By Steve Rosansky, President & CEO of Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce
Yesterday afternoon we found out that my predecessor, Richard Luehrs, who was President and CEO of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce for over 30 years, passed away due to complications from Coronavirus.
Richard lived a life of service to this community, loved the city’s small businesses and created the robust business community that exists today.
Much of the success that we enjoy today as the pre-eminent business organization here in Newport Beach can be traced back to programs that were initiated under the vigorous leadership of the Chamber that Richard provided.
Richard inaugurated the Chamber’s Taste of Newport event that successfully ran for 24 years and raised millions of dollars for the Chamber as well as Newport Beach restaurants.
The elevation of the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade and Ring of Lights to the regional status it currently occupies can also be traced to his leadership.
Richard was well known in the halls of City government, advocating for the small business community. Richard worked with four different City Managers (Wynn, Murphy, Bludau and Kiff), five Police Chiefs, five Fire Chiefs, 27 Mayors and dozens of City Council Members.
He was one of the founding members of the City’s Economic Development Committee and he served on the City’s Building Code Board of Appeals the last few years of his retirement. He also served a stint as Chair of the City’s Environmental Quality Affairs Committee. Richard was always very supportive of the Newport Beach City Council and staff, but he also didn’t have a problem in expressing his dissatisfaction when he thought they were not acting in the best interest of the City.
Richard oversaw the creation of the Chamber’s Leadership Tomorrow program that has educated hundreds of Newport Beach residents about how services are delivered in Orange County in all major sectors. Many of these participants went on to leadership roles as a result of this training.
Richard began his Chamber career as Executive Vice President of the North Hollywood Chamber of Commerce in 1977 and came to the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce in 1982. As part of his professional career, he served as President and Board Member of the Western Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, President of the Southern California Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, and President of the Federated Chambers of Commerce of Orange County.
In 1986, Luehrs completed a six-year program at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce “Institute for Organizational Management” and attended two years of post-graduate studies. In 1995, Richard was recognized as the “Executive of the Year” by the 750-member Western Association of Chamber Executives.
Luehrs has served as Vice Chairman of the Parish Council for Our Lady Queen of Angels Church, served on the Board of Directors for the Newport Beach Conference and Visitors Bureau and is a Past Chairman of the Orange County Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse.
In 2008 Richard was appointed to the State of California Commission on Disability Access by former Governor Schwarzenegger. He served a three-year term as Chairman of the Baden-Powell district for disabled Boy Scouts of Orange County and has served as a member of the Board of Directors for the 552 Club for Hoag Hospital.
A native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Richard received his B.S. degree in business administration from California State University at Northridge specializing in accounting and marketing. Prior to that, Richard served a six-year tour of duty in the United States Navy from 1965 to 1971. Richard met his wife, Susan, at a Chamber of Commerce event which led to a two-year courtship and then marriage in 1989. Together they have two children, Samantha and Ricky.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family as we all reflect on the contributions that Richard made to the greater good of our community.
I can honestly say he left it better than he found it.