Patricia Shults, CEO of the Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce since late 2014, has announced she will be leaving her post on Jan. 26.

Shults replaced Jennifer Yankovich, who left the Chamber in 2014 after a 15-year run as executive director.

A native of Washington, Shults came to Sonoma Valley from the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, the largest regional chamber in Texas, where she was vice president of membership. She also previously led the COC in her small town of Willapa Harbor, Washington.

Shults and her husband, Louie, are moving back to Austin where she will take the helm as Executive Director of Art Alliance Austin.

“Hard work on the part of Patricia, the Chamber team and the board of directors, has created a very strong Chamber of Commerce, shining a light on our business community,” said Eric Gullotta, outgoing president of the Chamber board. “Patricia will be missed and we are thankful for her efforts to get us to where we are today.”

Looking back over her tenure, Shults says that she is most proud of the collaborations and alliances she developed. She cited in particular the Chamber’s new “Creative Alliance,” which brings together businesses and nonprofits in Sonoma Valley’s creative sector; and its “Innovation Alliance,” which supports the continued development of an innovation ecosystem in Sonoma Valley and the surrounding region.

“We also developed a rock-star staff and a great board,” she added.

Shults is working with the executive committee on next steps. She says she has recommended a person for a part-time interim CEO and has a few ideas on outsourcing some projects.

The Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1909. Its mission is to ensure “thriving economy by providing advocacy, promotion, networking, education and economic development services” to the business community. At its start, the Chamber was primarily comprised of farmers and agricultural producers. Today, the nonprofit has 430 members, most of which are wineries, restaurants and boutiques.

In 2017, the Chamber played an important role in the continuing assessment and access to recovery resources for businesses after the fire disaster, work that will continues in 2018, Shults said.

“Our businesses are the fabric of our community, and it has been a distinct pleasure to work to support their success,” said Shults. “It’s been a privilege to work with and for our members and the greater business community.”

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