Charles Wood named interim head of Chattanooga’s Chamber of Commerce

Contributed photo from the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce / Charles Wood

After heading economic development for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce for the past decade, Charles Wood was chosen Thursday to serve as interim CEO of the organization while its board begins a search for a successor to outgoing Chamber President Christy Gillenwater.

Gillenwater, who has headed the Chamber for the past five years, is leaving Chattanooga at the end of the year to become CEO of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce in January.

Janelle Reilly, CEO of CHI Memorial Hospital and chair of the chamber board of directors, announced the interim appointment of Wood following a chamber board meeting and said a search effort is underway to identify a permanent successor for Gillenwater.

"With more than 10 years' experience here in Chattanooga and Hamilton County and having served in key economic development positions over 20 years, Charles Wood will provide consistent, strategic leadership during this critical transition time," Reilly said in a statement Thursday. "We're pleased he accepted the interim role."

Gillenwater and Wood will continue to work together in November and December, along with the senior leadership team to ensure a seamless transition, Reilly said.

"Stepping into an interim leadership role in our amazing community is an honor and a privilege," Wood said in the statement Thursday. "As the voice for business in our area, we will continue to work together with our community partners to execute our five-year economic and talent development plan, as well as champion our member businesses."

Wood joined the chamber in 2012 and has worked alongside several city government and Hamilton County government administrations. He led the creation of the chamber's first economic and talent development strategy and supported the creation of more than 14,000 jobs and billions of dollars of investment in the Chattanooga region.

Prior to joining the Chattanooga chamber, he held positions at chambers of commerce in Pensacola, Florida, and Mobile, Alabama, as well as economic development positions in Texas and Mississippi. Wood earned his bachelor's degree in international studies and a master's degree in economic development from the University of Southern Mississippi.

The Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce is the leading business association and economic development organization for the Chattanooga region. Founded in 1887, the chamber's membership consists of nearly 1,900 companies, which collectively employ more than 100,000 people.

-- Compiled by Dave Flessner