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.
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.