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Tampa Bay Partnership’s new CEO and president shares what’s ahead

Veronica Brezina

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Bemetra Simmons. Tampa Bay Partnership.

The Tampa Bay Partnership has tapped Bemetra Simmons as its next president and CEO. While the role is new, Simmons is no stranger to the Partnership. 

Simmons currently serves as the chief strategy and operations officer for United Way Suncoast, which is one of the organizations that collaborate with the Partnership in creating the State of the Region competitiveness report, outlining the region’s strengths and weaknesses in comparison to its peer cities. 

Simmons started working at United Way in 2020. After serving at United Way for over a year, the search firm contacted her about the opportunity at the Partnership. 

“The Partnership is so important for our region, an opportunity like this was very attractive. With my background, this role combines everything I’ve done in my career and is overlapping with the common goal of serving the community,” Simmons told the St. Pete Catalyst. 

She explained she heard the news that Rick Homans was going to step down in March. Not long after, the St. Pete-based search firm Winner Partners contacted Simmons about the role and said several people recommended her -that’s when she entered the rigorous selection process. 

“I had four conversations with the search firm before my name was brought to the search committee,” Simmons said. Initially, there were more than 100 candidates. 

A panel interviewed the candidates and narrowed it down to the finalists, who (with the staff and Homans) gave presentations and had a meet and greet with investors.

“I played college basketball, and this reminded me of the NCAA [National Collegiate Athletic Association],” Simmons said. “I had a positive interaction with Homans. He shared his advice and how to continue the Partnership’s momentum.” 

Simmons will continue her role at United Way Suncoast through Sept. 17 before she starts the new role on Sept. 27. At United Way, Simmons oversees core operations functions, including facilitating a Covid-19 emergency response process which resulted in the disbursement of $1.6 million in emergency relief to area nonprofits.

“Everything happened last week,” Simmons said about becoming informed on the Partnership’s decision. “We told our board and the Partnership shared the news at the same time. This is a close-knit community and we wanted to be transparent.” 

Meanwhile, there will be a four- to six-week overlap at the Partnership between Homans and Simmons. Simmons is looking forward to it, as she will gain institutional knowledge from Homans. 

“I think my roles have been diverse and similar at the same time. In my 15 years of banking, I was working with business owners and at United Way, I wanted to make sure everybody is living a good life in the Tampa Bay area bridge – it’s not very different, we have the same lens same goals,” she said. 

Prior to her time at United Way, Simmons worked as the Florida Managing Director at Mutual of Omaha Bank and held leadership roles at Wells Fargo and BB&T. She currently serves on the board of commissioners for the Tampa Housing Authority, the executive committee for the Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce and the Community Tampa Bay board.

“One of the things that I love about Tampa Bay is that it’s hands-down the friendliest and warmest community I’ve lived in, and I lived in Memphis, Atlanta and Charlotte,” she said. “I’ve always known I wanted to contribute to my community, whether it be volunteering or any of the above.”

 

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