The Pleasanton Chamber Celebrates 75 Years of Supporting the Community
It all started back in 1907 when a small group of Pleasanton’s influential citizens met at City Hall for the purpose of organizing a civic body that would do work to further the progress of Pleasanton and to communicate with the citizens and businesses of Pleasanton an ambition to enhance and grow the town.
This was the genesis of the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce as it is today. The formal incorporation was completed on September 30, 1946, and the reason for celebrating the chamber’s 75th anniversary in 2021. “This gives us the opportunity to thank and remember our past leaders that were instrumental in guiding the chamber to continued success,” said Steve Van Dorn, President/CEO of the Pleasanton Chamber. “After all, the chamber would not be where it is today without the support of our members and our awesome community,” he said.
“Great communities have great chambers,” said Dave Kilby, President and CEO of Western Association of Chamber Executives (W.A.C.E.) and executive vice president of corporate affairs at the California Chamber. “I think a case could definitely be made that Pleasanton is what it is today – a great community – because of the work of the chamber for the past 75 years.”
Leadership Pleasanton, created by the chamber in partnership with the City of Pleasanton in 1989, is a program to develop community leaders. Comprised of individuals from all sectors of the community, the participants meet monthly nine times for day-long sessions on topics of history, government, education, recreation, business, public safety, health and infrastructure. Learn more here.
What Past and Present Community Leaders Are Saying
“I would like to extend a heartfelt congratulations to the Chamber of Commerce for 75 years of advocating for our business community, and its associated economic growth in Pleasanton. Working together with the City of Pleasanton, our joint efforts have benefited the local economy and contributed to Pleasanton’s status as one of the best cities to live, work, and raise a family.”
-Mayor Karla Brown
"The Pleasanton Chamber remains a very important ingredient in the successful growth of UNCLE Credit Union. Our long term association with the Pleasanton Chamber (member for 30+ years) coupled with the wonderful opportunity for me to serve on the Board of Directors for five years, including Chairman in 2018, is an experience I will forever cherish as a business professional and long-time Pleasanton resident."
"Great communities have great chambers. I think a case could definitely be made that Pleasanton is what it is today – a great community - because of the work of the chamber for the past 75 years!"
"I remember the 1980’s as the decade that the Pleasanton Chamber of commerce really came into its own. Carol Ann Montgomery, Frank Capilla and I all served as presidents of the Chamber from 1983 through 1985. The Chamber hired its first professional manager in Debra Strong and then Scott Raty. In those years we set a goal for membership development and grew the Chamber to 1,000 members. This was a remarkable achievement made possible by the approval and development of Hacienda Business Park and the Stoneridge Mall."
“I think the best thing we did was hire Debra Strong to be the full-time manager. Because we knew we were going to have to beef up the staff with the business park coming in. And the good news was Joe Callahan made everyone involved. Everyone joined the Chamber. The Chamber to me means an active group of business people looking out for the betterment of all of business."
-Joyce (Getty) Shapiro
"The thing that has been most impactful to my chamber experience was the courage that it took to form a PAC so that business had a more formal seat in community discussions. It really allowed business to put their money where their mouth was. It was never intended to dominate the discussion, just to include the voice of business and I think it has done that well. Taxes on business help maintain our quality of life in Pleasanton and I think the chamber does a great job of advocating for a business-friendly environment."
"It was such an honor to serve this dynamic organization as Chamber Chairperson. The relationships I formed with fellow Board Members during my tenure continue to be so important in my life. The Chamber provides many with the opportunity to lead from the front, to actively serve our community and to leave Pleasanton a little bit better than when we found it. While the Chamber is an amazing business organization, it is also a community organization filled with people who are passionate about our city and our residents. That was what moved me to serve and what I believe is so special about the Chamber. When I was sworn in as Chair I was the first female to hold that position in 15 years and I am so proud that there have been numerous female Chairs since then. Diversity of leadership throughout our community is critical for growth and sustainability. Cheers to 75 years...may the next 75 years be filled with progress and prosperity."
-Laura (Olson) Brooks
"One of our favorite memories was the mixers we hosted with fellow members. It was a great opportunity for a small business like ours to host one of the more popular networking events the chamber puts on. It was great for us and our co-hosts to showcase our businesses while sharing in the expenses. I think the exposure to the Pleasanton Community and fellow members was significant for us. As a sign company, people remember more about your business and what you do when they can see your shop and all the types of signs we fabricate. I know we picked up new clients from those mixers. Many times, months or even years later, clients mentioned that they remembered us because they attended our mixers."
"One of my earliest memories of working at Hacienda and in Pleasanton was participating in the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce's Economic Development Committee which, at that time, was being held in Geoff Etnire's office and chaired by Brad Hirst. What was particularly memorable about these meetings was how engaged the community was in issues related to Pleasanton's economic health and vitality. Month after month, the room was packed with people who were clearly committed to the community and to making Pleasanton a better place; all of which made quite an impression on this new arrival. Set against a sweeping backdrop of Pleasanton through the windows, dozens gathered together to engage in practical problem solving, policy development and the creation of ideas to help make the city function well and to provide its citizenry with the components it needed to thrive: quality infrastructure, great neighborhoods, excellent schools, a stellar environment and first-rate amenities.
