Our Town with William Kelly: Passing the torch, Michael Pucillo succeeds Bob Wright as Civic Association chairman

William Kelly  |  Civic Association  |  Our Town  |  April 18, 2023

The Palm Beach Civic Association turned a page in its history at its Annual Meeting on Monday when it honored outgoing Chairman Bob Wright and embraced new Chairman Michael Pucillo.

Officers, directors and members of the non-profit organization bid an appreciative farewell to Wright, who announced in February that he would retire after 13 transformative years at the helm.

At the same time, Civic Association leaders expressed confidence in Pucillo, who was vice chairman for three years before being named as Wright’s successor by the organization’s Executive Committee in February. The promotion took effect on Monday.

Before an audience of more than 300 people at the Flagler Museum, Civic Association President Mary Robosson thanked Wright for his many years of “extraordinary leadership.”

Robosson said it’s been an honor to work closely with Pucillo in his capacity as vice chairman and as a member of the policy-setting Executive Committee since 2017.

“Chairman Wright and members of our Executive Committee have expressed great confidence in Michael’s ability to lead us going forward,” Robosson said. “We are in very strong hands under Michael’s leadership.”

Pucillo, 69, is a former member and president of the Town Council, a lifelong Palm Beach resident and a retired securities lawyer. He takes the reins as the Civic Association enters its 80th year.

Wright, 79, is a former president and CEO of NBC and was chairman and CEO of NBC Universal until 2007. He retired as vice chairman of General Electric in 2008.

Pucillo said Wright’s expansion of the Civic Association’s communications arm proved to be deeply impactful for the organization and the community it serves.

“Bob had a great deal of experience in the media world, having run a major television network,” Pucillo said. “Bob also had the vision to recognize 13 years ago the extent to which people were getting their news in a different way, through the Internet. So, it was a very good match.”

Under Wright’s watch, the Civic Association developed Palm Beach TV, with regular newscasts about government actions and life in the town each Thursday and on alternate Sundays; Studio 33480, featuring close-up interviews with local newsmakers; in-depth Our Town news articles; and The Civic monthly newsletter.

Electronic links to the media reports are emailed to recipients on the Civic Association’s Constant Contact list, which numbers about 4,700 people – roughly equal to half the population of Palm Beach. The list grew by about 30 percent over the last year, Pucillo noted.

“You will very often hear people say, ‘I get my news about town issues from the Civic Association,’” Pucillo said. “For an organization like ours, the ability to connect with residents and communicate regarding the issues of the day is critically important. We are communicating with residents at these levels thanks to the leadership of Bob Wright.”

As an expression of the Civic Association’s appreciation, Robosson presented Wright with a book of photographs, remembrances and other comments from the organization’s directors and members of its Executive Committee.

Wright responded by reflecting on his 13-year tenure.

“I never had a bad day,” he said. “Maybe some days were harder than others, but I never had a bad day. It’s been a pleasure. I’m proud of what we could do, and I thank you very much for it.”

Civic Association directors expressed their thoughts about Wright’s legacy and the leadership transition during interviews after the meeting.

“Bob Wright’s contribution to the town, via the Civic Association, has been monumental,” said Bob Vila, who is a former chairman of the town’s Architectural Commission. “I’ve known Mr. Pucillo for quite a while, and I’m pleased that he is taking the helm. I think he’s going to do a wonderful job.”

Judy Goodman, a member of the Executive Committee and chair of the Civic Association’s Health Care Committee, said she looks forward to building upon the foundation Wright has put into place.

“The vision of Bob Wright, in bringing us into a multimedia platform, has hastened a lot of growth and brought incredible diversity and strength to this organization,” she said.

Goodman said she’s known Pucillo for more than 40 years and that their children grew up together in the town.

“I know Michael to be just a very strong and resolute and terrific leader,” she said. “He’s going to be a great asset to the organization.”

Nancy Brinker said Wright has displayed amazing leadership ability with the Civic Association and in his professional life.

“He is one of the most successful CEOs in the country – ever,” she said. “We will always be grateful for his leadership.”

She said Pucillo will be a strong chairman: “He’s very likeable and he’s very focused. He will take things by the hand. So much of it is focus and execution.”

Alfred “Skip” Aldridge, who is a member of the Civic Association’s Public Safety and Membership committees, said Pucillo is a man of many fine qualities.

“Michael has got great judgment,” he said. “Incredible values. The highest integrity. He thinks through all the decisions that he makes.”

He said Pucillo has large shoes to fill.

“One reason I was so excited about joining the Civic Association was the leadership I saw from Bob, and the great work of the Civic Association to build and strengthen the town of Palm Beach,” Aldridge said.

John Scarpa, who is a member of the Executive Committee, congratulated Pucillo. Scarpa said Wright accomplished so much largely because of his pragmatic wisdom.

“One of the things I respect most about him and his success is this: He knows you’ve got to get to the guys who get the guys that get things done,” Scarpa said. “That’s who Bob Wright is.”

Bill Bone, who is a member of the Civic Association’s Environmental Beautification Committee, said there are few people who are as energetic and creative as Wright.

“He really is a forward thinker,” Bone said. “But he’s an elegant man. For him to step down now is an elegant thing because he knows it’s an opportunity for others to come to the front.”

Bone said the town is fortunate to have a “lifer” in Pucillo.

“He brings extraordinary experience to the leadership here because of his time on the council, but also because he has lived here since his youth,” Bone said.

Also at Monday’s meeting:

+ Mayor Danielle Moore gave her annual state-of-the-town address, which reflected on a year of widescale progress on the island.

+ The Civic Association honored Palm Beach Police Detective Sergeant Craig Newby and Diane Buhler, founder and president of Friends of Palm Beach, with its 2023 Kunkel Awards. Recipients are chosen each year by the Raymond J. Kunkel Committee. Named for a former Civic Association chairman, the awards have since 1976 recognized individuals or organizations who provide heroic or meritorious service to the community.

+ The Civic Association welcomed 11 new directors. They are Melissa Ceriale, Christopher Flowers, Jill Glazer, Peter Gottsegen, Leonard Harlan, Reuben Jeffrey III, Michael Kluger, Tom Quick, Tad Smith, Daniel Stanton and Fran Terwilliger.


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