California, here he comes - CEO Jerry Wheeler leaves behind a fine legacy with the chamber of commerce
by: VERN UYETAKE Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce CEO Jerry Wheeler is heading off to a new position in Huntington Beach, Calif.

One reason Jerry Wheeler is leaving Lake Oswego for Huntington Beach, Calif., is that its weather better suits his personality.

Sunny and warm.

No, Wheeler won't miss the cold, gray, wet days of Oregon, but he will miss almost everything about Lake Oswego after seven years as the CEO of the Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce.

'Saying goodbye is not easy,' said Wheeler, whose final official day on the job is Friday. 'What I've enjoyed the most is the one-on-one relationships I've formed with so many interesting people in this town.'

Moving to Huntington Beach is a good move for Wheeler. It has a much larger chamber of commerce, with 1,000 members, and it has a wide variety of businesses, from the giant Boeing plant to the mom-and-pop stores that Wheeler is well acquainted with after 15 years as a chamber of commerce executive.

'It's an exciting opportunity,' Wheeler said. 'It's the first time I've ever worked in California. The last time I was there I was in the Air Force in Sacramento.'

Wheeler gained credentials for his new job with his work in Lake Oswego. Community leaders have high praise for his performance since taking the chamber reins in 2004.

'Jerry is a tremendous people person,' said Jim Franceus, president of the LO chamber. 'He brought significant growth with so many organizations in this community. That was his greatest contribution.'

'Thanks to Jerry our relationships with the city and community organizations have become very dynamic,' said Chuck O'Leary, who was recently honored as Lake Oswego Citizen of the Year. 'He was a great voice and face for the chamber. Jerry was very well liked by our membership and the community.'

Wheeler took time to reflect a bit on his Lake Oswego years on Monday, before he hits the ground running in Huntington Beach.

'I greatly expanded what is offered to our members,' Wheeler said. 'I think people in our community are interested in what the chamber has to say. We greatly expanded our education and improved all of our events, and we gained a lot more volunteers.

'I think if the economy hadn't tanked we could have done a lot more.'

Unfortunately, Wheeler could not turn around the national economy, but he did a strong job with the chamber.

'There was a good chamber here,' he said, 'but now it's more active in the community, has better visibility and better represents the members.'

Franceus had an excellent phrase to capture Wheeler's years in Lake Oswego: 'He caught the heartbeat of the city.'

A farewell party for Wheeler will be held tonight from 4 to 7 p.m. at Tucci, 220 A Ave. Residents are invited to join in for 'light hors d'oeuvres and a no host bar as we bid a fond adieu to Jerry.'

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