Joan Verplanck: DSCC Second Female President and CEO
A Rosie outlook: Verplanck brings fresh ideas to Delaware.
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Verplanck, who’d been diagnosed with Stage I breast cancer, resigned in June 2010. She was successfully treated with radiation. “It was probably best for the chamber and best for me in retrospect,” she says of her departure. “It gave me time off to really heal, time to explore other professions and to do some consulting.”
In June 2011, she joined Cushman & Wakefield, a commercial real estate firm. But perhaps because of the high commissions, it was a “lone wolf” business. She missed the chamber’s camaraderie.
When Jim Wolfe retired from the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce in 2012, Blake Wilson, a former chamber employee who’s now CEO of the Mississippi Economic Council, told Verplanck about the opening. The two had met through chamber organizations. So she applied.
Resumes poured in from across the country, says Mark Stellini, the chairman-elect of the board and a selection committee member. There were eight initial interviews, and most of those candidates were Delawareans, he says. Two candidates returned for a second interview, including Verplanck. “She had a strong interview, great ideas and a great vision,” Stellini says.
Few in the chamber batted an eye over the brouhaha surrounding her departure from the New Jersey chamber. “We play the game differently here,” says Rich Heffron, senior vice president for government affairs, who’s been with the Delaware chamber for 22 years and twice served as interim president. The state has long prided itself on bipartisan policymaking and positive working relationships between private and public sectors.
Economically speaking, Verplanck is an insider. Northern Delaware and half of New Jersey, both part of the Greater Philadelphia area, are competing for potential employers.
But, as people keep telling Verplanck, Delaware is different. Verplanck realized pretty quickly that “everyone knows everybody,” Heffron says.
“Sometimes no baggage is good baggage,” Verplanck says. “I’m neutral; people don’t know enough about me yet.”
But they’re starting to as she moves forward with an agenda. “She’s a dynamic lady,” Stellini says. “Very proactive.”