Clark Butler given area Legacy Award

Published: Friday, January 30, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 11:12 p.m.

For a lasting legacy of business accomplishments and philanthropic contributions, the late Clark Butler was named the third-ever recipient of the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce's Legacy Award during the chamber's annual meeting Thursday night.

Butler, who died Oct. 10, 2008, at 89, is best known for developing Butler Plaza, the shopping center dubbed the "Miracle Mile," which stretches down SW Archer Road from SW 34th Street to I-75.

Chamber President and CEO Brent Christensen noted how Butler and his family started with a fresh produce stand in 1939 that grew into a 15,000-square-foot grocery store. Butler would go on to build numerous residential and retail developments.

Butler also organized Gainesville State Bank, now Compass Bank, helped organize the Boys and Girls Club of Gainesville and served on the capital campaign to help fund the new Shands cancer hospital now under construction. He served as mayor and city commissioner and was appointed by three Florida governors to serve on advisory boards.

Butler's daughter Deborah Butler, who became his business partner, was on hand to accept the award.

"He believed in the American free enterprise system and he believed in Gainesville," she said.

Past winners include builder Charles "Chuck" Perry and banker C.B. Daniel.

Outgoing chairman Kinnon Thomas cited the chamber's accomplishments during his term, including working with land conservation and recreation advocates to promote a half-cent sales tax approved by voters to fund parks and conservation.

Thomas said the chamber and conservation advocates will come together again to promote a 2010 ballot initiative to fund transportation projects to alleviate traffic congestion.

Economic development efforts included co-hosting business relocation consultants with Marion County officials, which he said he hoped would lead to "some announcements in the very near future."

Joe Cirulli, owner of the Gainesville Health & Fitness Centers, took over as chairman for this year.

Executive Director Angela Pate and Chairman Ken McGurn received the J. Wayne Reitz Award on Thursday, given to someone who champions economic development, for their work to ensure that more people receive workforce training with a dwindling budget.

Thomas presented the Chairman's Award to Tommy McIntosh of ERA Trend Realty for leading a group to study the need for office and industrial space and leading the chamber's public policy committee

J.R. Anchors of Shands HomeCare was named Volunteer of the Year for co-chairing the Chamber Pro-Ed Golf Classic to raise money for the Alachua County Public Schools Foundation. Anchors presented a $10,000 check to the foundation.

Christy Finnegan of RBC Bank and Vincent Gargiulo of Cruise Planners were named Diplomats of the Year for their help at chamber events.

The entertainment included an appearance by actor Geoffrey Owens, best known as Elvin on "The Cosby Show," as part of Keith Watson Productions' "faux" radio show.

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