May I say, Thank You Winter Haven …

chamber horizontalWell, the walls are bare and the boxes are almost all packed. The twenty-two months since I tendered my letter of retirement have evaporated and my tenure here at the Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce ends today.

As I sit here in what may be Florida’s most functional Chamber of Commerce building I am so grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to work with Winter Haven’s finest business leaders. I’ve learned and laughed and shed an occasional tear while making some of the best friendships of my lifetime. I also want to thank our great Chamber staff and volunteers whose dedication and determination make this among Florida’s best business organizations.

I’ve also enjoyed invaluable support from my wife Melea and family.

Please welcome your dynamic new Chamber President/CEO, Katie Worthington. (Notice new title in keeping with Chambers across the country. Steve Crisman will now serve as Chairman of the Board.)

Support Katie and take care of each other. Buy Winter Haven first.

I hope you will stop by this afternoon (Friday, February 28) between 4:00 and 6:00 p.m. here in the Chamber Auditorium to meet Katie and allow me to express my appreciation for your support.

Thank you for eighteen wonderful years.  I’ll leave you with these words from Lennon/McCartney …

There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to May I say, Thank You Winter Haven …

  1. Stella Heath says:

    Bob, thank you for your whit, wisdom, and unwavering dedication as a friend, colleague, and mentor. You have been a tremendous advocate for a community which we all call home. As you “turn the page” on the next chapter of life, we will all be cheering you on to success in all you do.
    Stella and Bill Heath

  2. Lauren Schwnek says:

    Thank you for so many years of service. We will miss you but wish you a fun new chapter in your retirement!

  3. Hap Hazelwood says:

    Thank YOU Bob. It has been my pleasure to work with you especially the last 5 years on the board of the chamber. Blessings and Peace always be with you. We look forward to continuing and building upon our relationship for the betterment of the greater Winter Haven area.

  4. Johnny M. Read Sr. says:

    Thank you Bob. I admire you for the many hats you have worn while serving our community. Through the Chamber programs you have given us the opportunity to grow our businesses and give back at the same time. Thank you for your long dedication to all you have served. You have certainly helped me and many more. I wish you all the best and you can still call on me if I can be of service to you.

  5. Everett Baker says:


    You are simply the best.


  6. Greg Mercer says:

    Good morning Bob. I’m so glad that I had a chance to meet you before you retired. The Chamber has been great for me and my business.

    As I always tell my wife, you are merely closing one chapter of your life and simultaneously opening another more exciting one. We look forward to seeing you around.



  7. Deborah S. Coker says:

    Bravo Bob Gernert, Bravo! I have not worked with a finer man. You elevate the people around you to a higher level. I am blessed to know you. Your future endeavors will be just that more successful with you involved. The burning question is – in which city are you driving your Lego T-Bird Car?

  8. Deric C. Feacher says:

    Thanks for your commitment to the business community and City of Winter Haven. Have a great retirement for a “few months” and I will see you around.

  9. Howard Beckert says:

    In a time you wish to be as eloquent but all I can think is: “Here, here – a tribute to a man who had such a wonderful impact on our community.

    Bob, we appreciate your vision & leadership over the years and we wish you the best in your next chapter in life.

    To Katie, we look forward to a long and fruitful relationship as you lead our Chamber and community to new heights. We will be with you all the way.


  10. Glenda DeVane says:

    Have a glass of wine for me and I hope you enjoy your many trips with Melea!! We will miss you at the chamber!

  11. Bob, you have been a great asset to the Chamber and you will be missed. Enjoy your retirement.
    Katie, welcome, we are looking forward to meeting you and sharing our Commerce experiences.
    Eloise Miller and Kayla Wood

  12. Best Wishes and thank you for your dedication to the community. Enjoy your retirement.

  13. Greg Littleton says:

    Bob…..our many thanks to you for choosing to devote so many years to making all of our lives better here in Winter Haven. Your fingerprints are all over our town and we are grateful. Best of luck as you begin your next chapter!

  14. As this chapter closes, another will open. Winter Haven will continue to benefit from your leadership and the love you have for this community.

  15. Jim Parker says:

    It has not really set in that you are not going to be the face of the Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce. Your tenure has brought the City to greater heights never thought possible before. Thank you for your leadership and tireless work on many, many projects over the years. Your presence will certainly be missed.

  16. Dennis Martin says:

    Bob, the WH Chamber of Commerce, current and past Chamber volunteer leaders, and the City of Winter Haven owe you a great debt of thanks for your role in the City’s growth, prosperity, and beautification over these years!

  17. Bob,

    You, your Chamber and your staff were very influential in making the practice I opened in Winter Haven in 2009 a viable reality. I haven’t known you long, but there is no doubt you have done a great job for Winter Haven and new business owners like me. I wish you the very best in your retirement.

  18. Chris Nikdel says:

    Bob, I am glad I am not “really” having to say goodbye, because I feel sure we will see you often and hopefully work with you on a few more crazy, fun or serious projects in your so-called “retirement”. You have way too many good ideas left in you and just think, now you will be unfettered! You have been such an integral part in the shaping of Winter Haven over the last 18 years… our beloved Gardens live in a great place now and the City of Winter Haven moves forward daily. I’m excited for the new generation to come in, you’re leaving it in great shape for Katie to carry on to even bigger heights. I probably should have Melea proof this but am pushing the button anyway.

