The San Ramon Chamber of Commerce will be under new leadership starting next month, following the departure of its longtime president and CEO earlier this year and a search for his permanent replacement now concluded.
San Ramon resident Heidi Kenniston-Lee was announced as the new permanent leader for her hometown chamber on Monday and will be taking the reins from Interim President/CEO Kathy Fanning, who has served in the role since longtime leader Stewart Bambino stepped down in February after nearly 13 years on the job.
"This is an exciting time for San Ramon businesses and we are confident that Heidi has the enthusiasm, knowledge, skills and vision to help usher the chamber and its member businesses into a new era of impact and success," chamber board chair Mino Sastry said in this week's announcement.
Kenniston-Lee has been a longtime member of the city's Parks and Community Services Commission, as well as a number of other civic and community organizations including a role as co-chair of San Ramon 150, manager of the TRAFFIX congestion relief program and board director for Leadership San Ramon Valley.
San Ramon voters may also recognize Kenniston-Lee's name from last year's municipal election, during which she vied for the District 4 seat on the City Council in a campaign that was ultimately won by Marisol Rubio.
"San Ramon is a thriving community where people want to live, work and do business. I am truly excited about this opportunity to position the chamber as a stronger stakeholder in our community -- to give San Ramon businesses the support, visibility and voice they need to succeed," Kenniston-Lee said in a statement.
Kenniston-Lee told DanvilleSanRamon that her goal upon starting in the position on July 5 would be to build on the foundation laid by Bambino and leveraging it for new opportunities in the wake of COVID-19 restrictions and the impact of the first two years of the pandemic on businesses.
"I'm excited just to advance and support our businesses and our nonprofits and really dig into strong economic and workforce development," Kenniston-Lee said. "I think that's something we can look at -- really having that good connection with our city and collaborating on things that will continue to reinforce San Ramon as a strong business force and a strong workforce."
In addition to seeking a seat on the City Council just months ago, Kenniston-Lee has experience working with city leaders as current chair of the city's Parks and Community Services Commission, a body she's served on for seven years. While she said she'd miss her time on the commission, which is ending with the expiration of her current term this Friday, she emphasized that she was excited to collaborate with city leaders in a new capacity.
"I love the parks commission -- it's such an important community building function in San Ramon, so I love that -- but there is a perceived conflict of interest there and I always want to be above board and absolutely do what's right," Kenniston-Lee said. "Beyond that, it really frees up some time so I can focus on the chamber."
Following her campaign for City Council in last year's election, Kenniston-Lee said she had been keeping her eyes peeled for another leadership opportunity in San Ramon. She reached out to Fanning -- the chamber's only staff member, in addition to being interim president/CEO -- following Bambino's retirement.
Kenniston-Lee said her understanding was that there had been other candidates for the role during the application and interview process that ensued, but that the position was a natural next step for her in particular.
"People know my experience; they know the skillset that I bring and my passion for community, but it's also just like maybe this is where I'm meant to have impact," Kenniston-Lee said.