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East County Wednesday, May 29, 2019 5 months ago

Gem of a luncheon

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Speakers discuss exciting area progress at Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance event.
by: Andrew Atkins Staff Writer

The “Gems of the Region” Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance luncheon let three local organization leaders sparkle when it came to talking about their organizations.

Moderated by Julie Henry, the founder and president of Finish Line Leadership, the panel featured Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium Vice President of Education and Outreach Dan Bebak; Marie Selby Botanical Gardens President and CEO Jennifer Rominiecki; and Players Centre for Performing Arts Advancement Director Morgan Gerhart.

The leaders began by how they obtained their positions. Rominiecki, a New York native, said it was “absolutely nowhere on my radar to move to Florida,.” But when a recruiter approached her, “I set foot in Selby Gardens and immediately knew the potential.”

Henry asked the panelists what made them the  most excited to come to work every day. For Bebak, it’s about education and “when we see the guests come through our facilities,” he said.

The leaders thenr discussed the future changes coming to their organizations.

The botanical gardens are entering a 10-year master plan that will secure 15 acres as part of the gardens, 50% more garden space, and pioneering efforts in sustainability that will include energy net-positive structures, Rominiecki said.

The change in the works for the Players Centre is the theater complex at the new Waterside Place in Lakewood Ranch.

Bebak discussed the planned $130 million Science Education Aquarium, which means the lab on City Island in Sarasota will be able to expand into previous display areas and focus on research.

The leaders also talked about synergy among one another and the rest of the community, too, and what makes the local area so special.

“We could not exist any other place,” Bebak said. “I don’t think we could have grown…without this community.”

Gerhart echoed Bebak’s comment.

“We’re built by the community, for the community,” she said.

Rominiecki noted their synergy is good for all three.

“Any one of our successes is good for all of us,” she said.

The leaders also shared nuggets of wisdom they wish they could tell their younger selves.

Bebak’s advice was about tenacity.

“Stick with it,” he said. “Don’t let little failures here and there put you back.”

Gerhart’s advice tied more to her own personal journey. As someone who grew up doing theater, she went away from the industry for a long time as she explored other career paths before finally coming back to theater.

“Be aware of opportunities that may be unexpected, and be open to them,” she said.

Rominiecki’s advice was to, like Bebak said, stay the course, but also believe in the vision and aim high.

“Go big or go home, and I don’t want to go back to New York,” she said.

Audience members, such as Pavitra Ciavardone, Goodwill Manasota’s community outreach manager, were encouraged by what the panelists shared.

“It’s an exciting time to be here,” she said. “We’re all here for the community.”

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