RIVERVIEW — You'd be hard pressed to find a crowd more dedicated to their community than attendees of the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce's annual banquet, held on Jan. 25 at the ballroom of the Regent. The event also celebrated the organization's 60th anniversary.
Among the guests were about a dozen past presidents of the chamber, Hillsborough County Commissioners Sandra Murman and Stacy White, and Melissa Snively, 2019 vice chairman of the Hillsborough County School Board and Brandon chamber member who kicked off the evening with an a capella rendition of the National Anthem.
Area leaders, representing Brandon Regional Hospital, Curry Law Group, TGH Brandon Healthplex, Brandon Swim and Aquatic Center, Hillsborough Community College's Brandon Campus, the Tampa Bay Times and others, gathered for the high spirited semi-formal affair filled with accolades aplenty.
Brandon chamber CEO and president Rick Lewis awarded Christine Gearhart, marketing director for DRIRITE of Hillsborough County, with the 2018 Ambassador of the Year designation. Outgoing chamber chairman Chuck Burgess, CEO of Brandon Sports and Aquatic Center, presented Bernadette Pello, Livingston Academy co-founder and the 2019 chamber board's vice chair of programs and events, with the chairman's award.
Ron Pierce, president and CEO of RSA Consulting Group, LLC, took home the 2018 Leadership Brandon Impact Award.
Pierce, who from 2004 to 2006 was policy advisor to then-Florida Senate President Tom Lee, currently serves on the chamber's government and economic affairs committee. He's also known for inviting key elected officials to meetings and luncheons hosted by the chamber.
"To accept this award at the dinner celebrating the chamber's 60 years and in the presence of past of past presidents was quite humbling," Pierce said. "I think one of the biggest roles of chambers is to give a voice to public policy and I'm pleased to be the person to help do that."
Dave Braun, a Vietnam veteran and longtime Brandon resident, accepted the 2018 Key Citizen Award.
Braun helped establish the Medal of Honor and the WWII memorials at Tampa's Veterans Memorial Park and Museum. He's also assumed leadership roles on behalf of veterans, including with the Hillsborough County Veterans Council.
Braun once chaired the Brandon chamber's military affairs council and served as president of the Community Roundtable. Among his other accomplishments, Braun served as Brandon's honorary mayor, and he has garnered more than $1 million in grants to benefit various Brandon area nonprofit organizations.
Braun insists he doesn't do his volunteer work for accolades and awards.
"I am proud to serve where I'm needed, especially for our troops, veterans and their families," he said. "I love my family, my God and our nation and express this by being active in my community."
To top off the evening, Burgess turned over his chairmanship gavel to Nancee Sorenson, Ph.D., president of Hillsborough Community College's Brandon Campus and the chamber's 2019 chairwoman.