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2010 Best Business Community Leader: Pam Chanter

Author: Beth Galleto
May, 2010 Issue
Chalk it up to the Girl Scouts. Pam Chanter, vice president of Vantreo Insurance in Santa Rosa, was a Brownie from the age of six. Growing up in Portland, Ore., she continued to advance through the Scout levels during her entire school career. “Early on, through Girls Scouts and from my parents, who founded an indigent children’s dental clinic when I was nine years old, I learned many skills and how important it is to give back to the community,” she says.

After attending Portland State University and emerging with a degree in business management, she began working for Aetna Life and Casualty, a Fortune 500 company that’s one of the largest insurance companies in the country. In the course of her career, she was transferred from Portland to Sacramento and then to San Francisco.

During the late 1970s and ’80s, Aetna selected her to be one of the first two women in the country to study at the Aetna Institute in Hartford, Conn., where she learned from management gurus like Steven Covey. As a result of being one of the first women surety bond managers at Aetna, she was also the first woman to be elected to the Associated General Contractors of California Board.

Aetna offered her more than training in leadership: It gave her a valuable opportunity to learn by experience. As a regional manager for Aetna, she volunteered to run its United Way Corporate Campaign for 400 employees. Her office was located in a new business park, and she got employees from all the companies in the area involved. The campaign was so successful, both Aetna and United Way asked her to run it for three more years.

Married in 1986, she and her husband, Tim Chanter, partnered with Matsen Insurance Brokerage in 1992. They started Vantreo in 2007 when Tim and Lynn Wallace bought out 76 percent of Matsen’s business.

At Vantreo, Pam is focusing on the insurance needs of her many clients in manufacturing, construction, hospitality and wineries. “We’ve created a ‘sustainable insurance program,’ providing all the necessary insurance products and services our clients need for their protection and also the future of their businesses,” particularly concentrating on large risks where coverage is critical, dealing with wine production, storage and sales at all stages of the process.

She hasn’t forgotten how gratifying her United Way experience was. “As a business person, I’m also willing to step forward and volunteer my business acumen, time and energy, because I love the people, the challenge and creativity as well as the satisfaction of reaching the goals,” says Chanter. She’s involved in numerous business development and nonprofit community service organizations. She serves on the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce board of directors, is vice chair of the Sonoma County Economic Development Board (EDB), and sits on the Memorial Hospital Strategic Planning Committee and the North Coast Bank Advisory Board.

The EDB encourages business development and economic activity in the county by providing information and referral services. Sonoma County Alliance is a coalition of business, agriculture, labor and individuals organized to protect private property rights, encourage a healthy economy, maintain a sound environment and promote a responsive political process.

She also serves on the boards of too many nonprofits to list in this space, using her skills and experience to help them in their economic development strategies. She’s a board member and past president of the Santa Rosa Symphony, serves on the advisory board of Roseland University Prep, is chairman of the board of the Santa Rosa Junior College Foundation and has also been a member of Soroptimist International for 28 years. “Hopefully, I’ve brought value and fresh ideas to each organization by applying my business acumen, experience and creative thinking.

“People tell me I’m very good at connecting people and businesses, finding the right matches. Between work and volunteering, my time is limited, but I do sit on the ‘kitchen cabinets’ of nonprofits and other organizations. We meet and brainstorm regularly, and it’s always productive and fun.”

Canter became president of the Santa Rosa Symphony board a few years ago. At the time, the symphony was financially very stressed, she says. She worked with the executive director and the board to go back to the basics, make needed changes and cuts, and get the organization back on solid footing while also creating a five-year strategic plan that’s served the organization well.

Her more recent experience as chairman of the Santa Rosa Junior College Foundation Board is similar. She helped reorganize its structure with a focus on fund-raising, all the while educating the board to the tremendous range of all that SRJC provides the community. “We’re helping to make the board members more dynamic ambassadors for the junior college,” she says.

After a trip to Peru in 2003, she reached outside the local area and put together connections that help provide clean drinking water for many small communities in the Amazon rainforest. She also founded an import company that supports an indigenous alpaca weaving business in Arequipa, Peru, applying the principles of fair trade, which helps the weavers achieve a successful enterprise. Chanter, who has two stepchildren and three grandchildren, was named godmother to the weavers’ first-born son.

According to its website, the Girl Scouts organization helps girls “develop qualities that will serve them all their lives, like leadership, strong values, social conscience and conviction about their own potential and self-worth.” These qualities have clearly influenced Pam Chanter for life, and they’re reflected clearly in her work with Vantreo Insurance and the rest of the community.






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