President & CEO David May Announces Retirement from Fort Collins Area Chamber

Sep 10, 2020 | Chamber News

FORT COLLINS, COLO. – September 10, 2020- David May, President & CEO of the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce, has announced his retirement at the end of 2020. May’s retirement will conclude a 40-year career of working for chambers of commerce at the local and national levels.

May was hired by the Fort Collins Area Chamber in April 2003 after the Board of Directors conducted a nationwide search.

“The 17 ½ years in Northern Colorado have been the highlight of my career,” said May. “The region is vibrant and livable. I’m proud of our business community for its support and leadership in helping make this an area we’re all proud to live in.”

“We’ve been fortunate to have David as our leader for so long,” said Nick Haws, Chairman of the Chamber Board of Directors. “He has been a tireless advocate for a strong economy and business. The business community and region have benefited tremendously from his leadership. The Chamber’s budget doubled and membership grew during his tenure. We are grateful and wish him the very best in a well-earned retirement.”

With the Fort Collins Area Chamber, May has a reputation for being an unapologetic champion for business and for taking on big regional issues.

“Business is vitally important to communities. That has been made clearer during the government shutdowns for COVID-19,” said May. “Fort Collins has benefited tremendously from a vibrant business community. I remind public officials of that at every opportunity.”

May is known as a leader of the effort to get North I-25 widened and chairs the regional group the Fix North I-25 Business Alliance. Over the past five years, more than $900 million have been committed to improvements on the interstate north of Longmont.

“A lot of people and organizations deserve credit for getting the work started on North I-25,” said May. “This effort has been a showcase of strong leaders in Weld and Larimer counties and great regional cooperation.”

May began his career in 1980 as the Director of Membership and Public Relations for the Independence (Missouri) Chamber of Commerce in suburban Kansas City before being promoted to President at age 27. In 1991, he assumed the role as President & CEO of the Sarasota (FL) Chamber of Commerce. Then in 2000, he was named Vice President of Chamber Relations for the United States Chamber in Washington, DC. (See page 3 for more on May’s career).

While May’s tenure as CEO concludes at the end of the year, he has committed to continue to represent the Chamber on several initiatives until a new leadership team settles in including Fix North I-25, Northern Colorado Prospers and Re-ignite Our Economy.

“Because of his willingness to stay engaged over the short-term on important issues, we anticipate a smooth transition to the new CEO,” said Haws. “Plus, the Chamber has a seasoned executive staff team and a committed board.”

The search for a new President & CEO of the Fort Collins Area Chamber is now underway.

“The goal is to build on our momentum. We have engaged the services of Waverly Partners to consult on the search process,” said Haws. “When the details are finalized, we’ll post them on the Chamber website and share them through social media.”

About the Fort Collins Area Chamber

The Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce is the leading business association in Northern Colorado, dedicated to helping business succeed. Investing in the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce puts members in contact with more than 1,200 business owners and managers in the market. For more than 100 years, the Fort Collins Area Chamber has helped shape the Fort Collins region into one of the most livable places in America. For more information about the Chamber, call (970) 482-3746 or visit


David L. May, CCE, CAE

President & CEO

Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce



David May became president of the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce in Colorado April 2003. He is a 40-year veteran of association management, having served as president of chambers of commerce in Independence MO, Sarasota FL and Fort Collins CO and as Vice President of Chamber of Commerce Relations for the United States Chamber of Commerce in Washington, DC. As head of the Office of Chamber Relations, May was the US Chamber’s liaison with 2,600 state, metro and local chambers.

Over his career he has been named Chamber Executive of the Year in the states of Missouri, Florida and Colorado. In 2015, May was named as Executive of the Year by the Western Association of Chamber Executives (WACE).

May is one of a handful of chamber executives in the nation holding the dual certifications of Certified Association Executive from the American Society of Association Executives and Certified Chamber Executive from the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives. There are only a few chamber of commerce professionals in Colorado holding the CAE designation and two of them work for the Fort Collins Chamber.

A past board member of the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, May also served on the board of the WACE. He has taught at the U.S. Chamber’s Institutes for Organization Management and WACE’s Academy.

May has led the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce since April 2003. The Fort Collins Chamber is the only 5-Star Accredited chamber of commerce in Colorado. With 1,200 members, it is one of the largest chambers of commerce in Colorado.

The Chamber is a local association of businesses and organizations that care about the region’s future and builds that future through business. The Chamber believes successful businesses make a strong local economy, which lets our community afford a great quality of life. The Chamber serves as:

  • A convener and cultivator of leaders and influencers who value business’ role in vibrant communities and who make things happen,
  • A catalyst for business growth through pragmatic public policy, strategic economic development and support of existing businesses,
  • And a champion for a balanced, resilient, thriving economy.

