Business

Friday, Aug 10 2012 05:44 PM

'Rock star' picked for Chamber CEO spot

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Cindy Pollard is congratulated by the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce Chairman-Elect Garrett Ming, Friday, as it was announced that Pollard is the new president and chief executive officer of the chamber.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Cindy Pollard is the new president and chief executive officer of the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce. Her selection was announced Friday downtown.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Cindy Pollard, the new president and chief executive officer of the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce, makes some comments to the audience during a news conference in the chamber building Friday.

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BY REBECCA KHEEL Californian staff writer rkheel@bakersfield.com

The Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce is bringing back a "rock star" from its past.

Cindy Pollard, a leader in the public relations field, was introduced as the business advocacy organization's new CEO and president at a news conference Friday.

The Bakersfield native was selected from a field of 43 applicants, said Tim Terrio, chairman of the board, who bestowed the "rock star" status.

"She has the best chance to reach out to our full spectrum of members," Terrio said. "She can speak to the plight of small business owners, but also has connections with big businesses."

The chamber, a 1,300-member group, aims to create a healthy local business environment by advocating for local businesses in Sacramento and providing educational and networking opportunities.

Pollard, slated to begin work Sept. 17, succeeds Debbie Moreno. In May, Moreno announced her plans to retire after 22 years with the chamber.

Pollard's a familiar face in the Bakersfield business community. Her resume includes starting her own public relations firm, serving as director of public relations at Bakersfield College and being a founding member of the chamber's political action committee.

She has been involved with the chamber for 25 years. She previously served on the board of directors. She comes to the chamber from her position as manager of local government relations for Pacific Gas and Electric. There, she lived in Fresno and worked with Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern counties.

Moreno, the outgoing CEO, said she was pleased with the selection committee's choice of her successor. She was not involved in the selection process. Moreno said she thinks Pollard's background in communications will prove to be important in heading the chamber.

Moreno remembers Pollard from when she was first hired to the chamber 22 years ago. Pollard was a board member when Moreno was promoted to CEO eight years ago.

"I remember she was an excellent board member and knew all the right questions to ask," Moreno said.

Although Pollard described her hiring as the "worst kept secret in town," Pollard's mother, Judy Keyes, was flabbergasted. Since Keyes has a reputation for spilling secrets, Pollard did not tell her anything until Thursday night.

And when Pollard finally did break the news to her mother, Keyes was in shock and did not quite understand. She asked Pollard how she was going to manage running the chamber while working at PG&E and living in Fresno. When Pollard explained she'd be leaving PG&E and moving back to Bakersfield, Keyes was thrilled.

"Home is where you can go when you can't go anywhere else, and we're so grateful and appreciative that Cindy is coming home," Keyes said, standing up in the middle of the news conference to give an impromptu statement.

Pollard does not have any specific plans for her new job, yet. That will come as she talks with chamber employees and members to find out what they would like to see happen, she said. But she does know she'll need to come up with a plan to continue helping businesses through the recession, she said.

"We're still reeling from the recession," Pollard said. "We need to give the most value to our members and sustain them and even maybe help them grow."

Throughout Friday morning, Pollard stressed her joy at returning to Bakersfield.

"This," she said, "is where my roots are."

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