Steve Cushman announced Tuesday that he is retiring after 24 years as president of the Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce.
The UCSB graduate was the longest-serving president in the commerce’s 113-year history. Cushman said he plans to start a business-development and fundraising company, as well as pursue his interests in art, poetry and travel.
The chamber plans to name an interim president until it finds a replacement, and Cushman will stay on as president until midsummer.
Janet Garufis, chamber chairwoman and Montecito Bank & Trust president, said the community will miss Cushman’s creativity, leadership and dedication.
“We thank Steve for his many years of commitment and service to the Santa Barbara business community and wish him happiness in his next chapter in his adventure,” she said in a news release.
Cushman became executive director of the Santa Barbara Downtown Organization in 1988. He served as president of both the Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Organization for eight years. He has joined more than 100 nonprofit boards, raised more than $60 million for local projects, and produced more than 1,000 events in his 29 years in Santa Barbara.
The Kids World Playground in Alameda Park was one of Cushman’s most memorable achievements. He pushed for the artistic, 10,000-square-foot playground that was built in five days. The chamber recruited 4,000 volunteers and raised $500,000 to build the playground, according to the chamber’s Stan Roden.
“I’ve seen some pretty amazing things in my time, but I’ve never seen anything like what you pulled together this weekend. It was amazing,” Roden said. “You were able to marshal the pent up energy of thousands to produce Santa Barbara’s version of the pyramids. Congratulations.”
Cushman was a highly touted baseball prospect who was recruited by the Los Angeles Dodgers when he was in high school. After graduating from UCSB, he played professional baseball, served in the U.S. Army, director of athletics for the City of San Diego, director of the San Diego State University Athletic Foundation, managing partner of the National Racquetball Courts Inc. and associate director of the Southwest Museum.
Cushman has also hosted and produced a weekly business radio program on 1290 AM, the longest running locally produced show in Santa Barbara County.
Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce Vice President Marcia Reed is also on her way out. Casa Serena, Santa Barbara’s residential recovery homes for women, announced Friday that she has joined the nonprofit organization as its new development director. Reed served as vice president for 19 years.
“I can guarantee you that my 24-year presidency is due to her competence, tact and dedication,” Cushman said in a news release.