Cuyahoga Falls Chamber of Commerce leader resigns

Laura Petrella steps down after 27 years as CEO of organization

Phil Keren
Akron Beacon Journal
Laura Petrella resigned from her position as CEO of the Cuyahoga Falls Chamber of Commerce on Monday, Feb. 8.

CUYAHOGA FALLS — The chamber of commerce's longtime leader has stepped down.

Laura Petrella, who has served as CEO of the Cuyahoga Falls Chamber of Commerce for 27 years, submitted her resignation to the chamber's board of directors Monday, according to Kathy Romito, board president.

"Although her departure was unexpected, the board of directors fully supported her decision and wish Petrella all the best in future endeavors," wrote Romito in a prepared statement. 

Romito's statement did not share a reason for Petrella's departure. Petrella did not respond to text, email and social media messages seeking comment. 

Kamelia D. Fisher will serve as interim executive director and an "extensive search" for a permanent replacement will begin shortly, according to Romito.

Noting that it was "confidential," Romito said she was not able to share Petrella's full letter to the board of directors, but did publicize portions of it in her prepared statement.

In the letter to the board of directors, Petrella called it the “honor and privilege of a lifetime to serve our businesses and community,” and shared how grateful she was to spend time with the organization to make it one of the best chambers in Northeast Ohio.

Romito noted Petrella's "tireless work has allowed for the development of a nationally recognized organization that is the model for chambers across the country."   She added she appreciated Petrella's "many. successful years of service."

"Her relationships with thousands of business owners and dedication to the city are unmatched," stated Romito. "Laura is leaving the chamber on a very firm footing that has allowed us to weather the current challenges and look confidently ahead."

From left, Laura Petrella, then-CEO of the Cuyahoga Falls Chamber of Commerce, presents Magna Wine Boutique owners Brittany and Dre Wiley with a few mementos from the ribbon-cutting ceremony Jan. 29 in Cuyahoga Falls. Petrella resigned from her chamber position on Monday, Feb. 8.

Petrella's departure was also a surprise to a city leader. 

"The news is still startling," said Cuyahoga Falls Community Development Director Diana Colavaecchio on Wednesday. 

She said she and Petrella typically met together with new business owners to educate them about the resources available to them.

"Laura knew everyone and everyone knew Laura — that's a testament as to how well she did her job," said Colavecchio. "On a personal note, I will miss her knowledge and insight, and of course, her endless enthusiasm."

Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don Walters lauded Petrella for her work with business and city leaders.

"Laura was a fierce advocate for the business community and the city as a whole," said Walters. "I partner with the chamber on many fronts, and it has been a very pleasant and productive relationship. Laura has been a part of our amazing success and she will be missed." 

In an email to chamber members, Romito said Petrella's decision to leave the organization gave the chamber and its board members a chance to "explore opportunities for change and growth in our organization."

Going forward, Romito said the board of directors is committed to continue having its scheduled meetings and events.

"We appreciate our members’ and communities' support and confidence and we look forward to moving ahead in a positive direction," said Romito.

Kamelia D. Fisher has been appointed to serve as the interim executive director of the Cuyahoga Falls Chamber of Commerce.

A look at interim executive director

Romito said Fisher has an "extensive background" in non-profit management with prior experience as a executive director at One of a Kind Pet Rescue, Summit Artspace, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Roscoe Village.

"She is respected for helping organizations innovate, thrive and grow," said Romito. "Additionally, she is known for optimizing resources to achieve their core mission by earning the confidence of key stakeholders and establishing a positive and enthusiastic culture."

She added the board of directors is "excited" to work with Fisher during this transition period.

"This opportunity allows the chamber to take a closer look at the chamber offerings and what matters to its members," said Romito.

Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at pkeren@thebeaconjournal.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.