Time and time again since, I have repeatedly witnessed this same spirit of commitment to Pleasanton by these people and others that I first met through the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce. This dedication to Pleasanton as a place is not common in my experience and it really speaks to me of a shared set of values that is expressed regularly and in so many ways; an expression that has made working in Pleasanton all this time a real pleasure. No matter what the circumstance, when there is something that needs to be addressed, the community comes together and sees that it happens. So often, the convening force or common thread to that collective response has been the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce through their active civic engagement and care for those things that make Pleasanton, Pleasanton.
When I finally had the honor of chairing the Chamber's Board of Directors, I was struck with a very strong sense of "standing on the backs of giants". While somewhat daunting, I was also decidedly comforted by the idea that I was taking part in something that was bigger than myself. This spirit of participation in a collective effort has been one of the most rewarding parts of being a Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce member all these years. Happy Birthday Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce. I am proud to have been with you through much of your seventy-five years and look forward to many more to come!"
"Before jumping right into my three most favorite of the Pleasanton Chamber’s lasting accomplishments in celebration of its 75th anniversary, here’s a little personal background for context.
Proudly I served as the Chamber’s CEO for a total of 16 years. However, my familiarity with the chamber spans more than 34 years as I was first employed as CEO from 1984 to 1989, when the self-correcting IBM Selectric reigned supreme and fax machines were trending. I returned to the position in 2008 as iPhones took the world by storm, until my retirement in August of 2018 when mention of the Cloud had nothing to do with weather, and Siri had an answer for everything except Alexa.
Now, here are my top three.
Leadership Pleasanton, created by the chamber in partnership with the City of Pleasanton in 1988, has produced more than 755 graduates in its 30-plus years. In June of each year the Chamber accepts applications from the community for up to 30 local adults from all walks of life to participate in nine, monthly, day-long sessions on topics of history, government, education, recreation, business, public safety, health and infrastructure. Many graduates go on to volunteer for local community non-profits, city commissions, and in some cases pursue elected office.
As each new year of LP gets underway, and attendance requirements are reviewed, most participants express reservation and anxiety about having to take one whole day per month away from work, family, school or whatever. Without exception, by the third session, these same folks are wishing out loud for more than just one day per month!
Whether you are new to Pleasanton, or a life-long resident, going behind the scenes once a month to learn what makes this great community tick is time well spent, but be for warned that you may discover an unexpected passion for volunteer service.
Pleasanton 2015: A Community Vision – Pleasanton did not become one of the best cities in all of California in which to live, work and raise a family by accident; it happened by design with strong leadership and teamwork among all sectors of the community. The chamber, through its Community Vision Program launched in 2008, has been a catalyst for identifying and advocating fulfillment of community-developed objectives for a better Pleasanton in areas of housing, education, public safety, parks, recreation, infrastructure, health, and the local economy.
Of the 45 measurable objectives in the Chamber’s initial document, the community accomplished most of them and two subsequent iterations of the Vision (2020 and 2025) along with the chamber’s ongoing public policy advocacy efforts have proved instrumental in helping Pleasanton remain among the best communities in California. Get a look at the current Vision on the Chamber website.
Of all the Chamber’s most memorable accomplishments, most significant to me these many years is its enduring success with people. Pre IBM Selectric and way beyond the cloud, generation after generation of engaged business leaders bring their time, talent, and resources to the table freely for the benefit of the entire community through their involvement with the Chamber. Pleasanton is blessed with a richly diverse business community that contributes enormously to the economic success and quality of life we enjoy. If you are in business, and not yet a member, you should join.
Congratulations to past, current, and future Chamber members, leaders and staff on this milestone anniversary."
Frank Capilla recalled a significant time where “the chamber was flat broke, no money.” Over lunch at LaRochelle’s restaurant in 1979, Wells Fargo agreed to loan $7,000 to the chamber, thanks to the efforts of Larry Lindsey and Jim Barri.
"We hired Debra Strong, and when she came on board, she really took us to the next step. And that’s when we really started to be an official Chamber of Commerce.
Joe Callahan said if you’re going to do business at Hacienda, we want you to belong to the chamber. We just really started to take off."
"It was such an honor to serve as Chamber Chairman in 2020 while simultaneously running for Pleasanton City Council. While the year was not as we had hoped, I am incredibly proud of what we accomplished during impossible circumstances. The Pleasanton Chamber has been a wonderful way for me to grow and cultivate relationships. As a Realtor serving our local area, these relationships have been invaluable to me and I am grateful that our community has such a strong business organization. Being a part of the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce is an honor!"
"I moved here in 1980 and I got involved around 1984. I had a little house cleaning business way back then. My partner and I agreed that she would take care of soroptimists, and I would take care of Chamber. So I was at every single Chamber event. I used to just love them. I was an ambassador for so many years, and eventually chair of the ambassadors.
I could tell people very honestly, if you want your business to succeed, you need to get involved in the Chamber. You need to go to the events because at that point, the who’s-who of Pleasanton was at those mixers. Our events were always so much fun.
We all did it because we loved it. When I went anywhere, anybody that was with me said, I’ve never seen anybody know so many people in town. But you did because you had a reason. You were at all the events and you met people. And that’s what made your business a success or not a success."
"We had so many accomplishments in 2019 – it was a fantastic year! We had a record-breaking year with membership growth by asking “prospective members” to learn more about the chamber. I am also very proud of creating the organizational chart that shows all the things the Chamber does besides ribbon cutting and mixer events."
The Chamber would like to send a special thank you to Mark Shawver for designing the 75th anniversary logo. Thanks, Mark!