SANTA ROSA — The Sonoma County Alliance said Wednesday it had selected Brian Ling, formerly chief executive of Reliance Trailer of Cotati, as its new executive director.
Mr. Ling, 50, was selected from a dozen local applicants to lead the 37-year-old organization, effective Thursday, according to Iver Skavdal, current president and Santa Rosa operations manager for engineering company GHD/Winzler & Kelly.
“We were looking for someone with local knowledge of county activities, capable of handling administration, membership and political aspects of the Sonoma County Alliance, an organization with 51 board members,” he said. “We knew we had very very large shoes to fill from Lisa Schaffner.”
The 380-member alliance membership includes businesses, farmers, labor, education, non-profits and other local organizations.
Mr. Ling is replacing seven-year Executive Director Lisa Wittke Schaffner, who in January announced her departure to lead the John Jordan Foundation that local lawyer and vintner John Jordan plans to launch in March.
“It’s an opportunity for me to get involved in the whole business community and work toward alliance goals,” Mr. Ling said.
Those goals include protecting private property rights, encouraging a healthy economy, maintaining a “sound environment” and promoting a “responsive political process.” Toward the last aim, the alliance’s political action committee, which the executive director oversees, explores local ballot initiatives and candidates.
“The skillset will be very similar and the organizational strength will remain the same with Brian as with Lisa,” Mr. Skavdal said.
Mr. Ling was born and raised in Sonoma County and is the fourth generation from his family to live in California.
For 25 years, he worked for Reliance Trailer, which at its peak employed 250 in the county and 400 in four locations in Western states. Since the company and sister Peterbilt dealership Redwood Reliance Sales closed in 2009 amid worsening economic conditions, he has been a commercial real estate agent for KOR Commercial of Santa Rosa. One of his assignments has been turning the 11-acre, 65,000-square-foot Reliance Trailer facility into a multitenant income property, now 80 percent full.
Mr. Ling has been on a number of committees and boards in the county over the years, currently serving the Windsor Rotary Club. He was on the advisory committee for the Windsor General Plan after the town was incorporated in 1992. He was chairman of the Private Industry Council from 1996 to 2002, including its conversion to the Workforce Investment Board in 1999–2000. A member of the Sonoma County Manufacturing Group from 1988–2003, he was chairman in 2001–02. For six years, he was a trustee of the Winds0r Boys and Girls Club.
A graduate of Leadership Santa Rosa, Mr. Ling was on the advisory committee for Santa Rosa Junior College’s welding certificate program, which was a source of Reliance Trailer employees.
Mr. Ling was chairman of the national Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association from 2001–03.
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