The retirement of Maryland Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kathleen T. Snyder in June leaves a big hole to fill in the state business community, leaders of Montgomery County chambers say.
“She is a very inclusive and collaborative leader who possesses tremendous insight and patience in working with businesses and elected leaders from all over the state,” said Gigi Godwin, president and CEO of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce. “I especially enjoyed working with her on transportation funding.”
Snyder, 62, who has been president and CEO of the state chamber since 1999, announced this week she will retire June 30, well after the General Assembly’s session is slated to end. It’s good that she’s waiting until after the session, as she is so well versed in business issues before the legislature, said Marilyn Balcombe, president and CEO of the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce.
“At the state level, it’s important to have your finger on the pulse of those legislative issues critical to businesses, large and small, throughout the entire state,” said Balcombe, an ex-officio board member of the state chamber as president of the Maryland Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives.
It’s also important for the state chamber leader to build coalitions with other chambers in the state, she said. “Kathy is an expert on both of those counts,” Balcombe said. “We are very lucky to have her, and I will definitely miss her.”
Snyder is well respected by business leaders not only throughout the state of Maryland but throughout the nation, said Ginanne Italiano, president and CEO of the Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce.
“I believe that Kathy Snyder is the perfect example of the type of leader needed for that position,” said Italiano, an ex-officio board member of the Maryland chamber from July 2012 to June 2013 as president of the state chamber executives group. “I would expect that the search committee should find someone who has the same high ethical standards and integrity, the ability to positively affect change and to work closely and collaborate with other business organizations.”
The search committee for a new chamber CEO will be led by board Vice Chair Sheela Murthy, an Owings Mill attorney. Thomas Graham, the board chairman and vice president of people strategy and human resources at Pepco Holdings, also is expected to be involved in the search for a new leader, said William Burns, a chamber spokesman.
Godwin said she did not plan to apply for the open statewide position. Balcombe said she thought about it for a “fleeting moment,” but did not plan to apply “at this point.”
Italiano said all seasoned chamber execs “should consider their next steps,” but she had the “perfect job” already.
A key project of Snyder’s has been the Maryland Competitiveness Coalition, a partnership that works on private-sector job creation that she said in a statement was “perhaps the highlight” of what she had accomplished. The coalition had created “new energy and interest within the business community to focus on our opportunities,” she said.
“The coalition has already made a significant difference for Maryland’s future and that of all of its residents,” Snyder said.
The next state chamber leader needs to be able to run with that project, Italiano said.
“It would be nice to see Kathy’s successor be someone who has the experience of successfully managing a chamber of commerce or nonprofit, but most important, be able to understand the needs of their membership and the business community as a whole and to adjust to changes when needed,” she said.
During Snyder’s tenure, she initiated the chamber’s Business Philanthropy Awards, Maryland Business Hall of Fame, small business programs and an annual dinner with Maryland congressional members.
She came to the chamber after being president and CEO of the Alexandria, Va., chamber for about seven years and executive vice president of the Prince George’s County chamber for some five years. She has won the Maryland and Virginia chamber executive of the year awards, among other honors.
Snyder, a Baltimore native, earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a master’s in public relations from American University in Washington, D.C.