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Ousted HBA leader to 'start a new chapter'

Board abruptly parts ways with Charlyce Ruth

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Charlyce Ruth says the Home Builders Association of Greater Springfield Board of Directors decision to remove her earlier this month as CEO is both a disappointment and a new opportunity.

The board unanimously voted June 9 to oust her from her six-year leadership role with the organization.

“I was a little stunned,” Ruth said of being notified of the board’s decision by HBA President Travis Miller and Vice President Ryan Green. “They just said the board had a meeting and they decided they were going in a different direction and it didn’t include me.”

The day after the vote, Miller told Springfield Business Journal the organization is moving “to explore new avenues” and pursue “fresher ideas.”

“We’re very thankful for all the service she gave us,” he said. “It was a hard decision to do, but we’ve got to look [out] for the organization and the future.”

Miller, who owns Travis Miller Homes Inc., said he’s serving as acting CEO of the HBA and that other board members also are taking active roles.

“We’ll do a search for a new executive officer when we feel the time is right,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s going to be in two weeks or a month or two months.”

HBA board members Rusty MacLachlan and Jason Bekebrede referred questions to Miller, and messages left with other board members were not returned by press time.

When contacted for a follow-up interview June 15, Miller said the decision was a human resources matter and declined further comment.

Ruth worked for over two decades as a member of the HBA staff, rising through the ranks as administrative assistant, office manager and operations manager.

“I’ve put almost 21 years of my life into the Home Builders Association. It’s a disappointment to have that chapter closed,” she said.

“But it’s also an opportunity to start a new chapter. The sky’s the limit. I know there’s a great opportunity for me out there.”

Ruth had served as interim CEO after Ken Thrasher resigned from the position in November 2013, according to Springfield Business Journal archives. Along with a stint by Gloria Roling, Thrasher filled the gap left by 11-year leader Matt Morrow, who’s now CEO of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce.

Maintaining members
The HBA ranked No. 4 on SBJ’s 2020 list of the area’s largest industry networking groups with 350 members and a $700,000 annual operating budget.

Ruth said memberships have fluctuated around that level the last two decades.

“Usually, it’s been from about 330 to just under 400,” she said. “We’ve been pretty consistent in members the last several years.”

Miller said membership has been steady amid the COVID-19 pandemic since construction was deemed an essential activity.

The board sets high criteria for membership, Ruth said, pointing to requirements that all builders carry workers’ compensation and general liability insurance. Not every HBA chapter has such standards, she said.

During the past 10 years of her time with HBA, Ruth has served as a member of the National Association of Women in Construction’s Southwest Missouri Chapter. She’s currently treasurer – a role that will continue through September, said NAWIC President Chrissy Groeteke.

“She was elected in for that term and gets to serve her term,” Groeteke said. “She’s been very influential in setting up our budget and getting us on the right path.”

Upon reflection
Ruth said she’s proud of the work during her tenure, which included setting up the HBA Charitable Foundation as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. The foundation promotes workforce development and charitable outreach in the building trades. Anyone who is in HBA is a member of the foundation, she said.

Additionally, she acted as fiscal agent for Build My Future, a one-day interactive construction career day for high school students. The collaborative program also is now a 501(c)(3), Ruth said, noting she completed paperwork with the IRS in September 2019.

The coronavirus pandemic forced cancellation of the fourth annual event, set for April 8. A record-high 3,500 students had registered.

“The first year, we had about 600 students, so it has grown dramatically,” Ruth said, adding the Springfield Contractors Association, Missouri Job Center and Springfield chamber are among the event organizers.

“That’s because it’s a collaborative effort with everyone in the industry working together to make this a bigger and better event.”

Although her time at HBA ended abruptly, Ruth said she’s quickly focusing on her next professional step.

“I’ve had a couple of interviews already and have a couple more scheduled, but it’s nothing I’m really ready to talk about,” Ruth said, adding she has no plans to leave the Springfield area.

She said the board’s decision simply meant it was time for her to do something different.

“I wish the organization the very best,” she said. “I hope they find what they’re looking for and are able to continue to prosper.”

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