Bethany Kendall may be best remembered for trying

Bethany Kendall may be best remembered for trying to update the image of the Boston Idea

Group during an especially volatile time in the communications industry.

Serving as president during both the dot-com boom of the late 1990s and the succeeding economic malaise, Kendall is stepping down July 12 after leading the group for nearly five years. She has cited personal reasons as prompting her unexpected departure. Board member Jim Fitts will serve as interim president.

Sources have suggested that Kendall—president of Boston’s Downtown Crossing Association from 1980-97—was actually somewhat slow to react to the fast-changing environment, and that the group’s board of directors have for some time wanted to bring in leadership more in tune with today’s marketplace.

Membership has also become an increasing concern. The Idea Group boasts more than 7,000 members from 800 companies, making it one of the nation’s largest such organizations; those numbers have been flat in recent years.

“The demands of the job have changed since she’s come aboard,” said Rich Doucette, chairman of the Idea Group, noting that industry consolidation and layoffs have scarred the local landscape, making the organization’s role increasingly difficult to define. “The playing field is very different; we have to work harder, with a lot more stress and strain.”

During her tenure, Kendall guided the growth of the group from the area’s primary ad association to a more comprehensive club that recognizes the growing role of interactive, direct and design in marketing communications. Under Kendall, the Idea Group expanded its educational, professional development and public outreach programs. Last month, it presented its first annual Job Summit targeting unemployed professionals, recent graduates and those considering a career change. The group changed its name from the Ad Club of Boston last year.

“I have loved every minute of this job,” Kendall said. “But you need to be able to give 100 percent” and that was affecting her ability to devote ample time to her family, she said. Kendall plans to take the summer off to spend time with her family before deciding what to do next.

Fitts, formerly a partner in Boston’s Clarke Goward and more recently vp and creative director at iXL, Cambridge, Mass., takes over for now while Boston consultancy Pile and Co. searches for Kendall’s successor.