Ron understood that economic development could take on many forms. He was an early advocate for the County establishing a "bed tax" on accommodations that could be used to reinvest into the county for tourism and sports. He was also integral to forming Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing. Mark Jackson, Director of Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing told The Ledger, “He really helped guide the ship in a positive direction, and what was important was for the organization, for the community, to see a vision of what sports could do for the community,” Jackson said. “So that was a big deal at the time. It’s a big deal for any organization for someone to have that vision and put the resources behind it to make it successful.”
Ron was inducted into the Polk County Sports Hall of Fame in 2018 for his efforts on laying the foundation of Polk County as a sports destination. In a way, our brand new fieldhouse and conference center wouldn't have been possible if Ron hadn't had the foresight to understand the importance of investing in sports. $11 million of the fieldhouse construction costs were paid for through the "bed tax" collections.
Ron also served as Executive Director of the East Polk Committee of 100 from 1992-2007. In this role he headed Economic Development efforts in East Polk County. His engagement in that role made him a wonderful choice for CSX who tapped him in 2007 to help manage community relations to develop what we know now as the CSX Intermodal Logistics Center in Winter Haven. That was a contentious development, especially to our neighbors in Lakeland, but Ron was able to navigate the politics of it all, knowing that it would be good for the economy of our community.
Perhaps one of Ron's greatest legacies for our Chamber organization was his role in founding the Leadership Winter Haven Program, one of Florida's first leadership programs, now in its 40th year. As recently as just a few years ago, Ron continued to be engaged in interviewing candidates for the program.
On a personal note, Ron was a great friend and mentor to many. Even in these harder years for him, he still stopped into the Chamber to get an update on what was happening in this community he loved so much. He attended our annual meeting in 2019 and as he always did, joked about being the last in line during the passing of the gavel. He will be greatly missed by many and our thoughts go out to his family.
His funeral services will be held this Saturday, Feb,. 15 at 2 p.m. at Grace Lutheran Church.