Allan Zaremberg, Cal Chamber’s leader, announces retirement

Allen Zaremberg, president and CEO of the California Chamber of Commerce, on Monday announced his retirement. (Photo: Cal Chamber file)

Allan Zaremberg, the top executive at the California Chamber of Commerce for more than two decades, announced Monday he was stepping down.

The Chamber is one of California’s most powerful political interests, espousing a pro-business message and spending prodigiously on behalf of candidates, initiatives and legislative issues it supports. The Chamber also produced an annual list of bills they opposed described as “job killers,” which gained some traction in the Capitol.

Zaremberg had mentioned to  the Chamber’s inner circle a year ago that he intended to retire in 2021.

Zaremberg, who joined the Republican-led Chamber in the 1990s as executive vice president, was named president and CEO in 1998, replacing Kirk West, who was viewed then as a Republican moderate.

Zaremberg has long been seen as pragmatic, willing to court various advocates in order to achieve the Chamber’s political goals. He was considered a top business adviser to former Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, a role that caught many Republicans by surprise, and angered more than a few. 

Zaremberg had mentioned to  the Chamber’s inner circle a year ago that he intended to retire in 2021. On Monday, Zaremberg told Chamber employees that he was leaving, but intended to stay in place through Dec. 31.

Chamber officials have hired a consulting to firm to recommend a replacement.

Zaremberg, who spent five years in the Air Force as a captain and flight navigator, in 1980 joined the administration of George Deukmejian, who then was state attorney general and poised to make a run for governor. The Republican Deukmejian was elected in 1982. Zaremberg ultimately served as Deukmejian’s legislative secretary, and he continued in that role under Republican Gov. Pete Wilson, who has elected in 1990.

He left the Wilson administration two years later and went to the Chamber.

The Wall Street Journal once referred to him as the “coalition man” in 1998.

“As a practical matter, the CalChamber’s chief executive is recruited to chair major initiative campaigns, to lead the fundraising and to serve as spokesperson for these important efforts,” the Chamber noted.

In 2013, Zaremberg urged immigration policy changes, and proposed a guest-worker program and other reforms, such as more visas for skilled candidates. 

“We have the highest number of residents that are undocumented than any other state in the country. Half of those residents have been here over 10 years. With their legal status in limbo, they can’t be fully employed. That’s a real drag on the economy,” he told the Sacramento Business Journal in 2013, according to Ballotpedia.

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