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Tropicana executive tapped to lead Manatee Chamber of Commerce board

Tropicana exec takes the helm as chairman of Manatee Chamber of Commerce

Bill Poulton was installed as chairman of the board for the Manatee Chamber of Commerce Thursday, Jan. 31, at the Bradenton Area Convention Center. Ron Allen received the Robert P. Bartz Award for Outstanding Leadership.
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Bill Poulton was installed as chairman of the board for the Manatee Chamber of Commerce Thursday, Jan. 31, at the Bradenton Area Convention Center. Ron Allen received the Robert P. Bartz Award for Outstanding Leadership.

A decade ago, Bill Poulton was relatively new to the Bradenton area and trying to learn more about the community through the Leadership Manatee program.

During a leadership tour, Bob Bartz, the president and CEO of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, pulled Poulton aside and said, “Bill, we’ll get you on the chamber board.”

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The Poulton family gathered on stage at the Bradenton Area Convention Center after Bill Poulton was installed as chairman of the board of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce on Thursday. Shown above, from left, are Ginny, Jack, Tyler, Bill, Emily and Tara Poulton. James A. Jones Jr. jajones1@bradenton.com

Until then, Poulton had never considered seeking a leadership role in the chamber.

This week, the director of manufacturing at Tropicana accepted the gavel as chairman of the board of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, one of the largest and most-distinguished chambers in Florida.

“That speaks volumes about Bob. He had the ability to see something in me that I couldn’t see myself,” Poulton said Thursday as he addressed a crowd of more than 600 at the Bradenton Area Convention Center.

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Jacki Dezelski, president and CEO of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, stands in front of a super-sized video screen showing a discussion between outgoing chairman of the board Darcie Duncan and incoming chairman Bill Poulton on Thursday night at the Bradenton Area Convention Center. James A. Jones Jr. jajones1@bradenton.com

Bartz, who died in 2017 at the age of 65, served as president and CEO of the chamber for nearly 35 years. His legacy lives on through the Robert P. Bartz Award for Outstanding Leadership and the USF Sarasota-Manatee Robert P. Bartz Memorial Scholarship.

Ron Allen of the NDC Constuction Company received the Bartz leadership award from Cliff Walters, the recipient of the inaugural Bartz award in 2018.

“Ron builds the community by being a donor, a door opener and a doer,” Walters said.

Among his accomplishments: helping to keep Pittsburgh Pirates spring training in Bradenton, starting a downtown redevelopment initiative, building 5,000 homes and many business structures, Walters said.

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Ron Allen, fourth from left, recipient of the Robert P. Bartz Award for Outstanding Leadership, poses with his family for a photograph Thursday at the Bradenton Area Convention Center. James A. Jones Jr. jajones1@bradenton.com

Allen praised Bartz as the best consensus builder he ever knew and an invaluable contributor to bettering the Bradenton community.

“If everybody takes the time and really looks at our community, it is a jewel,” Allen said.

Outgoing chair Darcie Duncan of Duncan Real Estate passed the leadership gavel to Poulton. Duncan had the distinction of serving while the chamber building was demolished.

Wednesday morning, crews began tearing down the building that was home to the Manatee Chamber of Commerce since the 1960s.

The building is being replaced by the City Centre Parking Facility, which will include the new chamber offices.

In the interim, chamber staff has been working out of space donated by Bank OZK on Manatee Avenue.

Despite the disruption, Duncan said business continued as usual.

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Darcie Duncan praised Manatee Chamber of Commerce members for the enthusiastic way that they tackled issues during her years as chairman of the board. James A. Jones Jr. jajones1@bradenton.com

“Most important, when we bring tasks to our executive committee, people come together with enthusiasm. The issues we tackled in the last year are incredible to me,” Duncan said.

Poulton offered indicators of what to expect in his year at the helm.

“There are more than 20 committees at the chamber of commerce. There is a committee for every passion. Our priorities are very much in step with the Manatee Legislative Delegation,” Poulton said, listing support of red tide research and water quality, investment in education, and transportation and infrastructure improvements.

“One of the biggest assets we have is the ability to bring leaders together,” he said.

Among those the new chamber chair praised were his children, his wife, Tara, who he met on the Leadership Manatee bus, his Tropicana team, and the chamber staff.

“There are giants in this community who preceded me. I will give my best every single day,” he said.

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A crowd of more than 600 gathered for the Manatee Chamber of Commerce’s 56th Annual Dinner Thursday night at the Bradenton Area Convention Center. James A. Jones Jr. jajones1@bradenton.com

Other awards and recognition Thursday:

Jacki Dezelski, president and CEO of the Manatee Chamber, presented the President’s Award to Bank OZK for providing office space to chamber staff. Jason Osborne accepted the award for the bank.

Kasriot Bisheva received the USF Sarasota-Manatee Robert P. Bartz Memorial Scholarship.

Darcie Duncan presented Chairman’s Awards to Jim Boyd and Kevin DiLallo.

DiLallo, Will Robinson, Dr. Jennifer Bencie and Sean Murphy said goodbye as outgoing directors.

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Jacki Dezelski, president and CEO of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, presented the President’s Award to Jason Osborne of Bank OZK on Thursday night at the Bradenton Area Convention Center. James A. Jones Jr. jajones1@bradenton.com

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