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East County Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021 1 month ago

Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance hires new CEO and president

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Brittany Lamont will head Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance after 11 years at the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce.
by: Jay Heater Managing Editor

If the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance couldn't have Heather Kasten back, it decided to go for the next best thing.

The Alliance plucked Brittany Lamont from the Heather Kasten career advancement model.

On Oct. 5, the Alliance announced it had hired Lamont to take over as president and CEO, succeeding Dom DiMaio, who resigned in July to become president of RITE Technology.

“Our search committee had many strong candidates and Brittany proved to be the unanimous choice based on her industry knowledge, community ties, passion and proven track record,” said Amanda Parrish, LWRBA board chair, in a release. 

Jay Heater: Side of Ranch

After Kasten resigned in January 2019 to become president and CEO of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, I had written that Kasten was a one-of-a-kind leader so the Alliance shouldn't go looking for "Heather-light" as a replacement. She was outgoing, bubbly, chatty ... a Lakewood Ranch cheerleader.

DiMaio's hire, indeed, went in a different direction.

DiMaio was recruited from his role as Synovus Bank Division CEO for Central Florida and everything had fallen into place for such an impressive hire. But after 30 years as a banking industry executive, it appeared his role with the Alliance was a lateral move at best and, to be honest, he never appeared to be totally comfortable with the Lakewood Ranch pompons in his hands. You had to wonder if the Alliance could keep him.

The answer was delivered in July when DiMaio left. Earlier in the year, he had been rumored to be a candidate for the Manatee County administrator position. Perhaps the Alliance was just not his cup of tea.

In retrospect, the DiMaio hire might have been perfect for the Alliance, which had to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. When Kasten left, the Alliance had just over 700 members. Lamont said she is taking over an organization with 653 members. In a world of virtual events, DiMaio strategically made decisions that kept the damage to a minimum. He held a networking group together when there was no live networking.

But when the Alliance needed to go looking for his replacement, I am sure the thought process focused on "how do we get another Heather?"

Kasten was the vice president of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce when she accepted the role as Alliance CEO and president in 2014. Lamont is the vice president of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, currently working under Kasten, until she takes over as Alliance CEO and president in the first week of November.

Her current job is leading a membership-based organization. She will be taking over a membership-based organization.

"I am a membership-based guru," said Lamont, who started as an intern at the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce in 2010. "These opportunities don't come often."

Kasten said 11 years at the chamber have prepared Lamont for her new position, and she said her duties won't be all that different. Kasten said they have been great friends since Lamont came to the chamber in 2010.

"My experience, and the various positions I have held with the Sarasota chamber has set me up for this, and having that background was important to (the Alliance search committee)" Lamont said.  "For me, this job is about being able to continue to grow my leadership role. The Alliance is primed for a great future ahead and now I'm putting my stamp on it. They were looking for someone to help provide a vision ... that was pivotal."

Lamont isn't ready to share that vision. 

"I need to go on a bit of a listening tour," she said. "Certainly, workforce is a big issue now, but I need to meet with our stakeholders and try to identify their needs. We already have a strong foundation with events and programming. We have to assert ourselves to support our business community."

An East County resident, Lamont grew up in western Manatee County and graduated from Bayshore High School in 2006. She said her husband, David Lamont, and children, 5-year-old Payton and 2-year-old Harper, spend a lot of time in Lakewood Ranch and in the UTC area. 

She said she stays "crazy busy" with her family in going to the kids' gymnastics and dance events, but when they get a little down time, they like to head to Colorado for skiing and hiking.

She does see the similarities between Kasten and herself.

"I would say I am outgoing," he said. "I can strike up a conversation with anyone. I thrive on interaction."

The Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance would not release Lamont's salary. The nonprofit's most recent tax records show DiMaio earned $108,462 in 2019 when he started his role in April of that year. Kasten earned $107,624 in 2018.

Kasten said it is a big loss to lose Lamont at the chamber, but she is excited to watch her grow in Lakewood Ranch.

The Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance will have to hope she doesn't grow too fast, since it would like to keep a leader around long term.

And you can bet they are hoping Kasten has a long, long career at the chamber.

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