2005-02-10 / Community

New president, board to serve Chamber

By John Loesing
newstip@theacorn.com

New president, board to serve Chamber By John Loesing newstip@theacorn.com

JANN HENDRY/Acorn Newspapers  SWORN IN-Newly elected Agoura/Oak Park/Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce President Louis Masry takes the oath of office during a Chamber luncheon last week at Westlake Village Inn. He replaces Alex Soteras, who will continue to serve on the board.JANN HENDRY/Acorn Newspapers SWORN IN-Newly elected Agoura/Oak Park/Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce President Louis Masry takes the oath of office during a Chamber luncheon last week at Westlake Village Inn. He replaces Alex Soteras, who will continue to serve on the board.

The Agoura/Oak Park/Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce promised to continue its unprecedented growth by reaching out to neighboring communities and thwarting outside "conglomerates" that want to take profits away from local merchants.

"We will stand up and protect our businesses," newly installed Chamber President Louis Masry told the 230 people who attended last week’s board of directors installation luncheon in Westlake Village. "We believe a lot in the big picture and the big picture is a thriving business community."

Masry, the son of Thousand Oaks City Councilmember Ed Masry, took over the Chamber leadership from Agoura Hills mortgage broker Alex Soteras, now the Chamber’s first vice president for government affairs.

Under Soteras, the once financially struggling Chamber grew from 150 to more than 1,000 members in four years.

"For those who are business owners, to grow your revenues six times in about three years is unbelievable. Alex did that," said Chamber member Barry Garapedian.

Bob Wilson, Thousand Oaks restaurant owner and former mayor, echoed that sentiment.

"If there was a textbook way to make something work, to make a chamber work, Alex has done it," Wilson said.

Masry and Soteras promised that during the coming year the Chamber of Commerce would heavily support Heschel West Day School, a private Jewish school being proposed for Los Angeles County on the eastern border with Agoura Hills. The Old Agoura community is fighting the school.

"Good schools mean good property values and good business," Masry said.

The Chamber gave special recognition to Brian Greenberg, Heschel West president.

Other goals for this year include improved networking opportunities for member businesses, encouraging residents to shop locally, and hosting a business summit to find solutions for the growing traffic problem on the 101 Freeway.

Guest speaker Barry Groveman, a Calabasas city council member who found successful ways to deal with the traffic in his community, said it’s important to take risks in order to tackle difficult problems.

"I think we’re all getting a little impatient that we all talk about the same problems over and over again," Groveman said. "If you’re not afraid of mistakes, you’ll try new things to move your ideas forward."

Earlier, the Chamber said it would host a 2005 Spring Fest and Business Expo on April 3 at the Oak Park Community Center. The event, which will feature live entertainment, vendor booths and things to do for children, hopes to raise money for Agoura and Oak Park high school student activities.

The Chamber’s next group event is a networking mixer Feb. 24 at Aris Institute in Westlake Village.

Besides Masry and Soteras, the newly installed Chamber board members include Second Vice President Stan Israel, Stan Israel Insurance; Third Vice President Marla Lee, Fred’s Fine Cleaning; Treasurer Orville Kelman; Secretary Susan Rafik, Audience Planners; Jess Ruf, Do-it Centers; Andy Dominguez, Reeds Furniture; Frances Swanson, Frawley Company; Israel Rodriguez of Pepperdine University; Dennis Burns, CPS Publishing; Batta Vujicic, Prime Investments; Larry Mouchawar, Preferred Real Estate; Barry Cohn, RGMB Employee Benefits; Bill Catanese, Farmers Insurance; Magic Khabbaz, Merex, Inc.; Tony Amini, Alessio’s Restaurant; and Dan Adivi of Re/Max on the Boulevard.

Call (818) 889-3150 for more information.

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