Mark Martinez, longtime chief executive of the San Joaquin County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, is leaving that post to take the helm of the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce effective Oct. 22.
Martinez is credited with raising the county chamber's role and community impact through programs such as a college financial aid workshop that annually attracts thousands of students and their parents, and a yearly business forecast conference.
"He took a small chamber that was struggling to find its identity and he made it into a first-class organization," said James Jimenez, the chamber's board chairman. "The change is remarkable."
Chamber board member Mark Plovnick said Wednesday that the group's financial aid workshop changed many lives.
"It's enabled, I'm assuming, hundreds or thousands of students to attend college who might not otherwise have been able to," he said.
Plovnick, economic development director at University of the Pacific, noted Martinez also helped establish the economic forecast event and, in conjunction with Pacific's Eberhardt School of Business, a strategic business planning service for local enterprises.
"Mark's been very creative in coming up with programmatic ideas," he said. "That's been recognized by the California chamber, because they're taking him away from us."
Martinez said he was torn by the opportunity to lead a larger organization and chance to have an impact statewide, but also having to leave his hometown and take more time away from home and family in order to travel the state and the nation.
"The bittersweet component is, I love this community," he said Wednesday.
However, he added, "Really, it's an opportunity that's a once-in-a-lifetime chance. It's something we decided I just couldn't pass up."
Martinez will take over a larger organization with deeper financial resources, and he hopes to apply statewide some of the programs developed and lessons learned in San Joaquin County.
He said he will also step down as a director of Stockton's Marshall Plan.
"I think it's important to have someone who is here full time (on that panel)," he said.
Martinez said he'd like to see Jimenez, a senior vice president at Community Bank of San Joaquin who will serve the county Hispanic chamber as interim chief executive, also take over his Marshall Plan duties.
"I feel it's important that we engage and participate to support the needs of our city and the community," he said.
Jimenez said the Hispanic chamber is well organized, with events planned out for the coming 12 months, event committees in place and all involved knowing what needs to be done.
"That is all locked and loaded and ready to go," he said.
As a result, when it comes to looking for a new permanent chief executive, Jimenez said, "We're going to take our time and find the right replacement."
As for the departure of Martinez, who Jimenez said is a personal friend, he said:
"We wish Mark all the luck in the world. I wish he was staying, but you know, for someone of that talent level, there is always going to be opportunities."
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