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Belle Fourche Ousts Schanzenbach, Reconciles with Chamber of Commerce

So it was all personal.

Back in October, the Belle Fourche City Council decided to kick the Chamber of Commerce out of the Center of the Nation Visitor Center that the Chamber pretty much built and ran for 20 years. The council's public justifications didn't add up: they fussed vaguely about transparency, when really it seemed they just had it out for forceful and effective Chamber director Teresa Schanzenbach.

The Chamber fired Schanzenbach at the end of October, and sure enough, the Belle Fourche City Council is reconsidering its Chamber eviction notice. At last week's council meeting, local leaders lined up to say the great and wonderful Belle Chamber should stay in the Visitor Center:

"Belle Fourche is on an upswing. Our census numbers are up, our interest in economic growth is up, our visitor numbers are up. I think the chamber is real big part of that.

“Abandoning the chamber … is the wrong decision,” [dentist John Jackson] added.

Mina Patel, the owner of the Super 8 in Belle Fourche also spoke in favor of the chamber.

“The first stop that I made when I bought that business was the chamber. The chamber was very supportive to the business. Overall, my view is: the city and the chamber have to work together to make the town work, and to make tourism work, which our business depends on,” Patel said [Kaylee Tschetter, "Belle Chamber May Keep Their Home," Black Hills Pioneer, 2013.12.04].

This hard-working, effective Chamber is the same Chamber that the Belle Fourche City Council felt deserved the boot just two months ago. The blunt fact that no one will admit is that this was all just a personal vendetta against Schanzenbach. Everyone in Belle Fourche knows it, and they are too ashamed to say. Consider this disgusting bit of avoidance and euphemism:

"I am here to ask for your reconsideration on removing us from the chamber building,” Vallerie Neff, vice president of the chamber board said. “ … We want to remain there. Our whole goal in our decision making these last few months has been to move forward. We’ve made one large step you all know of. We’ve also been working really hard with the Center of the Nation Business Association. We want to continue those efforts. We want to continue our efforts with the city council. Our goal is to move onward and upward” [emphasis mine; Tschetter, 2013.12.04].

One large step you all know of... ah, yes. When we South Dakotans do something mean, we can't even work up the courage to name the ill we have done and the person to whom we have done it. Move forward, don't look back, don't talk about it, don't admit that we've behaved like jerks to one of our neighbors.

The city council's Chamber task force will meet this afternoon to discuss formally reversing the Chamber eviction notice.


  1. interested party 2013.12.11

    Speaking of towns unable to pump their own poop: Belle should be preparing to face a clean water crisis.

  2. Dana P 2013.12.11

    Poor Teresa...... this is a head shaker, big time. And I mean, folks should be hanging their heads in shame.....


  3. Les 2013.12.11

    What is the undertow Dana? Someone want her job?

  4. John 2013.12.11

    Of course it was personal: it was a small, insignificant town in South Dakota, championed by a progressive who had ideas beyond those expressed in the 1950s. Yep, if one wants to beat ones head against the wall secure a job in Belle Fourche or Butte County - though the same is true for most towns and counties in South Dakota. The bigots and small-minded will eventually die, then eventually allowing progress.

  5. Dana P 2013.12.12

    I dunno, Les. I'm not as connected to politics in Belle as I should be. But I do think John has hit the nail on the head in his post, big time. She also didn't win many fans when she "dared" to run against Betty Olsen.

    Teresa is a good person and like John said, just stepped on the toes of those that just don't want things to change. Even if it is for the better.

  6. Concerned Citizen 2013.12.30

    Teresa was an asset to the City of Belle Fourche. The City ruined 2 of the most effective organizations in town, the Visitors Center and the Chamber of Commerce, and for what? To get rid of a person that you are angry at because she made a decision that you didn't agree with, grow up. It disgusts me the way decisions have been made here the past few months, no one that sits on the City Council has Belle Fourche's best interest in mind. As we all know, the Chamber is now free to stay in the Visitors Center for one year under a "probation", thanks to the "large step" the Chamber Board speaks of. And, probation for what?! Lastly, the Chamber is supposedly done running the Visitors Center this week. Has anyone heard who will be overseeing the VIC on Thursday? No, ask the Mayor.... they have NO PLAN as to who is running it. This is how decisions are being made in our town... if it is happening here it is happening in other areas too. People in Belle Fourche need to wake up.

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