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Time for Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance to look toward the future

Side of Ranch: Jay Heater

Clint and Heather Kasten at a Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance event.
Clint and Heather Kasten at a Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance event.
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OK, so everyone take a deep breath and repeat after me.

"Thanks ... and goodbye Heather."

That's done with now, so let's move on.

Yes, it's a cruel world when it comes to leadership, but that's life in the big city, or in the unincorporated, master-planned community of Lakewood Ranch.

Jay Heater
Jay Heater

Heather Kasten, the CEO and president of the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance since 2014, resigned Jan. 30 to accept the same position with the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce.

We had grown accustomed to her face.

That was easy to do because Heather was awesome, and everywhere. Music on Main, there. Any significant fundraiser, there. Any shovel in the ground, there. Groundbreakings, festivals, wine tastings. There, there, there.

She had LWRBA monograms on her bathroom towels.

Seemingly, it was a pairing that would last forever. Lakewood Ranch was growing leaps and bounds and so, too, was the Alliance. As she put it on her way out the door, "It is a well-oiled machine."

And as Dorothy said in leaving Oz, "Here's your oilcan."

If the Alliance is, indeed, a well-oiled machine, then the next question should be, "Heather who?"

I would hope the LWRBA doesn't spend any time trying to find another Heather, or Heather Light.

It's OK to take notes about all her great qualities, but she is one-of-a-kind, as should the next leader of an organization that has the power to make a huge impact on our community.

So the balloon has popped, it's time for a new balloon.

I talked with David Fink, a financial advisor and past LWRBA chairman who no longer is on the Alliance board but remains dedicated to the cause.

"We need the new person to think big picture," said Fink, a member since 2010 who emphasized he doesn't have a say in the new hire. "We need someone with a strategic outlook about where we are and where we want to go. We have to continue to enhance the Alliance as our membership grows and expands.

"We need to continue to adapt and be relevant, innovative. We need the new person to put (his/her) spin on it. We have to do what we can to be a hub of influence."

Wow, that last line is deep. Be a hub of influence.

I, for one, totally agree.

The Alliance has more than 700 member businesses and thousands of those members' employees who are thus considered members. Just in terms of manpower, that's clout.

So here is the deal, how about showing off that clout?

On Oct. 5, Kasten trotted out the first "Alliance Gives Back" volunteer day. How about taking that up three notches?

Oh sorry, we're not supposed to mention that name anymore.

"Of course we will miss her," Fink said of Kasten. "She has been a big part of the Alliance and its growth and maturity.

"But the new (leader) can't rest on laurels. The Alliance is growing and certainly this job is not about maintenance. That person will need to propel the Alliance to the next stage of its growth. Look at all the commercial development coming in, and Waterside. Those outside the community will want more exposure inside. We need someone with vision."

Fink said the Alliance is the preeminent business organization in the region and one that can unite counties with so many members from both Sarasota and Manatee counties.

"The Alliance is at an interesting place in its development," he said.

Of course, it can be hard to be a whale in the market while maintaining that small-town feel. Fink talked about all the friendships he has made since joining the Alliance.

"The Alliance has been a family to me ... that's the best description I can give," he said. "I hit a home run with my investment in it."