Chamber Director Says Farewell to Community

CARMICHAEL, CA (MPG)  |  Story and photos by Susan Maxwell Skinner
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Carmichael Chamber of Commerce Directors joined CEO Linda Melody (center, with bouquet) at the September business luncheon. Melody announced her departure after nine years at the organization helm.

CARMICHAEL, CA (MPG) - After nine years as its lone executive, Linda Melody last week announced her resignation from the Carmichael Chamber of Commerce. From next month, Melody plans a new chapter of life in another small American town: Salinas, Monterey County.

Chamber members heard her decision at their September lunch meeting.  After stunned moments, a standing ovation saluted the hard-working executive. “I dreaded having to tell them I was leaving,” notes Melody. “I saw the shock on people’s faces and realized I had a history with them all. I felt I was going to cry.”

Her decision was made with the support of family and her doctor, who prescribed surgery for a back problem and a less-stressed future pace. “I’ve taken little time off in recent years.” She explains. “I never minded because I loved my job. But after my surgery, I’ll give myself time to recover and to settle into our new home in Salinas.” Most of her family, including siblings and her daughter are now Monterey County residents. “My husband and I had talked for years about moving there,” Melody said. “My family and I are close. I will love to be with them.”

Sacramento-raised Melody began her role with the 70-year-old chamber during a time of administrative and financial upheaval. The new employee worked long hours to reassure members of the organization’s value for businesses and for community. Part-time at first, she achieved more hours as the organization’s bottom line improved. Among fundraisers that assisted this recovery, the annual Person of the Year event became a gala embraced by the community – with media celebrities like Vlade Divac, Kitty O’Neal and Tina Macuha aiding the cause.  Melody and her reenergized directors also found Chamber sponsors. “These companies gain additional visibility,” she explains. “Through them, we gained a stronger financial foundation to work with.”

The Chamber now has nearly 300 members. “I know them as individuals, as well as businesses,” considers the go-between. “Our personal touch isn’t always possible in larger chambers. When members come to our events, I’m able to greet them all by name.”

Job perks have been many. “As a kid, I had a goal to know everyone in the world by their first name,” she recalls. “In Carmichael and beyond, I’ve met so many people. The Chamber has a wonderful relationship with elected representatives; congress members, senators, assemblymen and supervisors – their doors are always open to us. We can discuss issues and often get help from them. Some legislators even help sponsor our events.

“My board of directors is my boss, but presidents and directors came alongside me as a team. When I first started, we were a small Chamber organizing events on our own. We now partner with companies and other chambers; that makes our efforts stronger. We added our Best of Carmichael gala to recognize more people. Many hear criticism for what they do; they don’t always hear praise. When a community decides its favorites, everyone who earns votes feels special.” 

Her retired mailman husband gets his Melody’s own Best of Carmichael vote. “Michael’s been my biggest cheerleader,” she says. “He’s never complained about the long hours or the number of events I’ve attended; he usually comes with me. He’s friendly with all our members.  But he’s looking forward to having more time with me, now.”

“I hope to get back to work after I recover from my surgery,” says the departing CEO. “I’ll look for a job in Salinas. The Carmichael Chamber will always be part of me. I never had a job where I’ve felt so involved and received so much back.  But still feel I’ve much more to give.”

The Carmichael Chamber is now advertising to interview candidates for its CEO position. For information, call (916) 481-1002.