James D. Lynch, who became the President/CEO of the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce on November 1 of last year, was removed from that position effective immediately last Friday, August 31. Callers to the Chamber offices on Tuesday, September 4, following the Labor Day weekend, were told that “he is no longer with us.”
Chamber Chairman Tom Larmore confirmed that Lynch’s “last day was Friday,” August 31, and said that “although Jim has a lot of skills,” it was decided that “we needed to go in a different direction regarding management.” Larmore added that “the job was not quite what he [Lynch] thought it was.”
Brenda Katz, Chamber CFO and member of its Executive Committee, will serve as interim CEO while a search is launched to find a replacement for Lynch, said Larmore.
The move was apparently unexpected, at least in some quarters, as on Friday morning Lynch was arranging meetings on Chamber business for the following week. Nevertheless, John Bohn, last year’s Chamber Chairman who presided over the hiring of Jim Lynch, told the Mirror that Lynch “should not have been unaware of concerns of the Executive Committee.”
Lynch told the Mirror, “Although, I can’t comment on my separation from the chamber at this time, I can tell you I’m leaving the chamber in a sound financial position and that every chamber event that was conducted during my tenure as President and CEO was successful, exceeded profit projections and in some cases were record-setting events. I believe that my work in the community was beneficial to Santa Monica and helped to repair and build better relationships among community organizations, the city, the school district, Santa Monica College and neighboring communities.”
The Chamber of Commerce has engaged the services of Linda Tisherman of Staff Support, Inc., an executive search firm, to assist in finding a new CEO. Tisherman, who has chaired and now sits on the Chamber’s Board of Directors, said that her firm was engaged for the task last Friday, August 31. When asked what sort of person she would be looking for, she said she was “looking for a clone of Kathy Dodson,” referring to the Chamber’s President/CEO before Lynch, who left a year ago to direct economic development for the City of El Paso, Texas.
Both Larmore and Bohn said that Lynch’s departure was not triggered by any specific issue or Chamber initiative. “He wasn’t quite a fit for the small Santa Monica Chamber operation,” Bohn said, “and the Executive Committee felt that they needed to make some changes.” “I am very sad about the whole thing,” Bohn added.
Chamber Chairman Larmore said that they had put out the word that the job was available with WACE -– the Western Association of Chamber Executives – but that they would also “reach out to others than just chamber people.” He referred to the fact that Kathryn Dodson had not done chamber work before heading the Santa Monica Chamber and she had been “very successful.”
Tisherman of Staff Support, citing her Chamber connections, said that she had “a vested interest to make sure we get a good candidate.” When asked how long she thought the process of finding a replacement might take, she replied, “Have you had occasion to try to find good people lately? There are a lot of people out there, and this is a top priority for me.”