Chamber's Dunn Tells Board He'll Retire 

click to enlarge street30_dunn_100.jpg

The Greater Richmond Chamber's longtime president and chief executive has told the board he is ready to retire -- sometime.

Jim Dunn has served the regional business community as head of the nonprofit business-booster organization since 1990.

"I confess I am neither Superman nor have I ever walked on water," Dunn told the Times-Dispatch when his arrival was announced. "But I pledge to you my total commitment, as well as that of the Dunn family, as we settle into your community."

Dunn's known as a straight-shooting regional salesman with a holistic attitude toward market development, team-building and insistence on accountability. He's also known for being quite particular, keen on doing things right the first time.

While he's planning to step aside, Dunn stresses he wants to continue his relationship with Richmond.

"I have told our leadership that I'm interested in doing that, and I want to work with them to find the appropriate timeline and make sure it's a smooth transition," says Dunn, who indicates a final departure might be as far as two years away.

"I've just signaled that, gee, I've been here for a long time, and I ought to start thinking about giving myself an opportunity to step back, take a breather and look to the future of what might be my retirement years," Dunn says.

During his tenure, Dunn helped launch the Greater Richmond Partnership, which has become the region's leading economic development group. He started intercity field trips, taking city movers and shakers to other places, most recently Oklahoma City. He's also focused on nontraditional chamber concerns, such as workforce housing and the Youth Matters initiative focusing on literacy. He was named Style Weekly's Richmonder of the Year in 2001.

"He's always been willing to say what he thinks, to call people to task, to do the right thing," says Jack Berry, executive director of Venture Richmond, adding that Dunn is not afraid to handle a hot potato. "On the Chesterfield public transit issue, he was very outspoken [in] pushing people to embrace public transit."

Berry guesses the long lead time will give the chamber time to do a national search to fill the position. Fans of Dunn say his self-possessed manner and even temperament will be missed.

"He sort of puts oil on rough water — he smoothes things out," grocery patriarch Jim Ukrop says. "He has the trust of his community, from the political folks to the nonprofit folks to the business folks. He is the quiet person that knows how to get things done and bring people together." S

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