The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce has tapped local attorney Corey Atkins as its new public policy representative, a source tells me. He will start work in January.

The chamber’s public policy department has been empty since September, when both Jeff Joyce, the chamber’s former president of public policy, and Tobias Weas, the chamber’s former vice president of public policy, left the organization, the Asheville Citizen-Times (pay wall) reported earlier this week.

The Chamber had considered hiring former N.C. Sen. Tom Apodoca as a consultant, the newspaper reported. Hiring Apodoca was apparently too expensive for the Asheville Chamber, and the organization dropped the effort.

The Hendersonville Republican, a powerful member of the Senate until he resigned his seat this summer, was a lightning rod of controversy this year as he pushed legislation that would have required district elections for Asheville City Council members. The legislation didn’t pass.

Apodoca is planning to go to work as a lobbyist.

Through its public policy department, the chamber advocates for the interests of businesses at the local, state and federal level.

Atkins is a criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor who ran for an Asheville City Council seat in 2015. Atkins, of the firm Brazil & Burke P.A., specializes in criminal law, DUI cases and traffic violations. He lives in south Asheville and ran on a platform of pledging to retool the Asheville Police Department, promote small businesses and seek an ordinance to prohibit discrimination by businesses or other organizations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Here’s the full Chamber press release:

The Asheville Chamber is pleased to announce Corey Atkins joins the organization at the first of the year as Vice President of Public Policy.

In this role, Corey will execute the Chamber’s advocacy initiatives and work closely with the organization’s Advocacy & Policy Committee.

Corey joins the Chamber from Brazil & Burke, P.A. where he served as a partner representing clients in business litigation and local government and advised local government agencies on public policy.

“We’re excited to have Corey joining us,” said Kit Cramer, President and CEO of the Asheville Chamber. “We hope he will build on the great work of Toby Weas and Jeff Joyce.” Former public policy staff, Toby and Jeff left the Chamber in September in coincidental timing. A beer enthusiast, Weas moved on to serve as general counsel for Wicked Weed Brewing. Meanwhile, Joyce accepted a position as director of alumni affairs at Brevard College.

“I am excited to get started promoting policies that benefit Chamber members and the Asheville area business community,” Corey said. “My goal is to continue the strong relationship between local job creators and policy makers.”

A graduate of UNC Chapel Hill School of Law, Corey’s previous experience includes serving as partner at Barnett & Atkins, P.A. in Asheville and Assistant District Attorney at Mecklenburg County DA’s office. Corey is a native of Mount Airy, North Carolina and has lived his entire professional life in Western North Carolina. He is also a member of the Civic Center Commission and a charity board member for the Asheville Tourists Children’s Fund.

The Chamber will hold its annual Legislative Luncheon on Jan. 5th at Lioncrest. The event precedes the NC General Assembly session giving Asheville/Buncombe business community an opportunity to meet and hear from the WNC delegation. During the event, the Asheville Chamber will also present its top legislative priorities for 2017, drafted with input from the Chamber membership and approved by the Chamber board.

The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce is a member organization with over 1,700 member businesses and organizations. Chamber members collaborate with community organizations and coalitions to support the community and each other with the mission of building community through business.

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