In choosing the leaders to feature in our annual “Most Respected CEOs” article, the editorial staff of Nevada Business polled prominent business leaders throughout the state, culled through dozens of nominees, visited with their employees and selected six outstanding individuals. Those chosen are as diverse as the organizations they run. However, they are connected by a common denominator; they are all respected by their peers, and by the team they have mobilized to achieve a common goal. Here’s a glimpse into Nevada Businesses’ 2009 Most Respected CEOs.

Kara Kelley, Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce

One aspect Kara Kelley loves about her job as president and CEO of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce (LVCC) is getting mentored by a different executive each year. In fact, the LVCC is where Kelley, 40, has grown up professionally, she said.

She began working there nearly 14 years ago while pursuing a Master’s degree in political science. She had experience working on political campaigns, lobbying the Legislature and student teaching for Dina Titus, now a U.S. congresswoman. She held six positions at the Chamber before becoming its CEO in 2002.

Today, at the helm of the organization, and in about 60 hour work weeks, she manages the business of serving the organization’s 7,000 business members. She is the Chamber’s chief fundraiser, lobbyist and spokesperson.

“Our hope is that we help our members grow and become strong and prosperous so they can create jobs and expand the economy,” she said.

Kelley has also made strides advocating on behalf of the business community. In the upcoming legislative session, she plans to pursue various government reforms on behalf of the LVCC.

This Las Vegas native, who values and empowers her staff, has created a workplace atmosphere and benefit structure that respect workers’ on-the-job contributions and outside lives. For instance, employees get 24 hours, per year, of paid time off for community service.

Her philosophy that constant improvement is vital drives her and the expectations she has for her employees. Kelley challenges her team to be innovators and remain focused on creating value for Chamber members, but also recognizes the importance of having fun too.

Her staff says that she leads by example, often collaborating on strategies and decisions and does not micromanage. Kelley is authentic, does what she says she will and strives to communicate regularly and clearly.

When not working, Kelley spends time with her husband and two daughters, watching movies, playing games, hiking, cooking and traveling. To fit that in, she turns down requests for her time when necessary, limits herself to three evening events per week and, when at home, turns off her phone.

“I think I have balanced the challenges of being a working mother pretty well and have been able to demonstrate to my daughters that being a successful professional, mother and wife are not mutually exclusive,” she said.


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