Defining success is often difficult, but members of the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce provided plenty of examples to fill in the blanks during its annual awards dinner at the Regent in Riverview on Jan. 31.
"Success is here," said chamber president Laura Simpson, prior to leading the festivities for an exuberant crowd of approximately 400 guests, including current and past state and county political leaders.
"We're relaunching this theme tonight and it will remain our theme all year,"
"If we measure success in energy, then success is here," declared outgoing chairman Darren Dennington in recapping the chamber's accomplishments in 2013.
Dennington pointed to the reassembly of an Economic Development Committee to drive new jobs and industry, increased volunteer opportunities, increased networking opportunities, and the re-establishment of account executive positions to better serve each chamber member.
During the celebration, Dennington passed the baton to incoming chairman Tony Del Castillo, South Shore & Brandon Times general manager, who said he is "excited and challenged" by the 2014 Board of Directors.
Del Castillo's goals for this year's board include increasing membership and retention through monthly synergy luncheons and adding a health care component to the annual Taste of Brandon, and increasing employment opportunities and the chamber's fiscal strength.
"The chamber is a business that faces the same challenges as our member businesses economically," said Del Castillo, who like Dennington, committed to maintain the momentum of increased opportunities in the Brandon area spurred by the recent announcement of an Amazon distribution center and other large business growth and expansion plans.
"I am humbled and honored to be the chamber chairman and I will do everything in my power to ensure that we continue to celebrate that success is here," Del Castillo said.
Throughout the evening, several community leaders were recognized for their exceptional work, including the 2013 recipient of the Greater Brandon Community Leadership award given to Russ Cozart, wrestling coach at Brandon High School for 34 years.
"The leadership award is given to someone who has taken Brandon to the forefront outside of Brandon," said Simpson. "We couldn't have found anyone better than Russ Cozart."
Cozart's accomplishments with his Brandon teams include 23 state championships, 101 state individual championships, 42 consecutive Hillsborough County titles, 39 consecutive district titles and 13 consecutive state titles. He and his 2008 team were focuses of an ESPN documentary, The Streak.
"To represent educators and athletic coaches is truly an honor for me. I'm humbled," said Cozart. "I love what I do. I'm not at the beginning, not in the middle of my career, but I know I'm not at the end either."
Other Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce award recipients for 2013 are: Robert Young, Ambassador of the Year; Bob Bivens, Chairman's Award; and John and Kay Sullivan, Key Citizen Award.
Shannan D. Powell can be reached at [email protected]