Berkeley Chamber of Commerce Hires New CEO

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After nearly a year of unsuccessful attempts to fill the CEO position at the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce, the position was filled by a new candidate in what the chamber officials hope will be a long-term arrangement.

Mark Berson was selected by the chamber's board of directors in December after a former CEO was dismissed and a replacement resigned before taking office.

The chamber dismissed former CEO Ted Garrett in March, and chamber secretary Kevin Allen became the interim CEO. Gian Paulo Mammone was chosen to take the position in August, but resigned due to personal reasons last September before taking office.

The chamber subsequently began what first vice chairman of the board Rod Howard called an "unhurried process" in order to ensure the next candidate selected would be "the right one."

According to Howard, Berson's experience and distinctive leadership ability qualified him for the position.

"To put it bluntly, we see Mark being in the role for a long time," he said.

Berson's experience includes running a small family business for 20 years, serving as executive director of the Alabama Bureau of Tourism and Travel and as the president and CEO of the Alabama Gulf Coast Area Chamber of Commerce over the last six years.

Berkeley is a long way from Berson's hometown of Mobile, Alabama, and Berson said that before he assumed the position he spent time conducting research and familiarizing himself with the office, the people and the city, which has what Howard called an "unusual chamber."

"It's been invigorating," Berson said. "I'm out of breath. The board of directors wants me to get acclimated. It's going to take a little while to get to know all the players."

The chamber's board of directors has several responsibilities, including hiring a CEO, ensuring the chamber is financially stable and setting the chamber's policies, Berson said.

But the CEO is responsible for everything else and works to implement chamber projects and ensure that the mission of the chamber is accomplished, Berson said. He added that as CEO, his role would be vital in maintaining good relations with chamber members.

Though there are many challenges for Berson, Jonathan DeYoe, the chamber's chairman, said he is confident that Berson can handle it.

"In Berkeley, everyone's got an opinion," DeYoe said. "(Berson's) used to dealing with a more fractious political environment. In Berkeley, things get stalled because of disagreement, and we need a leader that can move things forward. He's very good at that."

Berson said he has already begun working on projects and redevelopment in the West Berkeley area, though he has yet to meet all the chamber board members and city officials.

"I've always found that one can be successful ... if you can draw other organizations together and speak with one voice," he said.

Howard said that the chamber is committed to making Berkeley what he called a "destination city in the 21st century," something that he said Berson really understands.

"I am looking forward to the challenges of the position, and I'm looking forward to the opportunity of making a positive difference in the community," Berson said. "Berkeley is a real pioneering, pathfinding city, and I'm just thrilled to be a part of it."


Contact Denise Poon at [email protected]

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