Pacific Marine Mammal Center CEO hands over Laguna Beach nonprofit’s helm

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Peter Chang, chief executive of the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach — a nonprofit known for rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing injured seals and sea lions — has resigned from the organization after nearly four years of leadership.

The Irvine resident said on Wednesday he informed board members of his departure weeks in advance and was willing to help with the transition, which was announced in a statement released Monday through the center. His last day was Friday.

“I love PMMC. It was a very difficult decision for me to leave,” Chang said on Wednesday, crediting the pandemic-era “big resignation” as motivation for him to reevaluate his life and work.

Peter Chang, centre, with PMMC co-founder John Cunningham and Stephanie Cunningham during a sea lion release in August 2019. John Cunningham died in July aged 82.

(Courtesy of the Pacific Marine Mammal Center)

“There’s never a good time to leave, but if there ever was a time, this is it,” he continued. “The organization is in great shape.”

Chang arrived in 2018, promising to expand the physical site and raise the profile of the center, founded in 1971 as Friends of the Sea Lion by three volunteers, while expanding education, ocean management and research efforts.

In his first year at the helm, revenue grew 15%, while PMMC’s annual gala saw donations increase 54%, board chairman Jeff Meberg said in the press release. of Monday.

“He kept the organization on budget in 2020, which was an even greater feat considering it was at the worst of the COVID pandemic, and he grew our revenue by over 35% in 2021 , year-over-year, to $3.1 million,” said Meberg, who initially agreed to be interviewed for this story but later declined.

Charles Antis, left to right, Wing Lam and Peter Chang at PMMC's annual Fish Drive fundraiser in June.

Charles Antis, left to right, Wing Lam and Peter Chang at PMMC’s annual Fish Drive fundraiser in June.

(Courtesy of Peter Wang)

Chang is also credited with forming a leadership team with a vice president of conservation science and medicine, expanding community educational programs for children, and launching a fundraising campaign to build an on-site water harvesting system that has so far raised 81% of a $7.5 million goal.

Thinking about leaving, Chang and his wife, Nicole Tran, made the decision in front of his two sons, Jarren, 13, and Tobin, 11, who attended summer camp and after-school programs at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center. in the past. three years.

“It was also something I had to talk to them about,” he said. “But we’re all doing very well and we’re all looking forward to the next chapter.”

Although he does not yet know where this next chapter will be written, Chang hopes to stay in the nonprofit sector, which he credits with reinvigorating his passion for work after years of being jaded by corporate jobs. .

“I’m looking for that next challenge,” he said, sharing his personal passion for environmental causes. “My goal is to be able to have a significant impact.”

Although PMMC’s board did not say how or when it planned to replace Chang, the group’s website said Clay Halvorsen – former vice chairman of Irvine Co. and husband of Diane Halvorsen, a member of the PMMC Board of Directors – had acted on an interim basis.

“The PMMC Board and staff sincerely thank Peter for his tireless dedication to our mission and purpose and wish him well in all his future endeavours,” Meberg said in Monday’s statement.

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