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Local business man is 'the right guy at the right time
Carter brings small business mentality to Georgia Chamber of Commerce position
Doug Carter and father Don Carter look at plans of the new Don Carter State Park Tuesday afternoon inside the offices of Don Carter Realty Co. on Candler Street. Broker Doug Carter is the chairman-elect of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

Doug Carter will tell you that he has a hard time saying no.

The Gainesville businessman has sat on the board of countless county agencies, chaired a handful of nonprofits and even jumped on stage in community theater productions.

In January, he'll add one more title to his resume when he takes over as chair of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

Carter is the president of Don Carter Realty Co., a family owned business founded by his father in 1965.

Having his hands in all aspects of his family company, Carter said, has given him a distinctly small business focus.

"We have had many large industry presidents and CEOs who have been chair of the chamber," he said. "And I always tease with the staff that about half the time they call my office, I might answer the phone."

Many say Carter's small-business mentality makes him especially qualified to chair the chamber, which is made up of approximately 60 percent small business owners.

"Doug is the right guy at the right time," said Chris Clark, president and CEO of the chamber.

"...You can't run a volunteer association or organization of any kind authoritatively. You really have to be a bridge builder. You have to be willing to listen, and Doug does that."

A product of Gainesville schools, Carter moved back to Gainesville a few years after graduating from Wake Forest University, where he met his wife Sandy.

A strong desire to work with his father, Doug Carter, and fond memories of his childhood here drew him back.

"I had seen through (my father) the ability, through real estate, to make an impact on the community, to develop projects, to work through real estate on quality of life issues."

Carter has been involved in the development of two Gainesville schools, a South Hall water plant and the new Gainesville public safety complex. He's served as chair of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, the North Georgia Community Foundation and the Quinlan Visual Arts Center, and as a member of the Gainesville planning and zoning board.

In the mid-90s, Carter became involved with Leadership Georgia, an organization that brings together professionals to study issues of importance to the state. As chair of that organization in 1999, he also became a member of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. Over the next decade, he served in several positions with the chamber, including chair-elect this past year.

Colleagues sometimes question Carter about his long list of passions and projects.

But one position, serving as chair of the Northeast Georgia Medical Center Board, carries not just a professional but a personal importance, Carter said.

Carter's son Shaw was born with a major congenital heart defect. In 17 years, the family has gone through three open heart surgeries, 10 catherizations and countless medical challenges. But thanks to great doctors, Shaw is in good health and graduating this year from Gainesville High School.

"Having had a personal experience like that really brought home to me how important it is for community leadership to work with your medical care and community and do your small little part in hoping to improve it," Carter said.

Those who know him well say that Carter's commitment to improving Gainesville is unwavering.

"I've heard him say that it's not enough to live in a community, that you have an obligation to give back," said John Vardeman, a friend of Carter's for nearly 35 years.

Vardeman added that Carter's commitment to community service is offset by a lively sense of humor.

"Doug is the biggest practical joker of everyone that I know," he said.

Carter once stopped by Vardeman's house after he had gone to bed and began tapping on the windows, scaring Vardeman so badly that he set off the security system.

"If I had had a gun," Vardeman said with a laugh, "I probably would have shot him."

Carter will officially take office on Jan. 10, inauguration day. As chair of the chamber, he will head an organization that is heavily involved in the legislative side of business policy at a time when many of Georgia's small businesses are struggling.

"This economy has changed the way all of us have done and will do business," he said "...But I think in times where it is more difficult, that's when it is so important for, collectively, groups to work together."


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