Marilyn Strickland will be the chamber’s first African-American CEO when she starts the new job in about three weeks.
Former Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland will take over as the CEO and president of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, the regional business group announced Wednesday.
Strickland, who was on the Tacoma City Council prior to her eight-year run as mayor, also has past stints with the American Cancer Society and Starbucks. She left City Hall at the end of December due to term limits.
She replaces Maud Daudon, who announced in October that she would step down after nearly six years leading the organization that represents about 2,200 local businesses and lobbies government bodies for pro-business policies.
Strickland will be the chamber’s first African-American CEO when she starts her new job in three weeks. She was Tacoma’s first female African-American mayor.
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In addition to the usual issues facing businesses, Strickland said the organization needs to play a role in helping to combat homelessness, create housing that’s more affordable and increase educational opportunities, all issues that impact businesses.
Strickland also wants to help promote the positive sides of business at a time when it seems like the business community gets a bad rap, she said.
Sometimes it feels like businesses “are held responsible for every social problem,” she said, “and that’s not true.” She pointed to the host of taxes that businesses pay, which she said amount to more than half of the general-fund revenue that goes to the city to fund basic services.
“I think it’s important to help people understand that the business community isn’t a monolith — it’s very diverse,” she said. She is particularly interested in working with small businesses, she added.
While she’s been in Tacoma, which has a very different business community than Seattle, she argues “you have to have a regional perspective if you’re going to be effective.”
“I’m not as familiar with Seattle as some folks are, but I don’t think it’ll take me long to get up to speed,” she said. She notes she served on the boards for Sound Transit and the Puget Sound Regional Council, which deal with programs in Seattle and other local towns.
Heather Redman, chair of the chamber’s board of trustees, said the board’s executive committee identified more than 50 potential candidates from around the country before picking Strickland.
“She impressed the Search Committee with her passion around our region’s future and her vision for the Chamber and our business community as part of that future,” Redman said in an email to fellow trustees. “She is fearless about taking on challenges and we are thrilled that she is bringing her positive, energetic presence to our organization.”
The chamber also produced statements of support for the hire from King County Executive Dow Constantine, former Gov. Christine Gregoire and Washington Roundtable President Steve Mullin.
Born in Seoul, South Korea, Strickland got her bachelor’s degree at the University of Washington and has an MBA from Clark Atlanta University. She plans to continue living in Tacoma but anticipates also getting a place in Seattle.