With a bam and a ka-pow, Emily Walsh took over for Dennis Murphy as chair of the board for the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce.
The superhero-themed soiree was held on Oct. 21 at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota. The annual membership luncheon included updates, awards and keynote speaker Kerry Szymanski.
Deborah Jacobs was the first woman to take on the role of chair in 1992. There have only been five since.
She led a champagne toast to the heroic effort of earning chamber accreditation this year, which had been attempted twice previously.
“It’s arduous. It’s days, nights, weekends; It’s 129 attachments and more than two dozen essays,” Jacobs said.
It was a group effort, but she gave President and CEO Heather Kasten a special thanks for leading the charge.
Joe Hembree was unprepared when Rob Lane presented him with the Chair’s Cup Award for his work on the board and Affordable Housing Task Force.
“This is unexpected,” he said, “But what the Chamber does is near and dear to my heart. An effective chamber is key to having a good community.”
Walsh then took the stage to thank her predecessor and share some of her history with the chamber, from covering the first Young Professionals event as an Observer reporter in 2003 to now the chair in 2022.
“The chamber has played a huge role in my own professional development.” she said. “In this community, the chamber plays a vital role in supporting growth and economic development. I am proud to serve.”
Finally, former Sarasota County Commissioner Jon Thaxton introduced Szymanski. He described her as a cross between the prominent Realtor Michael Saunders and the local comedian Les McCurdy.
Szmanski is Director of the Tampa Bay Women’s Business Centre and also a stand-up comedian. She spoke and joked about the importance of “leading through laughter.”
Dan Sidler took that lead. During his closing remarks, he ripped open his button down shirt and clip-on tie to reveal a Chamber T-shirt like Superman.