The most striking thing about Ken Oplinger is his voice. It’s such a deep baritone that he could have made a career on radio or as a singer. Instead, he’s dedicated his professional life since graduating college to running chambers of commerce. He was most recently in Washington state, but moved his family to town in 2013 to run the Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce.
I recently had the chance to eat lunch with Ken. After a lengthy conversation about everything to do with Santa Barbara, he confessed to me the joys of doing live theatre in order to bond and spend more time with his daughter. His face glowed with pride and accomplishment.
Here, Ken answers the Proust Questionnaire.
What is your most treasured possession?
Just got it. My Exec of the Year Award from the Western Association of Chamber Executives.
What do you like most about your job?
I like the variety. From helping members with issues to lobbying City Council to economic development, running a chamber ensures every day is different.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Woodrow Wilson, who tried to build consensus as a means of solving problems.
Who do you most admire?
Carl Trumbell Hayden. He was the first representative of my home state of Arizona, the longest serving member of the U.S. Senate, and probably the person most responsible for the development of the Western U.S. A true leader who did his work behind the scenes, rarely speaking on the Senate floor.
What is the quality you most like in people?
Trust in others. It’s key to my management philosophy. Allowing those around you to succeed through their own initiative builds stronger ties and encourages loyalty.
What is the quality you most dislike in people?
Petty political acts —especially at the local level. They never work, and do nothing but bring the whole community down.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Standing in Pioneer Square in downtown Seattle just before the March to the Match for a Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers soccer game. You haven’t lived until you’ve experienced a home game for the Sounders.
What is your greatest fear?
Heights. I can’t even ride the Ferris wheel at the Santa Monica Boardwalk. Scares the crud out of me.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Dinner at the Lark. Isn’t that everyone’s greatest extravagance?
What is your current state of mind?
Happy, because I love where I live and what I do, and because I see so much potential for Santa Barbara. I work and live in paradise!
What do you most value in friends?
Warmth and honesty. A friendly face and an honest discussion are the trademarks of everyone with whom I surround myself.
What is your most marked characteristic?
Probably my voice. I’m still amazed by the number of people who tell me I should be on the radio.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
I seem to use the word “outstanding” way too often.
Which talent would you most like to have?
Mind reader. That would be really awesome in so many ways!
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I’d very much like to have a full head of hair again. I’m almost at that point where it may be better to just shave what’s left off.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Marrying my wife, Diana. I don’t think I really understood how much a partner can do to help make every aspect of your life better.
Where would you most like to live?
In Bellosguardo. Or maybe in Oprah’s house.
Who makes you laugh the most?
My wife. Diana is the funniest person I know. I really need to convince her to do stand-up at some point.
What is your motto?
The first to apologize is the bravest. The first to forget is the strongest. The first to forgive is the happiest.