Nicki Anderson named new leader of Naperville chamber

A new president and CEO has been found, close to home, for the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce.

Tom Kallay, the Chamber’s board chairman, said Nicki Anderson embodied all of the qualities the organization sought in the organization’s next leader. When she begins work Feb. 3, the former business owner will be the first woman to fill the position permanently.

“She’s got the energy, she’s got the passion for our members, and we are very confident that she will be a great leader in moving this Chamber forward,” Kallay said at Thursday morning’s official announcement.

A Naperville resident for nearly all of her 52 years, Anderson called the hiring a dream come true.

“As cliche as that sounds, I am a big believer in destiny,” she said, adding that she has always been a fan of the Chamber and relishes its enormous value.

Taking the Chamber forward is a huge honor, Anderson said, in large part because she sees “incredible potential” in the membership.

The Chamber’s leadership has turned over several times in the past few years, most recently when Mike Evans stepped down in December after just a year on the job. Chamber officials at the time described the parting as a mutual agreement.

Katie Wood, executive director of the Downtown Naperville Alliance, served as interim head of the Chamber while the search was conducted for Evans’ successor.

“It’s a great new day for the Chamber,” Wood said. “The board has made an outstanding choice.”

Board chair-elect for 2015 Rosemarie Breske Garvey, who headed the search committee, said the selection involved meeting with several candidates. A few dozen resumes were submitted, she said.

“Through that process it became very, very apparent that Nicki was the next choice to be our fearless leader,” Breske Garvey said. “We’re just so thrilled to have her.”

Anderson said the relationships she has developed within the city will give her a clear vision of the strengths and opportunities that lie before its business owners. Communicating the value of the business community, and the momentum now driving it, will be a focus for her at the outset, she said. But she also expects to spend a lot of time listening as she gets better acquainted with the board, the membership and community leaders. She plans to do that by putting in face-to-face time, going to meetings, sharing what she learns, and using all of that to compile “a logical strategy.”

Anderson expects her new position to last a long while.

“The joke is, well, I’m not going anywhere. I have the good fortune of having roots here in Naperville, and I plan on staying here,” she said.

The relationships she has established lend the stability she’ll consider a great asset in the new job, but there also are practical pluses to the hiring.

“I live three blocks from here. I will never be late for work,” Anderson said.

A columnist for The Sun and a personal trainer by profession, Anderson two years ago sold her business, Reality Fitness, and feels well-prepared for the new position.

“It’s interesting, because I spent 20 years inspiring people,” she said.

In recent months, she has spoken to numerous community groups and has spent time working on behalf of 360 Youth Services as a board member, also serving temporarily as its development director until a permanent hire was made there. She sees her contact with nonprofits as another useful component of the tool box she brings to the Chamber position.

“I’m really excited to be working with so many other great organizations,” she said. “It’s pretty great.”