FAIRMONT - Margaret Dillard has been hired to replace Bob Wallace as president of the Fairmont Area Chamber of Commerce.
She is scheduled to begin by Oct. 1.
Wallace, who took over the reins of the Chamber in September 1996, announced his retirement in early June after 18 years at the helm.
Dillard, whose maiden name was Fancher, has roots in the area. She was raised in Truman, and she has a sister, Bonnie Urbain, a retired teacher living in Wells.
Dillard founded Prism Communications in Sierra Vista, Ariz., in 1991. Her company develops websites, social media and training services.
She also has worked for chambers of commerce in Sierra Vista and Bisbee, Ariz.
The difference between Arizona and Minnesota involves more than contrasting winter weather.
"The cultures are a lot different," Dillard said in a telephone interview Thursday. In Arizona, people "look over your shoulder," but Minnesotans "look you in the eye."
"I feel a kinship with the culture [in Fairmont]," she said.
The Chamber committee interviewing her for the president's job had recommended she stay for a couple of days to explore the town.
"We ended up spending 11 days," she said.
She toured Fairmont and Truman, visited her sister in Wells and a niece in Minneapolis, and met local residents.
"We spent a lot of time around the business community," Dillard said.
A visit to the Martin County Courthouse evoked fond memories of her childhood, when she accompanied her father there when he was filing some papers.
"It's such a grand building," she said.
Dillard's husband, Gary, will remain in Arizona to run their company.
"He'll be taking on more of a management role," she said.
Living apart won't be new to the couple. He remained with the company in Sierra Vista while she moved to Bisbee to work at the Chamber.
"We'll meet in the middle every now and then," she said.
They have four grown children and an 11-year-old grandson.
Dillard is eager to begin her new duties and meet people in the community.
"The Chamber is very well supported, and I'm excited about that," she said. "I love the idea of leadership and integrity. I'm pleased to be immersed in the area again."
There were 14 applicants for the Chamber president's job, with the nomination committee interviewing the top four candidates, all of whom had Chamber experience, according to Jeff Schlomann, chairman of the board.
"What brought [Dillard] to the top was her communications skills," Schlomann said. "She met the needs of the entire board."