Chamber swears in new president

After 11 years, outgoing president gets heartfelt homage


Franky Jorge, vice president of operations at GalaFresh Farms in Baldwin, was sworn in as the new Chamber of Commerce president Nov. 4 at American Legion Post No. 246 in Baldwin. Outgoing 11-year chamber president Erik Mahler was also honored at the ceremony for his leadership with a tree and plaque in his name at Silver Lake.

Jorge, who was born into his family grocery business, said “giving back to the community” was ingrained in him. He said he now hopes to start “bringing new ideas, bringing a different mentality [to the chamber],” noting, “Service is everything — keep up with the town, and it will come back tenfold.”

“I hope I do a great job, make everyone proud and help the businesses,” Jorge said. “There’s a lot of growth that will continue to happen, a lot of unity that we can bring into Baldwin.” He ended with, “I have some things brewing.”

After swearing in Jorge, County Executive Laura Curran, of Baldwin, commended the new president, saying, “I go to GalaFresh often … It’s a wonderful business, and I know [Jorge’s] going to do a great job,” adding, “We need our businesses to come back all the way, and with him at the helm, Baldwin business will really have a seat at the table.”

After a dinner provided by Mike Leake from At Your Service LI Catering, the board gave Mahler a parting gift based on his characteristics: “A tall, strong, beautiful, deeply-rooted” tree at Silver Lake Park, said board member Nancy Capozzi.

Mahler said the heroes were in the audience, remarking, “Baldwin is our home. Please support and shop local Baldwin businesses.”

Mahler reflected on his past projects, including the Fourth of July fireworks display, six tree plantings and “Welcome to Beautiful Baldwin” signs, while also thanking board members for their selflessness. “Democrat or Republican,” he said, “we want the same things: good schools, safe environment, you want your business to succeed, and you want to be able to always join.”

Curran noted that Mahler planned to continue his community involvement. “His heart is in this work, and he’s brought a lot of passion and advocacy,” she said. “I know he’s not going anywhere.” On a bittersweet note, Curran added, “This is your last chamber meeting as president. It’s very likely my last one as well — it’s nice to be ending this together.”

Karen Montalbano, the Baldwin Civic Association’s government liaison, attended to share her thoughts on the past president, saying, “I’m grateful that there are people like Erik who are in this community, who have devoted their time to the chamber and to the community, who care about the place they live.”

Looking to the future, Montalbano said, “The Baldwin Civic Association congratulates Franky on taking the reins of this wonderful chamber organization. We wish him well. We look forward to working with him.”

Nassau County Legislator Debra Mulé said, “I want to commend Erik for many years of service…He’s certainly seen so much progress as the result, and Franky will continue that work and build” on it.