Leadership Tampa Alumni presented the prestigious Parke Wright III Award to Deanne Roberts Wednesday, underscoring her years of contributions both as the founder and chairwoman of ChappellRoberts Communications and as a civic entrepreneur.
Roberts didn't just accept the award with conventional platitudes. She laid out a leadership blueprint for others to follow. She spoke about taking leaps and teaming with others. She spoke about lending help and touching tomorrow's leaders."
"I was trying to do two things," Roberts explained after receiving a standing ovation from the group. "I was trying to say: To move our community forward, a leader has to take a leap even if you don't know if you're going to succeed.
"I also wanted to say you have to collaborate, be willing to share the credit and work with people who will cover your back."
Roberts' resume reflects the wisdom of those words. As the 2003 Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce chairwoman, she initiated a number of efforts that continue to impact the community.
She made multimodal transportation a cornerstone of her tenure, and now the idea of light rail in Tampa Bay has gained real momentum. She helped create a young professionals group for the chamber and now Emerge Tampa has morphed into Emerge Tampa Bay, teaming with the Clearwater chamber.
She also helped plant the seeds for the area's burgeoning life sciences industry.
She co-founded Creative Tampa Bay, a group that espouses integrating economic development with technology and the arts to improve the community.
"She's helped us rethink and reshape how we view our communities," said Peter Kageyama, a partner with Creative Cities Productions. "Candidly, she said she founded Creative Tampa Bay because she wanted to create a community her kids wanted to come back to and live.
"But I think she did it for all our kids."
After her chamber tenure, Roberts helped foster a trend of creative industries relocating to Ybor City by moving her business to the historic district. She also replicated the Emerge Tampa model as chair of Leadership Florida by creating Connect Florida.
Most notable, however, is how Roberts has and continues to quietly lift up others while forging her place.
"I'm thinking his ultimate calling to us is to likewise engage, mentor, promote, sometimes step aside, and definitely lift up the next generation of Tampa's leaders," Roberts said of Wright, a Tampa icon and founder of Leadership Tampa. "It's our legacy as leaders to support others as they take big, and sometimes scary, leaps for our community."
Roberts said she was honored to be among previous winners such as attorneys Greg Yadley and Rhea Law, Panther International chief Chase Stockon, Tampa Bay & Company president Paul Catoe, former Sheriff's major Elaine White and former County Commissioner Dottie Berger-MacKinnon.
She characterized them as "legacy people," and it's clear to me her legacy will stem from how she defined leadership. Her admirable style features action more than words, humility more than ego and the possible more than the impossible.
We're a better place because of Deanne Roberts.
That's all I'm saying.