With a background in economic development, McClarty came to the chamber at the time when the organization was struggling and in need of new leadership. Membership then was at a little more than 300 businesses, and now McClarty said he leaves the organization with more than 600 business members.
During his tenure, McClarty said the chamber has been able to get more major companies back engaged with the organization.
“Our board has transformed itself and having folks like John Shelton really intimately involved — we have a lot of senior level executives we didn’t have when I first started,” he said.
Shelton, president and CEO of DeKalb Medical Center and the chamber’s board chair, said McClarty took the chamber from struggling to doing well and is responsible for forging a new relationship with the county’s school district.
“Last year when the county was going through issues with the board of education, the chamber worked very close with the governor’s office and [DeKalb schools superintendent] Michael Thurmond to help stabilize and get the right people in the right spot to get the schools in a better position,” said Shelton.
Thurmond said the new relationship between the school district and the chamber is owed to McClarty’s leadership.
“We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Leonardo for his nearly 10 years of dedicated service to DeKalb County,” he said. “He clearly understands the importance of building partnerships between business, residents and education that are necessary for improving our quality of life.”
In recent years, the chamber has been able to take on more substantive projects like economic development, said McClarty. He said his biggest accomplishment is the chamber has earned the respect of the business community, local government officials and the educational community.
“I see now, for instance, when there are major initiatives, it’s the chamber being asked to be involved or to spearhead, or we are asked if something is good for the county,” he said. “The fact that our opinions are being sought — that’s something that I’m most proud of.”
Lee May, interim CEO of the county, said McClarty has been a committed and visionary leader for DeKalb.
“Under his leadership the organization has grown in size and stature to become the unified voice of the DeKalb County business community,” he said. “We wish him great success in his new role as he leaves big shoes to fill here in DeKalb County.”
Shelton added that McClarty’s representation of the chamber has been exemplary. He said the chamber has done many creative activities to help businesses get stronger, such as after-hour events and luncheons to allow networking to occur.
On the future of the chamber, McClarty said the business community as a whole has to buy in and support the organization. McClarty will become the economic development director for York, Pa., and said this new endeavor will expand his expertise and will be an exciting challenge.