ESCONDIDO — A new leader, James Rowten, has taken the helm at the Escondido Chamber of Commerce.
Rowten will take over the CEO position from Rorie Johnson, who had led the organization since 2014. Rowten comes to the Escondido Chamber by way of KPBS, where he worked as the corporate development manager from 2009 to 2018.
“As I enter my second week here at the Chamber I am overwhelmed at how much I don’t know,” Rowten wrote of his first days on the job at the chamber in its June 5 newsletter.
“Fortunately I am surrounded with people, members, new friends and old friends whom I can turn to for help. I’m finding new sources for me to draw upon as I work my way into this role. Escondido is a welcoming community full of bright, energetic people who care, people who want this Chamber and me to succeed.”
The downtown-based Chamber of Commerce has hired Rowten at a time of great change in Escondido, with a new mayor and liberal majority seated on its City Council. Mayor Paul McNamara has begun unrolling one of the key tenets of his 2018 electoral campaign, the density transfer program, which could a greater amount of high-density housing in the city’s historic downtown core.
The chamber has come out in support of density transfer.
“As we know, Downtown Escondido is the envy of North County, with its historic
charm, unique shops and fine restaurants,” wrote the chamber in an April 9 letter to the city of Escondido Planning Commission. “You will also find that more people desire a downtown
lifestyle where they can walk and enjoy the amenities that Escondido has to offer. By allowing unused and underutilized density to be transferred to a Credit Pool, developers investing in downtown will have more flexibility in creating projects that will make the most sense and accomplish the goals of the city, which is to increase housing in our urban core.”
On her way out the door, Rowten praised the legacy Johnston has paved for him and crafted for the Escondido business community.
“I am following in the footsteps of a talented leader who has elevated today’s Escondido Chamber and earned her place among a storied history of Chamber leaders who have dealt with adversity and succeeded to make this Chamber a viable and treasured part of this Community,” wrote Rowten in the June 5 newsletter. “I am learning more than I am giving right now.”