The Berkeley Chamber of Commerce announced Friday that it had appointed a new CEO after a four-month nationwide search for a replacement.
Gian Paolo Mammone will take over from interim CEO and Rose Garden Inn owner Kevin Allen Sept. 1. Allen was brought in after the chamber abruptly removed CEO Ted Garrett from office in March.
Jonathan DeYoe, chairman of the chamber’s board of directors and principal at DeYoe Wealth Management, had refused to elaborate on Garrett’s termination, except to say that “he had been let go” and that the chamber wanted to move in a new direction.
DeYoe said Garrett had been good at some things—such as outreach and forging connections in the community—but had lacked other qualities necessary to meet the chamber’s new goals.
The chamber’s new mission statement focused on helping new businesses prosper during a challenging economy and creating an active presence at Berkeley City Council meetings.
Garret had declined comment on the issue, directing all calls to DeYoe.
Mammone comes to Berkeley from Lincoln City, a small town on the Oregon coast with a population of roughly 7,000. He served as executive director of the Lincoln City Chamber of Commerce.
An April 22, 2009 article in Lincoln City’s local newspaper, the News Guard, reported that the chamber’s board had “terminated the employment” of Mammone because it had “decided to move in a different direction.”
Georgia Newton, immediate past president of the Lincoln City Chamber board, declined to give the Daily Planet an explanation for Mammone’s termination.
“I can’t say anything about it because I was on the board,” said Newton, who also publishes the News Guard. Newton also refused to discuss her experience working with Mammone.
The Lincoln City Chamber’s new executive director, Mike Holden, said he wasn’t involved in any of the board’s decisions involving Mammone’s termination.
“I have been here a long time but I don’t know what happened. I just met Mr. Mammone a couple of times,” he said. “I just came here to do my job.”
However Dick Meehan, who volunteers at the Lincoln City Chamber of Commerce—which has two paid staff positions and several volunteers—said he remembered working with Mammone.
“I liked him personally,” he said during a telephone interview with the Planet.
Lincoln City Chamber of Commerce officials also declined to offer the News Guard any explanation for Mammone’s dismissal, except to say that it had resulted in “all kinds of questions and concerns.”
DeYoe told the Planet that the Berkeley Chamber’s hiring committee had talked to the Lincoln City Chamber of Commerce board as well as Mammone about the reasons behind his dismissal.
“We are confident that the issues that he had in Lincoln City, which is a very small city, will be deeply embraced in Berkeley,” DeYoe said. “We are very excited to have him here.”
According to the News Guard, Mammone was hired by the Lincoln City chamber in Oct. 2007 and has a background in economic development, serving as community development director for the cities of Ontario, Ore., and Caldwell and Star, Idaho.
He holds a master’s degree in urban administration from Wright State University and in city and regional planning from Ohio State University, in addition to degrees in architecture and civil engineering.
Mammone could not be reached for comment.
According to an e-mail sent out by the chamber in March, the search committee was looking for a new CEO who “would act as a diplomatic yet forceful spokesperson for the newly adopted mission statement, identify key strategic partners and communicate clearly with members, partners, businesses, city staff and elected officials to establish a clear dialogue and goals to further accountability and progress.”
The new CEO will continue to focus on expanding membership, developing fundraising sources and support existing businesses, the letter said.
The chamber search team—which was comprised of local business owners, residents and chamber members—selected Mammone from over 50 candidates, DeYoe said, meticulously checking references on candidates whom they felt could “qualify, perform, and fit into the Berkeley Chamber's CEO role.”
DeYoe said Mammone’s appreciation of Berkeley’s unique character, along with his expertise in planning and urban development had finally won him the position over seven finalists.
“We believe he will be effective in communicating and fulfilling the chamber's priorities to champion a great business climate, a smart urban fabric, and foster continued innovation in partnership with UC Berkeley,” DeYoe said
Deborah Badhia, executive director of the Downtown Berkeley Association, a chamber member, said that the chamber had not shared any information regarding Mammone’s termination with her because it was confidential.
“I expect the hiring committee to know the specifics of his background,” Badhia said. “But there’s always research to be done.”
Badhia said she looked forward to working with Mammone to improve the city’s retail sector.
“There are good things happening downtown in spite of the economy,” she said, referring to the new Shattuck Hotel, Freight and Salvage Coffee on Addison and the concert venue proposed for the UC Theater on University Avenue. “We are going to continue working to make it cleaner, safer and more attractive.”