Al Smith, the Fresno Chamber of Commerce’s chief executive officer, is resigning after 10 years with the 1,200-member business group.
The 77-year-old Smith was initially hired as an interim CEO, replacing former CEO Steve Newvine. But his short-term stint turned into a second career for the man who spent 47 years in the radio business.
“They told me I was supposed to babysit the organization for four months until they completed their national search,” Smith said. “They went through the process and narrowed it down to two or three people, but when it came down to making a decision, they liked what I was doing and they asked me to stick around.”
Smith said he’s enjoyed his time with the chamber and is proud of the work he and his staff have done, including building a solid financial foundation for the group.
“We are well-funded and have the money to invest in special projects,” he said.
Smith is equally proud of creating a stronger advocacy role for the chamber. The organization has become more aggressive in representing the business community at the Fresno City Council, the Fresno County Board of Supervisors and in the California Legislature.
It has been a great ride.
Al Smith, outgoing chief executive officer of the Fresno Chamber of Commerce
Smith will remain with the chamber until the end of the year. The chamber will launch a nationwide search for his successor, and Smith has agreed to step down if the board hires someone sooner. He said that while he will miss working at the chamber, he plans to remain involved.
“I have had a wonderful 10 years, and I just thought it was time to do something else,” Smith said. “We will see what happens, but one thing I know for sure is that I love being involved in the vortex of civic activity.”
Lorraine Salazar, chamber board chairwoman, praised Smith for helping to stabilize and strengthen the organization. She also said that while the chamber will conduct a national search, its preference is to find someone local.
“We prefer to stay local and will review candidates who are well connected to our business community and who understand our region’s culture and have an emotional tie to who we are and where we live,” Salazar said.