By Kelley Atherton
The Crescent City/Del Norte Chamber of Commerce has filled its new executive director position.
A third-generation native of Del Norte County, Gina Zottola, has returned home to promote local businesses and recruit physicians to the area.
Chamber President Grant Scholes said that Zottola rose to the top of the applicant list because of her experience putting on "high-quality events."
"She has a strong experience base," he said, "And has worked with professional people."
Zottola said the chamber will be focusing more on recruiting and retaining doctors. Sutter Coast Hospital and the Del Norte Healthcare District have each pledged $26,000 to fund the executive director position.
In addition, Zottola wants to help businesses grow. She said Tuesday she's impressed with how much downtown has rebounded since she was growing up.
"I'm really jazzed," Zottola said about development downtown. "It's getting cleaned up and back to its old self."
While in Palo Alto, she did marketing for events from "50-500 people." Part of her job was working with businesses of all sizes.
"I learned about how to put on successful events," Zottola said.
Scholes agreed that will be an important aspect of the job. The chamber puts on major events like the Fourth of July celebration and the Sea Cruise car show.
Zottola's grandparents were once movers and shakers in Del Norte. Her grandfather sold his cheese factory to the Rumianos, and Alexandre Dairy now sits on what was once her grandmother's ranch.
A graduate of Del Norte High School, she played basketball at Cabrillo College in Santa Cruz and also played the pro beach volleyball circuit for a while.
After attending Cabrillo, Zottola became a financial advisor for Morgan Stanley. Scholes said her work with professionals was also a factor in the chamber's decision to hire her.
In Medford, Ore., she was a relationship manager and helped businesses develop bonds and work together.
She spent several years traveling and experiencing life outside Del Norte, but after being back for a year, Zottola doesn't plan on leaving.
"I want to take what I've learned and bring that to Crescent City," she said about the experience she's gained. "It's a win-win situation."
Part of her job will be to get physicians and their families to fall in love with Del Norte. Scholes said that an important part of retaining physicians is integrating their families into the community.
For businesses it's about education and the proper tools to be successful. With the rough economy, Zottola said it might not be the right time for everyone to start a business, but entrepreneurs need that knowledge once they are ready.
For events, Zottola said she's been kicking some ideas around with the chamber board of directors, but the community will have to wait and see.
Former Executive Director Reweti Wiki said he'll be staying on for a little while to retool Action Del Norte and maintain relationships with outside foundations.
He said that the position needs someone who is invested in the community, like Zottola.
The chamber has been aggressively pursuing several projects, Wiki said. Now, Zottola can focus on building an association of businesses.
With a new baby in his life, Wiki wants to go on maternity leave, so to speak. He has also been named as a possible candidate for the position of economic development director for the Tri-Agency Economic Development Authority.
"It's time to rethink," Wiki said, "and enjoy the summer."