The Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce will have a new CEO after its current leader, David MacKenzie, was asked to step down this week, the Weekly has learned.
MacKenzie will be replaced by Judy Kleinberg, an attorney who served for two terms on the Palo Alto City Council and was the city's mayor in 2006. The announcement about the new CEO was made Thursday at the Chamber's board meeting, said Jon Kiya, chair of the board.
MacKenzie, who was hired on an interim basis in July 2012 and later assumed the permanent position, confirmed that Friday was his last day as the Chamber's top executive. He declined to discuss the reason for his departure or comment on whether the move was voluntary.
Kiya told the Weekly that the board had been considering a leadership change for several months. The move was made this week after the Chamber's officers learned about Kleinberg's interest in the position. Kiya said the board is grateful for MacKenzie's two years of service but said the board is "also thrilled to have Judy join the Chamber."
"She is a proven leader and has a long record of accomplishments in nonprofits as well as in city government," Kiya said. "Judy is a person of influence and is highly respected in our community."
Kleinberg, who in 2010 became program director for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, specializes in nonprofit law. She had previously served as vice president of InSTEDD, a startup focused on disaster response. She had also served as vice president of Joint Venture: Silicon Valley, a policy-analysis organization that addresses the region's economy. She is also a past vice president of California Women Lawyers.
Kleinberg said she was drawn to the Chamber by the opportunity to "help build a 21st Century version of the Chamber of Commerce in a unique community." Palo Alto, she said, is different from any other community both because of its proximity to Stanford and its eclectic mix of global businesses, startups and mom-and-pop shops.
Kleinberg said she sees the organization as being "a real community member, not solely serving the interest of business."
"We're a member of the community and we're here for the benefit of everyone in the community," she said.
To develop the organization's priorities, Kleinberg plans to approach the different types of businesses and ask them each what they'd like to see from the Chamber.
In assuming the top role, Kleinberg will become the Chamber's fourth top executive in three years. MacKenzie took on the Chamber's top role after the departure of previous CEO Paul Wright, who resigned from his position after holding it for just six months. Wright was hired to replace Paula Sandas, who served as the Chamber's CEO for less than three years before resigning in September 2011.
Kiya lauded MacKenzie for stepping into his role "at a critical time for the Chamber" and for doing a "great job in elevating the Chamber to the current platform for growth." He praised MacKenzie for leading the nonprofit's move to its new location at 101 Lytton Ave. He also said MacKenzie "made it clear to the board when he took the position that he did not want it to be long-term."
Even so, the transition was abrupt, with MacKenzie learning only earlier this week that he would be replaced by Kleinberg. Her appointment, Kiya said, was announced to the board Thursday and is "effective immediately."
"The transition point had come to find a leader to take the Chamber to the next level," Kiya said.
When asked about the quick transition, Kiya said the Chamber decided to act because it was "presented with a great opportunity with a person of very high quality and experience and a long-term member of the community."