After more than a decade of introducing small-business owners to the Union County Chamber of Commerce, director Robert Whitman will resign at the end of April.

After more than a decade of introducing small-business owners to the Union County Chamber of Commerce, director Robert Whitman will resign at the end of April.

He has served as director of chamber programs and membership for 12 years and said he plans to devote more time to one of his true passions: writing.

"I think I have one more book in me," Whitman said. "I put in my resignation letter last week, but I'll still continue to do work with the Leadership Institute, and we'll have a class in the fall for those in management and supervisory positions."

Whitman joined the chamber after a career in Mount Gilead as a schools superintendent. As director at the chamber, Whitman has been responsible for attracting new business owners to join the chamber's membership and then supporting those members through the services the chamber offers.

"It's been a privilege to work at the chamber," Whitman said. "My understanding is that some central Ohio chambers have taken (membership) losses through the economic downturn, and we haven't. We try to stay vigilant for our members, trying to create opportunities for them in the way of marketing and networking."

The chamber included about 275 members when Whitman took over as director. Its membership currently includes about 530 businesses and individuals.

Whitman attributed the chamber's growth to a combination of effective leadership throughout the chamber's different divisions, along with Union County's natural growth over the past decade.

"We've been in a situation in the county of growing rapidly, not only in people moving here but also businesses," he said. "Some counties haven't had the luxuries we've had. It's also the attitude in Union County: Everybody has the mindset of working together in the same sandbox, to make things better. I always say they end up making us look better than we really are."

Though Whitman has held positions with both the chamber and the educational system, he has spent much of his free time writing, with four books published. He described his first two books as professional works used for school districts, ("Planning, Promoting and Passing School Tax Issues" and "What Every Campaign Leader needs to know about Tax Strategy"). His interest in history and sports led him to write a biography of legendary athlete Jim Thorpe, called "Jim Thorpe and the Oorang Indians: the NFL's Most Colorful Franchise," followed by a coffee-table book on Thorpe, in the form of a pictorial biography. The Jim Thorpe Association chose Whitman as Thorpe's official biographer, and he was able to interview several members of the athlete's family who had refused to speak to any other writers.

Whitman said his interest is turning toward writing an analysis of the 1950s and 1960s, a study of the culture of the time and how it contrasted with the decades prior.

"We're going to stick around, though, and stay active in the community," Whitman said. "It's been a privilege to work at the chamber, and this is home."