May was the founding chair of several groups including Leadership Northern Colorado, the Fix North I-25 Business Alliance, Fix Colorado Roads and Talent 2.0.

Happily married for 40 years to Elaine, a clinical laboratory scientist, they are the proud parents of Rebecca, a nurse.


David L. May, CCE, CAE

President & CEO

Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce



For most of his professional career, David May has worked for chambers of commerce. He held executive roles for three local chambers providing executive and strategic leadership. He had complete P&L responsibility, fund raising duties and served as a public spokesman for the three local associations he led.

# # #

President & CEO, Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce, Fort Collins, Colorado (started 2003) The Fort Collins Chamber is the largest business and community advocacy organization in Northern Colorado and one of the largest chambers of commerce in the state. The community has been named by Money Magazine as America’s Best Place to Live and the Chamber has earned a 5-Star Accreditation, Colorado’s only 5-Star accredited chamber. May founded or co-founded Leadership Northern Colorado, Talent 2.0, Fix North I-25 and Fix Colorado Roads and helped initiate Northern Colorado Prospers and Re-ignite Our Economy.

A few select Chamber accomplishments during May’s tenure:

  • Helped secure $935M for widening of North I-25
  • Led successful campaign to stop unionization of city government employees
  • Thrice led campaigns to renew the city street resurfacing tax
  • Led campaign to defeat ballot measure to create full-time city council
  • Led successful campaign to renew the county jail tax
  • Created annual Small Business of the Year awards ceremony to honor small business
  • Established Northern Colorado Prospers, a 5-year strategic initiative to help leading businesses focus resources on top strategic issues
  • Co-founded Leadership Northern Colorado
  • Secured 5-Star Accreditation from U.S. Chamber, Colorado’s only 5-Star Accredited Chamber
  • Produced Talent 2.0, the first ever workforce development plan
  • Advocated for establishment of Economic Health Office, City of Fort Collins
  • Retention and expansion of key employers like Woodward, Avago and HP; big win in 2013) when Woodward decided to build new corporate headquarters in Fort Collins
  • Chamber debt-free. Paid off building mortgage
  • Strong finances, clean annual audits
  • Twice received the BizWest Bravo! Regional Spirit Award for work with other area chambers and the Fix North I-25 Business Alliance
  • Strong response to help businesses cope with Covid-19 challenge
  • Helped forge strong regional relationships
  • Celebrated Chamber’s 100th Anniversary in 2004

Vice President, Chamber of Commerce Relations, United States Chamber of Commerce, Washington DC (started 2000)  The U.S. Chamber is the world’s largest business advocacy organization, representing the interests of small and large businesses before Congress, regulatory agencies and the Administration. The Chamber’s political and legislative effectiveness is made possible through the power of its federation. May reported to the Chief of Staff & Senior Vice President. He was recruited by the U.S. Chamber to help advance its mission by leveraging influence through its voluntary grassroots network of 2600 state and local chambers of commerce.

A few select department accomplishments during May’s tenure

  • Brought together chamber and national leaders including events with the President of the United States, the Vice President and the Secretary of the Treasury
  • Spokesman with the news media regarding strategic trends affecting communities and chambers of commerce, giving dozens of presentations on trends affecting chambers of commerce
  • Initiated the process that led to complete overhaul and redesign of the national chamber accreditation program


President & CEO, Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, Sarasota, Florida (started 1991) When he served there, the Greater Sarasota Chamber was a countywide economic development and business advocacy organization serving a population of 310,000 with 1,900 members. The Chamber championed a diverse economic base for the region. Services included existing industry retention, technology council, economic development marketing, international trade council, political action committee, active governmental affairs program, member discounts, networking and educational programs, better business council, economic reports, workforce development. He was responsible for developing a clear vision of the community’s economic future and mobilizing business and community support and resources around accomplishing that vision. The Chamber represented the views of the business community before government bodies and the news media.

A few Chamber select accomplishments during May’s tenure:

  • Built a countywide public/private economic development coalition that helped create 8,300 jobs over 4-year campaign; opened a satellite office in Venice FL
  • Grew annual economic development funding by 710% to over $1M
  • Chamber led successful “Pennywise” campaign to pass 1 cent local option county infrastructure surtax generating $500,000,000
  • Led successful campaign to restore at-large election of county commissioners
  • Twice secured Reaccreditation by the U.S. Chamber
  • Elevated county’s national visibility: Money magazine cited the county as one of best places to live, Entrepreneur magazine named it as one of the best medium-sized places for small business, Economist said the county was one of best for private sector job growth, Expansion Management magazine (the bible of the relocation industry) reported Sarasota County as having the second best public school system in Florida


President & CEO, Independence Chamber of Commerce, Independence, Missouri (started mid-1983) The Independence Chamber is an economic development and business advocacy organization in what at the time was the state’s fourth largest city. Services included an active local and state legislative program, manufacturers’ council, existing industry retention, a major community festival called Santa-Cali-Gon Days that attracts 300,000 people over Labor Day Weekend and a leadership development program. He was promoted from within after a national search.

