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Chamber of Commerce’s new CEO plans for change

Berkeley’s Chamber of Commerce has a new CEO and he’s planning to shake things up a little. Mark Berson (pictured left), who hails from Alabama, started the job in January, but it took the Chamber a while to get around to throwing him a welcoming party.

He says that’s OK — he had plenty to get done in his first months: meeting and greeting, and getting the lay of the land — not least figuring out how to avoid driving on our local freeways which, he says, he finds terrifying.

A reception was held last night at the David Brower Center to formally welcome the new chief. Berson says his first priority is going to be ramping up membership numbers at the Chamber of Commerce which currently stand at 330. ‘It should be double that at least for a city like this,” he told Berkeleyside. He blames the lack of enthusiasm on the organization’s “fractured” recent history, pointing out that the Chamber has had three CEOs in the past 22 months.

Berson says he wants to see the Chamber be one of the first places local businesses go to in order “to get things done”.

Before Berson moved to Berkeley he served for six years as the President and CEO of the Alabama Gulf Coast Area Chamber of Commerce where he expanded membership from 730 members to over 1,000 in that mostly tourism-focused economy. Prior to that he served as the Executive Director of the Alabama Bureau of Tourism and Travel, bringing in vacationers from throughout the United States and abroad.

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  • http://www.villalagoontile.com Lundy

    We are so proud of Mark and we know he will be good for the Berkeley community.

  • Suzanne

    The Gulf Coast Chamber’s loss is Berkeley’s gain. Mark is missed down here!

  • http://embracingtheabsurd.blogspot.com/ cori kesler

    11 years in business in Berkeley and I never joined the Chamber of Commerce. Now I will! Very excited about what’s in store.

  • laura menard

    Check out the excuses for pushing out the 2nd person hired by the Chamber board, ” Berkeley is a tough town”

    blah, blah, blah

    The Daily Californian Online
    Resignation of City’s Chamber Of Commerce CEO Announced
    By Stephanie Baer

    Mark Berson

    After an eight-month stint as CEO and president of the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce, Mark Berson resigned from his post Wednesday, adding to more than a year of unsuccessful attempts at securing a long-term CEO for the chamber.

    Berson, who has been deemed by chamber officials as not the “right fit,” was selected by the chamber’s board of directors in December after former CEO Ted Garrett was dismissed and replacement CEO Gian Paulo Mammone resigned before taking office.

    After review and discussion, the chamber concluded that Berson was not a long-term fit, according to Jonathan DeYoe, its former chair.

    “Mark Berson and the chamber have parted ways effective immediately,” chamber Chairman Rod Howard said in a press release. “We wish Mark the best in his future endeavors.”

    DeYoe said Berson’s resignation is not a reflection of who he is, adding that Berson has had success elsewhere but was not right for the chamber.

    “The chamber is looking for a lot from a CEO,” said DeYoe, who was involved in Berson’s hiring process. “It’s a tough city, and it wasn’t a perfect fit for him. It wasn’t a perfect fit for us.”

    He added that although Berson’s reign did not harm the chamber, members are looking for a “strong leader” who can serve for a long period of time.

    Berson, who agreed that he was not the “right fit” for the chamber, declined to comment further on his resignation but said he aims to find a position with a Bay Area nonprofit.

    DeYoe said Berson, who served as the president and CEO of the Alabama Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce, has a “deep experience” in running chambers of commerce and political campaigns but lacked experience with Berkeley’s diverse culture.

    “It’s not an issue of weakness – it’s an issue of not already there,” he said.

    While some members of the chamber said they had not heard of Berson’s resignation, Mansour Id-Deen, executive director for the Career Development Institute for Inter-City Services, said he had a good interaction with Berson.

    “I can’t say exactly … if he was a (good) fit or not,” he said. “He was a personable person, and I felt like he was trying to improve the relationship of the chamber with the business communities.”

    Before serving as CEO and president for the Gulf Coast chamber, Berson was a tourism director for the state of Alabama, owned a small retail business and worked in advertising in New York City.

    Despite his “very attractive” resume, Berson is not the right person to tackle the “different animal” that is Berkeley, DeYoe said.

    The chamber is currently forming an executive search to fill the position, hoping to build itself a “solid leadership,” according to the press release.

    “There’s a lot of great candidates out there now, so I think they’ll be a lot of people with interest, and I’m hoping it (the search) doesn’t take too long,” DeYoe said.

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