Manatee Chamber Leader Bartz Remembered



The Manatee Chamber of Commerce lost its leader on Sunday when Bob Bartz unexpectedly died. Bartz, who entering his 35th year as president of the chamber, was remembered by local leaders as a proactive force in the region. “He had an amazing ability to bring people together, to understand issues and to come up with solutions,” says Kevin DiLallo, Chamber chairman.

During Bartz’s time helming the business organization, the Manatee Chamber grew to more than 2,100 members, making it the largest chamber on the west coast of Florida. A previous Florida Chamber Professional of the Year, he also led the Manatee Chamber when it earned a National Chamber of the Year honor in 2007, and as it was named Florida Chamber of the Year on four occasions. “It is not common to find a chamber president who stays at the helm of a single chamber for the time Bob’s leadership has spanned,” says Jacki Dezalski, executive vice president of the Manatee Chamber. “I think that was in large part due to his absolute love of this community and not wanting to live anywhere else." 

Bartz led the organization through multiple booms and economic downturns, notably including the Great Recession that started in 2007. DeLallo says Manatee’s business community pulled through that particularly difficult time by keeping a calm resolve while waiting for the economy to come back. “The chamber had a lot to do with keeping businesses involved,” he says.

Dezalski says the death caught employees at the Chamber by surprise and grief counseling was provided at the Bradenton and Lakewood Ranch offices. An official cause of death has not been released, but Bartz only checked into the hospital on Sunday, the day he died. Wife Vicki and son Jason were at his side, according to a statement from the Chamber.

News of Bartz’ passing incited numerous tributes through the day Monday. “Bob’s leadership and positive contributions to our community span decades,” said Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota and a past Florida Chamber of Commerce president. “He made Manatee County a better place for business, for residents and for visitors. Bob exemplified the spirit of public service and will be missed.” State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota released a statement describing Bartz as “an advocate for education and strong supporter of the college” while Manatee Superintendent of Schools Diana Greene celebrated him as a “friend of education and the children of Manatee County.”

DiLallo says no succession plans have been discussed yet in terms of replacing Bartz. Dezalski for now is handling Bartz’s immediate duties at the Chamber.

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