From The Top: Mike Evans, Naperville Chamber of Commerce president
By David Sharos For The Sun January 17, 2013 6:00PM
Mike Evans, 30, recently was named the new president and CEO of the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce. | Submitted
Updated: February 21, 2013 6:13AM
For those who aspire to lead and believe it takes years before attaining the necessary credentials and credibility, Mike Evans is living proof that a paradigm shift already has begun for those who are ready to move to the top.
Late last year, Evans, 30, was named the new president and CEO of the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce. A surprise choice to some, Evans assumes the leadership of a group formerly led by others that were twice his age. A graduate of Illinois State University with a degree in politics and government, Evans said that, upon graduation, he quickly got to work learning about business, government and managing grants, among other topics.
“I did an internship with the mayor of Bolingbrook and worked on projects involving grants with the village, the DuPage financial office and the county board and other legislative work like the cigarette tax,” Evans said. “I managed federal and state grants, and by the time I was 24 years old, I was the executive director of the Bolingbrook Chamber of Commerce.”
Evans said his initial career goal was to become a city manager, but he fell in love with chamber work and decided to switch gears. His new position offers him the chance to work with the third largest chamber of commerce in the state, which is an opportunity people like Ken McConnaughay believe Evans is more than ready for despite his age.
“Mike is a brilliant and creative guy,” said McConnaughay, 70, who works as a wealth manager at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management in Lisle. “I’m not surprised Naperville chose him, given the work he’s done with the Bolingbrook chamber. This might be a job older people get, but Mike has experience in government and local business and industry and knows how those elements all need to blend.”
McConnaughay also acknowledged Evan’s work in state issues and said that the young executive realizes that “work with the chamber is something that is regional in scope.” Evans said building new leaders and giving them the opportunity to lead is important to the future of the area.
“We are witnessing the growth of various minorities and a wonderful diverse population here that reflects the world,” Evans said. “A lot of companies have been family owned, and there’s been a battle for the kids to stay. There are parents who are 64 and still running the company. We need to foster the next generation and help them to grow and become leaders and entrepreneurs.”
Evans believes organizations need to tap into the next generation and believes that tying people to their age in terms of advancement will thwart progress.
“You have to engage people, and I believe that the era of people only using age as a criterion for leadership is finally going away,” he said. “The next generation of leaders needs to be given the opportunity, and there are great resources out there that provide a history of how people got there, but we need fresh eyes to tie whatever that history is to the future.”
Evans said that initially he wasn’t going to apply for the Naperville job, but that he later decided he would welcome the challenge.
“The dynamics of this community make this one of the premier places to work, and there is great camaraderie among the community’s leaders,” he said. “Finally, there is the diversity of the environment. The industries and the people you see include Asians, Hispanics, and the other various groups that work like the world — and that’s a good thing.”
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