On the eve of what its board members anticipate will be one of its biggest fundraisers ever, the has hired longtime local resident and event producer Daniel Escalzo as its executive director.
The move ends more than 18 months without someone at the helm of the chamber after and eventually let go by the chamber’s previous board in early 2011. That board has since been replaced by a behind increased membership, staunch advocacy for local business interests and big community events like this Sunday’s at the .
“We’re re-launched and we’ve gotten some traction but we really do need an executive director,” said Paula Reynolds, a member of the chamber’s board and one of the peope who spearheaded the organization’s revival. “You can’t really run a business without a leader. We defined what we needed and Daniel certainly fit the bill. He had proven himself.”
Escalzo, who has lived in Mill Valley for 20 years, was born in Argentina and grew up in Los Angeles. He has spent much of his recent career as an events producer, organizing such high-profile Bay Area gatherings as the Green Festivals and Whole Life Expositions and Conferences. He also served as the executive director of the San Rafael-based Mojotown Project, which offers pro-bono marketing and multimedia services for local nonprofits.
“As a long time Mill Valley resident, I am deeply invested in the future of this community,” Escalzo said.
Escalzo oversaw the production of the . The event, which is regularly the chamber’s biggest fundraiser, is going even bigger this year, with organizers expecting to sell 1,000 tickets and bring in as much as triple the revenue as in past years, according to Reynolds.
“Daniel has the energy and passion to take on this leadership role for the chamber,” said owner and chamber board member Doug Canepa. “After witnessing his dedication and hard work in making last year’s Mill Valley Wine & Gourmet Tasting the success it was, we are confident that Daniel is the right choice to oversee the chamber and help us implement the many exciting things we have planned for the coming year.”
Reynolds it was simply the right time to get someone back at the helm of the chamber’s direction, as even a highly motivated group of volunteer board members can only do so much.
“Knowing that the Wine and Gourmet Food Tasting would be such a success, we thought we bring Daniel on now,” Reynolds said. “He’s shown how great he is, and we feel he can help us further our goals increasing visibility and membership and growing this organization.”
In addition to growing the chamber’s events – Escalzo is also expected to expand the scope of the annual Winterfest celebration – the board hopes the new hire will help capitalize on its recent momentum by both re-engaging with members who didn’t renew during the turmoil and reaching out to new ones, Reynolds said. Board members each have a list of at least 20 potential new members to encourage them to join the chamber.
Membership rolls and the goal is to get above 400 this year Reynolds said. Although there are approximately 2,400 licensed businesses in Mill Valley, a substantial portion of them are home-based. Reynolds said the board has identified approximately 1,500 potential members.
The board hopes that the chamber’s next big move is an operating agreement with city of Mill Valley, a deal that will formalize and expand upon the relationship between two entities. Reynolds said the parties are in the midst of discussing a deal that could include having the city pay the chamber for such services as being a de-facto visitor information bureau and producing community events like . She also hopes the chamber and its local business members can become more involved in the city’s emergency preparedness efforts.
“There’s never been a partnership between city and the chamber and it’s often been a bit adversarial,” Reynolds said. “An operating agreement would help us fund some of the work we’re already doing and help the city get credit for a lot of things it does for the chamber. We want to take the momentum and build upon it.”