The Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce reflected on 2022 while announcing 2023 primary goals during the organization’s 52nd Annual Meeting held Thursday, January 19.  Sponsored by Northside Hospital Cherokee, the event featured Georgia’s Commissioner of Labor Bruce Thompson as the keynote speaker.

In the changing of the guard, Outgoing Board Chair, Brian Stevens, CEO & Co-Owner of FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers, passed the gavel to 2023 Chair Trey Ragsdale, External Affairs, Kaiser Permanente.

In sharing 2022 successes, outgoing Chair Stevens announced, “In 2021, over 4,100 current & future members attended the variety of events offered by the Chamber, while 173 new members were recruited to the Chamber bringing our year-end membership total to 1,084 resulting in a 2021 Membership Retention Rate of 86%.  Also in 2022, the Chamber participated in the National Lemonade Day program through the generosity of a grant from the Mott Foundation, supporting the entrepreneurial spirit of third through fifth grade students in our community and recognized 10 rising stars through the organization’s Top 10 in 10 initiative, while also honoring three of the 10 for being named to GeorgiaTrend Magazine’s 40 Under 40 – along with two former Top 10 in 10 designees … this bringing Cherokee County’s count to five of the 40 Under 40 winners in 2022!  A Women in Business Luncheon was coordinated during National Business Women’s Week which will expand to a half day event in 2023; the curriculum was revamped for the Teen Leadership Cherokee program for high school 10th graders now focusing on L.E.A.D. – Lead. Educate. Aspire. Drive. Chamber Volunteers and Staff coordinated and hosted three candidate forums introducing the community to the dozens of candidates seeking office in Cherokee County in 2023, and the Emerge professional development programs were increased with additional topics of interest to be presented in 2023.”  

Incoming Board Chair Ragsdale shared that in 2023, as in 2022, the Chamber Board of Directors and Staff will continue to carry out the Chamber’s Vision and Mission while focusing on the organization’s primary goals which are to connect leaders, create business growth opportunities, cultivate member-to-member relationships, enhance member benefits & existing programs, while increasing the organizations net membership.  In 2023 the internal and external teams will focus strategically through the Thrive 2025 Strategic Plan that was unveiled during the annual meeting.  “Through Thrive 2025, we will demonstrate our values of accountability, adaptability, collaboration, excellence, innovation, and a sense of family,” announced Chairman Ragsdale.

Those volunteers recognized for completing their service on the Chamber Board included Lori Baker, Next Step Ministries; Heather Blevins, The Pampered Chef; Randy Gravley, WLJA 101.1 FM & Enjoy Cherokee Magazine; Amy Leatherman, Universal Alloy Corporation; Abby Roach, Roach, Caudill & Frost; Rick Rowland, United Community Bank; Jud Waites, Waites Law Firm, and Jey Willis, State Farm Insurance Jey Willis Agency.  Immediate Past Chair Adam Smith, Synovus, was recognized for his six years of service.

The following volunteers are beginning a three-year term on the Chamber Board of Directors: Dr. Brian Hightower, Cherokee County School District; Kendall Jones, MUST Ministries; Vic Knight, Waste Management; Sherry Lowe-Cooke, COACHNWORKS, LLC; Debbie Underkoffler, North Georgia Staffing; Stephanie Villasenor, Cherokee Family Violence Center and Debra Williams, Synovus.  “These new Board members bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the table.  I look forward to serving alongside these volunteers along with those who will continue to serve on the Chamber Board as we work collaboratively to meet the Chamber’s mission,” shared Chairman Ragsdale.

Among the awards presented was the Annual First Citizen of Cherokee County recognition that was bestowed upon longtime Cherokee County resident Kendall Jones. “The Cherokee County Chamber is honored to name Kendall Jones as the 48th recipient of the prestigious First Citizen of Cherokee County Award.  The judges did an outstanding job in selecting him,” remarked Mr. Ragsdale.

Additional accolades went to Woodstock West by Walton, the 2023 Excellence in Customer Service Award winner and the Northside Hospital Cherokee Auxiliary was named the 2023 Non-Profit of the Year.  All award recipients were chosen by out-of-town judges just as the First Citizen is selected. The 2022 Chairman’s Council “Joan McFather Volunteer of the Year Award” was presented to Duane Jones with Foundation Financial, as he best-exemplified on-going dedication throughout the past year as a Chamber Ambassador while contributing dozens of volunteer hours on the Chairman’s Council.  This award, bearing the name of longtime Chamber volunteer Joan McFather, has been given in her name since her untimely passing in 2019.

The mission of the Cherokee County Chamber, a Georgia Certified Chamber, is to promote business to expand the economy and enrich the community.  To learn more about the Chamber, visit