Jim Heeter, who has led the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce since April 2010, announced Thursday that he intends to retire as president and chief executive on Dec. 31.
A lawyer by profession who moved to Kansas City in 1973 after graduating from Harvard Law School, Heeter often told groups that he and his wife, Judy, fell in love with the city and quickly became enmeshed in civic affairs.
Heeter, 66, said retiring wasn’t an easy decision, but it fit the tenure he had in mind for the job.
“Ultimately, it came down to family and flexibility,” Heeter wrote in a note to chamber members. “I’m at a point in my life where I want to spend more time with my wife, children and grandchildren, and the schedule this job demands limits my ability to do so.”
Heeter’s signature work at the chamber is likely to be the Big 5 priority program begun in 2011. Together with then-chamber chairman Greg Graves, Heeter launched the program, which each year works to bring together civic actions around specific priorities, such as improving the area’s entrepreneurial climate and redeveloping target urban areas.
Graves, chairman and CEO of Burns & McDonnell, said his year in the chamber’s top voluntary post “with Jim was the the most fun, most intense and I pray most successful of my career.”
Current chamber chairman Terry Dunn said the chamber accomplished a lot under Heeter’s leadership, including the chamber’s successful move to Union Station, “the Big 5, the new Healthy KC initiative, new efforts in diversity and inclusion, our revitalized World Trade Center, the Executive Women’s Leadership Council, outreach to millennials and entrepreneurs … and the list goes on.”
Heeter said he didn’t intend to retire from community activities in Kansas City.
“The search for my successor will not begin immediately,” his announcement said. Incoming chamber chairman Terry Bassham and Heeter will begin the process in a few months.
Before succeeding Pete Levi as the chamber’s CEO, Heeter was managing partner of the Kansas City office of the law firm Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal. He also served on the Kansas City Council, representing the 4th District at large.
He was a past president of the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association and has served in many other leadership positions in the Kansas City civic, business and philanthropic communities.