Business Columns & Blogs

Bartz’s legacy in Manatee County will carry on well into the future

Ted Ehrlichman
Ted Ehrlichman

“All good men and women must take responsibility to create legacies that will take the next generation to a level we could only imagine.” – Jim Rohn

The sudden passing last week of Manatee Chamber of Commerce President Bob Bartz still looms thick in the air for all those who knew him.

For 35 years he led an organization focused on serving the businesses in our community, supporting everyone from one-employee establishments to companies with hundreds of workers.

The quote from Jim Rohn resonated with me and made me think about legacies and the great community leaders we have lost. These stories are not mine to tell, mainly because they are still being written and making an impact on our lives.

What I can tell, though, is how the lives and legacies of our lost community leaders have inspired me to be a better person, to think of the bigger picture and to not just lead in the moment, but to think of the future and the effects my decisions and actions will have.

When I think of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, I think of Bob Bartz. Not because he had been there since I moved to this area, but because he was so magnetic that after the first time I met him, it was engrained in my mind that Bob is the Manatee Chamber.

Anyone can stay at a “job” for 35 years if you play your cards right. Do your job, fly under the radar.

These aren’t just jobs for our community leaders, though.

Even my predecessor who passed away last May, Mary Helen Kress, served our organization for 25 years. Prior to that, she spent 30 years with the State of Florida Department of Labor. Did she keep going because she was flying under the radar? Absolutely not.

You could hear the passion in her voice when you spoke with her, see her eyes light up when she talked about helping people find work. She was authentic, she cared for this community and under her leadership raised the bar for CareerSource Suncoast and its team.

When I think of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, I think of Bob Bartz. Not because he had been there since I moved to this area, but because he was so magnetic that after the first time I met him, it was engrained in my mind that Bob is the Manatee Chamber.

You don’t need a list of accomplishments to know that he was dedicated to our community. His passion was unwavering. His commitment to local businesses was evident in our interactions.

So, what makes a legacy? Is it the number of awards you win? Number of times your name is mentioned in the paper?

There’s a bigger picture here, and a bigger impact to be made. There are many more leaders to be recognized and honored. Let’s work together to carry their missions forward and pave a successful path for future generations.

It seems our community’s greatest leaders have achieved both, but that’s not what I consider their legacies.

For me, it’s Mary Helen turning a small workforce board that initially helped people file for unemployment into a robust organization that pays for people to go back to school, collaborates with community partners to create sustainable career paths for young adults and is proactive in listening to employers’ needs and building a workforce to meet those needs.

Legacy will be seen years from now in our future leaders; in the young professionals who had a reason to connect because of the Leadership Manatee program that Bartz established 34 years ago.

It’s in the businesses that started with nothing but are now thriving because of the wealth of resources available to them through the chamber.

There’s a bigger picture here, and a bigger impact to be made. There are many more leaders to be recognized and honored. Let’s work together to carry their missions forward and pave a successful path for future generations.

Ted Ehrlichman, president and CEO of CareerSource Suncoast, writes about workforce issues across the region.

  Comments