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Suwanee's Masino takes Chamber job; mayor to serve out term, will lead economic development

arielle.kass@gwinnettdailypost.com

LAWRENCEVILLE - Suwanee's mayor will become Gwinnett's chief business recruiter when he joins the staff of the Chamber of Commerce on Monday.

Mayor Nick Masino, who was the youngest mayor in the state when he was elected at the age of 28 in 2000, will be allowed to serve out the remaining 11 months of his second term. He will transition into the job of vice president of economic development over the coming year.

The chamber role was left vacant when Scott Morris was indicted in Virginia last month on child pornography charges.

Masino said he sees the chamber job as an extension of his public service.

"I never got involved because of political aspirations; I wanted to have involvement and input in the community I lived in," Masino said. "The way I look at it, I get to serve at a larger level."

The mayor's experience and reputation with state and local leaders put him in a good position to head the business recruitment efforts, chamber President Jim Maran said.

"He's well-respected by people involved in politics in the entire state of Georgia. He's well-recognized as being a major player," Maran said. "He's smart, energetic. He's just what we need. He's a good man."

As mayor, Masino played a critical role in drawing Hewlett-Packard to Suwanee. The company was the first to take advantage of county tax incentives meant to lure businesses.

Masino also said he helped recruit Google to a local data center and was on a team that helped convince a company to remain in the county after a merger.

In the economic development position, he will also be in charge of Partnership Gwinnett, a chamber-led effort to improve the quality of life and economic climate in the county.

Masino has worked as a stake holder on the visioning effort for the past year, and said he was "most excited about building a consensus around the findings" with officials from the county government, cities, schools, hospitals and other entities.

"I have a proven track record of consensus building," he said. "I've built a reputation in Suwanee of turning challenging situations into opportunities."

Morris, who previously led the Partnership effort, was arrested at the chamber Jan. 17 on 20 felony charges stemming from an investigation into images found on a laptop he used when he was director of the Halifax County, Va. Industrial Development Authority.

Both Masino and Maran said the chamber's reputation remains intact, and they look forward to moving on with the work of bringing business to the county.

"People in Gwinnett County really rallied behind the chamber," Maran said. "We had nothing but positive support out of everybody about the entire incident."

For the mayor, the new job opportunity means he will be able to spend more time at home with his three young children.

He worked for nearly a dozen years in the recruiting and staffing industry, and recently had to do a lot of traveling.

Masino said he was proud of his time at Suwanee's helm. During his tenure, the city became a leader in changing development patterns to require open space and allow a mixing of business and residential uses. He also championed greenspace and was a leader in creating the city's Town Center.

"When I was elected mayor, people said, 'Where is Suwanee?' Now, Suwanee's on the map," he said. "I'm closing a chapter in one part of my life, and I'm really excited to start a new chapter."