The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989


Chamber chat

It has been nearly a year since Nick Vuillemot resigned as head of the Greater Bernalillo Chamber of Commerce (GBCC). Since then, the GBCC has been in a holding pattern with few signs of life — there was not even a Christmas party.

Meanwhile, Vuillemot says he was approached by business owners to start a new organization called the Eastern Sandoval County Chamber of Commerce (ESCCC), for which he serves as paid Executive Director. He has been promoting the ESCCC to local businesses as a viable alternative to the comatose GBCC. He has started a website and formed a board of directors which meets once a month for breakfast.

Vuillemot’s breakup with the GBCC was a rather ugly affair, which left behind some hard feelings. He had served for over a year as the Executive Director (ED) of the GBCC, a newly-created position. Vuillemot offered his services at no cost when he heard, upon moving to the area, that the board was looking into hiring an ED to replace the volunteer position of president. The GBCC was going through one of its periodic slumps, and the board of directors had decided that the job of running the GBCC was too much to expect of a volunteer.

Vuillemot agreed to do the job without pay until he could raise enough money to pay his salary. He enthusiastically set about rebuilding the GBCC from five to about eighty paid members, both existing and new. Membership dues were more than doubled and several fundraising events were held. Vuillemot corresponded with members via email and a website, and attended training seminars to learn how professional chambers should be run. They even had a Christmas party.

In 2006, friction developed between Vuillemot and the board of directors, especially after the board refused to reimburse Vuillemot for expenses incurred while attending a conference of the newly created New Mexico Chamber of Commerce Executives Association and awards banquet, where he was given an award as ED of the Year. The GBCC came in second.

Vuillemot alleged that he was owed $2500 for work-related travel expenses and that he had been repeatedly unsuccessful in negotiating a contract with the board. Board president Gary Saiz disputed some of Vuillemot’s claims and rejected his criticism. On May 22, Saiz asked him by email to leave the office immediately.

Vuillemot told local media that he was given no credit for turning around “a social club with no structure into a professional Chamber of Commerce,” and criticized the board of directors for disorganized record keeping and lack of focus.

Since its formation in the early 1990s, the GBCC has been on a boom and bust cycle—built up by a hard-working leader, then collapsing upon the election of an unenthusiastic new administration. Members enjoyed the parties, but most were unwilling to volunteer much time or effort. The successful presidents invariably came from outside Bernalillo’s inner establishment, struggling to succeed in a new business venture. During the nineties, new Bernalillo businesses had a dismal chance of success.

Fawn Dolan, owner of Camino Real Antiques, founder of Bound for Success, and local property developer, was undoubtedly the most successful of the group’s presidents. She built the membership to well over one hundred, organized monthly mix-and-mingle gatherings, offered group advertising in the local media, and threw a great Christmas party in 2002. She told the Signpost, “It’s a shame that we don’t have a solid Chamber of Commerce—especially with all the prosperity that has come to the Bernalillo area. It just takes a few volunteers working together to organize the monthly gatherings, some group advertising, and of course the Christmas party. The Chamber needs to cater to the needs of ‘Mom and Pop’ businesses. People deserve the opportunity to get out and talk to other business owners, to network, and just compare experiences.”

Ida Fierro, newly-elected president of the Bernalillo Chamber’s board of directors said, “We are just reorganizing, but we are still a viable chamber.” The board has not billed members for dues for over a year, and the phone has been disconnected. Fierro said, “Since we aren’t offering any services, it wouldn’t be fair to ask for dues.” Fierro said the Bernalillo Chamber board has met with officials of the Rio Rancho Chamber of Commerce to determine if there might be mutual interests (other than strength in numbers). Fierro said the Bernalillo Chamber will not consider merging with the ESCCC and does not view them as competition. “We are all volunteers who are trying to find a way to serve Bernalillo area businesses. We’re not seeking personal or monetary gain,” she offered.

She said that the board has been meeting every two weeks and that they may soon contact former members and schedule a general meeting. For more information, visit

Mohammed Haq, chairman of the ESCCC board of directors, said he has made an offer to merge with the Bernalillo Chamber and the Placitas Chamber of Commerce. “It doesn’t make sense to have three chambers competing for membership. Sandoval County businesses need a one chamber to act [with] a collective voice.” Vuillemot agrees with this assessment, and says that he is working for unity in the community.

