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Turlock Chamber charts new path for future
chamber changes
The Best of Turlock awards ceremony has been moved to the fall to allow the Chamber time to revamp the selection process and plan for an even better event. - photo by File Photo

The Turlock Chamber of Commerce is ringing in the new year with a host of changes aimed at refining the organization's focus to bring the most benefit to its members.

"No matter what size you are, you have to figure out what's the best way to use your resources," said Chamber Interim CEO Paul Wright.

Wright was appointed to serve as the Chamber's interim executive director following the retirement of long-time president Sharon Silva in August 2015. Wright's background includes over 30 years of business experience, with 20 years as a consultant working with leadership teams and organizations as they seek to align their relationships and strategy.

He is now using his experience as a consultant to bring a renewed emphasis on membership to the Turlock Chamber.

"When you go through a leadership change or transition in any's really important to do a reflection and evaluation," said Wright.

After a qualitative analysis and much consideration, the Chamber Board of Directors decided on a new path for 2016.

The Chamber will continue with programs that are complimentary to its mission, like Leadership Turlock, Agricultural Scholarships and the Turlock Young Professionals group, while eliminating or revamping other programs.

"One of the major decisions we made was to focus on membership and host fewer events," said Wright.

While the Chamber has been known to host a number of social events throughout the year, like the Party Under the Stars dinner and auction and the annual Golf Tournament , moving forward, the Chamber will only put on three annual events.

In March, the Chamber will host its first annual Casino Night, followed by a return of the popular Lobsterfest in May. The Chamber will continue its Best of Turlock awards program, but the event has been moved from the beginning of the year to the fall to allow the Chamber time to revamp the selection process and plan for an even better event.

"We want to be membership-driven instead of event-driven," said Wright.

Hosting fewer events is not the only change coming to the Chamber. The Turlock Chamber of Commerce will no longer endorse candidates for public office.

The Chamber's Political Action Committee and Government Relations Committee will both be tasked with a more informative role, educating members on government affairs, with an emphasis on local issues.

"We want to make sure our members and the business community know what their options are, but at the end of the day, it's their call," said Wright.

While Wright has helped the Turlock Chamber chart a path for future success, it will be up to the permanent CEO to develop new membership-focused programs. A search committee has been actively seeking candidates since mid-December.

As of Thursday, the Chamber has 21 applicants vying for the CEO position. Wright said about half of the candidates are locally-based, from Stanislaus or surrounding counties, and the other half are from out of the area with two international applicants.

According to Wright, five candidates have experiences with Chambers of Commerce previously and five or six come from the association or nonprofit world and understand what it means to work under a board of directors.

"We have some solid candidates," said Wright.

Following the application deadline, which is today, Wright will screen candidates based on their background and experience and present the top five to seven candidates to the Screening Committee. The Screening Committee, made up of Chamber Board members Lazar Piro, Robert Rodarte, Anokeen Varani, Paul Porter and Steve Gemperle, along with Stanislaus State President Joseph Sheley, Turlock Downtown Property Owners Association Board Chair John Jaureguy and a member of the Turlock City Council, will then narrow down the list to the top candidates for an interview process to begin March 4.

A new CEO is expected to be selected and begin work by April 1.