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Chamber board elects new president

SOLANA BEACH — Following the unexpected resignation of its longtime president David Carroll, the Solana Beach Chamber of Commerce board of directors earlier this month elected Carolyn Cohen to lead the group.
A two-year board member, Cohen was serving as vice president when Carroll announced he would not complete his fifth term. Rather than appoint Cohen, the group opted for an election.
Board member Stephen Ostrow, an attorney, also ran for the position. Jason Smith was elected vice president.
Attracted to Solana Beach “because of a good feel from the community and incredible schools,” Cohen moved to the county’s second smallest city from Las Vegas to raise her family nine years ago.
The New Jersey native became involved in the community almost immediately as owner of several businesses, including Realty Executives — Pacific Gold, Here We Grow Inc., a real estate management company that develops and leases out private schools, and Merit Education Group, a real estate development company specializing in the construction, development and operations of new private schools.
Cohen, a certified public accountant, is also working on a joint venture with Air Stream Innovations, an organic farming operation on South Cedros Avenue in Solana Beach.
“I usually get entrenched in the community where I am,” she said. “The commercial community is working well, but it could be a lot better.”
She said her overall goal is to redirect the focus back to the chamber’s mission statement to promote and serve Solana Beach businesses.
Cohen said the current plan is to hold effective networking events during which owners can speak for about a minute about their businesses, then talk one-on-one, exchange business cards and plan for follow up.
She’d also like to streamline the planning and preparation for Fiesta del Sol, the chamber’s biggest fundraiser, and ensure the event isn’t hurting businesses, an unintended consequence some owners have complained about.
Cohen said she is particularly excited to be working with the city in its ongoing effort to make the Coast Highway 101 area a walkable downtown.
“That will really change the face of the commercial community in Solana Beach,” she said. “People come down the 101 to get somewhere else. No one takes notice of what’s there.
“Solana Beach is like San Diego’s best-kept secret,” she said. Cohen described the city’s plans to slow traffic, widen sidewalks and add parking, bike lanes and roundabouts as beautiful.
City Councilman Dave Roberts, who is also a chamber member, is equally excited to be working with the new leadership, although he said he was sad to see Carroll step down.
“Our city is at a critical juncture trying to preserve our quality of life during these tough economic times,” Roberts said. ”We need leaders like Carolyn and Jason at our local chamber who can work collaboratively with the city and our leaders to promote services that enhance our quality of life.”
Cohen said she would also like to work with North County Transit District to better promote the information kiosk installed at the train station in March.
Although it’s too soon to gauge its effectiveness, Cohen said she plans to help businesses use the kiosk to hit their target markets.
Carroll did not return an e-mail asking why he did not complete his fifth term, but Cohen and Roberts said they believed it was for personal reasons and he may be relocating.