Chris Hall, who has led the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce since 2013, has resigned.

In a phone interview Wednesday, Hall, 59, said he decided to step down to pursue new opportunities. He worked for the Maine State Chamber of Commerce for 17 years before joining the Portland chamber in 2006. He has been CEO since 2013.

“I’ve had 27 years of chamber service, I’m very proud of it, I’m very happy to have served so long in Portland,” Hall said.

“It has seemed for a while now it was time to step aside and let someone else take the reins and do some new things,” he said. “I think anything you do for a long period of time, at some point you want to try to do something new.”

Hall’s sudden resignation was announced in an email Wednesday from James Erwin, chamber chairman, to chamber members.

“I am writing to let you know that Chris Hall has tendered his resignation as President and CEO of the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce,” said the email. “The Presidents Council met this morning and voted to accept his resignation. We thank Chris for his years of service to the Chamber.”

Quincy Hentzel, who is president of the Portland Community Chamber of Commerce, an affiliate of the regional chamber, will serve as interim CEO while the board searches for a permanent replacement, Erwin said. Hentzel’s first day will be Feb. 13, and all chamber events and functions will continue as scheduled.

Typically a top executive serves notice of an impending resignation to allow for the board to plan for his or her replacement. Hall’s predecessor, Godfrey Wood, notified the board of his intention to retire on Dec. 6, 2012, effective at the end of that month. In an interview, Erwin declined to offer a comment on the timing of the announcement.

“I think Chris has spoken appropriately about his reasons, I don’t have anything to amplify them,” Erwin said. “We certainly wish him well as he moves on to the next chapter.”

Hall said he discussed his departure with board members before handing in his resignation.

“I wouldn’t say it was abrupt, there have obviously been some conversations, of course,” Hall said.

The chamber board will likely launch a national search for its next CEO, Erwin added. “I think the board has an obligation to the organization to conduct a strong search and find out what the market has in the wage of candidates,” he said.

Hall was senior vice president of the chamber for six years before accepting the top executive post. As senior vice president, he led the organization’s governmental affairs work at the local, state and federal levels. Previously, he was a lobbyist for the Maine State Chamber of Commerce.

“Chris has been a wonderful asset and leader in the business community,” said Peter DelGreco, CEO of recruiting firm Maine & Co. DelGreco worked with Hall when trying to bring new companies to the Portland area, and he sits on the board of the Portland Community Chamber.

“He holds so much institutional knowledge – we’ll really miss that,” said DelGreco, who was surprised by the announcement. “I hope his next venture is wildly successful.”

He said Hall has been particularly effective at making the case for intelligent growth in Maine’s largest city, an initiative that could be considered a development blueprint for other parts of the state.

Under Hall’s direction, the chamber helped defeat a 2015 referendum to raise Portland’s minimum wage to $15, a “big victory” for the business community, Erwin said. Hall said he believes he is leaving the chamber in a strong position with a stable membership of about 1,350 businesses and nonprofits.

The regional chamber is the umbrella organization covering five area chambers, as well as PROPEL, an organization for young professionals.

Before joining the Portland Regional Chamber, Hall was a senior vice president and general council at the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. He graduated from Boston University School of Law in 1986 and practiced law in Maine before moving into chamber work.

In an interview, Hall declined to discuss in detail what he intended to do after leaving the chamber, but said he has been working on something.

“It is time to take on something new, and that creates opportunities for others, I think that’s all good,” he said.

“I’m going to permit myself to have some time off, I haven’t had much of that lately.”

Peter McGuire can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: PeteL_McGuire

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