A Statewide Perspective
The Georgia Chamber’s Joselyn Baker wants to keep the climate business-friendly
New Orleans native Joselyn Baker is an enthusiastic spokesperson for her adopted home state of Georgia, where she came to attend college at Oglethorpe University and never left. Baker, 39, currently serves as senior vice president of communications for the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. “I was attracted to the job because throughout the permutations of my career I learned first-hand how strong an organization the Georgia Chamber was and how important they have been in keeping the pro-business climate in the state.”
Baker stepped into the position in September 2008, just one year after the chamber introduced the Georgia Initiative, a five-year campaign moving the organization from a reactive to a more proactive stance by addressing policy in 10 key areas: education, workforce development, environment, energy, existing business, industry, healthcare, international development, law and judiciary, tourism and transportation.
“The chamber has done a great job of playing defense,” Baker says. “But they want to develop a stronger offensive stance. The 10 areas of policy were identified by our members as those things that must be addressed to maintain and advance Georgia’s friendly business climate.”
Although there will be a stronger emphasis on policy and partnering with elected officials, the state chamber maintains a strictly nonpartisan stance. “Today’s [political] climate makes it that much more important for us to create policy apart from politics,” says Baker. “We believe that good decisions are nonpartisan. We want to let the policy drive the politics.”
Baker’s credentials and experience in a variety of public and private sector jobs have given her a strong grasp of the issues identified in the Georgia Initiative. After graduating from Oglethorpe in 1991 with a degree in business administration and behavioral science, Baker spent most of her career in communications, public relations and public affairs consulting, and management.
She credits her rapid career ascent to experience gleaned from early political involvement and lots of hard work, even before graduating from college.
“The political environment really nurtures young leadership,” she says. “You can get a lot of good experience and move forward quickly if you’re willing to work hard. It’s a great way to put your energy to good use.”
In her 20-year career, Baker has held senior positions on a number of high profile statewide campaigns for such candidates as Attorney General Thurbert Baker, former Lt. Gov. Pierre Howard, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson and former Gov. Zell Miller.
As a campaign finance director, she worked with candidates to raise a combined $9.5 million through direct solicitation, development and management of finance committees, and fund-raising events throughout the state.
She saw the statewide cause and effect of a single policy while still in college and working on the Miller campaign. “I watched Governor Miller introduce the use of lottery funds to pay for college while I was working on his campaign,” she recalls. “Then fast forward to seeing Governor Roy Barnes celebrating hundreds of thousands of people going to colleges, universities and technical schools. Witnessing that connection strengthened my commitment to government [and] quasi-government partnerships.”
Baker held a number of positions in the Barnes administration, co-producing events for his 1999 inaugural, before moving on to the communications department, serving first as deputy director of communications, then as press secretary and director of communications.
After a brief break from direct political involvement, freelancing and consulting in the communications field, Baker went to work for MARTA as director of communications, then assistant manager of communications. “Working for MARTA was another great experience,” she says. “I went there because I believed in what they were doing.
Baker married Georgia’s Public Service Commission-er, Bobby Baker in 2001. She’s happily supportive of his political/public service career and doesn’t harbor any personal political aspirations of her own. “I’m excited about this job,” she says. “We have a beautiful state with wonderful communities and attractive places for people to live and work, and we have a leadership [at the chamber] that’s committed to improving that.”