesses “where they need help.”
Although only several weeks into her new role, her focus is on making the Greater Estero Chamber of Commerce a value-oriented organization. Errington is a former business teacher and adjunct professor with 30 years of education experience that will undoubtedly serve her well in this new role. She is open to new ideas, willing to listen, and isn’t afraid to get creative.
“There are various reasons why people join the chamber,” Errington said. “But I know the biggest concern is, ‘of what value is it?’ And believe you me, I am working on that.”