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Latino Chamber Chief Resigns Statewide Post

May 24, 2000|LEE ROMNEY and MARLA DICKERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

The president of the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce has abruptly resigned his post--less than a year after his term began--and an Orange County businessman was named to replace him.

Alex. C. Torres was elected to head the umbrella organization of more than 50 Latino chambers last year, pushing a platform of technology education for the state's Latino-owned enterprises. He stepped down last week in a move that startled the state's Latino business organizations.

Torres said his resignation was for personal reasons and that he was stretched too thin to give the job his full attention.

In an emergency meeting held by the group's executive committee, Raul J. Medrano was named to replace Torres, who remains president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Santa Clara County.

The statewide organization has long been fractured between Northern and Southern California chambers and dominated by the north despite the presence of hundreds of thousands of Latino-owned businesses in the Southland.

Medrano said his appointment may help mend those rifts. The headquarters of the chamber, which has floated depending on who held the presidency, will be moved from San Jose to Sacramento to improve lobbying access, Medrano said.

The organization also has named its first executive director.

Medrano is a Santa Ana business consultant specializing in small enterprises that are women- and minority-owned; he's also a past president of the Orange County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. He had worked in the banking industry for 20 years, most recently as CFO of an independent bank, and hopes to institute stronger financial controls for the state group, he said.

"We need to show our members that we're looking at inclusion from all areas," he said. "I feel that I've got the credentials to move the organization forward. I have the support of our executive committee and am really looking at them to do a lot of the work that was not delegated in the past."

Medrano's appointment, and the other changes made by the executive committee, must be approved by the group's full board later this summer.

Disorganization has hurt the state chamber. Its board just returned a $100,000 grant from Wells Fargo that was to be managed by a nonprofit organization that works closely with Torres' chamber. The two organizations could not agree on how the money, which was slated for technical training and education for member chambers, would be spent, Medrano said.

Medrano said the state group hopes to reapply for the money.

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