The Berkeley Chamber of Commerce announced Thursday that developer John DeClercq will succeed Reid Edwards as chair of the chamber’s board. Edwards is stepping down after a record three-year stint at the helm.
The Chamber also awarded Councilmember Polly Armstrong and developer Patrick Kennedy with community service awards.
The announcements were made to 230 people who attended the Chamber’s 102nd annual dinner at the Radisson Hotel on the Berkeley Marina.
DeClercq, who has been a board member for four years, is the senior vice president of Berkeley-based Transaction Financial Corp., a for-profit development company. TFC renovated the Hinks Building, which opened in 1990 and now houses a number of businesses, including the Shattuck 10 Cinemas, Mel’s Diner and the Habitat Children’s Museum.
He is currently seeking city approval for a 176-unit project at 2020 Kittridge St., in the downtown, called Library Gardens.
DeClercq said he will use his new position to encourage businesses to work the basics.
“Some people think you have to look outside the box for creative and innovative solutions,” he said. “I will encourage businesses to take an inside-the-box approach or more back-to-basics approach.”
He said businesses should concentrate on keeping tidy storefronts, providing good customer service and maintaining product quality control.
He added that even though the current economic climate is bleak, business owners should continue to be active in the community.
“We need to be generous with our time and dollars especially now when it hurts,” he said.
DeClercq takes over for Edwards who has been chairman for the last three years. Mayor Shirley Dean credited Edwards with increasing the chamber’s interaction with community representatives and city staff.
Dean said the chamber’s voice is important because the business community generates 22 percent of the city’s general fund.
“You would not have the services that Berkeley needs without a strong business community,” she said. “Without them you wouldn’t have after-school programs, police services, senior centers and filled pot holes.”
Edwards, who will remain a member of the board, has been a longtime employee at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory where he was recently promoted to head of public affairs.
The Chamber awarded Councilmember Polly Armstrong with the Chairman’s Award to recognize her contributions to public service and the business community during her three terms on the City Council.
Armstrong, who announced she will not seek re-election this November, said she was surprised to receive the award.
“I was shocked, surprised and very pleased with the award,” she said. “It’s nice to have the work you do for the community recognized.”
Developer Patrick Kennedy was this year’s recipient of the Community Service Award for building 321 housing units in Berkeley. Kennedy’s company Panoramic Interests built 233 of those units in the last 12 years. Kennedy said that 55 of them are for low- to moderate-income tenants.
Kennedy, who is no stranger to controversy, has been criticized by some neighborhood groups and affordable housing advocates who say his developments are too big and don’t provide enough affordable housing.
Kennedy, who has been Berkeley’s most prolific developer for many years, argued that his company is the only company to consistently overcome the ingrained anti-development sentiment and provide new housing in a city that suffers a chronic housing shortage.
Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Rachel Ruppert agreed.
“The reason Patrick received the award is because against all odds, he has been able to provide this community with something this community really needs – housing,” she said.
Kennedy, who has been on the chamber’s board for the last two years, said he was shocked to be named for the award. He said it’s not often that development issues are recognized as public service.
“I feel like I do good things for this town by providing much needed housing,” he said.
Kennedy added that as a developer, being in a room full of friendly people was an unfamiliar feeling to him.
“Usually when I’m in a room where that many people are assembled they are there to vilify me or oppose one of my projects,” he said.
In addition to the awards, the Chamber of Commerce announced two scholarships to Berkeley Graduates Jennifer Aquino and Adaku Ude. The Zonta International Club also presented Betty Loftesness with the outstanding contribution to good fellowship for her 12 years at the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce.