Member Profile - Bernie Koch
Bernie is a longstanding member of ACCE and has been active in the Government Relations Division since its inception. He has spoken at several ACCE events including a workshop on issue selection at the 2008 ACCE Convention in Pittsburgh. Bernie recently took over the policy and government relations program for the Tulsa (OK) Metro Chamber, a 2008 ACCE Chamber of the Year Award Winner.
ACCE: How did you get started in chamber work, and what keeps you in the profession?
Bernie: I was a political and government television reporter for many years at stations in Kansas and Missouri. In 1988 there was an opening for Government Relations Director at the Wichita Chamber. I knew the state, I knew the issues, and so I applied and got the job.
I've stayed in the chamber business for more than 20 years now because I like the variety of work; there are always different issues. I also really like chamber people, they are some of my favorite people to be around, and that's why I love ACCE.
ACCE: What policy issues are currently occupying most of your time?
Bernie: We're spending a lot of time on regional development issues; particularly funding for infrastructure projects like roads and dams. These are local projects working with local governments, but we're also working to understand the federal stimulus package, trying to find out if "shovel ready" applies to our projects.
ACCE: What are the biggest challenges your chamber/community currently face?
Bernie: Our biggest challenge is trying to get everyone on the same page. It's always a struggle to get local and state elected officials working together. Public/private partnerships are a particularly divisive issue in this community.
ACCE: Finish this sentence. Never again will I...
Bernie: Never again will I allow myself to be in a position to fight a guy with a gun. Almost 11 years ago, while I was working at the Wichita Chamber, I was staying at an apartment in Topeka during the legislative session. It was late at night and I was heading out to make copies. As I was getting into my car I was approached by a man wielding a gun. We fought basically to a draw; I was fortunate to walk away from the encounter. Since then I have actually earned a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. I was the oldest guy at my school ever to reach that level.