Tags: Staff Editorial
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May 14, 2013 | 03:57 PMSitting next to George Hennerley at a meeting was usually the best seat in the house.
He was smart, funny, informed — and always uplifted the meeting with a joke or wisecrack.
Yet his jabbing always seemed to fall short of malice, a nonvisible wink just a few seconds behind each comment. And he could always take as much as he gave.
As president of the Geneva Lake Area Chamber of Commerce he's been a constant presence for the last 33 years. In meetings. At events. In the public eye.
Last Friday, it was announced that Hennerley, 61, had resigned his position effective the previous day.
A press release said that Hennerley "has stepped down as chamber President and has retired from the Chamber, effective May 9, 2013.
"The Chamber Board of Directors expresses their appreciation to Hennerley for his years of service and dedication," the press release added.
No further information was available at presstime regarding any change in the direction of the chamber or about plans for replacing Hennerley.
In some ways, Hennerley was the chamber. In some ways, he was as much a Lake Geneva mainstay as the Riviera.
Hennerley was no stranger to the area even before he came to Lake Geneva.
He graduated from Delavan-Darien High School in 1969 and from UW-Whitewater with a political science degree in 1977.
For awhile, he was a lobbyist in Madison for the Wisconsin Wholesale Beer Distributors.
In April, 1980, he was hired to manage the convention and visitors bureau for the Lake Geneva chamber.
Shortly thereafter, Hennerley took over the role he held until last Thursday.
He was seen at local events from Venetian Fest to Winterfest to the art shows held in downtown Lake Geneva each summer.
He lobbied for the chamber in front of the city council and was the city's tour guide for dignitaries from governors to businessmen.
Yet he was also down-to-earth enough to talk to the less well-heeled and important, even reporters.
Hennerley could smell out the disingenuous and was usually up for a good political debate.
Some might say that he was a bit old-fashioned and set in his ways; he grew up in an era when a handshake was bond.
His view of Lake Geneva was more informal than slick or stuffy.
Some may have criticized him, but none doubted his affability or his love for the community.
He was a fixture, as was his silver pickup truck that could be found parked at the back of the chamber parking lot.
Hennerley was the master of ceremonies for the annual chamber meeting held, in recent years, at Grand Geneva.
There, he willingly ribbed everyone and anyone — especially himself.
Publicly, at least, that twinkle in the eye will be missed by the city he championed.
Privately, nothing will change.
George doesn't need a title to be George.
John Halverson is editor and general manager of the Regional News