The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce will likely name its new president and chief executive this week or early next week, according to sources familiar with the chamber. And, for the first time in at least 15 years, the new president may be a career chamber executive.

Last February, chamber president and chief executive Ezunial "Eze" Burts stepped down from his post amid concern among business leaders that the chamber was losing members and clout. Chamber membership had declined steadily from 2,800 10 years ago to 1,300 this year. Many member companies have left the region, been acquired by out-of-state companies or simply closed their doors.

After naming former Bank of America executive Tom Decker as its interim president, the chamber's board launched a nationwide search for a permanent replacement, hiring executive recruiting firm Korn/Ferry International.

Late last month, Korn/Ferry submitted its recommended candidates. According to sources, the chamber is now considering a short list of five: three current or former chamber executives one from the Atlanta region and two "political types" with government relations experience, both from California.

Current chamber chairman Charles Woo said he could not comment on the selection process, except to say that a decision would be made "soon."

Sources said the board is likely to pick one of the three chamber executives. In the past, one of these sources said, the chamber has chosen the "political types" like Burts (a former L.A. Harbor Department official) in an attempt to boost its regional clout. But now there is growing sentiment that the focus needs to turn inward, toward catering to the needs of members to stem the membership decline. The feeling is that a chamber executive is more suited to this task.

Redistricting Blues

Last week, L.A. city leaders reacted angrily to the state Legislature's proposal for Congressional redistricting. It seems that both the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach, which are in Democratic South Bay Congresswoman Jane Harman's district, will be shifted into the district now held by conservative Orange County Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher.

"It's one of the most glaring atrocities I've ever seen," said newly-elected City Councilwoman Janice Hahn who represents the Port of L.A. "How can you have the Port of Los Angeles represented in Congress by someone from Orange County? It's absurd."

Hahn said the L.A. City Council last Tuesday passed a unanimous motion asking state legislative leaders to reconsider their redistricting plan. Hahn cut short her address to a group of local business and construction industry leaders and port officials to participate in a conference call with legislative leaders on the issue.

Staff Reporter Howard Fine can be contacted by phone at (323) 549-5225, ext. 227 or by e-mail at hfine@labusiness

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