Cliff Walters receives inaugural leadership award
Clifford L. Walters of Blalock Walters, P.A., called it “The House that Bob built.”
Walters, recipient of the inaugural Robert P. Bartz Award for Outstanding Leadership, was referring to the man who served as Manatee Chamber of Commerce president for 35 years and whose death in February 2017 at age 65 left a grieving community in shock.
During his tenure, Bartz quietly helped the Manatee Chamber become one of the largest in Florida and earn a reputation as one of the best across the country.
“This award isn’t about me. It’s about Bob Bartz’s legacy,” Walters said. “This chamber was built on selfless leadership and integrity. Bob would be the first to say ‘we’ built this house.”
Walters accepted the award in the spirit of continuing Bartz’s legacy, saying members need to commit to keeping the chamber in good repair and sustaining it.
Jacki Dezelski, who worked for Bartz for 20 years and succeeded him as president and CEO, said attendance for the dinner was 580, up from 450 last year.
She credited being in a larger venue, the Bradenton Area Convention Center, and the selection of Walters for the leadership award for the increase in attendance.
This chamber was built on selfless leadership and integrity. Bob would be the first to say ‘we’ built this house.
Cliff Walters, inaugural recipient of the Robert P. Bartz Award for Outstanding Leadership
Just as 2017 was a challenging year for outgoing Chamber Chair Kevin DiLallio, 2018 promises to be a challenging one for incoming chair Darcie Duncan.
Challenge No. 1 will be the demolition of the current Chamber building on 10th Street West in downtown Bradenton to make way for construction of the City Centre building, containing office and parking space.
In the interim, the chamber staff will work out of the Bank of the Ozarks building on Manatee Avenue West.
Duncan, a local Realtor, said she hopes the Chamber staff can move into its new space in the City Centre building by year’s end, and enjoy the larger board and lobby space.
“This sets the stage for the Chamber’s next wildly successful chapter,” Duncan said.
John Horne, a past chamber chair who moderated a discussion between DiLallo and Duncan, said DiLallo had a “hard, well-fought year.”
For his part, DiLallo said the chamber successfully advocated for transportation, hosted chairman’s breakfasts to listen to members, and hosted international delegations.
Probably the most challenging time, however, was when chamber leaders and members came together to grieve and close ranks after Bartz’s passing.
As for her year ahead, Duncan quipped that she “thought coming in with a bulldozer was enough,” but that she wanted to take what was already great about the chamber and make it greater.
There were light moments during the program, and many bittersweet ones as well, along with fond remembrances of Bartz. Particulary when USF Sarasota-Manatee Regional Chancellor Karen Holbrook presented the Beta Sigma Gamma Award in honor of Bob Bartz to his wife, Vicki, and son Jason.