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DeClercq stepping down as joint CEO of Berkeley Chamber

John DeClercq: stepping down as joint CEO of the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce at month-end

John DeClercq will step down as joint-CEO of the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce at the end of this month after 18 months in the job. Polly Armstrong, with whom he shares leadership responsibilities, will continue to head up the local business organization solo, most likely on a part-time basis.

DeClercq is returning to the commercial real estate field after being approached about a job by a company that owns a portfolio of low-income housing across the country. He says the Chamber is now on a steady footing and that, for financial reasons, he needs to take up a full-time job.

DeClercq was appointed as joint-CEO with Armstrong in January 2011 and they have brought some consistency to the organization. The previous three years saw four CEOs arrive and depart in quick succession.

“There were rough waters before Polly and I took over and crafted a job that was good for both of us,” he says, adding that the past 18 months have been about stabilization. The Chamber’s membership is now approaching 400, he says, and he feels optimistic about the future for businesses in Berkeley. “The downtown P-Bid passed and we’re excited that the West Berkeley Project and civil sidewalks are both on the November ballot,” he says.

DeClercq also cites the city’s Economic Development department, under director Michael Caplan, and the Berkeley Startup Cluster’s Skydeck incubator space as positive driving forces. He says he believes the rejuvenation of Telegraph Avenue as a business district will be a priority for the next few years.

Ultimately, though, DeClercq says one of the Chamber’s most important functions is “good old-fashioned networking.” With that in mind, the organization orchestrates myriad opportunities for businesses to meet and collaborate, including two monthly mixers, ribbon-cutting ceremonies, and events such as the Firefighters’ BBQ benefit, held this year at the Berkeley Yacht Club, and the Berkeley Coffee & Tea Festival, inaugurated under DeClercq’s watch.

The Chamber’s board is meeting soon under new chairman Diane Rames, and will consider whether the CEO position needs to be redefined. DeClercq says it is likely Armstrong will continue to hold the reins in a part-time capacity and they will not be recruiting to fill his shoes.

Prior to being joint CEO of the Chamber, DeClercq was President of the Downtown Berkeley Association where he helped create the Business Improvement District (BID) for downtown. In 1991 he managed the Berkeley Center, including the Shattuck 10 Cinemas, the Shattuck Hotel, Original Mel’s diner and a dozen other retail and office tenants.

Armstrong is a former Berkeley City Councilmember (1994-2002) and a 32-year resident of the Claremont district in Berkeley.

Berkeley’s Chamber of Commerce names new joint CEOs [01.03.11]

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  • Charles_Siegel

    ““The downtown P-Bid passed…”

    What is the downtown P-Bid?  Pardon my ignorance, but I don’t think I ever heard that before.

  • P-Bid is  “property-based improvement district”.  

  • Marhoades

    It is funding the improvements, both programmatic and operational, that have already made the Downtown that much better.

  • Helmut Tutass


    Thanks for all the great work you have done. You are a good administrator but even a better person. I’m going to miss you.

  • Russell Bates

     the 1% of berkeley

  • guest


  • From http://www.downtownberkeley.com/about-downtown-berkeley-association-pbid

    The purpose of the PBID is to create and sustain a vibrant and
    prosperous City Center by: 1) Producing a consistently clean,
    welcoming, and attractive Downtown experience,  2) Attracting and
    retaining new businesses, 3) Cultivating a fun and vibrant Downtown
    “living room”, 4) Enhancing property values, sales, and occupancies,
    and 5) Helping Downtown businesses compete locally and regionally.  A
    PBID creates a efficient mechanism for property owners and businesses
    to fund and manage improvements in commercial areas, with the ultimate
    goal of promoting business activity and enhancing property values.

  • Charles_Siegel

    Tangentially related: Does anyone know what has happened to the planned improvements at downtown BART plaza?  Implementation is way overdue.