Tom Ashe, President of the Placitas Chamber of Commerce (PCC), said that the PCC serves companies and individuals that do business in Placitas, many of which are involved in homebuilding and real estate. He said, “We support area businesses, but we have no interest in merging with the other chambers.” The PCC sponsors the Placitas Home Tour and Placitas Appreciation Day, held on June 2. Booth space is available and event planning is open to suggestion. For information, call 867-3011.

ESCCC will have an open house from 5 to 7 p.m. on April 13 at CRC & Associates, at 993 Camino del Pueblo in Bernalillo. Sandoval County and Bernalillo business owners are welcome to attend.

Vuillemot said the ESCCC has forty-three paid members, with expectations of one hundred members by the end of April, and two hundred members by the end of the year. The cost of membership is on a sliding scale, based on the size of the business. He said, “The value to you of belonging is in excess of $2500 per year.” Benefits include a link from the ESCCCC website to your website, membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and business-to-business discounts on goods and services. For more information, call 771-0262 or visit

Phil Messuri

Phil Messuri

Messuri guides holistic financial planning

Phil Messuri brings a broad life experience to the financial planning business. Engineer, Air Force officer, Viet Nam veteran, manager, and outdoorsman, Messuri believes that financial planning should be more than a matter of an insurance man selling mutual funds as a sideline. He practices holistic and integrated planning, investment management, risk reduction strategies, and estate preservation. He is also a licensed insurance agent, but insists that he never tries to fit a client into his own agenda.

He offers two initial consultations at no charge so he can get to know potential clients as unique individuals and they can get acquainted to his approach to financial planning.

Messuri has resided in New Mexico since being stationed here in 1985. He retired in 1990 and moved to Placitas with his wife Diane, attracted by the vitality of the community and the proximity of mountain hiking. He served on the Sandia Peak Ski Patrol for eighteen years. He is a familiar face in the neighborhood association, Chamber of Commerce, and other community activities. Messuri has an office in Albuquerque, but has also kept an office in the La Puerta complex since 2002, believing in the importance of knowing one’s clients personally in order to establish trust.

“I started investing when I got out of college. Several unimpressive advisers convinced me that with education, I could do as well on my own. After I traded in my dress blues for a grey suit and corporate consulting for a few years, it seemed natural to move into financial planning,” Messuri said.

He worked with seasoned professionals while doing course work for his elite Certified Financial Planner certification, and is now Chapter President of the Financial Planning Association of New Mexico.

Messuri says he realizes that market fluctuations are always upsetting to investors—especially like those we have seen lately. “I encourage clients to use a laddered approach where short-term money needs are not at risk. Funds needed over the next three to seven years should be low risk, with a high bond-to-stock ratio. Long-term investments aim at higher returns on higher stock-to-bond ratios,” he explained. “I respect the fact that everybody has his own ideas about an acceptable level of risk.”

For further information, contact Phil Messuri at 798-6941 or visit:

New Mexico Educators opens two new local branches

On February 6, New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union opened two new branch offices to better serve its membership in Sandoval County and on Albuquerque’s west side. These new full-service offices replace the former Rio Rancho branch on Rio Rancho Boulevard, which closed on February 10.

The Cottonwood branch is located at 10090 Coors Boulevard NW, northeast of 7 Bar Loop Road in Albuquerque, and is open Saturdays. The Enchanted Hills office is located at 7840 Enchanted Hills Boulevard, just west of Highway 528 in north Rio Rancho. Both locations have drive-up teller service, plus CU Anytime drive-up ATMs with new imaging technology that accepts deposits without an envelope.

The Enchanted Hills location is New Mexico Educators’ first use of remote teller stations in a lobby, using video screens showing the teller, and vacuum tubes for transaction items. This system affords higher efficiency, because tellers can provide service to members either in the lobby or the drive-up bays, wherever they are needed most. Financial Consultants are also in the Enchanted Hills lobby to assist members with loans and new accounts.

On March 9, New Mexico Educators held a joint grand opening celebration at both new branches. This event featured local musicians and four radio stations, food from Copeland’s of New Orleans, prize drawings every hour, plus special mortgage and loan promotions. The estimated total attendance at both locations was one thousand members and many prospective members.

New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union has just over one hundred thousand members, and thirteen branch offices located in Albuquerque, Rio Rancho, Los Lunas, Socorro, and Taos. In December 2007, New Mexico Educators was voted one of the best places to work in New Mexico. To learn more about New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union, log on to






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