After just two weeks on the job, Amy Carabba-Salazar said she is bustling away, working hard and dealing with a lot as the new CEO/President of the St. Helena Chamber of Commerce.
During an interview last Friday, Carabba-Salazar said the holiday decorations will go up in St. Helena on Monday, Nov. 27, and the chamber is throwing an evening holiday party at the Wydown Hotel on Saturday, Dec. 16.
“We’re planning a pretty fun event and everyone will be invited,” she said. “It is an appreciation party to bring everybody together and celebrate the holidays. I’m hoping to meet everybody, so I hope they’ll come out. It will be a great time for the city to meet me and to celebrate the holidays.”
When asked what her first impressions of St. Helena are, Carabba-Salazar said she “loves St. Helena, but it is not so much a first impression for me, because I’ve been here so many times. My husband and I come here all the time and I love it. It’s beautiful.”
Carabba-Salazar said she’s been coming to St. Helena for about six years, although she added her family always came here, even when she was a little girl.
Why should people do their Christmas shopping in St. Helena? The new CEO and president had a ready answer: “Because St. Helena is beautiful and gorgeous and has some of the best shops around. And great restaurants. It’s such a great city, why not?”
In the new year, Carabba-Salazar said the chamber’s focus is going to be on its members.
“I think people are going to be excited about that and what we’re offering to our members in the new year to come,” she said.
Carabba-Salazar also announced a new hire, Joaquin Razo, who is vice president and chief strategy officer for the chamber.
“What’s great about Joaquin is he has a wonderful background working with nonprofits and great experience working with members and being able to show hospitality to our members, so that’s really the direction we want to go,” Carabba-Salazar said.
She added the chamber is seeking to help local businesses and giving them options to be successful.
Both Carabba-Salazar and Razo have backgrounds in social media with digital backgrounds. “We can offer tips businesses can utilize and really help their business,” she said.
For the past dozen years, Carabba-Salazar has been a broadcast television news anchor, most recently in Sacramento, where she spent five years. She began her career as an intern at KPIX in San Francisco and has worked as an award-winning journalist in Wyoming, Bakersfield, Las Vegas and San Diego. As a news anchor for a morning television show in Sacramento, she would have guests who own local restaurants or stores.
“They would come in and do marketing segments, to market their businesses,” she said. “They would end up hiring me to help them, because their business would be struggling and they wanted more media attention.”
Taking the job as CEO and president of the St. Helena Chamber, then, seems like a natural transition. After her work in Sacramento, “it made this job seem like something I could do,” Carabba-Salazar said. “It seems like I can be a leader and help our membership and really spread a positive attitude throughout the city.”
In a news release announcing her hiring, Marcus Marquez, the chamber’s chairman of the board of directors, said, “Amy Carabba-Salazar is a renowned journalist with an extensive background in communications and a track record of implementing successful marketing campaigns. I look forward to working with her to help St. Helena’s local businesses thrive year-round.”
Her responsibilities will be to expand digital resources for community members, strengthen operations, increase membership, manage the flow of visitors and drive marketing initiatives, including St. Helena’s Little Book of Big Experiences.
The news releases states that Carabba-Salazar has served as communications director in the social media world for more than two years, where she was responsible for creative direction, brand management, product launches and campaign strategies.
Carabba-Salazar replaces Pam Simpson, who held the same title with the St. Helena Chamber of Commerce since 2011. Simpson left on Aug. 31 after choosing not to renew her contract for the upcoming year. Instead, she signed a short-term contract to help with the transition of a new CEO/President. She said she had lived in and around St. Helena for the past 27 years and was looking for new opportunities in the private sector.
In June, the St. Helena City Council approved a one-year $210,000 marketing contract with the chamber, with $30,000 of that amount to be spent on community events.