Friday, June 22, 2018
Business

Tampa Bay business leader, creative advocate Deanne Roberts dies

The Voice of change is gone.

Business leader and regional advocate Deanne Dewey Roberts, a successful businesswoman, an impressive communicator, single mom and a tough lady who never backed off fresh ideas that at times riled the status quo, died Thursday morning after a four-year battle with a rare form of cervical cancer.

Roberts was 59 and had split her time recently between homes in Maine and her hometown of Tampa. She had recently rented a condo in a Bayshore Boulevard high-rise so that she could look out and see the city she loved and, more to her legacy, was so driven to make better.

"I feel sorry for Tampa Bay," said Michelle Bauer, who called Roberts a mentor and worked with her on many economic development projects. "I do not know who will fill her shoes."

This is not intended to be an obituary but a celebration. I was lucky enough to know Deanne Roberts for many of the 21 years I've been at this newspaper. "Lively" and "passionate" are understated words to describe her.

She was another rare commodity: a woman and a small-business owner who rose against the odds in 2003 to chair the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.

With Roberts, I'm reminded of the Jimmy Stewart character in It's a Wonderful Life who gets to see what his hometown would have been like had he never lived.

Tampa would have been much the worse without Roberts. Without her, regional economist Richard Florida may never have visited to tell Tampa Bay in 2003 that creative cities attract talented people and better jobs. The CreativeTampaBay movement that supports creative culture in this area may never have been born.

Without Roberts, Emerge Tampa — she was especially proud of this — the top business networking organization for young adults in their 20s and early 30s may never have materialized. Key regional studies like one called "The Young and the Restless" that offered insights into how to keep young talent in the region were among Roberts' pet projects.

Why do we care? Because the mantra of recruiting and keeping talented young people has infiltrated every major organization here, from the University of South Florida and chambers of commerce to city governments.

"We have lost a vital and unquenchable spirit and energy," Ed Turanchik, a former Tampa developer and mayoral candidate, wrote on a Facebook memorial to Roberts. "She was one of our greatest civic leaders."

Diane Egner, one of Roberts' closest friends, stayed with her (along with St. Joseph's nurse Terry Beitler), around the clock this past week. Egner was by her bedside, with Roberts' sons Kirk and Kent and brother Wayne Dewey, when she died Thursday morning.

Roberts endured a startling 55 rounds of chemotherapy in recent years. Yet she still accomplished a big portion of her bucket list: traveling with her two sons to Europe and St. Petersburg, Russia, and summering in the cool of Maine.

"Deanne planned her death as well as she planned her life," a tired Egner laughed Thursday afternoon. "Last night, she told us she was ready to die and fell asleep around 5 p.m. She woke at 7:30 that evening, exclaimed 'Damn, I'm still alive,' and went back to sleep."

Colleen Chappell met Roberts as a college intern. Chappell grew so close to Roberts that when she bought the public relations business, the new firm became ChappellRoberts — with no space between the names.

"She has been my mentor, friend, counselor, business partner, sister and even adopted mother over the past 20-plus years," said Chappell.

The PR firm's slogan, appropriately, is "We create change." And the changes Roberts championed made Tampa Bay much richer.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Tampa Bay workforce development initiative looks to Houston for lessons

Tampa Bay workforce development initiative looks to Houston for lessons

The biggest hospitals in Houston had a problem.To earn a prized institutional certification, they needed more nurses with bachelor of science degrees in nursing.But local colleges were more focused on turning out nurses with two-year degrees who, to ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Health care IT company CareSync shuts down, laying off 292

Health care IT company CareSync shuts down, laying off 292

TAMPA — The days ahead were supposed to be bright.For weeks, the future of health care tech company CareSync had been thrown into question as founder and CEO and founder Travis Bond unexpectedly departed, kicking off multiple rounds of layoffs. But t...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Coal and gas hold onto their share of electricity production, despite massive push for renewables

Coal and gas hold onto their share of electricity production, despite massive push for renewables

Here’s an intriguing set of facts: Coal produces the same percentage of the world’s electricity as 20 years ago. Oil and gas remain about level, too.Same for nonfossil fuel sources. In other words, the massive push towards renewables over the past co...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Brink: Why have Florida’s working-age men left the labor market in droves

Brink: Why have Florida’s working-age men left the labor market in droves

A cancer lurks within Florida’s otherwise rosy job numbers, one that’s been called a quiet catastrophe and an intractable time bomb.Too many men between the ages of 25 and 54 have stopped working.Economists call those the prime-age years. Incomes gen...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Pride divided no more: St. Pete Pride comes back together

Pride divided no more: St. Pete Pride comes back together

ST. PETERSBURG — The 16th annual St. Pete Pride Parade is getting ready to march along the downtown waterfront the second straight year. But many hope to move past the division caused last year when the parade was uprooted from its original hom...
Published: 06/22/18
For sale: A Tampa Bay area elementary school where you can eat tacos and buy wine

For sale: A Tampa Bay area elementary school where you can eat tacos and buy wine

ST. PETERSBURG — For sale: a 104-year-old elementary school with restaurant and wine shop. It even has a title company where you can close the deal.Less than a year after completing a major renovation of the historic North Ward school, developer Jona...
Published: 06/22/18
Domain Homes: Buyers love them, some others don’t

Domain Homes: Buyers love them, some others don’t

TAMPA — When the 2008 financial crash brought down the nation’s housing market, hundreds of home builders went out of business. Among them was Sharon McSwain Homes in Atlanta, forced to liquidate in 2009.But just as developers like to develop, builde...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Armature Works developers sue Ulele and city of Tampa over use of nearby building

Armature Works developers sue Ulele and city of Tampa over use of nearby building

TAMPA — Two of the city’s hottest developers — the companies behind Ulele and the Armature Works — are heading to court over control of an old city building that sits between the hit eateries. Both want to redevelop the city&...
Published: 06/21/18
Orlando airport first to scan faces of U.S. citizens on international flights

Orlando airport first to scan faces of U.S. citizens on international flights

Associated PressFlorida’s busiest airport is becoming the first in the nation to require a face scan of passengers on all arriving and departing international flights, including U.S. citizens, according to officials there. The expected announcement T...
Published: 06/21/18
Saboteur or whistleblower? Battle between Elon Musk and former Tesla employee turns ugly, exposing internal rancor

Saboteur or whistleblower? Battle between Elon Musk and former Tesla employee turns ugly, exposing internal rancor

Hours after Tesla had sued its former employee on charges he had stolen company secrets, and days after chief Elon Musk had called him a saboteur, the Silicon Valley automaker made a startling claim. The company had received a call from a friend of t...
Published: 06/21/18