San Benito Chamber head resigns

SAN BENITO — Lionel Betancourt, who helped revive the San Benito Chamber of Commerce, has resigned as its president.

Betancourt’s resignation came as the chamber prepares to install new officers, Executive Director Sandee Alvarez said yesterday.

“We anticipated it. His intention was to retire,” Alvarez said. “He got it going. He did a great job. Of course, he’s going to be missed.”

In his letter, Betancourt states the chamber’s board of directors wanted a change in leadership.

“Sadly as it was, I knew there were some (who) felt that I should do more and be more aggressive in this,” Betancourt wrote. “I offered for my board to choose a time for an effective change of command. Not really my choice, but the one chosen. It happens that the board members were ready for this change a great deal faster than I.”

According to the letter, the board apparently requested Betancourt address city requirements placed upon businesses.

“I know my failure in carrying out the desired tasks of the board centered on difficulties involving codes,” Betancourt wrote. “I do not and I repeat do not challenge the need for this requirement. It is absolutely necessary. Our town is old. The building infrastructures are old. They need updating.

“What I would ask of you is this: Within reason, a consideration to allow a business to begin operation while updating their location, and at the same time help them to achieve meeting all code standards, would be fantastic.”

Betancourt has served as the chamber’s president since he helped revive it four years ago.

“We have a community of terrific contributors,” he wrote. “They all have one thought in mind. San Benito can do better: we will do better.”

“Regardless of how this organization turns out, I know I have had your collective support. I know it is time to leave, I know there are others who can do more and do better. For me the time I have had has been grand. I will always appreciate the opportunity given.”

In 2013, Betancourt, a retired businessman, worked with a group of community leaders to revive the chamber, which had been dormant for nearly a year.

“Lionel stepped up to the challenge and has done an outstanding job of restoring an active Chamber of Commerce for San Benito,” Mayor Celeste Sanchez said in a statement.

“I feel confident that what he started will continue to grow and thrive and that Mr. Betancourt will always be there to mentor and advise any new leadership.”

Alvarez said Vice President Tony Crane will take over leadership.

Lionel Betancourt

* Retired businessman

* Helped found San Benito’s new Chamber

* Founder of the Save Dolly group to save Dolly Vinsant Hospital

* A treasurer of San Benito Rotary Club