Baseball was perhaps the inevitable theme at the Bridgeport Regional Business Council’s annual meeting on June 19. After all, the BRBC’s outgoing President Mickey Herbert was once president, CEO and majority owner of the late Bridgeport Bluefish ballclub, and the keynote speaker was the former Major League Baseball player/manager Bobby Valentine.
And Harry Carey was in attendance.
Not, of course, the legendary baseball broadcaster Harry Carey, who died in 1998. This Carey, director of external and legislative affairs at AT&T, was on hand to present one of the BRBC’s “Regional Impact Awards,” though he did acknowledge with a chuckle sharing a homophonic name with the other Carey.
The 144th annual meeting of the BRBC, held at the Trumbull Marriott, comes at a significant time for the organization. Not only is Herbert officially leaving on Nov. 1 — staffers profess to have no idea who his successor could be, with one noting that “the search committee is very tight-lipped” — the group’s chairwoman, Kate Hampford Donahue, is only a few months into the position.
But the group is continuing to make efforts to remain relevant and a valuable resource for its members, Herbert said in his opening remarks. As part of that, he introduced the group’s new-look Region magazine, redesigned and expanded to include not just editorial updates about the area’s business developments but also an expanded list of companies. Print runs will be 4,000, while the publication will also be featured on the group’s website.
Herbert noted that BRBC staff is also continuing its “listening tour” of businesses that began over the winter, which he said will result in the continued creation of jobs and tax income. He also touted the BRBC’s business expo, set for Sept. 11 at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, and the new hiring of Erin Santa Mercede as the council’s director of leadership programs.
The program was then turned over to presentation of the Regional Impact Awards. The Impact Tee Hampford Education Award was given by BRBC Chair Hampford Donahue — also president of Hampford Research in Stratford — to Sherry Haller, executive director, and Walter Luckett, volunteer, at The Justice Education Center, based in West Hartford.
The Green Business Award was presented by Rick Thigpen, vice president, state government affairs at PSEG Power Connecticut to Phil Schwer, plant manager at Wheelabrator Bridgeport. Thigpen, along with PSEG Unit 5 Project Manager Scott Matheson and Plant Manager Karl Wintermeyer, then received the Economic Development Award from Sarah Spencer, business relations specialist at the Connecticut Airport Authority.
After AT&T’s Carey presented the Legislator of the Year award to state Rep. Joe Gresko of Stratford, Barnum Financial Group Worksite Life Program Manager Beverly Wright gave the Volunteer of the Year Award to Margaret Sheahan, principal at Stratford law firm Mitchell & Sheahan.
The Health Care Award was presented by Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Regional Vice President Jason Madrak to representatives of four area schools: Christine Siegel, university provost at Fairfield University; Robin Avant, academic dean at Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport; Patricia Walker, dean of the college of health professionals at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield; and David Brady, vice president of health sciences at the University of Bridgeport.
Madrak then introduced Valentine, who in addition to his baseball career is Sacred Heart’s executive director of athletics and owns Bobby Valentine’s Sports Academy and Bobby V’s Restaurant & Sports Bar, both of which relocated within Stamford over the past year.
However, those expecting insights about business were likely disappointed as the onetime manager of the New York Mets and Boston Red Sox instead ran through some well-worn, if entertaining stories about how large a role luck played in helping the Stamford native make it to the right high school — what then was Rippowam High School — and then the minor leagues and ultimately major leagues. Name-dropping anecdotes that included such figures as Mickey Mantle, Tommy Lasorda and even O.J. Simpson suitably wowed the crowd.