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Norwich — Benjamin P. Lathrop, the affable 64-year-old former mayor of Norwich who has kept a low profile for the past three years, has been named the new president and executive director of the Greater Norwich Area Chamber of Commerce.
Lathrop replaces Nancy Gray, who resigned from the post earlier this month. He officially begins his new duties Aug. 1 but plans to attend a Business After Hours event today.
"I'm back," said Lathrop, city mayor from 2005 to 2009, after the announcement Wednesday morning at the chamber's offices on Main Street.
"We are pleased to have him leading the charge," said Stacie Lambert, chairman of the Norwich chamber's board of directors. "He understands the challenges that face businesses both large and small."
Lambert said in a separate interview that Lathrop's name came up as the board ran through possible replacements for Gray. A community member subsequently called Lathrop, she said, and talks proceeded from there.
Lathrop, a Norwich resident, previously had worked for Shipman's Fire Equipment Co. of Waterford. He retired there July 20 in anticipation of taking the chamber job.
"What I envision is to make a difference," Lathrop said to about 40 chamber members crammed into the organization's two-person office space. "I won't disappoint you."
Lathrop, a Democrat as mayor, said he brought no political agenda to the job. His main interests, he said, are in growing the chamber membership — now at about 400 — and in helping local businesspeople make personal connections with one another.
"I won't be involved with politics," he said, "but I will be involved in business and the businesses in our area."