Paso Robles chamber to hire new president

The Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce will begin negotiations this weekend to hire Sunni Mullinax as its new president and chief executive officer.

An active board member who is chair-elect and a former chamber vice president, Mullinax knows the area and has all the qualifications needed for the top position, said chamber board chair Daniele Fresca, most notably fundraising experience, an understanding of membership needs and knowledge of governmental relations.

Furthermore, “she always has great ideas and (offers) a fresh approach on different topics,” Fresca said.

Mullinax, 43, said Friday that she expects to start work July 1 after a few more details are finalized. She will replace interim president and CEO Zoe Taylor, who took the helm from Mike Gibson when he retired. Taylor did not seek the permanent position.

Mullinax originally didn’t seek it either.

It was only after the board conducted a job search earlier this year and offered it unsuccessfully to an individual that she applied. “We had encouraged her to submit a résumé earlier, but she did not,” Fresca said.

Mullinax said that as a chamber board member who was part of the search committee, she felt it best to “fulfill my obligation to find the best candidate possible.” After the top candidate turned down the offer, she said, “board members and community leaders alike were encouraging me to apply.” After considering “what I could bring to this organization and my experience, I threw my hat in the ring.”

The board then thoroughly vetted her, Fresca said.

Mullinax, whose background includes 10 years in the wine industry, worked at the chamber for two years (the last year as vice president) until resigning in 2012 to become director of retail sales and marketing for Adelaida Cellars in Paso Robles. She left that job in May.

While chamber vice president, she said, she began the chamber’s North County Business Resource Center to promote economic development and initiated a membership drive that gained 80 new members. The organization now has nearly 1,000 members.

As chamber president, Mullinax said, she will oversee a seven-member staff, and her priorities will reflect the extensive business plan that the chamber board released in May. Among them, she said, are North County economic development, government relations, community development and its visitor center that serves Paso Robles visitors.

She expects that the skills she gained in the wine industry — overseeing marketing, wine club management, budgeting and event planning — will serve her well as chamber president. “It’s a great fit,’’ she said, adding that she and her husband David love Paso Robles.