Italiano to retire as CEO of Greater Bethesda Chamber at year’s end

Italiano to retire as CEO of Greater Bethesda Chamber at year’s end

Says coronavirus pandemic is biggest challenge during her 19-year tenure

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Ginanne Italiano, the president and CEO of the Greater Bethesda Chamber of Commerce, will retire at the end of the year.

File photo

Ginanne Italiano, the president and CEO of The Greater Bethesda Chamber of Commerce, is retiring at the end of the year.

Italiano, who has led the chamber since 2001, told Bethesda Beat Tuesday that she started planning for her retirement a few years ago.  

Italiano, 65, said she loves the job and could “do it forever,” but wants the freedom to “stay up late and get up late and do whatever I want to do.”

Italiano also hopes to travel more and be more involved locally in Annapolis, where she lives.

“I’ve been living here in Annapolis for five years, and I haven’t gotten to know the people or my community or anything because usually 10 to 11 hours a day, I’m doing Bethesda stuff,” she said.

Italiano has worked in the business world since she graduated college in 1977, working for the Greater Washington Board of Trade for nearly 24 years before coming to the Greater Bethesda Chamber in 2001. She said the chamber management is the world she knows.

“And especially now during COVID, I think our jobs in the community are so much more important than they ever were before, because we’re helping businesses stay open and get funding and everything else,” she said. “We have the best relationship we’ve ever had with the community leaders.”

Italiano said the COVID-19 crisis has been a good example of how business, government and other community leaders have coalesced to help the local economy recover as businesses begin to reopen.

“Helping a business and making sure we can be that person that connects them to the right officials. … it’s very easy for me or other folks in the chamber world to pick up the phone, call a government official and say, ‘We need help with this business,’” she said.

Italiano’s tenure as chamber CEO has spanned a number of national and global crises, including 9/11, the Beltway sniper attacks and the 2008 recession. But the COVID crisis has been unlike any other, she said.

“This is totally different in that every single business is affected by it and every single person. And it’s not just us. It’s the entire world. So it makes a big difference,” she said.

Andy Stern, the immediate past chair of the chamber’s board, said in an interview Wednesday that Italiano has turned the chamber into a “powerhouse” and has shown particularly strong leadership during the health crisis over the past few months.

Stern credits Italiano’s leadership for helping to keep a number of small businesses and restaurants in business during the COVID crisis.

“Between government officials advocating for businesses and helping so many small businesses navigate the tons of programs out there that were very complicated and very confusing … she worked 14 hours a day trying to keep the greater Bethesda business community together,” he said.

Stern said Italiano will sometimes work late into the night and send emails between 1 and 4 a.m.

“She’s always been so high energy and on top of so many issues. But to see her in action during this crisis was something to behold,” he said.

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com

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