Mary Fran Carroll, 1922-2014, an amazing legacy as Lakewood Ranch's first CEO

April 1, 2014 

Mary Fran Carroll left an indelible mark on Manatee County. As the chief executive officer of Schroeder-Manatee Ranch beginning in the 1980s, she altered the landscape by changing Lakewood Ranch from an agricultural and mining operation into a commercial and residential community that today ranks as one of the best master planned developments in the country.

Ms. Carroll passed away on March 24, 2014, at her Sarasota home.

Her vision -- remarkable for a woman in a male-dominated development world in the 1980s -- leaves the region with an economic powerhouse that continues to grow under her successors. In very much a literal sense, Ms. Carroll was a trail-blazing and ground-breaking business executive.

She had the foresight to launch the Sarasota Polo Club in 1991 after several SMR employees began playing there, before homes started sprouting up nearby.

As Ms. Carroll stated four years ago, "We thought it added a kicker to the mystique. In the end, it was worth a gazillion dollars worth of advertising." That's where the vision comes into play.

As she also stated back then, golf courses were a common neighborhood development attraction. Polo brought a different cache. The Sarasota Polo Grounds are now an major destination for competition.

But so are Lakewood Ranch golf courses, created by some of the best designers in the world.

Ms. Carroll, born in 1922, served as the chief executive of SMR for more than a decade, retiring in 1997. Before that, though, she graduated from the prestigious Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University with a master's degree and later retired as a vice president and division chief of Northern Trust Co.

So, retired from one career, she found another.

One of her legacies is the creation of Lakewood Ranch Corporate Park, home to thousands of jobs in this region.

People who build communities are a rare commodity. Mary Fran Carroll served this region like few others.

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