Posted by: Kari Goetz on Thursday, March 4, 2021

Ron Christaldi, 2020 Parke Wright III Award Recipient

You've been involved in the Chamber for quite a while now, can you remember your first Chamber meeting?

My first Chamber meeting was in joining the Water Policy task force in the late 1990s. I think Ike Tribble was the chair at the time.  During that time, there was a lot of litigation in the region over water resources and the Chamber was taking a leadership role to try to bring order to that situation.  For my part, I just wanted to help find a solution.  It was a wonderful experience, and the region ultimately came together in the formation of what is now Tampa Bay Water.

I will also mention that I distinctly remember attending the annual meeting in 2003 when Deanne Roberts took over the chair from Sandy Mackinnon.  Both were such dynamic leaders and Deanne's speech that year about her vision inspired me to want to someday chair the chamber and 12 years later I did!

You've held numerous leadership positions with the Chamber and LTA, what has been the most rewarding project that you lead or moment you experienced in that time?

When I was chair elect, I served as chair of the nominating committee, which selects the executive committee and officers. In looking at the pool of people to choose from, I felt that we could do better from a diversity perspective.  In that moment, the minority business accelerator was born and though the hard work and determination of Bob and many other staff and board members the vision I had of enriching the diversity of the Chamber became a reality. 

You are the Parke Wright III recipient this year. In years past, the recipient is surprised, with the pandemic, it's harder to keep a secret, did you know or were you really surprised?

Although I knew I was nominated, I didn't think I had a chance to win given the caliber of past winners and the typical pool of nominees.  I had no idea that my kids had participated in making that video.  As the lunch started, I noticed my long-time mentor and friend, David de la Parte, in the room, which caused me for the first time to wonder if I had won. 

What were your first thoughts when you found out you were being honored?

I will admit, seeing my kids in the video was shocking to me and brought me to tears.  My first thoughts were how blessed I am to have had the opportunity to lead and to be recognized. The warm words of my friends, colleagues and family in the video filled me with emotion.  It is such an honor to be counted among the past winners, and the video presentation will stay in my heart forever.

Have you had a chance to go back and watch the announcement video again? What is your favorite part?

I watched it so many times!  Not to hear about myself, but to watch my kids and friends.  I am so proud of how poised and well-spoken my kids were.  Seeing my mentor David de la Parte brought to mind so many memories of the lessons I have learned from him and a realization of the immense gratitude I have for him.  Watching my fellow past Chamber chairs Mike Griffin and Guy King reminded me of the great leadership they have demonstrated and steadfast friendship that have given me.  Seeing Bemetra Simmons always inspires me in how visionary she is while at the same time being very humble and grounded.  Seeing my friend Mayor Castor conjured up great memories together but more importantly the great respect I have for her lifelong public service to all of us in this Tampa Bay Community.  It made me realize that the Parke Wright III award is not about me, it is about this wonderful place called Tampa Bay.

Your Parke Wright III video demonstrates that you are not only an incredible leader and community advocate, but also a devoted dad. How do you balance time with your family and all of your other obligations?

One word: Integration.  My kids, my family, my friends, my colleagues, my charity work and volunteer projects, my firm and my clients are a continuum of the same thing.  Work and play are intertwined.  My kids help me on the charity projects I undertake like chairing the LLS Light the night walk, the Lions Eye Institute Heart Ball or the American Heart Association Heart Ball.  I am never too busy for my kids.  We are always working and we are always playing.  We seize every moment of every day and make the most of it. That's the reason I always have this suit and tie on!

You were recently named the Managing Partner for Shumaker, in addition to being the CEO of Shumaker Advisors Florida. How has your role and your leadership had to adapt to the work-from-home environment and other challenges facing the legal system in a pandemic?

2020 was a challenging and transformational year in many ways.  As lawyers and public policy advisors, we have a responsibility to navigate our clients and the community through the challenges of uncertain and changing times.  At Shumaker, we quickly established a 24 hour a day Covid related helpline to assist clients and the community with the myriad of challenges facing them in the early days of the pandemic in Tampa Bay.  At Shumaker, we were considered an essential service and remained open in our physical locations, but the health and safety of our workforce was of paramount importance so we quickly deployed safety measures for those on site and remote work capabilities so many could work from the safety of their homes.  Our staff and IT professionals did a fantastic job and I have spent more time on video conferences in the last year than in my entire life before that!

I know you like to travel with your kids, when the pandemic is over - what is top on your list for places to visit?

We have been to NYC, Chicago, San Fran, Las Vegas, Breckenridge, Phila, NJ beaches, NC mountains, Minnesota lakes, London, Italy etc. I had planned to take them to Ireland before Covid, and I think getting that trip back on track will be top of the list once the pandemic subsides.  In the meantime, we are having a lot of fun at home!