Pinellas News

Tarpon Chamber of Commerce president retiring

— Whether it’s a grand opening, special event or social midday business function, there’s a good chance Sue Thomas will be present.

As president of the Tarpon Springs Chamber of Commerce over the past six years, Thomas has tirelessly promoted the city’s business interests inside and outside the community.

That run will officially come to an end Friday, though, as Thomas steps down from her position into retirement. Taking her place will be the chamber’s current board of directors chairperson, Regina “Reggie” Gibson.

During a Monday afternoon phone conversation, Thomas said she is proud of what the chamber has accomplished during her eight total years of involvement and is confident its positive influence will continue throughout Tarpon Springs.

“What I had asked the board was to bring someone in to replace me who already is respected by the city and chamber and merchants association,” Thomas said of Gibson taking over. “She’s been involved with all of them, so it’s going to be a real seamless transition.”

Thomas added that retirement likely won’t mean the end of her civic engagement around a town she’s called home for over 13 years. “I still am going to stay close to the chamber and merchants association and the city when I come back,” she said. “I want to start working on our marketing workshops again with the chamber and volunteer for the different events.” “I’m looking forward to that. It’ll be fun to do on a volunteer basis.”

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Along with the chamber’s ever-expanding membership directory, helping foster a more cooperative business climate in Tarpon Springs was a point of pride for Thomas. She helped in the process of merging the Downtown and Sponge Docks merchants associations in 2012 and advocated close ties with municipal leaders to promote and grow special events around the city.

Though Thomas said the local business community is pointed in the right direction, she also noted a recent missed opportunity that still bothers her. The city decided to scrap long-developed plans to renovate and reinvigorate the Sponge Docks after 11th-hour complaints swayed commissioners’ opinions on the project.

“I’m disappointed with the way the Sponge Docks went, because that was not the intention,” she said, addressing opponents’ fears of diminishing the area’s historic significance.

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Despite the periodic disagreement and difference of opinion, the business community’s relationship with the chamber and vise versa has steadily strengthened in recent years.

Those relationships and an appreciation for Thomas’ contributions were shown Saturday evening at the future ex-president’s retirement party and roast.

Friends and colleagues from Tarpon Springs and the surrounding area came to Cypress Run Golf Club to celebrate and playfully rib Thomas while enjoying dinner and drinks.

“There were several people who … we’re going to be talking,” Thomas joked, referencing the roast portion of the evening. “Our mayor was absolutely hilarious. He was so funny and I have such a huge, huge respect for him, which made it even funnier.

“But it was fun. It was very nice and I really appreciate it.”

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