Pickering leaving Alameda County Fair for top Cal Expo post
Fair, Pleasanton fairgrounds saw phenomenal growth, profitability during his 14-year reign
Long-time Alameda County Fair CEO and Bay Area Boy Scout executive Rick Pickering has been hired as the new general manager of the California State Fair, also known as Cal Expo.
State fair board directors made the announcement Tuesday, saying Pickering has accepted the offer to replace its current director Norb Batosik, who will retire Dec. 31. Pickering, 54, will start his new job Jan. 2.
Pickering has headed the Alameda Fair for 14 years in a period that saw the fair's remarkable growth and after its low point when a gunman opened fire on fairgoers during a crowded Independence Day fair. Fireworks, which drew tens of thousands to the fairgrounds each July 4, were canceled, although fireworks returned to the fair on a Friday night before Independence Day several years ago.
Former Dublin Mayor Janet Lockhart, who now chairs the Alameda County Fair board of directors, will start the search for Pickering's replacement.
Named by Amusement Business Magazine as "One of the Most Creative CEO's in America," Pickering has served as the Alameda County Fair's leader in a period that has drawn more than 3 million annual patrons to the Fairgrounds with some 300 events each year, The fair, itself, is recognized as one of the 'Fastest Growing Fairs in North America" with a 44% increase in attendance over the past four years alone.
Home to the "Oldest One Mile Horse Race Track in America," the county fair's horse racing activity grew to a $1 million a year business unit. The fair also has earned a record number of regional, national and international industry awards.
As CEO, reporting to a 26-member board of directors, Pickering has increased operating revenues by more than 150% and has become a sought-after international expert on fairs and festival management.
Pickering began his career as assistant city manager of the city of Cerritos after graduating from the University of Southern California. He also gained executive management experience with posts in Manhattan Beach, then Torrance, then Costa Mesa, handling labor relations and negotiations, land use and redevelopment planning, media and public relations, political relations, and, at one time, serving as an interim director of public works.
While the CEO at the Alameda County Fair, he also was selected chairman of the board of directors of the California Fairs Alliance in Sacramento and since 2002 has served as president of the Western Fairs Association. Pickering also is the past president of the California Authority of Racing Fairs, past president of the California Fairs Service Authority and, from 1994 to 1998, was deputy general manager of the Orange County Fairgrounds.
He is also the president of the board of directors of the San Francisco Bay Area Council of Boy Scouts, a position he has held since 1999. The father of Boy Scouts, Pickering used to go on overnight camping trips to the Fairgrounds in Pleasanton and regularly appears in a Scoutmaster uniform during Memorial Day and other events in Pleasanton.