A woman who spent decades advocating for the Lewiston-Auburn community has been named the new chief of that area’s chamber of commerce.

Rebecca Swanson Conrad will start as the new president and chief executive officer of the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce on March 27, according to a release announcing the appointment. Conrad replaces Matt Leonard, who stepped down in November after a run-in with the chamber board over the raffle of a rifle.

Conrad is currently the vice president for institutional advancement at Maine College of Art in Portland, where she has worked since 2006.

“We were looking for specific attributes, and one of the biggest is someone who is a relationship builder and collaborator,” said Jen Hogan, president of Community Credit Union in Lewiston and the chair-elect of the board for the L-A chamber. ” That’s who Beckie is – it’s her nature. Also, with her strong ties to the community and as a former board member of the chamber, she’ll be a great next step for the chamber.”

Conrad’s L-A roots go back to her days as a student at Bates College, where she majored in English. She spent 21 years in higher education administration at Bates College, including 1999-2003 when she served as executive director of LA Excels, the college’s nonprofit community development partnership in Lewiston-Auburn that focused on leadership, arts, educational aspirations and economic revitalization.

Her business experience includes 20 years as co-owner with her husband of Austin’s Fine Wines and Foods and three years as owner of Rÿsen Home Garden & Antiques, a retail gallery promoting local art and products that supported international women’s economic development. Both businesses were in downtown Auburn.

Hogan, who led the search committee for the new chamber CEO, said Conrad’s experience as a business owner, fundraiser and her familiarity with higher education combined to make her the ideal pick. The search committee considered more than 50 resumes and conducted several interviews before deciding on Conrad Feb. 17.

Conrad served on the Maine Arts Commission for seven years, with four as vice-chair. Volunteer board roles include chair of the Lewiston Auburn Economic Growth Council, past chair of L/A Arts and Androscoggin Home Care & Hospice, vice chair of the Maine Association of Nonprofits and as a board member of Advocates for Children, the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce and the advisory boards of USM/LA College and Central Maine Community College.

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