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Yacht Club welcomes first female commodore

PALMETTO — The first visible indication of the sea change at the Bradenton Yacht Club can be seen on the signpost marking the reserved parking space of the club commodore.

It is the painting of a lily.

“I thought it was beautiful and exactly what I had in mind,” said Deborah Ross, recalling the first time she saw it July 1.

Four days earlier, she’d been installed officially as the first woman commodore in the BYC’s 63-year history.

The flower was just the right touch.

Don’t be fooled, though.

“She’s not a pushover,” said Steve Fredrick, a past commodore.

When Ross and her husband, Richard, joined the club in 2002, she got involved in a series of committees and offices. After being nominated in 2006 to the board of directors as secretary, she was encouraged to set her sights on the commodore post.

“I had support from men who thought I had the business savvy,” said Ross, who’s in national sales and marketing. “For me, it was also the attraction of the legacy. Seeing the pictures of all those men on the wall and imagining yours up there as the first woman.”

That was virtually assured when Ross was elected in 2007 as rear commodore, who moves up automatically to vice commodore and commodore each of the subsequent two years.

Fredrick saw the Greensboro, N.C., native had the goods when she crewed on his boat during club races.

“She’s outgoing, gets along with people and showed me excellent leadership capability, the type of person who would really listen to the opinion of others about club issues and think clearly,” he said. “With 600 members, it’s not an easy job.”

“You have to have a strong backbone,” said past commodore Jack Flanagan.

The commodore’s primary duties are administrative — running the executive committee, presiding over the board of directors and, along with vice commodore Harry Blenker and rear commodore Rick Shaurette, working with club general manager Ken Nyhus’s staff.

There are social duties, like welcoming visiting non-club sailors.

There’s even some sailing, a big reason why the 1989 University of North Carolina alum moved to Palmetto in 1995.

“I came to Florida so I could be on the water,” Ross said. “We’re out there once a week — at least.”

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055, or write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, Fla. 34206 or email him at vmannix@bradenton.com. Please include a phone number for verification.

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