WINCHESTER — The Top of Virginia Regional Chamber has hired a new chief executive officer to succeed Richard Kennedy, who is stepping down Friday for personal and family reasons, the organization announced Tuesday.
Cynthia Schneider, the chamber’s current chief operating officer, will become CEO effective Saturday. The 62-year-old has been with the chamber since 2015. Prior to becoming COO, she was director of finance and administration.
She was chosen as the organization’s new CEO after a “very extensive” interview process that occurred over the course of several months, according to Ashley Miller, the chamber’s director of marketing and communications.
Kennedy, 68, has served as the chamber’s CEO for the past three years. Originally from Arizona, he was head of the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce in San Diego County, California, before relocating to Stephens City with his wife. He served as fiscal agent for Apple Country Head Start for two years before taking the top post at the Top of Virginia Regional Chamber.
He said in a phone interview on Tuesday that his favorite aspect of being CEO has been “the ability to make connections with people, with businesses and their owners.”
“Getting a chance to help them was my greatest satisfaction,” Kennedy said.
A news release from the chamber praised Kennedy, saying his leadership brought an increase in membership, a broader impact with community involvement and advocacy for the local business community. During his time at the chamber, Kennedy was named to the board of directors for Virginia Chamber of Commerce Executives.
The Top of Virginia Regional Chamber has about 800 members with more than 30,000 employees.
Kennedy said he will continue to work in a consulting role with the chamber until June 28 to help with the transition. He also will remain on various chamber committees, in addition to investing more of his time on the Blue Ridge Hospice board of directors, local veterans groups and the Nonprofit Alliance of the Northern Shenandoah Valley
He is confident Schneider will make a great CEO because she has a passion for the community.
According to the release, Schneider “possesses significant experience in business development, finance and community service.”
John Lamanna, the chamber’s board chairman, stated that her “leadership, track record and vision” will complement the organization’s mission. “As the voice of business in our community, [the Top of Virginia Regional Chamber] has an outstanding reputation serving and representing a robust business community in our region and beyond. We want to see that continue for generations to come.”
In her new role, Schneider will focus on increasing the chamber’s membership to 900, which is a goal set in the organization’s 2019 strategic plan, the release states, and bridging the gap between demographics and generations by creating more coalitions and focus groups, while engaging new audiences.
Schneider said in the release that her vision for the chamber “is to increase its impact” on the community’s prosperity. “As we create more opportunities for our membership and greater community, I expect to see an increase in energy within the Chamber, creating more engagement, interaction and leadership.”
Prior to joining the chamber, Schneider worked at FoodSource LLC & L’Esprit de Campagne Inc., a specialty foods manufacturer, from 1989 to 2014. She started as an administrative assistant and advanced to director of operations.
She has lived in Frederick County for more than 30 years.
Kennedy said the chamber does not disclose CEO salaries.