Berkeley’s Chamber of Commerce has a new CEO and he’s planning to shake things up a little. Mark Berson (pictured left), who hails from Alabama, started the job in January, but it took the Chamber a while to get around to throwing him a welcoming party.

He says that’s OK — he had plenty to get done in his first months: meeting and greeting, and getting the lay of the land — not least figuring out how to avoid driving on our local freeways which, he says, he finds terrifying.

A reception was held last night at the David Brower Center to formally welcome the new chief. Berson says his first priority is going to be ramping up membership numbers at the Chamber of Commerce which currently stand at 330. ‘It should be double that at least for a city like this,” he told Berkeleyside. He blames the lack of enthusiasm on the organization’s “fractured” recent history, pointing out that the Chamber has had three CEOs in the past 22 months.

Berson says he wants to see the Chamber be one of the first places local businesses go to in order “to get things done”.

Before Berson moved to Berkeley he served for six years as the President and CEO of the Alabama Gulf Coast Area Chamber of Commerce where he expanded membership from 730 members to over 1,000 in that mostly tourism-focused economy. Prior to that he served as the Executive Director of the Alabama Bureau of Tourism and Travel, bringing in vacationers from throughout the United States and abroad.

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...