Inaugural Dinner - Honorees & Speakers


The Inaugural Dinner marks the installation of the incoming Chair of the Board for the Chamber. In the spirit of community building, the event also recognizes extraordinary leadership with the Civic Medal of Honor, Distinguished Business Leader and Corporate Leadership awards.



Named by California Diversity Magazine as one of the Most Powerful and Influential Women in California, Denita Willoughby is Vice President of Supply Management & Support Services for Southern California Gas Company, a Sempra Energy regulated California utility. She is responsible for overseeing a $1.5 billion procurement operation that includes supply management, supplier diversity, inventory and logistics. She also oversees all the company's fleet and real estate assets. Willoughby previously served as a shared officer also supporting San Diego Gas & Electric. Prior to that role, she was the Regional Vice President of External Affairs for SoCalGas, where she led the company's community relations, public affairs and media and employee communication efforts.

She serves on the boards of Vision to Learn, UNITE-LA, and is the incoming chair of the L.A. Area Chamber. She is an advocate for improving educational outcomes for all children and dedicates time to mentoring professionals wishing to advance their careers.



Frank E. Baxter is the Chairman Emeritus of Jefferies and Company Inc., a global investment bank, and serves on the board of directors at the Pacific Council on International Policy. He formerly served as the U.S. ambassador to Uruguay from 2006 to 2009.

Baxter has also served as board chair for After-School All-Stars, a board member of the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), a member of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Commission for Jobs and Economic Growth, board vice chair of the Los Angeles Opera and executive committee chair of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Baxter has also been an activist in improving K-12 education and has been a supporter of charter schools in Oakland and Los Angeles.



Citi has proudly served the people of Los Angeles for more than 100 years. Citi invests in scalable public-private partnerships that continue to strengthen businesses, individuals and the economy in the region. Through initiatives like the OneLA Regional Procurement Collaborative, Citi supports strategies to scale and accelerate minority-owned business growth locally. Citi also works collaboratively with municipal partners to boost financial resilience for residents through the Center for Financial Empowerment, Free Tax Prep Los Angeles, Cities for Citizenship and financial empowerment programs that serve survivors of domestic violence, veterans and the elderly.



As a partner at DLA Piper LLP, Jerry Neuman is and has been the lead negotiator and project coordinator for many of Southern California's most important real estate, green energy, infrastructure and governmental procurement projects. His experience includes obtaining environmental clearances pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Additionally, he has substantial experience in coordinating teams of professionals including architects, engineers, environmental scientists, community relations and communication consultants and media relations professionals. Neuman also works regularly with elected officials, organized labor and community and business leaders in connection with many of these projects and issues.

Neuman is also a founding director of Mission Valley Bank and is on the executive boards of many of the most important commercial and charitable organizations in L.A., including serving as the 2019 Chamber Board Chair.



Maria S. Salinas is the President & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, the largest business association in Los Angeles County representing more than 1,500-member companies and serving the interests of more than 235,000 businesses across the Los Angeles region. Salinas took the helm of the organization in August of 2018 and became the first woman and Latina to lead the L.A. Area Chamber in its 130 year history. An accomplished business woman, entrepreneur and a stalwart community leader, Salinas' business acumen and financial expertise provides her with the right experience to lead the Chamber.

In her role, Salinas is committed to amplify the voice of business in all aspects of public policy, growth in emerging sectors and global expansion. Under her leadership, the Chamber has focused on key strategic initiatives including expanding its advocacy for a business-­friendly environment, promoting the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship throughout the region, and expanding global influence. Read more.





*As of Nov. 7, 2019