The Augusta Metro and Columbia County Chambers of Commerce did not have to look very far for a temporary leader.
On Monday, chamber officials named longtime Augusta businessman Ed Presnell as the group's interim president.
The Augusta Metro Chamber's top position has been empty since June 20, when Jim West resigned after 4 1/2 years in office.
Mr. Presnell, a 30-year resident of Augusta who has served in numerous volunteer positions with the chamber and its executive committee, most recently worked for KMC Telecom as the phone company's regional vice president.
He is also a former president of the Greater Augusta Sports Council and is a leading official for the annual Red Carpet Tour, which takes company executives on a statewide trip during Masters Week.
"He's going to hit the ground running and has got a head start on what we would have had, frankly, if we'd tried to go out and try to bring somebody in from outside of the community," said Augusta Metro Chamber Chairman Robert Osborne.
Mr. Presnell is also in the running to be a permanent replacement for Mr. West, Mr. Osborne said.
He said a search committee will form in the next week to screen nationwide applicants and a decision is expected within three months.
A search is also under way for a new senior vice president of economic development, a position vacated by Kevin Shea earlier this year.
"We will get that search cranked back up and probably expand it a little bit," Mr. Osborne said.
Mr. Presnell's immediate focus will be supervising the chamber's daily operations and examining its organization to make it more efficient.
He will also be responsible for the group's economic development mission, which involves attracting new industry to Richmond, Columbia and Burke counties.
His challenge will be persuading all three member counties to support the chamber's regional approach to recruiting business, instead of breaking off to form separate groups.
Leading up to Mr. West's resignation, some Augusta city leaders had criticized the chamber for failing to attract substantial new industry to the area and had discussed creating a government-run economic development office.
Mr. Presnell said his local connections will help ease the transition into the job.
"I think understanding the overall community-at-large (and) the regional approach meshes into what I think will be a good strength for us," he said.
Reach Vicky Eckenrode at (706) 823-3227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.