New CEO of Lawrence Chamber of Commerce eager to take reins

The Lawrence Chamber of Commerce has a new leader. 57-year-old Tom Kern will take over in November.

September 17, 2008, 2:11 p.m. Updated September 17, 2008, 5:25 p.m.


He's billed as a unifier who helped implement a marketing and job retention and recruitment plan for the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce in the 1980s.

Now, Tom Kern will take over as CEO and president of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce with plans to work to try to build a consensus in a place where residents are often divided on how to proceed on business and development issues.

"I don't think I've ever run into a finer group of people anywhere in the country," Kern said of his visit two weeks ago to Lawrence.

Jim Otten, a Lawrence dentist and the chamber's chairman, notified staff members and made the announcement of Kern's selection at an event Wednesday afternoon at chamber headquarters, 734 Vt.

Kern, 57, is currently the chief operating officer for the Fairfax County, Va., chamber. In a phone interview Wednesday, Kern said he planned to move to Lawrence with his wife, Rosie, by November.

He is originally from Michigan and has worked in Virginia since 2006. He was looking to return to the Midwest. Kern also has experience as an assistant city manager and leading nonprofit organizations.

Chamber leaders conducted a national search to fill the position vacated by Lavern Squier. He resigned earlier this year and now works for the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce.

Chuck Warner, a retired bank president, has served as interim president and chief executive officer.

The chamber's board appointed a local search committee, and Waverly Partners, a national firm, contacted more than 200 people over several weeks. The committee interviewed five semifinalists, and two candidates, Kern, of McLean, Va., and George Guastello, of Leawood, interviewed in Lawrence earlier this month.

The search committee unanimously recommended Kern to the chamber's board of directors, who made another unanimous selection.

"He is genuine. He is authentic. He is obviously a tremendous consensus builder," Otten said. "He also came with a history of being able to get things done to facilitate change when change was necessary."

Joan Golden, a U.S. Bank vice president who led the search committee, said three key characteristics for candidates were leadership, communication and integrity.

"We feel very satisfied that Waverly led us to an individual that could meet our top needs in leadership for the organization," she said.

Kern said his first job in Lawrence would be to meet business and community leaders before crafting a plan to move forward.


ilovelucy 9 years, 9 months ago

Marion: we don't need local. Just like we didn't need local when they hired Corliss at City Hall.

Chris Ogle 9 years, 9 months ago

Sure hope he is aware Lawrence is in financial trouble.

Buggie7 9 years, 9 months ago

And this is news that should receive a red banner and the "Breaking news" statement why?

hail2oldku 9 years, 9 months ago

Lee - I think lucy was implying that we shouldn't have hired Corliss. That we could have done better if we had gone outside the brotherhood that is city hall.I also hope they can find a replacement to head up our schools from out of district. Too much good old boy action out on McDonald Drive.

Lee Saylor 9 years, 9 months ago

ilovelucy: what do you mean Corliss is not local?From :A former research attorney for the League of Kansas Municipalities, Corliss began working for the city in 1990 as a management analyst and was promoted to assistant to the city manager in 1992. In 1994, he assumed additional responsibilities as director of legal services. He was promoted to assistant city manager for administrative services in 2000 while retaining his role as director of legal services for the City.In 2006, he was named City Manager.Corliss received an undergraduate degree in political science, a Masters degree in public administration, and a law degree at the University of Kansas.

igby 9 years, 9 months ago

But before he takes the "rein's", he will at the next CC meeting ask them all to take the palm branch out of their A$$, so they can speak. Lol.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 9 months ago

Hopefully this selection will not become one of the corrupt good ole boys and girls!Need new blood in USD 497 .... not local

igby 9 years, 9 months ago

Jesus came to town ridding on a A$$ and waving a palm branch. However, he'll find all the A$$es already here and waiting for him with palm branches already shoved up their wazzwho.Welcome to Lawrence, hillbilly boy!

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