Temecula City Council honors outgoing chamber of commerce CEO

Retiring Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Alice Sullivan listens as a variety of speakers honor her time serving with the chamber during a celebration event at Pechanga Resort & Casino, Sept. 30, several days after the Temecula City Council recognized her. Shane Gibson photo

The Temecula City Council honored Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce CEO Alice Sullivan at its regular meeting Sept. 24.

Sullivan, who has been with the chamber of commerce since 1990, announced her retirement at the end of May.

Various people who have worked with Sullivan over the years were on hand to thank her for her service and wish her well, and the city council presented her with a bouquet of flowers and an honorary street sign.

She also received awards from the offices of Assemblywoman Marie Waldron and state Sen. Jeff Stone, along with an honorary chair in the city council chambers dedicated in her honor, recognizing attendance at almost every single council meeting during her time on the chamber, Temecula Mayor Mike Naggar said.

“Alice, I don’t know that we can do it all in one night,” Naggar said of the thanks he said Sullivan deserves for her nearly 30 years of work for the chamber.

But they certainly tried.

Riverside County Supervisor Chuck Washington, a former Temecula mayor, said he’s known Sullivan for about 20 years – since his early days as a member of the chamber of commerce.

“I really came to recognize this chamber while I was sitting on their board, and I’ve told Alice this many times, (that it is) probably the best chamber of commerce in the entire Southern California region,” Washington said. “In front of God and everyone else here tonight, I would like to say, Alice, I love you. You have been a role model for so many of us, and you’re going to be sorely missed.”

Pechanga Tribal Councilman Russell “Butch” Murphy said he’s probably known Sullivan for closer to 30 years and that her tenure with the chamber of commerce has seen Temecula develop into a very different place than it was when she first began.

“Thirty years ago, Temecula wasn’t quite what it is today, and 30 years before that, it wasn’t quite what it was 30 years ago,” Murphy said. “Alice, you’ve certainly been a great help in building this alley to be the economic horse that it is today.”

He also said Sullivan has been “a good friend and a champion for Pechanga whenever we asked for your help.”

“We are a stronger community because of your dedication,” Murphy said.

Terry Gilmore, owner of Paradise Chevrolet Cadillac and Paradise Buick GMC, which are part of the chamber of commerce, credited Sullivan with everything from leading a shop local effort to getting Temecula put on TV weather maps and establishing Visit Temecula Valley as a separate tourism marketing organization.

“Getting on those weather maps was really a hard job,” he said, describing it as a big deal for the town back in the late 1990s, at a time when Temecula’s population would have been less than 50,000.

Gilmore said Visit Temecula Valley started off as the chamber’s tourism council.

“She always believed in us, and when I walked in saying we needed to make a convention visitors bureau out of a funny little tourism committee, most people thought I was nuts,” Melody Brunsting, a member of Visit Temecula Valley’s board of directors, said. “Like no one other, she believed in us.”

Realtor and chamber member Jackie Steed said Sullivan has been “a mentor and friend” ever since she walked into the chamber 13 years ago.

“The great thing about Alice is that she doesn’t like being in the spotlight, she likes to push other people, and every business that walks in that door, she wants them to be successful and she truly means that,” Steed said. “When she says, ‘this is not my chamber, this is not our chamber, this is your chamber,’ to every single member, she really means that.”

Temecula city councilman Matt Rahn said Temecula has had a great relationship with the chamber under Sullivan’s leadership.

“One of the most important partnerships a city can have is with the chamber, and it works well in Temecula, exceptionally well,” Rahn said.

Sullivan said she was honored and humbled by the recognition, and she thanked her staff, the city and others.

“It really his hard to believe it’s been almost 30 years since I began this career at the chamber,” Sullivan said. “I think the most important message that I’d like to leave you all with is the strength of the Temecula community has been, and I hope always will be, its partnerships.” 

Will Fritz can be reached by email at wfritz@reedermedia.com.