Column: Cobb Chamber seeks region-minded president

By Maria Saporta
Friday, January 15, 2010

The Cobb Chamber of Commerce will be able to take its time to find a permanent new president to succeed Bill Cooper, who retired at the end of 2009 after 11 years at the helm.

Rob Garcia, the 2010 chairman of the Cobb Chamber, said the board on Jan. 11 decided to name longtime chamber executive Don Beaver to serve as the organization’s president through the end of 2010. That gives the newly named search committee of the Cobb Chamber a year to complete its task.

“This is a very important hire for us,” said Garcia, an executive vice president and regional community executive for Bank of North Georgia. “We want to make sure we can hire the best person we can find.”

Garcia said the search committee has been formed, and it plans to engage a search firm to help find a new permanent president. Beaver is not expected to be a candidate for the job.

The search committee is being chaired by Dr. Gregory Simone, CEO of WellStar Health System Inc. Simone also will be the 2011 chair of the Cobb Chamber.

In addition to Simone and Garcia, the other members of the committee are Tony Britton, a Wells Fargo Bank executive who is first vice chair of the Cobb Chamber; Tim Lee, a Cobb County commissioner who is running for chairman; Emily Lembeck, superintendent of the Marietta School System; and Ben Mathis, an attorney and managing partner with Freeman, Mathis & Gary LLP.

Garcia said the search committee will focus on two major attributes when looking for a new president — someone who is strong in economic development and someone who has a regional perspective.

“Probably the biggest thing is that we need to have someone who brings a strong regional mind-set,” Garcia said. “We have all learned and been impacted by Sam Olens and his regional focus.”

Olens is former chairman of the Atlanta Regional Commission who is still chairman of the Cobb Commission. He will be stepping down from that post to run for Georgia attorney general.

“We have to restructure our chamber leadership so we can be a strong regional player,” Garcia continued. “I’m much more interested in bringing in someone who brings strong regional relationships than in someone who can effectively manage a chamber budget.”

In other words, chances are that the next permanent president of the Cobb Chamber will be someone who already has a track record in the Atlanta region instead of a professional chamber executive from another city.

Meanwhile, Garcia said the chamber is in good hands with Beaver, who has headed the organization’s economic development efforts for 13 years and been its chief operating officer for the last 11 years.

Garcia also said it was important to acknowledge Cooper’s tenure with the chamber.

“Bill did a wonderful job for us,” Garcia said. “He came in and took over a chamber that was in absolute disarray. He was what our chamber needed at the time.”

Heroes, Saints & Legends

The Foundation of Wesley Woods will honor three legendary leaders at its 2010 Heroes, Saints & Legends Gala on April 8 at the St. Regis Hotel.

The honorees will be:

Paul Amos, a founder of Columbus, Ga.-based Aflac (then American Family Life Insurance Co.) in 1955 with his brothers John and Bill. His son, Dan Amos, is Aflac’s current chairman and CEO.

Andrew Young, a former Atlanta mayor and civil rights leader who also served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Since 1990, the Wesley Woods Foundation has been honoring prominent Georgians who are at least 70 years old and continue to be active contributors in their communities.

The foundation also is giving a new annual award to recognize individuals — physicians, researchers, philanthropists or volunteers — who have made significant contributions in treating Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases with the goal of finding a cure.

The first recipient of that award will be Dr. Mahlon DeLong, a prominent neurologist and William Timmie Professor of Neurology at Emory University.

Since its inception, the event has raised nearly $5 million for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s research.

Mike Watson, president and CEO of the Wesley Woods Foundation, said that Amos and Young “are shining examples of how people today can age with distinction and continue to be a source of inspiration and discovery well into their maturity.”

New Cancer Coalition chair

Kathleen Amos, president of the Aflac Foundation, has been named chair of the Georgia Cancer Coalition.

Amos has been a strong supporter of pediatric cancer programs. Amos, who has served on the Georgia Cancer Coalition’s board since 2002, will serve as chair from 2010 to 2012. She also has been appointed to the board of trustees of Emory University. Before running the foundation, Amos served as Aflac’s executive vice president, director of corporate communications and deputy counsel.

She and her husband, Dan Amos, are longtime philanthropists. They both were involved in Aflac’s relationship with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and the establishment of its Aflac Cancer Center and Blood Disorders Service.

Amos succeeds Bill Jones, chairman and CEO of the Sea Island Co., as the chair of the Georgia Cancer Coalition.

Women board members

The Board of Directors Network has highlighted four Georgia companies that recently have added women to their boards.

Carter’s Inc. appointed Venessa Castagna, a former retail executive, to its board.

Beazer Homes USA Inc. elected Norma Provencio, president and owner of Provencio Advisory Services Inc., to its board.

Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. elected Veronique Morali, vice chairman of the Fitch Group, to its board. And Invesco Ltd. appointed Phoebe Wood, a principal of CompaniesWood, to its board. Wood is a retired vice chairman and chief financial officer of Brown-Forman Corp.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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