MAHOPAC, N.Y.— The Greater Mahopac/Carmel Chamber of Commerce has named Michael Celestino as its new CEO/executive director.
Celestino, a long-time Mahopac resident and 1974 MHS grad, took the helm on Sept. 11.
He replaces Erin Meagher, who was fired from the position in March after she was caught using a chamber debit card to make more than $3,000 in unauthorized personal purchases. She ultimately pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of petit larceny.
Celestino, 61, said he believes one of the reasons he was hired is that he will help restore integrity and trust in the chamber.
“One of the things that the chamber was attracted to was my credibility,” he said. “That was important to them—knowing my background and understanding what I have done. I am very much a stand-up person and I have always led by example. As I work with the community and engage with the people and the businesses, I think they will have a bigger appreciation for the chamber.”
Celestino received his Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration and marketing from Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry. His background is primarily in retail, but he said his experience is wide-ranging.
“My background is in fashion apparel and retailing—luxury fashion—operating retail stores and buying merchandise,” he said. “I was involved in everything from resources to real estate to operations; every aspect of it I have been involved with during my 35-year career.”
He spent nine years at Saks Fifth Avenue and 20 years with Barneys New York. In 2015, he formed Michael Celestino Consulting where he began working with smaller companies, an experience he believes will suit him well as the chamber CEO.
“After I left Barneys, through networking, I almost by accident started working for a small company that needed help,” he said. “From that, I formed Michael Celestino Consulting. My initial training came from Saks Fifth Avenue where I really learned the business from the ground up.”
As to why he took the chamber job, he said there were several reasons.
“I knew my business acumen would be well-served. I could help the chamber and some of the businesses that are part of it,” he said. “I felt that through my tenure in the community for the past 50 years that I know the town very well and the challenges it faces. I thought it was a good combination. And for the first time in my life, I am traveling five minutes to get to the office, which gives me more time and energy to put toward helping the community. So, there’s a quality of life component to it.”
He said he has a long list of goals on his “to do” list once he takes the helm.
“I think many retail businesses—brick and mortar—struggle as people shop differently. Change is going on and retail needs to keep up and I would like to help with that. I also have a goal to engage with more of the youth of the community. That is something to be tapped into. I want to have them engaged more in the business community and provide more options for them to do community service.”
Celestino said he also wants to establish a better working relationship with town government and help it move forward with creating a new master plan, implementing a proposed parking study for Mahopac and updating town codes. But, he said, small steps are required.
“I want to improve the businesses in the town, but having said that, I don’t think there is a silver bullet,” he said. “We have to be cautious about biting off more than we can chew. There are many roads we can take. I want to work with the Town Board and will attend as many meetings as I can. I want to get things done and help the businesses.
“By working together with the board and understanding what the obstacles are, we can move in the right direction. We all need to be rowing in the same direction.”