Tri-Cities Voice Newspaper - What's Happening - Fremont, Union City, Newark California

November 14, 2006 > Who’s that behind those shades?

Who’s that behind those shades?

by Steve Warga

Winter may soon be upon us, but the forecast for Union City’s Chamber of Commerce promises plenty of bright days ahead. It’s a forecast most welcome after too many years of stormy weather for a Chamber that often drifted aimlessly with no clear direction or focus. That began to change this year when the board of directors appointed Donna Mize as their Chairperson.

A woman at once charming and direct, Mize turned her years of corporate strategy skills to the task of straightening a ship in danger of foundering on the rocks of too many questionable expenditures and long-term financial obligations. A history of “good ol’ boy” business dealings coupled with lax - even non-existent – financial oversight had finally brought the non-profit Chamber of Commerce to the brink of bankruptcy. This is not the sort of image a business booster organization wants to project.

Leading by example, Mize prodded the board to new levels of professionalism and controls. Evidence of her success was demonstrated at last month’s 6th Annual Business Expo; the largest, most successful ever in Union City.

Former Chamber president (1999) and current city councilmember, Carol Dutra-Vernaci, praises the efforts of Mize and the board. “They did what they had to do,” she says. “They got out of a terrible office space lease; they’re now sharing space with the Union City Historical Museum; they have a full time office manager in Dana Hernandez, and they’re moving ahead.”

An undeniable correlation exists between a prosperous city and a strong, solid Chamber of Commerce. Businesses provide jobs for residents and revenues for city governments; they produce goods and services in a free market system; and they promote civic pride and order. Throughout the world, local Chambers support local businesses in a multitude of ways, including education, advice, marketing and, perhaps most importantly, by facilitating business-to-business networking. On a national level, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce promotes the interests of businesses and fights to minimize governmental interference in free enterprise.

Although her own business is located in Fremont, Mize was recruited to the Union City Chamber of Commerce by former executive director, Christine Friday. “She really impressed me with the networking opportunities in Union City,” says Mize whose business, Express Personnel Services, operates throughout the Tri-City area.

Not long after Mize joined the Chamber board, some poor decisions from the past finally caught-up with the Chamber’s cash flow to the point that Friday had to recommend her own dismissal. Mize praises Friday’s courage and commitment as she could have quietly collected her salary until there was absolutely nothing left in the till. Friday, who now works as Union City’s Business Development Coordinator, remained on the board and lobbied for Mize’s appointment to the board chair for 2006.

By all accounts, the board chose wisely, as Mize is exceeding expectations, including her own. “I really had no idea the amount of time this position would need,” she says. “But I’m not one to do a job half-way. So I’m doing what I believe needs to be done to get us back on solid ground financially. This Chamber has a history of success, then blowing it and I’d like to see that change, permanently. I want to emphasize what a great pleasure and fortune it is to be part of an exceptional group of current board members and to have Dana Hernandez as our office manager. I couldn't accomplish anything without all of them.”

Mize and the Chamber have embarked on an ambitious project planned for next February. They’re working with local businessman Ron Mickle and the Logan High School Booster Club to raise money for Coach Lee Webb’s Olympian Coaching program. “Evening of Champions” is scheduled for February 4th. This gala affair features talks presented by former Olympic athletes, including several gold medal winners, who share their personal stories of challenges and achievements in the face of daunting circumstances. When they tell how they overcame poverty, illiteracy and other social handicaps, they speak loudly to today’s youth. With the Chamber’s enthusiastic support, Mickle believes next year’s event will far exceed this year’s success.

Native California females face a somewhat derogatory stereotyping of blond hair, pretty faces and empty spaces between their ears. Like most stereotypes, this one is more fiction than fact and it certainly doesn’t apply to Donna Mize. This is one blond, former Newport Beach surfer girl, who brings a lot more to the table than just a pretty face. Her keen intellect and analytical abilities could not have come at a better time for Union City residents. In fact, some of them may want to shop for new sun glasses; their future looks brighter and more prosperous every day.

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