AUGUSTA — A retired Navy officer and current medical practice manager who founded a pro-business community group in Lisbon has been chosen to lead the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Ross Cunningham of Lisbon was selected by the regional chamber’s board of directors to become its new president and CEO starting Jan. 5. He will replace Peter Thompson, who plans to retire after many years of leading the business and community group.

“I think they made a good choice,” Thompson said.

Cunningham reached the rank of lieutenant commander and served at Brunswick Naval Air Station until he retired in 2008 after 22 years in the Navy. He is now practice manager for general surgery and women’s health care at Mid Coast Medical Group in Brunswick.

In 2012, he founded and became president of Positive Change Lisbon, a nonprofit group of business leaders and citizens meant “to build a stronger community, to promote collaboration, and encourage commercial development and increased investment in existing properties,” according to a news release from chamber officials.

Cunningham said Wednesday he and others formed Positive Change Lisbon after attending Maine Development Foundation annual meetings.

There they saw towns that were succeeding because volunteers were getting involved rather than relying on town government, schools or chambers of commerce to make things happen.

“It really has made a big difference,” Cunningham said. The group has organized cleanup days, designed and installed “Welcome to Lisbon” banners, and brought together a panel of developers and real estate agents to discuss ways the town can attract development.

“It changed the attitude of people in town, because they see good things happening,” he said.

Kim Vandermeulen, chairman of the chamber’s board of directors, said the board was “very impressed with the experience, skills and enthusiasm of Ross Cunningham. He will provide key leadership of the business-based organization, which is focused upon strengthening the economy of our capital region. Ross will work closely with current CEO Peter Thompson until Peter’s February retirement after 26 years in the post.”

Vandermeulen, who agreed to serve a second year as chairman during the transition from Thompson to Cunningham, said the board is not concerned that Cunningham does not yet have the community ties and knowledge that Thompson, a longtime local resident and former Augusta mayor, had developed.

“That’s not a concern. It’s very clear he is a personable guy and will meet and work with folks in the area,” Vandermeulen said. “We’re really excited and he’s really excited. He’s got a lot of energy. Peter has done a great job for many, many, many years, so (Cunningham) has big shoes to fill. But Peter is going to work with him.”