Athens Chamber of Commerce Treasurer’s final term comes to a close BY SARA CALDWELL

Sara Caldwell


JOUR 5300

February 24, 2011

Profile a Newsmaker: Phil Bettendorf


He’s leaving, but he won’t be gone.

After six years of serving on the board of the Athens Chamber of Commerce, in Athens, Georgia, Phil Bettendorf is stepping down at the end of the current term.

Bettendorf–– acting treasurer for the Chamber –– is rotating out of his position and Athens First Bank and Trust work colleague Dean Mannheimer –current treasurer elect for the Chamber– will step into Bettendorf’s shoes.

And they’re big shoes to fill.

After 17 years at the AFBT of downtown Athens off Hancock and Hull streets, and years of involvement with the Chamber of Commerce, Bettendorf’s familiarity with the community proves daunting to an individual fresh to the area, but Bettendorf said he is not anxious about leaving.

“I have somebody that I’ve developed a good rapport with that I’m bringing in behind me,” he said. “I step down, he steps up.”

Because of Bettendorf’s banking background, and position as senior Vice President at AFBT, he said he is more civic minded.

“The Chamber of Commerce fits with my passion well because I like to be involved with the community and make it a better place,” he said.

In his attempts at building a better community for the Athens area, Bettendorf is involved with L.E.A.D. Athens, Athens Rotary Club, Recording for the Blind & Dyslectic, S.E. Regional & Ga. Unit, councils for local elementary schools and the East Georgia Chapter for the American Red Cross.

“There are certain things I get involved with because it reaches me personally, or it reaches somebody I know personally,” Bettendorf said. “The Red Cross was one of the first things I was ever involved with, and that was because of my dad.”

Tammy Gilland, board chair of the American Red Cross, East Georgia Chapter, said Bettendorf really believes in the mission of the Red Cross organization.

Although Bettendorf no longer serves on the board for the East Georgia Chapter, his involvement with the local area Red Cross is still strong, Gilland said.

“Phil is active in preparing and training people for the organization, and he is very giving of his time,” she said.

But Gilland knows Bettendorf from other circles.

In 2002, Gilland met Bettendorf on a day trip for “L.E.A.D. Athens,” –– 9-month leadership education advocacy and development program, where local leaders learn about the Athens community through one day sessions once a month –– and she said she knew he was a leader.

“Phil leads by example. He’s not someone who tells you what to do, he practices what he preaches,” Gilland said. “He is a living example of servant leadership, and he is someone you can count on –– he has the historical perspective [of the community].”

Gilland and Bettendorf also serve on the Athens Chamber of Commerce board together –– for now at least –– and Gilland said Bettendorf is a businessman.

Banks like to place their top people on various boards, she said, and they want them to be seen by the community as a priority, or to act as part of a family for that group, Gilland said.

Yet, Bettendorf is more than just a name or a sponsor.

“Phil is one of the few businessmen that’s actually involved,” Gilland said. “He comes to things. He’s very hands-on. That’s what makes him stand out.”

Bettendorf might not be on the Chamber of Commerce board for much longer, but his passion for the organization will not be transitioning anywhere.

“The Chamber of Commerce is a conduit,” Bettendorf said. “It’s a way for people to get involved. It’s hard for a small business to do that, and the Chamber is committed to building a vibrant business community in the area.”

Serving on multiple boards throughout his 17 years in the Athens area, Bettendorf takes responsibility when asked by those involved in various local organizations, but he recognizes when it’s time to move on.

“We all have jobs. We have to prioritize our lives,” Bettendorf said.  “For an organization, I’ll have to make the time. You do your stint, do your time with it –– your job with it –– but  then you also got to know when you need to step aside and let somebody new, hopefully someone you’ve brought along or mentored, take the leadership role.”

Gilland is sure Bettendorf will still be involved after this term with the Chamber comes to a close.

Gilland said he will probably spend time on a subcommittee within the Chamber, and possibly pick up a position with another local organization.

“There are so many non-profits in Athens,” Gilland said. “When people like Phil become available, they’re not free for long. They snatch them up quickly.”

Gilland speculates Bettendorf might run for a form of political office in the coming years, but if not, she knows he will always be involved with the Athens area.

Bettendorf loves Athens, and doesn’t plan on leaving it anytime soon, he said.

“I love the community, the atmosphere,” he said. “It’s big enough, but small enough.”

And while the size of Athens doesn’t take away from the amount of time Bettendorf dedicates to the area, Mannheimer will stand in the wake of a significant figure graciously bowing out to offer more opportunities for the individuals involved.

“Letting someone new step in –– it’ll make it better,” Bettendorf said. “Because they have new ideas.”

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