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Yankovich retires from chamber

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The Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce announced Thursday that longtime executive director Jennifer Yankovich has decided to retire from the chamber effective immediately.

“There’s no perfect time for this kind of change, but now is the right time for me, particularly given the strength of the current board and staff members,” Yankovich said in a prepared statement. “It has truly been a privilege and an honor for me to serve this organization over the past 15-plus years.”

Yankovich, who has been less active with the chamber in recent weeks, acknowledged that she has had a “health scare” recently, but told the Index-Tribune Thursday, “I’m healing, there’s no bad prognosis, I’ll be fine.”

“The board is grateful to Jennifer and appreciates her dedication for all that she has done for the chamber and the Sonoma community,” said Neil Colwell, president of the chamber board of directors. “Her leadership and tenacity will be missed.”

Colwell will chair a search committee to find “an excellent hire” as a replacement for Yankovich. Other members of that committee include Vice President Casey Mazzoni, Treasurer Amanda Smith and Ben Shih.

Yankovich said with two children entering their junior and senior years of high school, “I’ll have time to spend helping them prepare for the rest of their lives. When I had my babies, I started at the chamber. I kind of did it backward.”

Yankovich said of her chamber tenure, “It’s been a real gift, definitely. But it’s time to go.” She said she has valued her relationships with “many, many Sonoma businesses, and added, “one of the greatest partnerships I’ve had has been with the I-T. All the publications they’ve helped with, the Shop Sonoma campaign, through all the ups and downs of the economy, they’ve been there.”

She said she will be helping with the transition to new leadership and that, “I definitely have some career still in me.”

In a press release, Colwell stated, “Sonoma Valley is a better place to live, work and play because of the legacy of chamber leadership. The board is entering a new chapter for our organization and we are committed to its continued success.”

The Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce has been the voice of local business since 1909, providing business advocacy, promotion, networking, education, and economic development services.