New Naperville chamber boss eager to get started

  • Richard Greene

    Richard Greene

Updated 11/26/2007 2:57 PM

Richard Greene was at that point in his career where he was looking for his next big challenge, the next mountain to climb.

When the Sacramento, Calif., man seriously began searching for a new job last summer, he identified several that appealed to him. But one quickly rose to the top.


At roughly the same time, halfway across the country, the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce was launching its hunt for a leader to replace the retiring Mike Skarr.

The search team reviewed roughly 60 applications and narrowed its list of finalists to three. But one quickly rose to the top.

On Jan. 2, both sides will find out if they made the right choice when Greene officially assumes his duties as president and CEO of the Naperville chamber.

He arrives with big shoes to fill. Under Skarr's leadership over the past decade or so, the Naperville group has grown to nearly 2,000 members and a spot as the second-largest chamber in the state. Better still, it's one of only 38 five-star accredited chambers in the country.

"I'm very excited and enthusiastic about being out there," Greene said by phone today. "That's what a chamber president is supposed to be."

Indeed, Debra Lellbach, chairwoman of the chamber's board of directors, praised the new president's passion, enthusiasm and vision in announcing his selection.

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"We were really focused in finding that perfect blend," she said last week.

Greene, 51, has spent the past six years as executive director of the Oak Park Business Association and Stockton Boulevard Partnership, both in Sacramento. During his career, he's run two economic development districts, a smaller chamber, a business association and served as an elected official.

As a husband and father of four young daughters, Greene says he was attracted to Naperville by both the quality of the community -named one of the most livable places in America by Money Magazine - and the quality of the chamber.

"Mike Skarr has built a great program that's very progressive," he said.

Skarr's departure was timed, in part, to coincide with implementation of the chamber's new 2020 strategic plan that's designed to serve as a long-term roadmap.

Greene, who received a 3¨-year contract, said he's eager to help the staff "actualize and facilitate" the plan that he says is "absolutely on target."


Created with the help of an outside consultant, the 2020 proposal addresses ways to develop membership, continue to build a regional presence, develop programs for members and help bolster economic development for Naperville and the Western suburbs.

Greene said the chamber has made great strides with Skarr at the helm. Now, he said, "it's ready to achieve the next level."

Even with its growth, Greene knows the Naperville group is unlikely to unseat Chicago as the area's top business group, but he's not willing to concede.

"I'm very competitive," he said. "One day I'd like to say we're the largest chamber."

He says he'll be in Naperville several times over the next month to meet with the chairwoman, board members and Skarr so he can hit the ground running.

He's already spent time driving around town, strolling along the Riverwalk and even taking in a Little League game.

Ask him about his thoughts after those visits and he sounds like, well, the president of the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce.

"It's very easy to recognize why Naperville is in that group of most livable areas," he said. "The downtown is very appealing. It just looks so much like a hometown."

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