No one was more surprised than Becky Ettinger. When the Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce called to say she was being honored as the “Exemplary Woman Leader” for 2017, Becky said, “Excuse me?”

“I mean, why me? I was just stunned,” said Ettinger, who is still a little speechless over it all.

A local girl who grew up in Glen Ellen, just steps away from the Sonoma Developmental Center where her mom worked, Ettinger laughs when she talks about unauthorized swims in the nearby lakes and roaming the property unheeded.

Her 30-year banking career started right after graduation from Sonoma Valley High School and she hasn’t looked away from the financial world since.

Ettinger describes herself as a lifelong leaner and now, working with a focus on commercial lending, she’s made a commitment to understand her customers’ needs.

“We work with a lot of agricultural customers and I wanted to learn more about what they do so we can better meet their needs,” said Ettinger. In her characteristic “get-it-done” style, she contacted Ned Hill of La Prenda Vineyards Management who invited her along for an evening’s harvest.

“First we hand picked grapes and then took part in mechanical harvesting. Both were cool, but sticky,” said Ettinger with her easy laugh.

As the Exemplary Woman Leader of the year, Ettinger will be honored at the annual Women in Leadership event, this year a luncheon at Ramekins to be held after the new year. According to Patricia Shults, executive director for the Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce, Becky was an easy choice.

“Many people know Becky from her long career in local banking. She has the utmost professional customer service delivery, but always with a laugh, helping individuals and businesses with confidential financial assistance,” said Shults.

“What people may not know is that Becky started at Sonoma Valley Bank right out of high school and worked her way from a file clerk to her current role as Vice President, Commercial Loan Officer with Exchange Bank.”

Shults went on to state her admiration saying, “Becky has quietly served in a leadership role in Sonoma Valley, never seeking the limelight.”

She is just completing two terms on the Sonoma Chamber Board of Directors, for a total of six years – one of which she served as Board President. She is the Chamber’s liaison to the joint City/Chamber Economic and Business Development Program. In addition, she has been the administrator of the La Luz Micro-Loan Program, and led the philanthropy team at Exchange Bank. She’s also a dedicated SVHS wrestling team “mom” and lifelong Valley resident.

“Becky epitomizes one who invests in her community and we are so proud to be recognizing her as the Chamber’s 2017 Exemplary Woman Leader,” said Shults.

The well-attended Women in Leadership luncheon was originally slated for Nov. 14, but has been postponed due to the October fires.

As for Ettinger, she is excited but nervous about the honor.

“Being honored really does mean a lot to me,” said Ettinger. “I try to set a good example and do the right thing. It’s nice to know that I’ve made an impact during my career.”

Visit the Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce website at sonomachamber.org for updated information or tickets.