A Fond Farewell

Amanda Ellis

Chattanooga Chamber Vice President of Public Strategies Rob Bradham leaves one Chamber for another as he joins the Greater Dalton Chamber as President and CEO. Here he shares his thoughts about his time at the Chattanooga Chamber.

Trend: What accomplishment makes you feel the most pride?

Bradham: I think I’ve contributed positively to our Chamber’s credibility. I also like to think that I’m leaving Chattanooga better than I found it. That’s the whole reason I fell in love with Chamber work in the first place. I’m blessed that somebody pays me every day to work on things that make my community a better place.

That being said, helping the guys at Chattanooga Whiskey Co. through the legislative and political process that allowed them to build their distillery was probably the most fun I’ve ever had professionally.

T: What are you looking forward to in your new role?

B: The opportunity to lead a Chamber, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I’m deeply appreciative of the Dalton Chamber’s Executive Board giving me this opportunity.

Dalton is interested in diversifying its economy, reenergizing downtown and creating solutions to workforce issues. I’m looking forward to working on all of those.

T: How did you end up at the Chattanooga Chamber? What were your previous jobs like?

B: I began my career as a contract lobbyist in a small firm in Virginia. I’ll never forget the firm’s owner telling me that it was okay for me to make mistakes, but that I’d be fired on the spot if I ever lied to her, a client or an elected official. It really set the tone for my career.

At that time, my career goal was to move to Richmond, Virginia’s capital, and become a partner in one of the large lobbying firms or run a large state trade association that lobbied the state legislature. In order to get myself to Richmond, I took a job doing public policy for the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce. I never expected to fall in love with the chamber world, but I discovered that I liked doing the community, business and economic development work that local Chambers do more than I liked lobbying state legislators.

After a few years in Richmond, my wife decided she wanted to move back home to Chattanooga. Miraculously, the Chattanooga Chamber had an opening in the Vice President of Public Strategies role, and here we are.

T: What is something about you that few people know?

B: That I was an avid surfer until I moved to Chattanooga. Also that I’m an INTJ on the Myers Briggs scale, and a massive introvert.

T: What book has particularly influenced you and why?

B: I studied early American history and political theory in college. “The Federalist Papers” aren’t really a book per se, but they influenced my thinking about government and the relationships between the government and various constituencies.

Tim Russert’s book “Big Russ and Me” had a profound impact on how I thought about role models generally and fatherhood in particular. Any new or aspiring dad needs to read that book.

T: What was your very first job?

B: At 16, I was a cashier at a Kentucky Fried Chicken in Virginia Beach. I didn’t have a car, so I rode my bike 3 miles each way rain or shine. The rainy days weren’t much fun, but I learned about responsibility, independence and working to earn the things you want.

T: What do you see as the most important qualities in a leader?

B: Integrity − I have noticed that leaders whose integrity is beyond question have no trouble rallying employees, citizens or colleagues around their work or cause. If, at the end of the day, all people can say about me is that I had a lot of integrity, I will be a happy man.

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