A few select accomplishments during May’s tenure:

  • Secured funding for establishment of the National Frontier Trails Center to memorialize Independence’s role as the start of the Santa Fe, California and Oregon Trails and to serve as a repository of historic materials and historic trails research via a relationship with the Oregon California Trails Association
  • Played key role in securing state highway funds to widen Missouri Highway 291 through the city, at that time one of the state’s most dangerous roads
  • Had central role in successful effort to secure funding for I-70 interchange at Little Blue Expressway and advocated for construction of the Expressway
  • Initiated and funded a study on community higher education needs that led to the expansion of higher ed services in Independence and, ultimately led to the establishment of a community college district
  • Supported successful ballot campaign to establish 911 service
  • Earned first-ever Accreditation from the U.S. Chamber
  • Established L.E.A.D Independence, the community’s leadership development program


Vice President, Independence Chamber (1983) and Director of Membership and Public Relations (started 1980).


Admissions Counselor, Graceland University, Lamoni, Iowa (1978-79)



Bachelor of Arts Degree, Graceland University, Lamoni, Iowa


Professional development:

  • Graduate of the US Chamber’s Institute for Organization Management at SMU
  • Participant in executive management and assessment programs through the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, North Carolina
  • Basic Course and Year 1 at Economic Development Institute



Professional designations earned:

  • Certified Chamber of Commerce Executive, Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives
  • Certified Association Executive, American Society of Association Executives

Professional honors bestowed:

  • President of the Year, Western Association of Chamber Executives
  • Professional of the Year, Colorado Chamber of Commerce Executives
  • Professional of the Year, Florida Chamber of Commerce Executives
  • Professional of the Year, Chamber of Commerce Executives of Missouri



Professional leadership positions held:

  • President, Chamber of Commerce Executives of Missouri
  • Vice President, Florida Chamber of Commerce Executives
  • Board of Directors, Florida Chamber Management Corporation Board
  • Board of Directors, Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives
  • Board of Directors, Florida Chamber of Commerce Executives
  • Chair-elect, Suncoast Workforce Development Board
  • Board of Advisors, Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport
  • Board of Directors, Western Association of Chamber Executives
  • Board of Directors and Executive Committee, Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance
  • Vice Chair, Colorado Clean Energy Cluster
  • Founding Chair, Leadership Northern Colorado Steering Committee
  • Longstanding columnist for the Fort Collins Coloradoan
  • Editorial Board, BizWest
  • Community Advisory Board, Columbine Health Systems

Member: Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, American Society of Association Executives, Colorado Chamber of Commerce Executives, Western Association of Chamber Executives


David L. May, CCE, CAE

President & CEO

Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce

Reflections on Career, Business, Chambers and the future


In general. “Leading chambers of commerce was a blast! I got to work with the community’s best and brightest people on issues that impacted the prosperity and livability of the region. If you want to make a positive difference in your community and be around positive, can-do people, get involved with your chamber of commerce.”


Why retire now if you are having such a ‘blast?’ “I like to work and figured I’d work until I died at my desk! Then as I got older, I realized I might actually die at my desk! What’s the fun in that?! I have a lot of other things I want to do while I have the good health and energy to do them. There is a great quote by Mark Twain: ‘Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do, than by the ones you did do.’ I won’t be disappointed about missing another government budget meeting, but I would be disappointed if I don’t do some of the other things on my life list.”


“My original plan to leave this summer got delayed by the government shutdown of the economy in response to Covid-19. I needed to stay put as the Chamber helped our businesses cope with a bad situation. The Chamber officers and staff did a fabulous job and they’ve got this going forward.”


Career accomplishments. “You’re as good as the people around you. Everything accomplished over 40 years is attributable to many other people and I’m grateful to them. The ‘accomplishments’ over four decades fall into the categories of advocating for a strong business climate, supporting community and regional infrastructure and organizational excellence. Regarding the latter, I pushed accreditation in all three local chambers I led because it forces the organization to periodically take stock of what it’s doing and how it’s doing. The press of everyday demands makes it easy to put that off.”


What was your favorite moment/memory/accomplishment?  “It’s hard to pick one. I am enjoying watching I-25 get widened and thinking about the contributions of so many people that is making that happen. On a more personal level, seeing the people around me grow and gain confidence in their abilities and themselves has been very satisfying. When I was in Independence, I got to host President Ronald Reagan and that chamber helped secure the funding for the National Frontier Trails Center. Over 40 years there are a lot of good memories.”


