Sonia Douglas steps down at Gainesville chamber


Sonia Douglas, center, talks with others gathered to discuss how Innovation Square, Depot Park and Waldo Road developments would affect the local economy in this July 21, 2011 file photo. She is stepping down as vice president and chief operating officer of the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 5:10 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 5:10 p.m.

Sonia Douglas is stepping down as vice president and chief operating officer after 20 years at the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce effective Jan. 31 to pursue other opportunities.

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Sonia Douglas, center, talks with others gathered to discuss how Innovation Square, Depot Park and Waldo Road developments would affect the local economy in this July 21, 2011 file photo. She is stepping down as vice president and chief operating officer of the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun

Douglas, 55, said it is the perfect time to start a new chapter in her life and take time to explore the many opportunities available in the community.

"It's just a huge step of faith that God is going to provide the next thing in my life that he wants for me to do," she said.

Douglas said she needed to make a clean break to be able to do that.

"It's difficult when you've worked at the chamber as long as I have and the relationships you create with other businesses to go out and say 'I'm interested in what you're doing.' They say, 'I can't take you away from the chamber. I need you in the chamber.'"

Douglas started as administrative assistant at the chamber in 1993 and rose through the ranks. She served as interim president and CEO last summer between the tenures of Brent Christensen and Tim Giuliani.

She led the effort when the organization was first accredited by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as a 4-Star Chamber in 2003, followed in 2009 by 5-Star accreditation, a designation held by less than 1 percent of chambers.

Douglas also led the chamber's close working relationship with the Alachua/Bradford Workforce Board and helped lead the Innovation Gainesville economic development initiative.

"Sonia is an outstanding leader who helped guide the chamber's transformation into one of the top chambers in the country," said Mike Gallagher, 2012 chairman of the chamber's Board of Directors and president & CEO of SantaFe HealthCare, in a news release. "We're sorry to lose Sonia, but fully support her desire to continue to be involved in our community."

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