St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman provided the opening remarks to set the tone for the evening. “We want the sun to shine on all of us. No matter who we are. No matter who we love.”
Kriseman celebrated the city’s perfect score of 100 for HRC’s Municipal Equality Index two years in a row. “We are doing the right thing for our LGBT community and economy. Our pride in our LGBT community is just good business.”
Director of the HCCSB and former Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner shared his own message with attendees. “The meaning of pride has evolved over time. You had all of the prides and gay days. Pride was much more than a party. Pride was about being able to love and accept yourself and others. There are so many individuals who don’t love and accept themselves for who they are. Pride is so much more than a party. It’s a matter of personal responsibility.”
According to the Tampa Bay Times, Beckner, who came out 25 years ago, lead the commission to remove the ban on gay pride recognition in Hillsborough County back in 2013.
Jane Castor, former Chief of Police for the city of Tampa, received a huge round of applause as she took the podium. “We are all a sum of our life experience,” she began. “To bring those different opinions and experiences to the table in business decisions is very important. Diversity is incredibly important. I believe we do a fine job of embracing it in the Tampa Bay Area.”
Tech Data EVP/CIO John Tonnison showed great pride in his company, who has remained at the top of the HRC CEI for 12 years running. “We are doing work in Tallahassee advocating for LGBT rights.”
“We raised the pride flag over our worldwide headquarters, standing in fierce support of our ERG pride group who will march 250 strong in Saturday’s pride march,” Tonnison said amid cheers and applause.
The most humorous of the evening’s remarks came from Divorce Attorney Michael Lundy, a partner of Older, Lundy & Alvarez. “You’ve had a county commissioner, chief of police and mayor. And now you get a lawyer…and I’m not gay.”
Lundy went on to share his history with advocacy work as an ally. “Where we work and where we live – this is one community. Our community. We are not here for a business reason. This is something we believe in.”
Individual “Outstanding Voices” honorees included Jason Bagwell of Priority One Financial Services, Nathan Bruemmer with TransAction Florida, Chrys Bundy with Tech Data Corp, Stan Duncan with Raymond James, Damien McKinney with The McKinney Law Group, Scott Skyberg with Skyber Consulting, City of Largo Commissioner Michael Smith, and Carrie West of Tampa Pride Inc.
Individual “Allies” honorees included Kelly Flannery of the South Tampa Chamber of Commerce, District 6 City of Tampa Council Member Guido Maniscalco, and Melina Scally with The Center for Psychological Growth.
Moffitt Cancer Center, PNC Financial Services Group, Smith & Associates Real Estate, USAA, and Visit St. Pete Clearwater were also honored, as were Community Tampa Bay, MD DO Associates, and The Center for Psychological Growth.
Get to know this year’s Business of Pride honorees by clicking here.