Chattanooga Chamber Board taps Ron Harr as next CEO

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The Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce Board has tapped former BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee executive Ron Harr to succeed Tom Edd Wilson as the organization’s President and CEO.

“I think the Board has made a very good choice,” said Wilson. “I’ve known Ron for more than ten years as both a highly effective executive and a dedicated Chamber volunteer. He has a deep commitment to this community and especially to the Chamber. He also has great relationships both with our elected leadership and throughout the business community as well as an excellent track record for getting things done in a range of areas.”

“I am humbled by this opportunity to lead the Chattanooga Chamber,” said Harr. “Under Tom Edd’s leadership, the Chamber has earned a well-deserved, national reputation for spurring the local economy for the benefit of both its member businesses and the community at large. My goal is to build on and extend Tom Edd’s legacy of making significant contributions to positioning the Chattanooga area as one of America’s best places.”

“The Board’s decision to designate Harr for this critical position is the culmination of an exhaustive national and local search,” said Tom Griscom, Chair of the Chamber’s Transition Committee and former Chamber Board Chair 2008-2009. “Beginning with a field of more than 130 candidates from all over the country, we completed numerous rounds of screening and interviewing. Ron Harr rose to the top because of the depth and breadth of his experience.”

According to current Chamber Board Chair Mike St. Charles, Harr has proven experience in a number of critical areas. “Although much of Ron’s career has been with large companies, small businesses have made up the vast majority of the customer base he’s worked with so successfully,” St. Charles said. “He’s also led extremely successful efforts to enhance diversity both in hiring and contracting. These are just two examples of Ron’s skill at bridging across perceived differences to create shared opportunities.”

“I applaud the Chamber Board’s decision,” said Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield. “Ron Harr has served this community long and well as a business leader and volunteer. I believe he will do an excellent job of stewarding the Chattanooga area’s comprehensive job creation strategy as an effective public-private partnership.”

“The Chattanooga Chamber is one of the best in the country,” said Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger. “Tom Edd Wilson has done an outstanding job of leading this essential organization, and I believe Ron Harr is a great choice for continuing the track-record of excellence and success the Chamber has established over the last ten years. Like Tom Edd, who retired from a career in banking to the lead the Chamber, Ron combines private sector business experience and deep local connections with an abiding commitment to the community.”

From 1995 until he retired in 2011, Harr served as a vice president and senior vice president at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee with a range of responsibilities including communications, public affairs and human resources. His previous positions included executive and management positions at BellSouth Telecommunications, Buntin Advertising, AT&T and Lavidge and Associates Advertising.

Throughout his career, Harr has volunteered with the Nashville Chamber, the Knoxville Chamber, the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry (TCCI) and most recently and long-lastingly with the Chattanooga Chamber. In addition to serving on the boards of all of these organizations he has chaired numerous chamber committees including Publications (Nashville), Membership (Knoxville), Public Policy (for both TCCI and the Chattanooga Chamber) and Education (a committee he formed for the Chattanooga Chamber). He also served as Board Chair for the Chattanooga Chamber in fiscal year 2010-2011 and has been a board member since 2002.

In addition, Harr is a dedicated Rotarian who has served on numerous non-profit boards. He is currently Board Chair of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Chattanooga and serves on the Board of Visitors for the University of Tennessee College of Communications and Information. Harr was the Susan B. Komen “Pink Tie Guy” in 2011.

A graduate of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and the McCallie School, Harr is married and has two children. For recreation, he enjoys sailing and photography.

Details related to Harr’s start date and the exact timeline for the transition remain to be determined, but in accordance with the previously announced working schedule, Wilson will continue to lead the Chamber to ensure continuity as Harr joins the team. The plan calls for significant overlap with Wilson’s retirement taking place during the first quarter of 2013.


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