This month marks the end of an era at the Greater New Milford Chamber of Commerce.

Longtime president Bill Babbino has stepped down from his position. He will retain a seat on the Board of Directors.

"I've seen tremendous changes in the town businesswise," opined Mr. Babbino, who has held the president's seat since 1998. "When I took over, the Chamber was practically out of business."

"Now it's on very good footing," he added, "and I feel comfortable stepping down."

Mr. Babbino credited the turnaround at the Chamber to the quality of people who have served in recent years on the Chamber's board and executive board.

He cited former first vice president Annette Field and current Village Fair Days organizer Bob Hanna among them.

During his 12-year tenure, Mr. Babbino said there has been a rise in membership, an "exceptional" benefit package put in place for members, and overall "new life and vitality" to the organization.

"Before the Chamber, I ran A New England New Year," he reflected, with reference to the town's former New Year's Eve celebration. "I was then involved with the March of Dimes, serving on the Board of Directors on the state level."

"But I felt I could do more for the town, being local," he remarked, "so I gave it up to serve on the Chamber's board."

Ray Kerney is taking over as the new Chamber president. A four-year member of the board and executive board, Mr. Kerney most recently served as first vice president under Mr. Babbino.

"The thing I appreciate most about Bob is he's very open to other people's input and very supportive," Mr. Kerney said.

"I always felt I could express my opinion," said the incoming chief executive. "That's very important -- having people see they're making a contribution."

"If I can be half as good a president as Bill has been, I will have done very well," Mr. Kerney said.

Denise Del Mastro, the Chamber's executive director, counts Mr. Babbino among her friends and lauded him for being her mentor on coming to the Chamber.

"Bill's the reason I'm as connected to the community as I am," Mrs. Del Mastro said. "We moved here in 1998. He encouraged me to be a volunteer at Village Fair Days, which he'd organized for years."

"By 2005, I became the executive director here at the Chamber," she recalled, "under his encouragement."

Mr. Kerney said his focus as Chamber president will be to continue in the path the Chamber has followed under Mr. Babbino -- striving for better service for the members, educating the members on benefits available and growing the Chamber to include more New Milford area business, while increasing networking among Chamber members.

"None of this is anything new. We've been doing this aggressively for the last year and a half," said Mr. Kerney.

He has had his business, Lion's Den Software, a website design and search engine optimization business, in town for six years.