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Nicki Anderson named new leader of Naperville chamber

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<p class="p1">The new president and CEO for the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce is longtime local business owner and Sun columnist Nicki Anderson, left. The Naperville native, who starts work&nbsp;Feb. 3, was introduced to the community&nbsp;Thursday&nbsp;morning by, left to right, Chamber board chairman Tom Kallay, search committee chair and 2014 board chair-elect Rosemarie Breske Garvey, and Katie Wood, executive director Downtown Naperville Alliance, who had been filling in as the Chamber's interim president and CEO. &nbsp;| &nbsp;Susan Frick Carlman~Sun-Times Media</p>
<p>Danielle Gardner/Staff Photographer/Naperville Sun 2008.08.28 Thursday, Naperville-- Motivational speaker, personal trainer and owner of Reality Fitness in Naperville, Nicki Anderson, poses Thursday at her fitness center. Anderson is headed to South Africa Friday to speak at a fitness conference as well as train staff at Virgin Active fitness centers in customer service.</p>
Nicki Anderson poses on her bicyle, which she says is “old” yet reliable.  |  Submitted
Columnist Nicki Anderson captures a moment with chef Marc Murphy, who is the judge on The Food Network Show, “Chopped.”  | Submitted by Nicki Anderson
Nicki Anderson poses for a photo in the Network Booth at The Food Network New York City Wine and Food Festival.  | Submitted by Nicki Anderson
Nicki Anderson’s water “coach” Terri, a client of the fitness guru, helped her overcome a fear of swimming to attempt a full triathlon.  |  Submitted
Naperville Police Chief Bob Marshall poses with Naperville Sun columnist Nicki Anderson right before the marathon Sunday.  |  Submitted
Health and Fitness Columnist and Author Nicki Anderson performs Pink’s “Glitter in the Air”

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.”

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