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Chamber gala to be musical event

Craig Myer as “Almost Elton John” will be a part of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce twin musical attractions at their 102nd annual meeting on Jan. 19. The other featured act will be classical violinist, Gareth Johnson, a visiting professor at Albany State University.

Craig Myer as “Almost Elton John” will be a part of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce twin musical attractions at their 102nd annual meeting on Jan. 19. The other featured act will be classical violinist, Gareth Johnson, a visiting professor at Albany State University.

ALBANY -- The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce will hold its 102nd annual meeting Jan. 19 at the Darton College Cavalier Arena, according to Rachelle Bitterman, director of communications for the Chamber.

Bitterman said that while recent annual meetings are designed more as opportunities for members to unwind, enjoy an evening together and recognize the progress of a past year, there will be a business side to this year's black-tie event.

"There will be a passing of the gavel," Bitterman said, "from past chamber chair Judy Randle to the current chair, Miles Espy, who will make a statement. Past board members will be thanked for all their efforts, and the new board will be recognized."

New chamber board members for 2012, according to a list provided by Bitterman, are Jim Deal, Eric Hodges, Pamela Jackson, Deidra Langstaff, Junian Price, Jenny Savelle, Tom Sullivan, Tom Tenney and Jim Wilcox.

Beyond the aforementioned business tributes, the bulk of the evening will focus on music, dinner and social enjoyment. "Together they Rock" is the theme for the evening, according to Bitterman, which will feature the melodies of Gareth Johnson, a classical violinist and visiting professor at Albany State University, contrasted with contemporary tunes of Craig Meyer's "Almost Elton John."

Incoming chair Espy, whose platform message is "Together We Can," said he viewed the evening as a dynamic kickoff to the new business year.

"I've enjoyed being a part of the chamber, as part of a really great team," he said. "I look forward to serving our community in the capacity of chairman."

Espy said that one of the key tasks facing next year's chamber is to find a replacement for former president and CEO Catherine Glover, and he praised interim President Bobby McKinney as "a prince of a man" and a great asset to the chamber and the community.

"He's very kind to provide his leadership in a volunteer capacity," Espy said.

According to Espy, the 2012 chamber has a strategic plan for business in place for the next five years.

"The objectives are laid out, and all we have to do is follow them," he said.

Deborah Bowie, senior director of public policy and communications for the chamber, said Espy's message should not be taken lightly by the chamber membership or the business community.

"Its a serious message," Bowie said. "We can make the community work better, but we have to do it by working together and with other communities. That's happening already, so we just need to expand on that."

According to Bowie, a quality-of-life book will be unveiled and presented to all in attendance.

"The forum this year is water," Bowie said. "There are wonderful pictures of water settings, like those at Radium. This is a wonderful coffee table book that shows and discusses water and how much it means to everyone in our region."

According to Cherie Douthit, special events and outreach coordinator at the chamber, the annual chamber meeting will feature a reception beginning at 5:30 p.m., during which the Darton College Jazz Band will perform. Dinner and the primary entertainment will began at 6:30 p.m.

The event is open to the public, Douthit said, with tickets purchased before Jan. 16 priced at $60 per person and available on the Chamber website, www.albanyga.com, or by calling Douthit at (229) 317-7188. After that date, tickets will be $75 per person. Ticket prices include the reception, dinner and entertainment.