ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. — The Orange County Business Council is looking for candidates to replace long-time president and CEO Lucy Dunn.
Dunn, last month, announced that she was stepping down from her post as president and CEO after 16 years with the nonprofit business organization. She will retire on Dec. 31, 2021.
"My objective from day one was to represent the interests of so many who contribute so much to the success and high quality of life in Orange County," said Dunn in a letter to OCBC's members. "It has been an honor to help shape and champion the policies and initiatives that have been instrumental in making this county one of the great places to do business."
OCBC's Search Committee chose executive search firm, McDermott + Bull, to help identify and select the business organization's next president and CEO.
With more than 200 members, the Orange County Business Council is a nonprofit organization whose sole responsibility is to promote, advocate for and enhance Orange County's economy.
For more than 15 years, Dunn, an attorney and former director of the California Department of Housing and Community Development under Governor Schwarzenegger, has spearheaded OCBC.
Dunn has served as the face and the spokeswoman for Orange County's business community.
She told Spectrum News that it was her time to go, and she wanted to leave on top.
"It just seemed like the right thing to do," said Dunn to Spectrum News on retiring at the end of this year. "I've been here for 16 years. I've got one of the greatest board of directors. They are diverse, smart. We have a great staff. The financials are solid. Everything is in order. You know what they always say — if you're going to leave an organization, leave at the top of their game."
Dunn said she plans to spend more time with her family, including two grandchildren.
Whoever takes the reins of OCBC as president and CEO will be in charge of maintaining Orange County's status as a premier business destination and propelling a county that saw its leisure, travel and small businesses hit hard by the pandemic shutdown.
With more than 3.1 million residents in 34 cities, Orange County is the sixth most populous county in the U.S.
Economists at California State University, Fullerton reported that Orange County's forecasted gross domestic product is $283 billion this year. If Orange County were its own country, its GDP would rank within the top 50 in the world.
But business is only one part of being president and CEO of OCBC. There is a lot of research, policy initiatives and advocacy ranging from immigration reform, housing, to transportation on the regional, state and federal levels.
Additionally, the head of OCBC must champion and highlight the businesses and the accomplishments of individuals in the county.
"There is so much talent and so many game-changers here," said Dunn.
When she became the head of OCBC, Dunn remembers that one of her first tasks was to host then-President George Bush and discuss immigration reform.
"OCBC didn't have a policy with immigration reform," she recalls. "It was a little bit nerve-wracking for this new CEO, but it was a phenomenal experience."
Dunn does not have a say on who replaces her. But she said she'd like to see someone who knows how important Orange County is to the state and national levels.
"I want someone who understands global connectivity at the state, federal and international levels," she said. "Someone that understands the complexities of what we're dealing with COVID-19 and someone who loves to learn new things because this is a job where you have to pivot and learn something new from different industry sectors every day. It's important to be a lifelong learner."
Dunn said she would offer her services as a consultant to help with the transition and ease the change once she steps down.
"For continuity," she said. "It's good to have new eyes and a new mind who will have other brilliant ideas to share. At least in the early stages, I want to make sure there is continuity and transition that works for everybody."
Her main advice for the prospective incoming president and CEO:
"My mom always said you have two ears and one mouth and use them in proportion," said Dunn. "I know this board is going to choose someone extraordinary. Be a good listener. Develop reservoirs of goodwill. Work with the (business) chambers and industry sector leaders. Connect with the small business community and go from there."
Although she's stepping down from her role at the end of this year, she'll still be around.
"I always like to quote Monty Python, 'I'm not dead yet,'" she said.