(Missoula Current) The Missoula Chamber of Commerce this week said its president and CEO plans to retire after 50 years with the organization – a tenure that dates back to 1973 and began as a receptionist.

Kim Latrielle, who stepped into the role of CEO in 1996, said she plans to indulge in longer family visits and find other ways to contribute to Missoula.

“When I walked through the doors on March 15, 1973, I was met with a sense of purpose and a commitment to the business community that has stayed with me every single day,” Latrielle said. “This is a bittersweet time as I prepare to say farewell to an organization that has been an integral part of my life for so many years.”

Those connected to the chamber said Latrielle's tenure has been one of innovation, economic development and community engagement. The highlights have included the creation of Leadership Missoula, which has been operating for nearly 40 years, and the launch of the city's first Neighborhood Watch with Crimestoppers.

Latrielle and the chamber also played a key role in securing a $13 million federal grant for infrastructure work in the greater Mullan area. That effort has seen the construction of the first phase, which laid the groundwork for a new wave of residential development.

“She has been critical to the success of the Missoula Area Chamber of Commerce throughout her tenure as she worked to successfully fulfill the mission of the chamber and expand our footprint as an organization,” said board member Tim Winger. “Now the difficult task of replacing Kim has begun.”

Winger said the board is developing a succession plan as it searches for a new CEO.

Latrielle, a native of Sidney, Montana, also helped spearhead the fundraising efforts to build Missoula County Stadium facilities, including new locker rooms, bleachers, lights and other features. She also served on the steering committee for the Missoula Events Center.

Latrielle was always eager to meet new chamber members and steer young businesses toward success.

“Over the years, together, we have built programs that have empowered businesses, we have weathered economic storms, and celebrated countless achievements,” said Latrielle. “I am incredibly proud of what we have accomplished and the strong foundations we have laid for continued success.”