TAMPA — The installation of new members and the announcements of award winners brought loud cheers from the crowd at the South Tampa Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year Awards last week, but the recognition of Tampa police Chief Jane Castor as Citizen of the Year brought the crowd to its feet.
The Castor honor highlighted the second annual dinner at the Holiday Inn Tampa Westshore on Jan. 22.
Chamber president Kelly Flannery noted just some of Castor's achievements in her years in Tampa, including 31 Gasparilla celebrations, being the first female president of a police academy class and the first woman to head the Tampa Police Department.
On a personal note, Flannery reminisced of her first time meeting Castor and her father's reaction to the encounter.
"My dad said, 'She (Castor) makes me proud to be the dad of a daughter, because if she can be police chief then you can be anything you want.' "
Castor, who will retire later this year, graciously accepted the plaque saying, "I try to live my life as an example for others to follow."
The chamber installed new members and honored local businesses and community leaders. It also celebrated the arrival of 120 new members in 2014, and 30 nominees for Business of the Year.
Flannery recognized chamber ambassador Michael Snyder as the Volunteer of the Year. Also known as the king of the #SouthTampaSelfie, Snyder was chosen for his dedication to the chamber and his willingness to help wherever it's needed.
The chamber also named the winners of Business of the Year for emerging, small, medium and large companies. The winners were Urban E Recycling (less than 3 years in business); Jerel McCants Architecture (one to five employees); MamaRazzi foto (six to 10 employees); and Feldman Orthodontics (11 or more employees).
Starr Tyrka, the 2014 chairwoman, made the ceremonial passing of the gavel to new chairwoman Samantha Dammer, a local attorney. Dammer described South Tampa as "the real Tampa" in her acceptance speech and noted that Tampa really does have the best Cuban food: "Sorry, Miami."
Chamber members are looking forward to the grand opening and ribbon cutting of its new office at 701 S Howard Ave., Suite 204, on Feb. 11.