Many people might know Joel Harris as lieutenant governor of the Kiwanis Club for Mineola, last year’s Businessperson of the Year recipient, a photographer for village and town events and most recently as vice president of the village’s Chamber of Commerce. But now, Harris is stepping into a brand new role within the chamber.
Recently, Harris was sworn-in as the new president of the Mineola Chamber of Commerce by Mayor Scott Strauss. Lou Panacciulli, the director of the Nassau Pops Symphony Orchestra, is Harris’ vice president.
“It was actually an easy transition [becoming president] because right before Tony Lubrano became president, he had asked me to be his vice president,” said Harris who is a 50-year resident of Mineola. “So it is a normal progression to go from vice president to president of the chamber. I’ve had three years’ worth of preparation for this.”
The president of a chamber of commerce is the board leader, which was something Harris said modestly.
“I hate using that word [leader] because I always want to think of us in terms of a team. The board works very, very cohesively as a team,” said Harris. “It’s not like a normal board where you have a president and the president is running everything. It’s really a team effort.”
For his swearing-in ceremony, Harris wanted to make sure that the evening was more about celebrating Lubrano and all of his accomplishments as the former president.
“I wanted to make this more of a celebration of the work of Tony Lubrano for the last three years instead of the actual swearing in of Joel Harris as the new president,” explained Harris. “I wanted to do something special [for him]. We had proclamations for Tony from Governor Cuomo, from the Town of North Hempstead, Judi Bosworth, Rich Nicolello and Jack Schnirman who is the county comptroller.”
As president, Harris said he wants to make the chamber of commerce more residential by bringing more awareness.
“Businesses understand the chamber of commerce but residents generally don’t,” said Harris. “I want to do more things and get the residents involved. We’re already working on a couple of projects that will directly affect the residents of Mineola.”
The chamber is involved with movie nights at Wilson Park and run the annual Mineola Street Fair every September.
“We do a lot of things for the residents but we don’t do anything very specific that comes down to how can we help you as a household or what can we do for you,” said Harris.
One example of a newfound relationship between residents and the chamber is that the chamber has distributed a folder to new residents with information supplied by its members for specials and discounts.
Overall, Harris said he’s excited to start his new role as president.
“I really want to stress that we have an incredible board of directors made up of many, many past presidents who have only remained extremely active in the ongoing Mineola Chamber of Commerce,” said Harris. “I am really looking forward to working with them in this new capacity and to continue our great chamber and to see its growth.”