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Gavel passes to new leader at Tampa chamber

Next week Robin DeLaVergne will be handed the title and substantial duties of chairing the 1,200-member Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce for 2014.

She joins a select handful of notable women in recent decades — Stella Ferguson Thayer, Gay Culverhouse, Rhea Law, Deanne Roberts and Judy Genshaft — who have chaired Tampa's chamber. Some of these women DeLaVergne considers her mentors. But none of them faced the breadth and complexity of leading the Tampa business group next year amid such diverse issues as building consensus for regional mass transit, workforce development, affordable health care expansion, support for veterans, forming stronger ties to Cuba, encouraging young entrepreneurs, and introducing recently relocated top executives to the wealth of assets of this metro area.

DeLaVergne will succeed 2013 chamber chair Greg Celestan, who focused much of his time on building stronger area ties with Tampa's MacDill Air Force Base and encouraging greater regionalism via the "council of chambers" that convened the Tampa Chamber chair with his counterparts at the chambers of commerce in St. Petersburg and Clearwater. Don't underestimate DeLavergne, teased Celestan, who compared her favorably to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, also known as "The Iron Lady" for her smart but tough leadership.

Incoming Tampa Chamber chair

Name: Robin DeLaVergne

Job: Executive director, Tampa General Hospital Foundation

Age: 62

2014 goals at chamber: Affordable health care, encouraging entrepreneurs, strengthening area workforce, supporting Pinellas County's fall referendum on mass transit.

Quote: "My style is to seek consensus, but sometimes you have to step out and take a stand without it."

Outgoing Tampa Chamber chair

Name: Greg Celestan

Job: Founder, chief executive officer, Celestar Corp., defense contractor.

Age: 51

2013 goals at chamber: Strengthening ties with MacDill Air Force Base, encouraging better regional business ties, supporting Tampa International Airport's expansion efforts.

Quote: "The water (Tampa Bay) separating this region has been a huge barrier. We will be bypassed if we cannot work together."

Gavel passes to new leader at Tampa chamber 12/11/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 11, 2013 8:41pm]
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