The Manatee Chamber of Commerce’s annual Member Appreciation Lunch was its late president Bob Bartz’s favorite event.
On Friday, the chamber hosted the cookout at the downtown Bradenton office, 222 10th St. W. The event was originally scheduled for early March but was rescheduled after Bartz died at a local hospital on Feb. 26. Though he had some health issues, Bartz’s death came as a shock to his family and the Bradenton-area business community.
Events like the Member Appreciation Lunch, which garnered almost 600 RSVPs, help the Manatee Chamber of Commerce staff and members move on from the loss of the chamber’s 35-year president.
“We feel it every day,” interim president Jacki Dezelski said. “Bob’s vision and the culture he developed here at the chamber sets the vision for the path forward. And the chamber’s program of work won’t skip a beat. We feel like we owe it to Bob to continue with the success he built.”
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Jon Stuart, a mentor with Manasota SCORE and chamber member, said losing a leader like Bartz had an impact on the entire Bradenton business community.
“With a leader like Bob, it permeates through all of the organizations that work with (the Manatee Chamber of Commerce),” Stuart said.
Hosting the event on Friday without Bartz was a “two-sided coin.”
“We feel the loss strongly on days like today because he loved this event, but it helps us connect to Bob, too,” Dezelski said.
Other chamber members echoed Dezelski’s thoughts.
“I think he’d want us to be out here,” said Mark Densmore, a professional civil engineer at MSD Engineering and chamber member.
A new president for the Manatee Chamber of Commerce will be chosen by the chamber’s board of directors. The announcement of a new president should come within the next few weeks, Dezelski said.