Any regrets?  “No, I did the job to the best of my abilities with the resources I had available. I tried to honor the importance of the work and the organization and the people around me.”


What will you miss? “People. I’ve had the privilege of working with some wonderful, competent and genuinely nice people, including the staff and our active volunteers and people in the community and region. Working in teams and collaborating on projects and accomplishing things with others is something I will miss a lot.”


Importance of Business to Communities. “It is impossible to have a great community without a vibrant business community. As necessary as government is, it does not create economic vitality. It can set a tone good or bad, then it just redistributes the fruits of business prosperity to various public services. Private sector businesses create the taxable economic activities that fill government hoppers. I am a forever, unapologetic advocate of free enterprise and business.”


Businesspeople. “Being around businesspeople has an honor. As a class of people, they are more optimistic, bolder and innovative than the rest of us. The successful ones have a sense of gratitude and generosity and an abundance outlook.”


Chambers of Commerce. “Chambers of commerce have existed since the 1500s and have endured because of they are so beneficial. Businesspeople and professionals have long benefited from banding together for mutual protection or promotion. There were chambers of commerce on this continent before there was a United States. Chambers are a great tool for business leaders and professionals to focus their energy and resources to accomplish things important to them and their communities.”


Independence, Missouri. “When I was there, it was a tough town with gritty politics. It has a strong frontier heritage and was the home of President Harry Truman. Being in the shadow of Kansas City, it has a bit of an underdog feistiness. I was married there, our daughter was born in Independence and our careers began there. I’ll always have warm feelings for Independence.”


Sarasota, Florida. “What a contrast to Independence! Everybody was from somewhere else. Building a consensus required finesse. Move too fast and you were ‘railroading things through,’ wait too long and the new arrivals led to starting important conversations all over again.”


U.S. Chamber. “That was an invaluable experience for me. It broadened my perspective by helping me think on a bigger and bolder scale. You can do anything with vision and courage, which in turn attract resources. My time there was also memorable because I was in DC during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.”


Thoughts about the Future. “The community and region will be fine though it may take several years to replace the lost jobs and regional domestic product. The office, retail, restaurant, health care and higher education models, to name a few, have been severely disrupted. It will take some time to understand how much of the disruption is permanent and the consequences. Business and civic leaders will have to stay focused on this.

“As crummy as 2020 has been in some ways, most of us will be stronger for it. If you can navigate through the challenges of the Covid-19 era, not much will intimidate you in the future. It will also benefit our country. We are now aware of vulnerabilities and challenges that need to be addressed.”

“As far as the Chamber, it has a new generation of leaders that is smart, competent and visionary. The organization is in very good hands.”



David L. May, CCE, CAE

President & CEO

Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce



“We’ve been fortunate to have David as our leader for so long. He has been a tireless advocate for a strong economy and business. The business community and region have benefited tremendously from his leadership. The Chamber’s budget doubled and membership grew during his tenure. We are grateful and wish him the very best in a well-earned retirement.” – Nick Haws, Chairman of the Chamber Board of Directors; Northern Engineering


“We were fortunate to have David at the apex of his career. David’s contributions to Fort Collins and Northern Colorado will be felt for decades after his departure. As a chamber volunteer for many years David always made it easy to volunteer and be active with the chamber. His leadership will be missed, but his legacy will live on.” – Pete Gazlay, Past Chamber Chair; Total Facility Care 


“I have had the honor of working with David on several boards and committees during his tenure…what a driving force for innovative ideas, collaboration and results!  His leadership has transformed the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce into a nationally recognized organization because of the amazing impact created, not only for the business community, but for the Northern Colorado region.” – Sharie Grant, Past Chamber Chair; OfficeScapes


“David has a been a true leader in Northern Colorado.  He always provides organization and vision to any project.  During his tenure, David has been recognized nationally as one of the most effective chamber executives in the United States. David will truly be missed and I wish him the best in his future endeavors.  He should be proud of his accomplishments and the community owes him a debt of gratitude for his work over the years.” – Kevin Unger, Past Chamber Chair and Chair of Northern Colorado Prospers; UCHealth  

“David is one of the brightest, hardest working executives I have ever met. His ability to set high level critical strategies and then deliver to those commitments is unrivaled. He has been an over-achiever since day one and has never shied away from any challenging situation. It will be difficult to lose such a talent, but I suspect the Chamber won’t skip a beat based on the legacy and the principles David is leaving behind. It’s been a great ride!” – Steve Stiesmeyer, Past Chamber Chair; Woodward 


“I’ve known David since he started at the Chamber. As a long-time board member of the Chamber, I’ve appreciated his consistent, engaged and thoughtful advocacy for business and the community. His leadership and guidance will be missed!  We are a better community because of him.” – Yvonne Myers, Past Chamber Chair; Columbine Health Systems