Chamber taking time to replace late president

The unexpected death of Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Matthew Crosson has left a void at one of the nation’s largest chambers, but the organization’s leaders aren’t rushing to fill his position.

Instead, chamber officials are predicting another national search to find a replacement for Crosson, who died Dec. 23 following a stroke and open-heart surgery three months earlier.

“My sense is the (chamber’s) board of trustees would again want to do a search to find the right person,” newly elected chamber Chairman Michael Bonner said Tuesday.

Cara Roberts, the chamber’s spokeswoman, was out of town Dec. 24 when she learned of Crosson’s passing. She said her organization can function well enough with its existing staff and board to allow time to carefully select the chamber’s next leader.

“I was shocked and the whole staff was surprised,” she said about the loss of Crosson. “But we have always had a contingency plan in place, not just for Matt, but for a few years now.”

Many chamber board members were out of town when they heard the news around Christmas Eve. Bonner said numerous e-mails have been exchanged about how the chamber should proceed.

“The (chamber) board will meet in the next few weeks,” he said. “We are working with Matt’s family now to plan a memorial service.”

A memorial service for Crosson is planned for 9 a.m. Jan. 21 at the Palm Mortuary in Summerlin, 7400 N. Cheyenne Ave.

The chamber had hired Los Angeles-based recruiting firm Korn/Ferry International in 2009 to search for a replacement for Kara Kelley, who had been Las Vegas Chamber president and CEO since 2002.

Bonner sat on that search committee. He predicted the chamber would again retain Korn/Ferry because it was pleased with the recruitment of Crosson, who had been the longtime president of the Long Island Association.

“We might try to find a person in the vein of Matt Crosson,” Bonner said.

Crosson, 61, had been on the job less than six months when he fell ill in late September. Chamber leadership had hoped Crosson could return to his post in early 2011.

Now, as Crosson is memorialized, the chamber is pledging to continue his initiatives.

“Matt, even in his relatively short time at the chamber, produced a tremendous schedule of new programs,” Roberts said. “That gave us a good road map of where we are going.”

During Crosson’s short tenure, the chamber reached out to the smallest chamber members by offering inexpensive online commercials and speed-dating-style “turbo networking” and distributing about 250,000 discount cards. Those initiatives were under the Viva Las Business campaign, which was unveiled in September, just weeks before Crosson became ill.

Crosson was a strong advocate for unifying often-competing factions in Southern Nevada, such as businesspeople, education officials and representatives of organized labor.

Roberts expected those efforts to continue.

University of Nevada, Las Vegas President Neal Smatresk and Terri Janison, the outgoing president of the Clark County School Board Trustees, hoped so. Both had worked with Crosson to rebuild ties between businesses and educators.

“We had just started our talks and (Crosson) had invited me on the executive board of the chamber,” Smatresk said. “That was a first for us.”

Janison said she believes the chamber will continue Crosson’s mission to improve ties with education. She continues to work closely with Steve Hill, the president of the chamber’s state policy task force.

But Crosson will be sorely missed, she said.

“I did feel he was an ally, and we would have liked to have gone to the Legislature with him to talk about the importance of the educational system,” Janison said. “He didn’t just talk. He listened.”

Contact reporter Valerie Miller at
or 702-387-5286.

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