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Wednesday, Feb 1, 2023
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Leadership Switch at Conejo Valley Chamber

For the first time in her life, Jill Lederer has put business on the back burner. The chief executive of the Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce, the largest chamber in the San Fernando region, announced in early November that she will step down from her position on Jan. 5 – a date which coincidentally marks her 11th year in the position. “I love this chamber and our team so much and am incredibly grateful to be retiring … with the chamber at its strongest,” Lederer wrote in her resignation letter. Danielle Borja, who has been with the chamber for seven years and is currently the organization’s senior director of marketing and events, will take the chief executive role on Jan. 6. “Both Jill and Danielle are a joy to work with — always upbeat and positive, energetic and creative in their problem solving,” said the chamber’s exiting Chairman Don Phillipson. “From her early entrepreneurship to an incredible second career making the chamber one of the best in the nation, Jill has been brilliant,” said Dianne McKay, president and co-founder of Mustang Marketing. “She’s always professional and candid, and (she’s) one of the kindest people I know.” For more than a decade, Lederer addressed the needs and became a conduit for businesses operating in Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village and Agoura Hills. “If businesses are going to thrive in a very complex economy, I wanted to make sure that the chamber was really modern and really cutting edge,” said Lederer, who had the chamber’s website updated and who employed digital tools to promote networking between her chamber members. “Our website draws over 50,000 visitors,” said Tom Cohen, incoming chairman at the chamber. “With our events, (we draw) over 4,500 attendees annually and our Chairman’s Club sponsorship program has grown to over 60 members, one of the largest in California.” Added Lederer, “Our consolidated annual budget is approximately $2.6 million, which also makes us the second-largest (chamber) in the L.A. region behind the L.A. Chamber.” Lederer and her husband will relocate permanently to a property they purchased in coastal North Carolina. She has sold her Moorpark home and will move to the East Coast later in December. Transition Lederer told the Business Journal that enlisting Borja to take her place has long been in discussion. “It was always very important to me when I thought succession plan that we promote someone from the chamber,” Lederer said. “My executive board absolutely agreed with me.” Borja told the Business Journal that she has little time at the moment to explore how she might put her stamp on the chamber. “There are certainly opportunities we’re working on, but before I make big promises, the transition is most important (here),” she said. On Dec. 10, incoming Marketing and Events Director Tia Grace, an Encino resident who has worked in the distribution arm of CBS Television and has had a hand in producing film festivals, will fill Borja’s position. Lederer assumed leadership of the chamber at the onset of the Great Recession. “There will be echoes of that recession for decades but strong businesses came out of that as well as better practices,” Lederer said. A decade later, November 2018 kickstarted a particularly rough time for the chamber after the back-to-back tragedies of the shooting at Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks and the Woolsey and Hill wildfires that erupted the next day. Before locals had the chance to process the Borderline shooting — which claimed 13 lives and injured 12 — they were evacuating from their homes. “Thousand Oaks and the surrounding Conejo Valley had by far the most difficult year ever with the Borderline shootings and the fires,” said Cohen. “Jill Lederer has been among the city leaders keenly focused on keeping the community together.” Retail experience Prior to running the chamber, Lederer ran 10 Domino’s Pizza stores in the Conejo Valley for 26 years. Longtime chamber board member Rick Lemmo, senior vice president of corporate relations at Caruso, credited her experience as a businesswoman for giving her skills to navigate the Conejo Valley’s business network. “Jill was the perfect person at the right time,” Lemmo said. “We faced the onset of the worst recessions in our history. Our board members felt the economic challenges and the need for the chamber to claim the lead for our business community to show how together, particularly with Jill’s leadership, we were prepared to face these challenges.” Under Lederer’s leadership, Phillipson said, the chamber’s budget  has grown to $2.6 million, making it No. 1 on the Business Journal’s list of chambers based in the San Fernando Valley region. The organization’s Tourism Improvement District budget has grown from its inception in 2013 to $1.7 million. Lemmo, Cohen and other chamber members said it will take some time to process that Lederer won’t be at events to greet people. “I will miss her friendly and welcoming smile,” McKay said. “As much as we will miss her, she deserves a wonderful and blissfully happy retirement.”

Michael Aushenker
Michael Aushenker
A graduate of Cornell University, Michael covers commercial real estate for the San Fernando Valley Business Journal. Prior to the Business Journal, Michael covered the community and entertainment beats as a staff writer for various newspapers, including the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, The Palisadian-Post, The Argonaut and Acorn Newspapers. He has also freelanced for the Santa Barbara Independent, VC Reporter, Malibu Times and Los Feliz Ledger.
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