New Leadership Team Takes Charge

Chamber Chairman Rob Fowler has been an active Chamber member since moving back to Hall County in 1994. He served two years as head of the Chamber’s membership division. In that time, the division grew by some 15 percent and remains the backbone of the Chamber of Commerce. In his role as Chamber Chairman, Fowler seeks to maintain his commitment to membership while focusing on leadership, growth issues and economic development.

A 1997 graduate of Leadership Hall County, Rob is a firm believer in leadership building. “If you develop people first, economic progress will follow,” said Fowler. “Communities need leaders who can recognize strengths, work on issues that need improvement and lead residents to consensus about the kind of future they want. Your chamber provides the credibility and leadership necessary to address public issues and bring together the right people to create vision and solve problems – defined as collaborative leadership.”

A native of Gainesville, Rob is Vice President of Employee Benefits at HRH Turner Wood and Smith in Gainesville and has been with the company since 1996. Rob has worked hard to establish himself as an employee benefits expert in the area while balancing his ability to give back to the community, and in 2002 was named one of the top 20 producing brokers out of over 700 in the company. He is also one of the top 250 insurance brokers in the U.S. for Wellpoint, owner of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia. In 2003, he was named “Insurance Man of the Year” by fellow insurance professionals in Gainesville.

“Leadership for Community Success is the Chamber’s business plan theme this year,” said Fowler. “My focus as chairman will be to further develop leadership programs, leadership in relationships, in government, community development, youth and seniors. I have initiated a new program ­a Leadership Summit ­ to take place in January 2005 and involve all community leadership.”

A supporter of volunteerism in the community, Rob has served on many local agencies including Boy Scouts of America (1976 Eagle Scout), United Way of Hall County, The Gainesville Rotary Club, Chattahoochee Country Club (President-Elect), Rehabilitation Industries of Northeast Georgia, City of Gainesville Personnel Board (currently Chairman), Salvation Army, Northeast Georgia Medical Center Foundation, Gainesville-Hall County Development Authority, Toastmasters and North Georgia College and State University Alumni Council.

Local business executive John Vardeman is 2004-05 Chairman-Elect of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce. Vardeman is principal owner and president of Morton Vardeman & Carlson, a full-service advertising and public relations firm, the oldest and largest in Northeast Georgia. The agency has been a Chamber member since its founding in 1973.

A former journalist with the Atlanta Constitution, Vardeman has served on numerous marketing-related Chamber committees since moving back to his native Gainesville hometown in 1988 ­ Hall Together, the HALLMark Initiative, both the education SPLOST campaigns, and the Greater Hall Chamber¹s Marketing Council. He also has served as vice president of the Chamber’s marketing division.

A graduate of the Chamber’s Leadership Hall program, he was selected in 1996 to participate in the Leadership Georgia program, eventually joining that organization’s board of trustees for three years.

In the Gainesville and Hall County community, Vardeman has served as president of the Gainesville Rotary Club and as a board member with Eagle Ranch, the Family Relations Program for sexually abused children, and the Gainesville Ballet. He has been recognized for his community service with the Gainesville/Hall County Young Man of the Year Award in 1995 and the Eagle Award for service to Eagle Ranch. Vardeman is the author of a non-fiction book, On Eagle’s Wings, that chronicles the story behind the founding of Eagle Ranch.

In 2000, Vardeman was appointed by then-Georgia Governor Roy Barnes to serve on the Georgia Workforce Development Board for a two-year period.

“President John F. Kennedy once said that leadership and learning are indispensable to each other. And in my opinion, our best leaders today aren’t necessarily born leaders but those who have been taught to lead and are well-informed on the issues,” Vardeman said. “I whole-heartedly support Greater Hall Chamber Chairman Rob Fowler’s Leadership Development Initiative and look forward to continuing to build upon this program during my 2005-06 chairman¹s term with the Chamber.”

President and Chief Executive Officer of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce since 1998, Kit Dunlap has guided the Chamber through many challenges and grown the organization into one of the most well respected in the state. During her years as president, she’s overseen two multi-million dollar community/economic development initiatives ­ HALLTOGETHER and HALLMARK ­ along with four SPLOST referendums for education and infrastructure, a new building, staff and division restructuring, and program expansions.

During Kit’s tenure our economy has experienced very positive and some challenging times, yet the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce stands as solid as ever in a new 10,000 square foot, state-of the art facility, with a professional staff of 12 and some 2,400 members strong. Through the efforts and tenacity of the Gainesville and Hall County Economic Development Council and existing industry expansions, we’ve managed to add 911 new jobs and over $153 million to our local economy in the last two years, even with seven plant closings.

A native of Jasper, Alabama and a Brenau College graduate, Kit is at the top of the industry among fellow Chamber executives and has a strong economic development background. She served on the Board of the Georgia Department of Industry, Trade & Tourism for 10 years and chairman for two years. She was a founding member of the Gainesville/Hall County Economic Development Council in 1992 and served as the council’s first chairman.

She is serving currently as Board member for the Northeast Georgia Medical Center, the German American Chamber of Commerce-South, SunTrust Bank, Northeast Georgia and Main Street Gainesville. Kit serves as Vice-Chairman of the Metro North Georgia Water Planning District. She has recently served on the Metro Atlanta Quality Growth Task Force with 60 metro Atlanta business, government, environmental leaders and private citizens.

“I am very proud to serve businesses and our community in the role as President of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce,” she said. “Everyday, I continue to be enthused and motivated with making a difference in our quality of life. Gainesville­-Hall County Georgia is truly the best place in the world to work, to play, to live, and to stay!”