After living by the adage, "just hang in there," Darren Dennington is ready to "raise the bar" — again.
At the 2013 annual membership dinner of the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce, the newly installed chairman of the group's board of directors paid homage to the past as he put forth his views of the post-meltdown economy.
About 12 years ago, he noted, at a chamber meeting, then chair George May urged the group to "raise the bar."
"Those were great words that challenged the group to to do our very best," said Dennington, who owns the Copper Bell Cafe in Riverview and restaurant and consulting businesses. "Over the next few years we pushed and pushed that bar as high as we could."
Then came the "challenging times," which pushed business leaders and owners to rethink "how to build a community in an un-favorable economy."
As for the future, "when will this turn around, I'm sorry, I don't have them," Dennington said. "I'm just a small business owner trying to do it right. But I've surrounded myself with the best and the brightest and together we are trying to figure it out."
As for "a brighter tomorrow?"
"Absolutely," Dennington said. "But you know what? I'm pretty happy with today. This community and chamber have worked extremely hard, and every once in awhile it's okay to take a breath, take a look around and see everything's that right."
Toward that end, he noted the contributions of many individuals, including Earl Lennard, past recipient of the chamber's Greater Brandon Community Leadership Award and the former superintendent of schools, and his predecessor, MaryEllen Elia, who Dennington said set and raised the bar "for the excellent education my daughter is receiving."
Dennington noted as well educator and principal Jason Pepe and "Mrs. Burkett, who has allowed, with open arms, the suggestions, presence and involvement of a small group of caring fathers trying to make a positive impact in our schools."
Also, Susan Saunders, who at the dinner received recognition as the newest named Brandon's Key Citizen of the Year, for her many hours of community service. "Thank you, Susan, you have inspired me to teach my daughter how to get involved," Dennington said.
The list continued, with nods to:
- Carlos Soto, president of the Brandon campus of Hillsborough Community College;
- John Sullivan, who co-founded the Winthrop neo-traditional community in Riverview, with his wife,Kay;
- Francis Register, who "has been with the same community bank for roughly 55 years;
- Graduates of the Brandon Leadership Class of 2005, in which Dennington was a member;
- Chamber staff, including Tammy Bracewell, president and chief executive officer, and Laura Simpson, vice president;
- His wife and daughter, Shelli and Kyra;
- Anne Nymark, co-founder of the Greater Brandon Community Foundation and its Angel Foundation program;
- Attorney Bob Bivins, outgoing chair of the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce;
- People with community spirit, including Cindy Sofarelli, of the YMCA, Jennifer Murphy and Debbie Meegan, executive director of the Brandon Outreach Clinic; and
- The "unknown volunteer," who is "excited to get involved, looking forward to meeting tons of new people and understands that 'you get out what you put in.' "
Dennington's Five Goals: Making Sure The Chamber . . .
- Advocates for local businesses
- Provides quality and value to its members
- Remains involved in local issues
- Connects members
- Grooms emerging leaders through Leadership Brandon and the Young Professionals (YP) networking group.