Staff Photo: Camie Young — Dan Kaufman began his new job Monday as the president and CEO of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce.
DULUTH -- Boxes of books and files are stacked out of the way in Dan Kaufman's new office.
The only picture on the wall was left by the former occupant, although a commendation from students at Georgia Gwinnett College, the institution Kaufman helped launch, waits to be hanged, still in its bubble wrap.
In his first few hours at the helm of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce Monday, Kaufman has done little to unpack. He's been busy with meetings and other administrative matters.
But he was sure to set up his screen saver -- a photo of the grandkids posed in GGC jerseys -- and set aside a special place for the one personal item he found a spot for on his desk: a miniature prayer rug from Afghanistan.
"It reminds me how blessed we are," said Kaufman, a retired brigadier general in the Army, who has served everywhere from the Middle East to the White House to West Point before retiring to open GGC in 2006.
Turning toward a business organization, Kaufman said, is just another extension of public service.
His calendar is already full of appointments with Gwinnett leaders, including a trip on his first day to the Lawrenceville office of Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Charlotte Nash and meetings scheduled with all 16 of Gwinnett's mayors.
"I want to go to them and have them talk about their community ... and what the Chamber can do for them," Kaufman said, adding that he wants the organization to be the key link between the business community, healthcare, education, government, arts and more to continue Gwinnett's success as a "vibrant, diverse community of choice." "I want to talk to people and just learn. I want to get out the notion that this is really the locus of discussion."
After two days of "retirement," which he spent doing yard work, Kaufman began the first day of his new career in the same way he has for decades, with an early morning session of calisthenics and sit-ups.
His lunchtime runs may be interuppted by more power lunches, but Kaufman said he doesn't mind.
The calendar is already filling up, but Kaufman wants to make sure he is focusing on the right things to improve the local economy.
With the first few days set for meetings with staff and briefings on the budget and membership, Kaufman said he knows he is the "rookie" in a successful organization, and he plans to pay attention to the oft-repeated "free advice" from friends: "don't screw it up."
Phil Wolfe, the president and CEO of Gwinnett Medical Center, who is currently the Chamber board's chairman and a personal friend and neighbor of Kaufman's, said he did not offer advice. He feels confident in Kaufman as the right person to get the job done.
"Dan is the perfect leader to help the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce continue to be the premier Chamber in the U.S.," Wolfe said Monday. "His leadership skills and ability will make Gwinnett a great community to live, learn, work and play."