January 30, 2023
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Santa Barbara chamber names new CEO


Ken Oplinger, a veteran chamber of commerce executive with roots in California, will move from Washington State to take the helm of the Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce in June.

Oplinger is currently president and CEO of the Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce & Industry in Bellingham, Wash. He has served in chamber leadership positions for the past 21 years.

“An extensive, nationwide search was conducted to find the leader with the best skill set to continue to develop priorities and programs that ensure success among our members and business community partners,” the chamber said in a statement.

“The board of directors found Ken’s experience and demeanor to be a great fit for our membership needs, and we look forward to working with him to execute our strategic plan,” Scott Hadley, chair of the Santa Barbara chamber, said in a statement.

Oplinger has been involved in a number of new initiatives, including even program development and leadership in economic development in the Whatcom county area.

The Santa Barbara chamber said he had made sure that businesses had a “strong voice” in location, regional and federal decision-making.

Prior to his Washington state assignment, Oplinger served as the president and CEO of the Visalia Chamber of Commerce. Before that he was director of government affairs for the Fremont chamber of commerce.

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  1. You don’t mention what the Chamber’s strategic plan is, but I note you’ve been no friend of fracking. In our community (I’m from Bellingham), Ken’s been one of the biggest boosters of the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal, which if built, would be the largest coal export facility in North America. He formed Northwest Jobs Alliance which has aggressively maintained we need the jobs the terminal would bring, in spite of the fact that we’re waiting for what we hope will be one of the most comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessments the nation has seen to date to learn what the true total costs would be associated with impacts to the environment, human health, and the economies of all rail communities from our coast to the Powder River Basin (source of the coal that would be shipped to China). Fun Fact: As I write this, there is a post by ShaleGasNow.com on Ken’s NJA FB page. Could just be a coincidence, but after fighting a coal terminal for over two years, I don’t believe in coincidences any more.