After nine years in both paid and unpaid leadership roles at the Wichita Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Abel Perez is retiring.
Perez, 67, said that Friday will be his last day as the organization’s first executive director – and first paid employee.
The chamber’s board of directors is conducting a search for Perez’s successor.
He was one of six people who helped found the chamber in 2002.
In August 2007, he became its sole full-time employee. He said increasing the organization’s membership from 70 in 2007 to 280 now is one of his proudest accomplishments. He is also proud of the chamber successfully creating a new foundation — the Kansas Hispanic Education Development Foundation — to raise money and distribute scholarships to Hispanic students.
“In the last four years it’s been very good to see … the chamber grow, its credibility grow,” Perez said.
Perez said he notified the board more than two weeks ago of his plans. He will take a couple of weeks off, but will probably be working on reviving the translation and interpretation business he had to put on hold when he became chamber executive director.
“I want to expand that business,” he said.
Patty Koehler, president of J.R. Custom Metal Products and chair of the Hispanic chamber, said Perez “kept dropping hints along the way” about retiring. She said Perez was “very instrumental” in helping to grow and expand the chamber, especially in the past five years.
She said she expects the chamber to announce soon an interim executive director.