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Wednesday, January 23 , 2019, 8:05 am | Fair 39º


Ken Oplinger Resigns From the Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce

On Monday, Ken Oplinger resigned from his position as president and CEO of the Chamber of the Santa Barbara Region

“I fulfilled my original contract last summer and have decided to move on,” Oplinger told Noozhawk in a brief statement.

Oplinger was hired in 2013 and previously worked as president and CEO of Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce & Industry in Washington, as the CEO of the Visalia Chamber of Commerce, and director of government affairs at the Fremont Chamber of Commerce.

He came to Santa Barbara during a tumultous time. Santa Barbara's State Street, once the crown jewel of the retail shopping in the city, struggled from an increase in vacant storefronts and a perceived increase in homelessness.

Staples, Macy's, Aaron Brothers, Saks Fifth Avenue, and several other national brands left the downtown core during his tenure, and the Chamber seemed to fade in visibility amid the city's problems. 

Oplinger surprised many in 2018 when he announced an unsuccessful bid for a seat on the Oxnard City Council. He also struggled with health problems; In January of 2018, he suffered heart attack, but recovered quickly. 

Ken Oplinger Click to view larger
Ken Oplinger resigned as president and CEO of the Chamber of the Santa Barbara Region.  (JC Corliss / Noozhawk file photo)

The Chamber also sparked controversy in 2016 when it endorsed Das Williams for the First District Santa Barbara County Supervisor's seat over Jen Christensen, at a time when some community members felt Christensen would be more business friendly. 

In a news release, the chamber said that Oplinger launched new initiatives, such as FishSB, a program to support the local fishing industry, and the Economic Vitality Team, a program to enhance business opportunities throughout the county. 

His knowledge and experience were frequently called upon to assist other chambers across the Western United States as a trainer and consultant, the release stated.

“I enjoyed the opportunity to work with Ken and learned a lot from his vision for our business community and his thoughtful approach to addressing city policies that impact our Chamber members,” said Rich Block, the chamber's board chair. “We know he will continue to be successful in the future.”

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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