The head of Niagara USA Chamber is resigning, effective May 4, to return to his native state of New Hampshire.
Thomas J. Kraus, president and chief executive officer, told the Chamber board Friday that he has been hired as president of the Exeter Chamber of Commerce. Exeter is a city on the Atlantic Ocean about 12 miles from Dover, N.H., where Kraus grew up.
"It's a decision that my wife and I made based purely on personal and family considerations," Kraus said. "Now that I have an 18-month-old daughter, she deserves to be near her grandparents."
John Benoit, chairman of the Chamber board, said he had heard Kraus was looking elsewhere. Kraus revealed his plans to Benoit on Thursday.
"Thom's a talent. We were always concerned from the day he walked in that someone would see that and make him a better offer," said Benoit, engineering manager at Delphi Thermal and Interior in Lockport.
Kraus said, "It was in the back of my mind for some time, and my wife's, especially since our daughter was born. An opportunity arose, and it was a great opportunity."
Asked if he had any problems with his job here, Kraus said, "None whatsoever. That's why this is strictly personal. I love my job here. I love the people I work for and with."
Regarding a search for a successor, Benoit said, "It's way too early to speculate what the board's going to do. We're still digesting the fact that Thom's leaving."
Kraus was hired two years ago after having worked for seven years on the staff of then-Assembly Minority Leader Charles H. Nesbitt, an Albion Republican. Kraus quickly assumed a role in the county's Republican-oriented power structure.
Last year, he was listed as vice chairman of the county Independence Party when that party filed its reorganizational paperwork at the county Board of Elections, but he reportedly declined the designation.
Kraus, who lives in the Town of Lockport, was named last year to a vacancy on the county Industrial Development Agency board of directors, a seat that the County Legislature now will have to fill.
Legislature Chairman Clyde L. Burmaster said, "I don't have a name in mind. I don't know of anybody who's been looking around, trying to get onto the IDA board, but I'm sure when this opening becomes known, people will come forward."
Burmaster said of Kraus, "It was a pleasure to have him in our community, and I'm sorry to see him go."
Lockport Mayor Michael W. Tucker, Kraus' colleague on the IDA board, said, "I've gotten to know Thom over the last couple of years and found him to be a straight-up guy. I've enjoyed working with him."