Friday, November 05, 2004

Chamber of Commerce chooses CEO

By Matthew Bunk

FAIRFIELD - After a four-month executive search, the Fairfield-Suisun Chamber of Commerce chose an Arizona candidate as its next chief executive officer.

David Sommer, of Prescott, Ariz., will succeed interim CEO Bud Ross in December. Ross had filled in for Mark Essman, who left the chamber's top spot in June for a position with the Marin County Visitors and Convention Center.

Prior to working for the Prescott Chamber of Commerce, where he spent the past eight years, Sommer served as chamber manager for the city of Whitefish, Mont., and as executive director of the chamber in Spearfish, S.D.

Sommer was chosen for his proven leadership ability and for his knack for recruiting new chamber members, said Mac McManigal, one of seven chamber executive board members who unanimously chose Sommer over 14 other candidates.

"We chose him for a number of reasons," McManigal said of Sommer. "First, the Prescott chamber was in very good shape financially.

"Second, he was very much involved with membership recruitment."

While in Prescott, Sommer helped grow the chamber's business membership from 600 to more than 1,100. Plus, all of the other chambers he's worked for have consistently exceeded membership totals compared to the national average, according to a statement by the Fairfield-Suisun chamber.

"He's exactly what we need to carry out the work of the chamber," McManigal said. "His leadership should help us to continue to grow."

During the past five years, McManigal watched the chamber's membership increase from 500 to about 750. But he said there's more potential for growth.

Sommer, who first set foot in Fairfield when he arrived for the interview, said it appears to be a "progressive" community. It has all the elements he was looking for, he said.

"I was impressed with the industrial parks in Fairfield and the Suisun waterfront," he said. "From what I saw, it looked like a challenge and a really good fit for me."

To quench the chamber's thirst for greater membership, Sommer plans to help "brand" the chamber through marketing and other promotions. While chambers typically spend loads of time promoting their members, they often overlook the importance of increasing their own visibility, he said.

"You have to show the value of belonging to the chamber," he said.

But Sommer, who holds degrees from the University of Montana and Montana State University, was quick to point out that he will need a solid support staff to achieve all of the board's goals.

"It starts with a good staff, a forward-looking board and solid membership," he said. "Those are the most critical elements of a chamber's success."

Reach Matthew Bunk at 425-4646 Ext. 267 or

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