Chamber board names outgoing chair CEO; CEO refuses to discuss deal

John Musella, president and chief strategist of The Musella Group, a full-service communications and public affairs firm, has been selected to join the Forbes Agency Council.
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The Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce’s outgoing chairman of the board has agreed to a one-year contract to be the acting executive director of the chamber, but refused to discuss the financial terms of the contract Tuesday with The Signal.

John Musella said his contract with the chamber doesn’t have an extension, and his top priority is to “recruit and retain” a permanent executive director.

Musella said he expects to find a replacement in the third or fourth quarter of this year, he said in an interview with The Signal.

When asked what the cost of his contract was, Musella said: “That’s between me and the board. That’s all been budgeted for 2018.”

Musella later added: “I did resign from my position (on the board) to eliminate any conflicts of interest.”

Musella said his firm, The Musella Group, managed the chamber for the bulk of 2017.

“I and my company basically ran the day-to-day operations pro-bono on a volunteer basis,” he said.

The chamber board’s Chairman-elect Troy Hooper, who is director of operations at Tournament Players Club Valencia, has been a member of the chamber for one year, and also declined to disclose the financial terms of Musella’s contract.

“It’s commensurate with what we would pay for an executive director,” he said.

Musella and Hooper will officially take their positions at an installation gala Jan. 26 at TPC Valencia.

The agreement comes as the chamber is set to host an open house from 5-7 p.m. Thursday at their new 1,200-square-foot office in Valencia on 28494 Westinghouse Place.

The chamber had previously been working out of a 1,048-square-foot office in City Hall from December 2016 to October before moving into the Valencia office.

City records show the chamber paid a one-year lease worth $4,107.48, or $342.29 per month, for the city hall office that expired Nov. 30. The cost was the chamber’s pro-rated share of utilities, according to city records.

Prior to December 2016, the chamber’s office was on Tourney Road.

Musella said the chamber is on sound financial footing in the new year, after finding office space that cost nearly 75 percent less than the Tourney road office space. The new office will cost the chamber $2.25 per square foot, totaling $2,700.

“The chamber is in really good position coming out of 2017,” he said. “We’re 100 percent debt-free. We cut costs across the board.”

In an email to chamber members, Hooper recognized Musella for his work on behalf of the chamber last year.

“As I begin my tenure as Chair next month, the Board and I have asked that John’s public relations firm, The Musella Group, to continue to manage the chamber as we begin our search for a permanent executive director,” Hooper wrote in an email. “His continued management of the organization will provide important continuity as we launch new programs and business services in 2018.”

Holly Schroeder, head of the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corp., said she organized a strategic planning session in the late summer to help remedy some of the chamber’s challenges, including turnover in executive director staff and financial strain due to office expenses.

“They put together a very strong plan for 2018,” she said, adding that Musella planned to increase advocacy and networking.

Musella said the chamber’s board reviewed the plan and approved it in October.

Hooper said the board has several new members, including College of the Canyons Chancellor Dianne Van Hook, who will “create a high-level think tank” of executives focusing on issues facing Santa Clarita businesses.

Schroeder said the SCVEDC is focused on the short-term business functions of the Santa Clarita Valley.

“Our core function is growing jobs now,” she said.

Schroeder also said the think tank, dubbed “The Chamber Institute,” will focus on the long-term business climate.

“We need that long-term strategy and advocacy,” she said. “We will be able to collaborate with the chamber on this.”

The chamber would have a quarterly speaker series, monthly breakfast and other programs, Musella said.

“We’re going to relaunch our business expo and our health fair,” he said.

Musella also said they will have a current affairs forum, beginning with a February event featuring the president of the California Chamber of Commerce.

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