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Bob Wright 2022 Annual meeting

Our Town by William Kelly: Civic Association to honor ‘visionary’ leader Bob Wright at March 18 Award Breakfast

During 13 years of transformative leadership under then-Chairman Bob Wright, the Palm Beach Civic Association blossomed by strengthening its ties with residents and helping to build a better Palm Beach.

The non-profit association, now celebrating its 80th year of service to the town, vigorously expanded its communications outreach and assembled ever-stronger standing committees to advise the town on issues that shape the quality of life on the island.

Along the way, Wright, a retired president and CEO of NBC, added sparkle to the Civic Association’s roster of public programs by attracting A-list television news stars including Tom Brokaw, Brian Williams, and Willie Geist.

In appreciation of Wright’s deep impact, the Civic Association is honoring him with its 2024 William J. “Bill” Brooks Award for outstanding service to the community.

“We would not be where we are today without Bob Wright,” said Michael Pucillo, who succeeded Wright as chairman and CEO. “He leaves big shoes to fill.”

Wright, 80, stepped down as Civic Association chairman and CEO in April 2023 and is now chairman emeritus. He will receive the Brooks Award at the Civic Association’s Community Service Award Breakfast on Monday, March 18, at The Breakers.

Chuck Todd, chief political analyst at NBC News and former moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press, will be the keynote speaker at this year’s breakfast, which will be from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. Tickets are $200 for Civic Association members and $300 for non-members. To RSVP, click here.

Pucillo said Wright, who took the helm of the Civic Association in 2010, recognized early on the extent to which people were getting their news in a different way – through the internet.

Under Wright’s watch, the Civic Association launched PBTV, a weekly newscast about Town Hall developments and life on the island that is posted to its website and accessed through a link emailed to registered recipients through Constant Contact.

Today, those recipients receive email links to a repertoire of communications initiatives that has been expanded to include the Civic Association’s Studio 33480 interviews with local newsmakers, Our Town written news articles, and The Civic monthly newsletter.

In a town of 9,000 residents, nearly 5,000 people receive email links to the Civic Association’s communications initiatives. The list continues to grow.

“For an organization like ours, the ability to connect with residents and communicate regarding issues of the day is critically important,” Pucillo said at the Civic Association’s 2023 Annual Meeting in April. “We are communicating at these levels thanks to the leadership and vision of Bob Wright.”

Civic Association Vice Chair Michele Kessler said Wright moved the organization forward by leaps and bounds.

“His expertise in communication, his vision, and his reach were all part of his secret sauce,” Kessler said. “We are indebted to his leadership, forever.”

Leo Vecellio, a member of the Civic Association’s Executive Committee, said Wright was a transformative leader.

“He added a robust, multi-faceted communications program, and added several committees to assist the Town Council with tough, long-lasting decisions, which will affect all residents,” he said. “His legacy will be long remembered.”

In a March 2023 interview, Wright said he never had a bad day during his 13 years as Civic Association chairman.

“I’m very proud of what I was able to achieve and of having such good people,” he said. “Being able to recruit very good people is the key to any organization.”

Wright has said the Civic Association’s 139 directors, with their proven leadership abilities and skills, are the organization’s great strength. Many of those directors serve on its standing committees, which delve deep into the issues that challenge the town, including water quality, public safety, health care, the Port of Palm Beach, and more.

“In our committees, you’ve got the strongest people you can imagine from all different backgrounds – medical, construction, water,” Wright said. “And that was exciting to me to make sure we were recruiting the right people.”

Mary Robosson, Civic Association president and chief operating officer, said Wright cultivated long-lasting relationships that strengthened the organization’s standing in the community.

“To work for Bob was a true honor – his expertise, his high regard for our community, and his service to our members and directors,” she said.

Robosson also cited Wright’s passion as an essential ingredient of his success.

Wright has carried that passion for achievement with him throughout his career. At General Electric, NBC’s former parent company, he started as a staff lawyer in 1969 and retired as vice chairman in 2008. At NBC, where he was named president and CEO at age 43 in 1986, he transformed the television network into a global media giant before retiring in 2007 as chairman and CEO of NBC Universal.

“You need a lot of passion if you are going to try to accomplish something because you’re going to have tough days, and you’re going to have issues, and you’re going to have to show other people, if you are going to lead them, that you really have the passion that they can rely on,” Wright once said.

In 2005, Wright and his late wife, Suzanne, co-founded Autism Speaks, a non-profit autism awareness and research organization, after their grandson Christian was diagnosed with the condition.

Wright is also the founder and chairman of the Suzanne Wright Foundation, which launched CodePurple, a national awareness and advocacy campaign to fight pancreatic cancer.

A native of Hempstead, N.Y., Wright has been a Palm Beach resident since 1998. He and his wife, Susan, a Civic Association director, live in the North End.

The Brooks Award is given each year to a person who has significantly improved the quality of life in the local community. It is named for the late Palm Beach Town Council member and longtime general manager of WPTV Channel 5, who died in 2010.

Past Brooks Award winners include Dan Ponton, Gail Coniglio, J. Ira and Nicki Harris, Robert Nederlander, Palm Beach Police and Fire-Rescue, Jeffery Smith, Beth Walton, David Mack, Peter Elwell, James Patterson, Kirk Blouin, Alex Dreyfoos, Stanley Rumbough, Jr., and Louis Schott.

The March 18 Community Service Award Breakfast is being sponsored by Florida Crystals.


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