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Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce Hires CEO

The Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce has hired a new president/CEO.

An extensive, nationwide search was conducted to find the leader with the best skill set to continue to develop priorities and programs that ensure success among members and business community partners in the Santa Barbara region.

Ken Oplinger will join the Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce on June 3. He currently serves as the president/CEO of the Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce & Industry in Bellingham, Wash., and has extensive experience in chamber management, serving in leadership roles for more than 21 years.

“The Board of Directors found Ken’s experience and demeanor to be a great fit for our membership needs, and we look forward to working with him to execute our strategic plan,” said Scott Hadley, board chairman of the Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce.

Oplinger has helped move the Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce in new and important directions during his almost 10 years at the helm. He brought new events to the chamber and the community, moved the chamber into a lead role in economic development in Whatcom County, and ensured the county’s business community had a strong voice in local, state and federal government decisions.

He previously served as the president/CEO of the Visalia Chamber of Commerce in California, and prior to that was the director of government affairs for the Fremont Chamber of Commerce.

“You never know when opportunity is going to knock,” Oplinger said of his new role in Santa Barbara. “My wife Diana, my daughter Rachel and I have come to love Whatcom County, and making the decision to leave has not been easy. However, this is an outstanding opportunity where I can use my expertise and skills to enhance the business advocacy and economic vitality of the region, and we are very excited about relocating to this beautiful area.”

Oplinger looks forward to meeting business and community leaders from throughout the region once he arrives.

“I intend to reach out to every part of the community, engaging a wide variety of individuals and organizations as I learn about the Santa Barbara region,” he said. “My door is always open, and my goal is to ensure the chamber is a positive, collaborative force.”

Interim President/CEO Zoe Taylor will work with Oplinger to ensure a smooth and successful transition, having done a great job helping to redefine the Chamber of Commerce’s vision and preparing its infrastructure for a great future.

— Stephanie Armstrong represents the Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce.

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