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Kevin Cooper, 36

President and CEO, The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce

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  • | 1:30 p.m. October 13, 2017
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  • Class of 2017
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Like everything else, Kevin Cooper says, he owes his career to his wife.

Several years ago, she spotted a job opening for the director of membership services at the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce and told him it was exactly the kind of job he would like, Cooper says.

He took the job, and a short time later he was named executive director. “You can’t be afraid to run through the hole that’s being created for you,” he says. “Sometimes you have to bet on yourself. And betting on yourself sometimes takes you into places you didn’t see.”

Now president and CEO of The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, he wants Sarasota to be known as a chamber town. “You walk through Gainesville on a Saturday and it’s Gator flags everywhere,” he says. “In Tallahassee everyone’s dressed up in garnet and gold. It’s not about people wearing a chamber T-shirt or flying a chamber flag. It’s people feeling good about a unifying feeling of belonging to something.”

One of the most important parts of his job, he says, is talking to members. Cooper carries index cards with him to write down whom he’s talking to and the date as well as key words and concepts. “Periodically, I just sit and go through index cards and try to synthesize ideas,” he says. “Index cards fit perfectly into a suit pocket.”

With a busy schedule, it can be challenging to find time to talk, but Cooper thinks it’s crucial. “To me, if I don’t have time to connect with the business community, I don’t know what I have time for,” he says. “There’s nothing more important to me than being in front of the people who make this community run.”

— Grier Ferguson

Survey says

Name: Kevin Cooper

Age: 36

City of residence: Unincorporated Sarasota County

Employer: The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce

Title: President and CEO

Birthplace: Springfield, Pa.

Years on the Gulf Coast: 9+ years

Marital status/children: Married (Missy), two children (Violet, Cohen)

Alma mater/degree: Bachelor of Business Administration (Marketing) – Kent State University, Master of Business Administration – Florida State University

Best place to network: No question. 

Messy desk or clean workspace: Organized Mess

Eat lunch out or at your desk: Desk

Best business lesson ever learned: A job isn’t what you do to not get fired, it’s what you do to add value.

Weirdest job you’ve ever had: I don’t know that I’ve had any weird jobs – all pretty normal

A website that makes your job easier:

App you use the most: Google Voice

One thing you do everyday: Read the newspaper

Community group you’re most involved with: Other than the Chamber, probably Sarasota County. I serve on the County’s Planning Commission, which is a tremendous commitment of time and effort.

Favorite off-hours activity: Being with my family

Two people, dead or alive, you’d like to have dinner with: My old man passed away suddenly almost 10 years ago, I would love to have dinner with him again. When you don’t expect it, you never know when any given time is the last time. When it happens, you just spend a lot of time thinking about things you would have done differently. If I couldn’t just have dinner with him twice, for the purpose of this exercise, I would like to have dinner with John Adams.

What you would be doing if you could pick another career: Something in public policy or at a foundation; perhaps both.

Top item on your bucket list: Watch the Cleveland Browns win a Super Bowl

Your happy place is: With my wife and kids

Your biggest fear: Failure

Favorite Ted Talk: The Case for Letting Business Solve Social Problems – Michael Porter

Skill you’d like to learn: Musical instrument

Who would play you in a movie about your life: It would have to be an A-lister, otherwise I’m not sure any tickets would sell

Describe yourself in three words: Public policy nerd


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