Chamber Executive Article Archive

Faces and Places

By Multiple Authors

The South Lake Chamber of Commerce (Fla.) hired David Colby as its new president. Colby came to Clermont with 20 years of chamber of commerce experience, serving most recently as president and CEO of the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce in Hudson, N.Y. During his time in the profession, Colby has served as the membership director for a regional chamber of commerce in southeastern Massachusetts, as the executive director of a chamber outside of Boston and as the president and CEO of a chamber in western Massachusetts.

The Wausau Region Chamber of Commerce (Wis.) recently welcomed its new president and CEO, David Eckmann. Eckmann served most recently as the special assistant for economic development to the chancellor of University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

The Columbia County Chamber of Commerce (N.Y.) named Jeffrey Hunt, CCE as its new president and CEO. Hunt replaces David Colby who stepped down as president after nearly 13 years. Prior to joining the Columbia County Chamber, Hunt was president and CEO of the Spring Lake Chamber of Commerce (N.C.) and also previously served as the chief lobbyist and senior director of regional public policy with the Detroit Regional Chamber (Mich.). Hunt has also worked on Capitol Hill where he was a Lyndon Baines Johnson fellow and legislative assistant.

Paul Junge is the new new president and CEO of the St. Mary’s County Chamber of Commerce (Md.), replacing Bill Scarafia who retired earlier this summer after serving the chamber for 14 years. Junge most recently served as investigative counsel for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Brawley Chamber of Commerce (Calif.) named Katie B. Luna as its new executive director after she had been appointed as interim director of the chamber earlier this year. She served as the marketing coordinator and business advisor for the Imperial Valley Small Business Development Center for three years. In 2015, she opened her own business-consulting firm, Luna Business Services, LLC.

Karen Marsdale has been named president and CEO of the Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce & Industry (Pa.). Marsdale joined the chamber in 1997, beginning her career as marketing director, and most recently serving as senior vice president.

James O'Callaghan is the new president and CEO of the Huntington Beach Chamber of Commerce (Calif.). He comes to Huntington Beach after leading the Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce (Calif.) as its president and CEO for the past four years.

Opelika Chamber of Commerce (Ala.) President Barbara Patton has announced that she plans to retire in 2017. Approaching her seventh year with the chamber, Barbara Patton has been an active member of the Opelika community, having served as mayor of Opelika from 1996 to 2004.

The Halifax Chamber of Commerce (Nova Scotia) announces Patrick Sullivan as its new president and CEO. Before accepting the position, Sullivan was the managing partner of Break It Group, where he consulted for national and international businesses on growth strategies. He was also previously the CEO of Tourism Nova Scotia for nearly three years.

The Manhattan Chamber of Commerce (N.Y.) recently welcomed Jessica Walker as its new president. She replaced Nancy Ploeger, who left the organization after 21 years to lead a global women’s business foundation. Prior to joining the chamber, Walker was vice president of government affairs at the Partnership for New York City.

Vincent Orange has been selected to lead the D.C. Chamber of Commerce. Orange is former D.C. council member at-large and former chairman of the Committee on Business, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.

John E. Harmon, Sr., IOM, president & CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, was recently recognized in South Jersey Journal's inaugural list of 25 "Most Influential African Americans in New Jersey." Harmon, along with fellow honorees, including U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Newark, N.J. Mayor Ras Baraka and Chancellor of Rutgers University-Camden Phoebe Haddon, were recognized for the impact they have made in the areas of government, business, civil rights and the faith community.

Gene Barr, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry and a Civil War enthusiast, has written a nonfiction book, “The Civil War Captain and His Lady.” The book, available on and Barnes & Noble, is based on letters between Josiah Moore, the captain of the 17th Illinois Infantry, and his future wife, Jennie Lindsay, and tells the story of a courtship between soldier and lady that offers rare personal insight into the impact of the war. According to an article on, Barr “purchased the Josiah-Jennie letters from an estate in 2000. After transcribing them, he spent more than a decade researching and writing the book.”

Tiffany Esposito, MBA, APR, IOM, was recently named president and CEO of the Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce. Esposito began her chamber career at the Bonita Springs Area Chamber, rising the ranks from communications manager to director of operations and corporate partnerships to vice president. In 2015, she left the chamber to take on the role of chief of staff at the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce which she served until her return to Bonita Springs.

Kevin Cooper is the new president and CEO of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce (Fla.). He assumes the position from former president and CEO Steve Queior, CCE, who stepped down from the position in May after the leading the chamber since 2003. Cooper most recently served as the director of community investment for the Gulf Coast Community Foundation. Previously Cooper held a leadership position with the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce as the vice president for public policy and Sarasota Tomorrow initiative. Cooper also served as Executive Director for the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce.

Pete Havel has been named the new Waxahachie Chamber of Commerce (Texas) president and CEO. Havel, who most recently was president of Liberty Strategy Group, replaces Debra Wakeland, who accepted the position of Main Street Director for the city of Weatherford, Texas. Wakeland led the chamber as its president for 15 years.

The Arkansas Valley Alliance for Economic Development has appointed ACCE Life Member Paul Harvel, CCE, as its interim CEO. Harvel has previously served as president and CEO of the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce.

The San Angelo Chamber of Commerce (Texas) has hired Dan Koenig, IOM, as its new president and CEO. Koenig, who most recently was an administrator for Church of the Nativity in Leawood, Kan., is no stranger to the chamber profession. He has previously served as president of the Overland Park, Kan., Bellevue, Neb. and Council Bluffs, Iowa chambers of commerce.

Kyla Sawyer is the new president and CEO of the Mini-Cassia Chamber of Commerce (Idaho). With former stints as a radio show host and a TV reporter and news anchor, Sawyer is the owner of KYLA KELLY MEDIA, a company she founded in 2004. In 2012 she became a founding partner of Epic Motorsports Consulting Group, LLC.

Marisa Sharrah has been named the new president and CEO of the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce (Alaska). Sharrah previously served as the community relations manager for Flint Hill Resources, Alaska.

During the Lincoln Journal Star’s annual Inspire Awards, Wendy, Birdsall, CCE, president of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce (Neb.), Lincoln Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development, was honored as its 2016 “Woman of the Year.” The Inspire Awards recognize leadership across several sectors including business, entrepreneurship and philanthropy.

Jonathan Weinhagen has been named the new president and CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce (Minn). Weinhagen assumes the position after past president and CEO Todd Klingel retired in June after leading the organization for more than a decade. Weinhagen comes to Minneapolis after serving as the vice president of the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce.

On September 1, the new United Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce (Texas) began operation, combining the membership, services, programs and resources of the 100-year-old Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce and the 78-year-old Corpus Christi Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. The move came about after late last year, members of both chambers voted overwhelmingly for the creation of a new, united organization to represent the entire Corpus Christi business community. “We’re not just merging these two groups,” emphasized United Chamber President and CEO Annette Medlin. “This is a brand new organization that will take the best of both chambers and build on it. Programs and services will be enhanced and we will offer a consolidated message.”

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