University Park

Paul Blackketter to step down as president of Nathan Benderson Park

Paul Blackketter, president of SANCA, talks about the growth planned for Nathan Benderson Park over the next five years. Blackketter was a guest speaker at a joint meeting of the Manatee Tiger Bay Club and the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance on Wednesday at the Polo Grill, addressing the topic, The University Parkway Interchange: The Next 5 Years. 
 GRANT JEFFERIES/Bradenton Herald
Paul Blackketter, president of SANCA, talks about the growth planned for Nathan Benderson Park over the next five years. Blackketter was a guest speaker at a joint meeting of the Manatee Tiger Bay Club and the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance on Wednesday at the Polo Grill, addressing the topic, The University Parkway Interchange: The Next 5 Years. GRANT JEFFERIES/Bradenton Herald gjefferies@bradenton.com

UNIVERSITY PARK -- Paul Blackketter is stepping down as president and CEO of the nonprofit that runs Nathan Benderson Park.

Blackketter will remain president and CEO of Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates until the replacement is on board or until Sept. 30, according to Melissa Mitchell, the nonprofit's spokeswoman.

Blackketter will pursue a career in consulting.

"I really feel that I have a sense of mission accomplished, my heart full," Blackketter said Thursday afternoon. "We have a great team and SANCA is in a great place to turn over the helm to a new leader and they can take SANCA into the next steps. It's been the most rewarding. The sense of satisfaction has absolutely been incredible."

In his time as the nonprofit's leader, Blackketter watched the park grow into the world-class facility it is today.

"It has grown into something beyond all our wildest imaginations," Blackketter said. "We had a vision and we completed that vision. ... Things are in a really, really good place. It's good to get some new leadership in here to SANCA and our partners to the next level."

SANCA Board Chairman Bill Robinson received Blackketter's resignation letter Thursday morning and has already contacted Prodigy Sports, an employee search company, so a national search can take place in finding the next president and CEO of SANCA.

"Paul has done a phenomenal job," Robinson said Thursday afternoon. "I'm encouraged that we will find somebody out there that will take the reins from Paul and continue to drive into the future of continued success of Nathan Benderson Park. ... I just think the best of Paul and I wish the best of him in the future."

Nathan Benderson Park, a Sarasota County park, is run by the nonprofit SANCA. Nathan Benderson Park has hosted a number of high-profile events and will host the 2017 World Rowing Championship.

"This will undoubtedly be the best world championship in FISA's history," Blackketter said, referring to international rowing's governing authority.

Blackketter's resignation comes the same month Nicole Rissler, the nonprofit's chief operating officer, left to take a job with Sarasota County government. There are no plans to fill Rissler's position.

"I feel that things are in good shape, and things will not be hindered because we have the same people doing the events, and leadership will continue as is until we find that re

placement," Robinson said. "We have some very talented people that Paul and Nicole have brought along and there is a great staff in place."

Prior to being named president of SANCA in 2009, Blackketter was executive director of planning for Benderson Development.

Randy Benderson, president of Benderson Development, said he could not be prouder of Blackketter's accomplishments.

"Paul Blackketter has given our community a lasting jewel," Benderson said. "His vision, dedication and work ethic has brought us a world-class venue, not only for rowing events but for a wide variety of other athletic and community events, not to mention an extraordinary public park to be enjoyed by all members of the community. ... I don't think our community would be host to Olympic-caliber events, NCAA championships or Ivy League schools without Paul's efforts."

Blackketter said he's always wanted to have his own business and the opportunity is now.

"I ran this marathon for many years and it's always good to pass the torch to a new leader with fresh new ideas to come here," he said.

Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.

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