Written by The Business Journal Staff
Ahle will take the helm at the Fresno Chamber later this month. He comes into the high-profile position after serving as government affairs manager for the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce since 2014.
Ahle will succeed current Chamber President/CEO Al Smith, who is retiring after leading the organization for the past 10 years.
The 35-year-old Ridgecrest native characterized the hiring process as “very thoughtful and thorough. They asked a lot of tough questions and have a clear idea of where they want the organization to go.”
“The board has a pretty aggressive strategic plan and I’m really looking forward to coming in and helping move the organization to the next level,” added Ahle, who admits some people struggle pronouncing his last name — “It rhymes with jolly,” he said.
Bakersfield Chamber President/CEO Nick Ortiz had nothing but praise for Ahle, calling him both “an excellent confidant” and “a close friend.”
“While we’re sad to lose Nathan, the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce is gaining a key ally in Fresno,” Ortiz said. “This will allow us to work together on issues affecting not only our members, but the region as a whole.”
A graduate of the University of Phoenix, Ahle has a degree in business management and also studied journalism at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo.
He began his career as sports editor at the Daily Independent newspaper in Ridgecrest and went on to serve as that publication’s managing editor and assistant publisher.
“Nathan is very good at everything he does and really has a lot on the ball,” said Daily Independent Publisher John Watkins. “He’s a guy who is very knowledgeable and outgoing. Nathan’s been engaged in every community he’s lived in and I know he’ll do a good job there. Fresno got lucky.”
John D. Bennett, the current editor at the Daily Independent, agreed. “Nathan always did a good job at the paper and was a great person to work with.”
After eight years at the newspaper, Ahle moved from the media into the public sector, accepting a position as CEO at the Ridgecrest Chamber of Commerce, a 400-member organization for which he served as a board member before taking over the top job.
Ahle went on to lead the Ridgecrest Chamber for four years before making the move to Bakersfield. Nearly a year after his departure, the Ridgecrest Chamber has yet to find a new CEO.
Heather Spurlock, the Ridgecrest Chamber’s current office manager, said she enjoyed working for Ahle. “We’re a small chamber in a small town,” Spurlock said. “Nathan was really good at building relationships with people. He was very active and social and out in the community a lot.”
Former Ridgecrest Chamber board chair Eric Bruen said he’s known Ahle for more than 10 years. “When he came to the chamber, Nathan inherited a very stagnant organization and he worked really hard to add some great innovations that improved and transformed it.”
Bruen characterized Ahle as a person with “a ton of spunk and energy. In a more urban environment like Fresno, I think he’ll be spectacular.”
Al Solis, current board chair of the Fresno Chamber, said Al Smith has agreed not to rush off into retirement and will be “continuing on with the chamber through the transition period.”
Solis said that throughout an extensive national search, Ahle stood out among the 35 candidates interviewed for the position and proved to be “the best fit” for the chamber.
“Our search committee knew what we were looking for in terms of certain skillsets and capabilities,” Solis said. “But it was Nathan Ahle who impressed us time and time again with his leadership style, experience and approach to the chamber as a whole.”
Ahle’s wife Aimee is a community college professor and the couple has a two-year-old daughter.
“We’re just thrilled to be coming to Fresno,” Ahle said. His first day on the job will be Feb. 22.