DUNEDIN – Lynn Wargo, the late president of the Greater Dunedin Chamber of Commerce, touched many lives and is credited for helping to keep the Blue Jays’ spring training activities in the community among her many accomplishments.
City Commissioner Heather Gracy said when she ran for office in 2012, Wargo and her sat down and discussed issues.
“The one thing I didn’t bring up at that point was the Blue Jays,” Gracy said. “She wouldn’t leave that table until she got some type of commitment on the Blue Jays.”
A celebration of life for Wargo will be held July 14 from 2-4 p.m. at the Conmy Center at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, 750 San Salvador Drive.
Wargo, 57, who suffered from an aggressive rare blood cancer, died June 4.
Interim Chamber President Pam Pravetz, said Wargo brought the chamber where it is today. Wargo was president for 18 years.
“She was a fantastic leader. She worked well with everybody. She was a great hostess. She did a really great job of organizing events and programs,” Pravetz said.
City commissioners ratified an agreement Nov. 2 to keep the team in Dunedin for another 25 years. A delegation of city officials and chamber member have flown to Toronto for the past four years to bond with civic and team leaders.
“Lynn organized the first trip to Toronto. At that point we really thought they were gone,” Pravetz said. “But she still wanted to go and say we love you Blue Jays, and we all went. Probably shortly thereafter, things kind of turned around. In my mind I give her some credit for helping to keep them here in town.”
Gabriella Mullins, a former chamber board chairwoman, worked with Wargo for many chamber and community activities and said her death is going “to leave a big hole in Dunedin.”
“What she gave to the community, what she gave for tourism, what she gave to every individual she met who walked into her visitors center. It’s going to be really hard moving forward without her. She exemplified the spirit of Dunedin. Everything she did she did with grace, and every life she touched she made a positive impact,” Mullins said. “On a personal note, I’ll miss my dear friend.”
Mike Bowman, who will become board chairman in October, said when Lynn took over the chamber it was in “pretty rough shape.”
“She was able to bring it back and really make it a strong financially sound chamber of commerce,” Bowman said.
“She kind of had her fingers in everything,” he said, noting that Wargo was a Rotarian. “She really was a fantastic lady.”
Bowman and others said that she always showed a professional demeanor when addressing the city or other groups on controversial community issues, such as downtown parking.
Wargo would get a consensus from the chamber members and the governing boards and represent what the chamber’s thoughts were on the issues, he said.
“She would do it very eloquently and not derogatory in any way, shape or form,” Bowman said.
Wargo’s life partner is Jonathan Skinner of Palm Harbor.
In Wargo’s obituary, Skinner described her “as being like a duck. She was paddling vigorously underwater, working to get things done, but above, the surface was smooth. And when something went wrong, she paddled even harder.”
Local artist Steve Spathelf, also a friend of Wargo, was asked about her involvement with the Dunedin Orange Festival.
Spathelf and Dunedin businesswoman Marsha Goins secretly painted “loose” oranges around downtown in April 2009 to see what reaction they would get to having orange-related public art in downtown.
“You know we were in hiding for a few days,” he said.
While that was going on people were putting signs outside business windows asking that oranges be painted on them – the Chamber of Commerce was one of them.
But Wargo didn’t realize that Spathelf and Goins were behind it until they notified the then St. Petersburg Times that they were behind the artwork and turning themselves in.
“We were painting and Lynn came out and she was just so shocked. She said, ‘it was you; I should have known that.’”
The gimmick helped lead to the beginnings of the Orange Festival.
“She got a kick out of the oranges and really embraced them,” Spathelf said.
Wargo was enthusiastic about the starting of a chamber foundation that would be supported by some of the proceeds from the festival.
“She was not the chairman of the festival but she attended every meeting and took notes,” Spathelf said, calling her a “work horse.”
Wargo touched just about every project the city had started, Gracy said.
“Her heart was Dunedin. Such a classy lady. She really helped bring people and businesses together, which is what we value here in Dunedin as a close-knit community,” Gracy said.
Bowman wholeheartedly agreed that Wargo was instrumental in keeping the Blue Jays in Dunedin as did another former chamber chairman Dan Robison.
“Certainly, Lynn saw early on that even though the chamber would never really have a vote to cast, she saw that our role in a sense was to grease the wheel to help that process move on,” Robison said. So, she looked for ways to build relationships with people involved. She reached out to the folks at Toronto, reached out to the folks at the county, city level and she just tried to help foster that relationship between the parties that would eventually sit down and cast the vote and iron out the details of the agreement. She did that beautifully.”
Pravetz said chamber board members and city officials will be going again to Toronto June 28 through July 1.
“It’s about showing the Blue Jays some love, and I think Lynn fostered that whole spirit and made it a fun thing to do,” Pravetz said.
The chamber has heard from many people whose lives Wargo touched.
“Everyone knows Lynn’s dedication and service to the chamber and to larger Dunedin community. Really, I have to say that comes purely out of her heart for people,” Robison said. “Even outside of the chamber, outside of her involvement in public service, she is just a lover of people and was a servant of people and in the smallest ways and largest ways looked for ways to serve others, professionally and personally.”
And others now are stepping up for the chamber.
“There’s been a lot of outreach and a lot of assistance, and it’s a very good thing. We just want to keep her legacy alive,” Pravetz said.
Chamber names interim president
DUNEDIN – Pam Pravetz, chairman of the Greater Dunedin Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, has been appointed by the board to serve as interim president.
The action stems from the death of chamber President/CEO Lynn Wargo June 4.
Pravetz has resigned as board chair. Former chair and current adviser, Pete Krulder, will serve as the chairman of the board for the remainder of Pravetz’s term, a board of directors’ press release said.
“We believe that the change in leadership has been a nearly flawless transition. Continuity in service to our chamber members is our primary focus. The GDCC is a vibrant, growing organization,” the release said.
The chamber release said its golf tournament on May 8 was a great success, membership numbers are increasing and a record numbers of attendees have been reported at both the before- and after-hours events.
The chamber will be providing the membership with a candidate’s forum and social marketing workshops later this year.
“We are committed to the ongoing success of the chamber. We appreciate Lynn’s dedication to the GDCC for so many years. It is our goal to keep the chamber strong and growing so that her legacy lives on,” the release said.