Cartersville native and past chamber chairman Joe Frank Harris, Jr., was named Thursday by the board of directors as interim president.
Having served the chamber in 1997, Harris is now regional sales director for Aflac and sees his temporary position as an opportunity to further the chamber's mission of fostering a healthy business environment. Progress he notes is made possible only because of achievements made by Read and her board members.
"[Chairman] Fred Kittle is the best, the board is unbelievable and the staff is incredible. Kay just did a great job, they've got a great plan of action with the strategic plan they developed last year and now it's time to carry it out. The work of the chamber should be almost like a jet taking off, it should be going forward," Harris said.
He attributes the chamber's financial stability through difficult times to the leadership seen during Read's administration.
"When you get in there and look at the finances you see that the chamber has stayed in the black in a very tough economic time. You see very good management of the resources that are there and when you've got a chamber that is still sound it's like building a launch pad to take off from. I respect what she's done and the way she's done it and it's going to be exciting to build off of what she's accomplished," Harris said.
Speaking of building, Harris was chairman at the chamber during the construction of the Main Street office. The building being owned by the chamber has been a pivotal part of the organization's financial stability. The accomplishments hence have been a development of committees, programs and events strengthening community involvement and educating members about pertinent business and government matters.
"It was a miracle that we built that building. Everybody said it couldn't be done and the community came together again and did something that was just amazing but we didn't get to focus on this kind of program of work," Harris said. "We weren't able to do as many great things as I think this board is capable of. Every chairman builds on the other one, every board builds on the administration before it. It's hard to hold things when you're moving concrete and that's what excites me."
Although a committee has been formed and Harris will aid in the search process, he added that the selection should not be rushed. The interim period can serve as an opportunity to align the position with goals of members and expectations of the board. Harris hopes to see insight taken from stakeholders to better understand the position being filled.
"It is a little bit of a process to set the stage to hire the next president because we can get the best in the country. ... There's the right person out there but the idea would be to keep the positive momentum of the chamber going and then go through an orderly process of finding that great president that will replace me," Harris said. "You don't jump ahead of trying to define the job description because when that person comes in you've already got his job defined, you set goals for him, expectations -- and the right person will jump at it."