Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce is serving member companies and affiliate members with upwards of 200,000 employees throughout the East Bay. The focus of the Chamber staff is building a strong economy, representing business to government and enhancing the quality of life in the Oakland region
Barbara Leslie joined the Port of Oakland Board of Port Commissioners in December 2018. She has more than 25 years’ experience in both public service and local, state and federal advocacy for business. Ms. Leslie is the President and CEO of the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.
Ms. Leslie has extensive experience in both the public and private sectors, including former service as an Assistant to the City Manager during the Brown Administration and more than a decade directing External Affairs and philanthropy for AT&T in the East Bay. Ms. Leslie has also held key public policy positions with the Oakland Association of Realtors, the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, and the Port of Oakland.
In 2014 Ms. Leslie became the first woman President and CEO of the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce in its 112-year history. She has represented the Chamber on a variety of civic boards including the Oakland Thrives Initiative, Oakland Safety Impact Table, Oakland Promise Advisory Board, Oakland Small Business Task Force, and the Oakland Dialogue. Ms. Leslie has served as a political appointee to the Measure X Strong Mayor Task Force, Chair of the Oakland Workforce Investment Board, Board Member for the Oakland African American Chamber Foundation, the Youth Employment Partnership as well as the Hayward, Walnut Creek, Oakland and Berkeley Chambers of Commerce.
Ms. Leslie holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration and Economics and a Master’s in Public Administration. She has been a resident of Oakland for the past 25 years, where she and her husband have raised two children.
Holly has over 10 years of experience in online and print media. After spending many of those years with The Chicago Tribune, Holly joined the Chamber team in the Spring of 2022. During the pandemic, her role as a journalist became critical in providing services to help small businesses in Chicago convey current information to the public. This passion for small business aided in accepting her role with the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. Holly manages the Chamber’s digital strategy, including social media and website management. She collaborates with Chamber members, advertisers, local media and community stakeholders to communicate stories about the Oakland Business community.
Dominique Clayton has over 10 years of combined entrepreneur and administrative support experience. From owning and operating a catering/private chef business to holding a variety of office support, she brings her forward thinking and strong business skills to her role of Office Manager for the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. In addition to supporting and running the daily operations, Dominique partners with staff to ensure member relationships and events are executed effortlessly.
Shifra de Benedictis-Kessner
Director of Small Business and Workforce
Shifra de Benedictis-Kessner holds over 10 years of experience working for Business Improvement Districts in the East Bay. Shifra led the Temescal Telegraph Business Improvement District as Executive Director for the past six years, managing diverse programs to create a beautiful, welcoming, and prosperous commercial district, including events, district-wide cleaning and maintenance, and marketing. Prior to Temescal, Shifra worked for the Downtown Berkeley BID as Program Assistant and then Marketing Manager. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a bachelor degree in Public Policy and Hispanic Studies. As Small Business & Workforce Director, Shifra works to implement the Chamber’s Economic Development strategy by supporting small, and all, businesses throughout Oakland as well as partnering with public agencies and other nonprofit peers to create policies and programs that support a vibrant small business community in Oakland. In addition, Shifra furthers the education and workforce development agenda in the East Bay Region, and is responsible for working with the Chamber’s workforce partners to ensure that the proper linkages are made to create pathways to employment in our city’s and region’s growing industries.