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Interim chamber leader named

April 19, 2008

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Banking veteran to serve as interim President of Chamber

A veteran of the city's banking industry will serve as the interim President and CEO of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce. Enlarge video

Chuck Warner is coming out of retirement to lead the staff of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, and nobody's sure exactly when his return to work will end.

That's because Warner, who retired Dec. 31 as president of U.S. Bank in Lawrence, starts Monday as the chamber's interim president and chief executive officer - a job whose term won't expire until someone is hired to take over for Lavern Squier, who resigned from the post earlier this month.

And after turning down several other opportunities for employment, Warner couldn't say no to a job where he figures to be on the payroll for six months to a year.

"I'm not in a situation where I'm just a caretaker," Warner said. "But, on the other hand, there are things that will be left for the next person. We've just got to be moving in the right direction."

Warner is the perfect choice to bridge the transition between his predecessor - Squier, who had been on the job for nearly five years - and eventual successor, said Jim Otten, chamber chairman.

Warner's leadership capabilities, community knowledge, sense of economic-development challenges, "terrific integrity" and "track record of community involvement" all added up to an easy choice for an interim leader, Otten said.

"We couldn't think of anyone better," Otten said.

Directors plan to hire an executive search firm during the next week to help them appoint the committee, meet with community partners and come up with a job description for the leader of the community's largest business organization, one that contracts with the city to handle economic-development efforts.

The committee should be in place within two weeks, Otten said, but no timeline has been set for settling on a new president and CEO.

"We're going to look until we find the very best person, and right person for the job," said Otten, a Lawrence dentist.

Warner returns to work after 38 years in business and banking in Lawrence. He spent 18 years at Centron Corp., a producer of educational and industrial films, before joining First National Bank of Lawrence in 1988.

He is chairman-elect of the board of directors for the United Way of Douglas County.

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