Carry on Bartz’s legacy by recognizing leaders throughout community

Jacki Dezelski
Jacki Dezelski

The meaning of legacy has come into sharp focus for our business community over the past month with the unexpected passing of Bob Bartz. He led the Manatee Chamber of Commerce for almost 35 years with a vision, passion and commitment that inspired his staff, the board of directors and thousands of business people throughout his career.

We’ve been talking a lot about the example he set for us all.

Our Chamber family is carefully considering the ways we will honor Bob and his legacy. We’ve heard from many people about the ways he encouraged them over the years — encouragement to get involved, have a voice, face a challenge, make a difference. We’ve also heard about the pride he took in making sure business leaders received recognition for their dedication and success. It was so important to him.

Two ways we can celebrate accomplishments in our community and carry out Bob’s commitment to recognizing deserving businesses and community leaders are through the Manatee Chamber’s Champions of Healthcare Awards and Small Business of the Year Awards. These awards programs bring our community together to honor local businesses, organizations and individuals for their commitment to the economic success and quality of life in Manatee County. Nominations are encouraged from across the community for both programs and the deadline to receive nominations is fast approaching.

The Champions of Healthcare Awards honor individuals, businesses and programs for the commitments they make to the health of our community. There are nine categories that enable us to recognize health care professionals, volunteers, innovators, programs, non-profits and researchers. We also announce a lifetime achievement award recipient and give a youth volunteer scholarship. The deadline for nominations for the Champions of Healthcare Awards is April 7.

The Small Business of the Year Awards recognize excellence in business by honoring those who are doing things the right way. The awards celebrate business people focused on customer service, their employees and the growth of their business. At the same time, honorees are making an impact in the community through activities like mentoring young people, volunteering as coaches, and supporting causes near and dear to their heart. The deadline for Small Business of the Year Award nominations is May 19.

Over the years, hundreds of local business people have received well-deserved accolades through these programs. Our past honorees chose to pursue excellence and inspire others. It’s a big part of the legacy they have created for themselves, their families and our community.

I encourage you to consider who you could nominate this year for the Champions of Healthcare Awards and the Small Business of the Year Awards, and then take the time to do so. Opportunities to celebrate accomplishments, particularly on a public stage, are too important to miss.

You will find the nomination information online at

Jacki Dezelski is the interim president of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce and can be reached at or 941-748- 3411.