  19. Adrian Jones says:


    Many thanks from myself and us all at LEGOLAND…..we appreciate your friendship and humour (spelt correctly) and I look forward to a having a few beers with you soon….you are a Winter Haven LEGEND!


  20. HNM Menswear says:

    Enjoy your new job. RELAXATION!!! Meeting you at Wines for Wisdom and the constant words ” You should join the Chamber” , I will always remember. Take care and Be Blessed!

  21. Richard Treuman says:

    Hey Bob,

    You leave a great legacy of optimism and opportunity. Thank you!!!!

  22. Carl E Kocher says:

    Sorry to see you go. I am pleased to have served on the Chamber Selection Committee that hired you and also serve as one of your Chamber Presidents.
    Dick Dantzler selected myself, Richard Straughn & Gene West as the Pre-selection Committee that sorted through all of the initial applications. In addition, we served as an advisory committee for Paul Cate (Interim Executive Director). Paul would give us a call on regular basis that he had received more applications. The three of us would meet in the conference room and review. Paul always placed some interesting applications on top of the stack. One lady in particular had written on her 8 by 5 orchid stationery that she had run a local garden club in a small area near Kissimmee for many years and felt she could handle a small Chamber of Commerce quite well. That was the extent of her qualifications plus including address & phone number. We had a good laugh and placed her resume in the “no” stack. You did have some other very tough competition but the committee made the right selection.

    Thank you Bob for a job well done. You made a great Chamber of Commerce even greater. PS, since we are both retired, we will need to write a book about our Chamber adventures.

  23. Deborah Winters says:

    Bob, you will be sorely missed! Who will I have to consistently harass me and keep me in line?? On second thought, maybe I won’t miss that…:)
    On a serious note, it has been a pleasure working with you over the years. We have recognized your tireless commitment to Winter Haven and it is deeply appreciated. The good news is that we know your love for our city will keep you around! We wish you all the best in your next season.

  24. Bill Dorman says:

    Job well done sir; you are leaving the place in better shape than when you took over. You are to be commended.

    Best of luck in your new journey and I’m sure we’ll see you around.

  25. Katie Worthington says:

    Thank you, Bob… for everything. For being an advocate for our community, for being an incredible mentor and, most of all, for being a friend. I wish you all the best in your next adventure and I know whatever it will be, Winter Haven will be the beneficiary. Your passion for our community is unparalleled. And to steal one of your favorite Beatles quotes, “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” Cheers!

  26. Nicole Irby says:

    Bob…you will certainly be missed! I wish you much joy and success in the next chapter of your life. Thank you for all you have done for our wonderful Winter Haven community!!

  27. Thanks for all of the hard work and the memories, Bob. You have done a great job and shown us how to have fun at your job. Best of luck and don’t bother Melea too much!

  28. David Petr says:

    Nearly two years ago, our family moved to Winter Haven to find a charming city that had an incredibly quality of life and a business-friendly culture. The spirit of the community, from Cypress Gardens Boulevard to Downtown is a result of the vision, enthusiasm, and marketing talents of you, Bob. Thank you for setting the table for many future leaders. Your legacy will be respected and acted upon, with creativity, innovation and a “can do” attitude for many years to come. Enjoy yourself and see you soon.

  29. Anita Strang says:


    I am today and will always remain a fan :-). Thank you for setting the example for the rest of us to follow, one person can truly make a difference.


  30. Sal Moraco says:

    WoW! just reviewed the great comments from all your friends. You must be very proud of the fine work you have done for our Chamber and City. The non-profit world needs some help from people like you. Welcome to the world of retirement. Suzie and I look forward to working with you in the future.

  31. Frank Klopp says:

    Thanks Bob for a job well done. I recall the afternoon that I went to your home ans asked if you would serve on the Board. Little did I realize the impact you would have but I fully expected you would contribute and boy have you done that. Any annimosities over the present Chamber building have long been forgotten.

    Many thanks for all you have done for Winter Haven. As a transplant, I looked at Winter Haven as a community that needed a boost and that you did. Thank again and enjoy your “retirement”.

    Frank Klopp

  32. Bonnie Parker says:

    Our community is so much better due to your efforts. Thank you!

  33. Brad Dantzler says:

    It’s been a lot of fun working beside you all these years. Many fond memories that I will appreciate for a long long time. You did leave the WH chamber better than you found it and you did finish strong (legoland, CSX, downtown redevelopment, healthy membership, reserve fund, etc…). Enjoy the next chapter but don’t get to comfortable, Winter Haven needs your voice. Now get used to be known as “past Ex Director” as all the “past”presidents can attest!

  34. Rodney K. Chauncey says:


    It has been a pleasure working with you at the Chamber! Thank you, for your many years of leadership, commitment and dedication to our great city, Winter Haven!! Enjoy your retirement, you certainly have earned it!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>