New Blood at the Top of The Chamber


There has been a changing of the guard at the Greater Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, with Stephen Buckley and Bernie Romanowski each assuming the reigns as chief executive officer and chief operating officer, respectively, at the state’s fifth largest Chamber organization.  

Buckley officially started his job this week.  Romanowski began his position last month.

The move was sparked four months ago when Ken Riehl, the Chamber’s CEO for nearly 10 years and credited with revitalizing the organization, announced he would step down at the end of the year.  At the same time, Peter Webber, the Chamber’s long-running operations and legislative affairs head, announced he would retire as well.  More than 50 candidates from across the U.S. applied for the open CEO position to a search committee headed up by former Chamber Board President Sal Frontiero and Chamber Treasurer Mike Luster.  

Buckley was the final recommended candidate, and he received unanimous support of the Chamber’s Board.

“Stephen impressed the Chamber’s leadership with his passion for Cape Ann, his extensive business management experience, and his track record of community involvement,” said Greater Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce Board President Caitlin Pszenny. 

Buckley, 52, has more than 20 years of business leadership experience, most recently as executive director of Winchester Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, a 121-bed facility with more than 200 employees.  In this role, he oversaw strategic marketing, financial management, community and business partnerships, and relationships with federal, state, and local elected officials.  He previously held management positions at health care facilities in Saugus, Stoneham, Haverhill, and Gloucester. 

Buckley also brings a personal understanding of small business, having owned and operated a Melrose-based physical therapy practice. 

A Cape Ann resident since 1999, Buckley has been active with the Gloucester Friends of Seacoast and Gloucester Education Foundation.  He also served as a vice president with the Winchester Chamber of Commerce and president of the Winchester Rotary.  Buckley and his wife live in Gloucester with their three children, all of whom attend Gloucester public schools.

The Chamber’s new COO, Bernie Romanowski is a 46-year-old Manchester resident with 25 years’ experience in child services with the State of Connecticut and non-profit agencies, including the last 10 years as Chief Programs Officer at Pathways For Children which serves the North Shore.

Romanowski’s background holds powerful appeal, since approximately 20 percent of the Chamber’s 1,000 members—from Action Inc. and Open Door to Gloucester Stage Company, The Trustees and Essex County Greenbelt—are community non-profits.

Romanowski and his wife have three two young daughters, and they were drawn to Cape Ann because, he said, for a self-described “outdoor family,” this area has it all:  natural beauty, the ocean, hiking, museums, great restaurants, and, more than anything, a strong sense of community.  Their children attend Manchester Memorial Elementary School, and Bernie is proud to be a parent leader member of (yes, this is a thing) the “4th Grade Girls Bike Club.”

Between them, Buckley and Romanowski’s professional backgrounds share a “thread of service” that can be powerful, according to Romanowski, especially in context of the Chamber, a mission-driven association aimed at supporting small, community-based businesses and community organizations that, in the end, is really a “service community.”

Buckley said he and Romanowski have dived right into their positions because there’s a lot going on right now on Cape Ann.  Next month kicks off Gloucester’s 400th yearlong anniversary celebration of its incorporation which, as America’s oldest seaport, promises to be an intense and enduring affair.  Then, there’s stepping into each community—Rockport, Manchester, Essex, Ipswich and Gloucester—which each offers a unique, distinct “personality,” according to Buckley.

For local business owners, the Chamber’s value is in connecting them to support, resources, promotion, and connections to other businesses.  For proprietors or employees wearing many proverbial hats, resources and sharing is a good thing.  

“The Chamber is a well-established, committed organization with engaged members,” said Buckley.  “So, I’m really looking forward to getting out and listening to each community.  To learn about what’s important to them, and perhaps find new ways to make connections in the greater Cape Ann community and connect the dots.”

That’s even more important today, where the idea of digital information and connections are ubiquitous and yet the traditional services such as Rotary Club, Elks and, yes, Chambers of Commerce can be incredibly impactful. 

It’s what people today are looking for, said Romanowski.  Especially on Cape Ann.

“In the end, it’s all right here on Cape Ann and that’s what the Chamber is all about,” said Buckley.  “It’s an amazing place to live, work and visit.”

cape ann, greater cape ann chamber of commerce, bernie romanowski, gwyn roberts, nathan chan, seacoast and gloucester education foundation, action inc., winchester chamber of commerce, ceo, winchester rehabilitation and nursing center, peter webber, mike luster, rotary club, rockport, gloucester stage company, caitlin pszenny, connecticut, ken riehl, gloucester, sal frontiero, ipswich, stephen buckley