Ten years ago, this reporter sat across from Lori Rosso and asked her about her plans as newly-elected Gulfport Chamber of Commerce president. “It always stuck with me that you asked me what I was going to change,” she remembers.
“It always stuck with me that I don’t want to change, I want to enhance. I want to benefit more people. I genuinely love Gulfport.”
Rosso spent the last decade proving her words. In the past decade, no one has wanted her position as president, but the Gulfport Chamber changed. It changed executive directors and names – it’s now called the Gulfport Area Chamber of Commerce. This past January, Rosso chose not to run for election.
“It was time for a change in command,” she told the Gabber. “After too many years as the leader, you need new ideas. [New president] Barry Rubin brings a new skill set and enthusiasm.”
Rosso remains active on the now-named Gulfport Area Chamber of Commerce, serving as its vice president, a position for which she had no competition. However, she has turned her leadership skills to fill the shoes emptied by Mike McCue, longtime president of the Gulfport Merchants Association (GMA).
The GMA focuses solely on businesses in the waterfront district. In years past, this has included Beach and Shore Boulevards, but Tuesday afternoon Rosso said some businesses along Gulfport Boulevard will get included in the next GMA business brochure.
“We work in tandem with the Chamber. We always have and always will,” she says. The Chamber, she adds, has a larger focus, but stresses that all the city’s business organizations – and the city itself – have worked and will work in tandem to keep Gulfport moving forward.
“The rising tide raises all boats. You can’t create the kind of change we needed ten years ago,” she says, without “the kind of cooperation between the Chamber, the GMA, and the city, and that will continue.”
Monday night, the Gulfport Merchants Association voted unanimously to make Lori Rosso president. Mike McCue, the immediate past president, will remain a member of the GMA board “and he’ll continue to advise me, much like I continue to communicate with and advise Barry,” Rosso said. “[Mike] is not walking away; he remains very active.”
“I’m very passionate about the Merchants Association; I’ve been involved with it for thirteen years,” said McCue. “I need a break. It’s a personal time issue. It takes a lot of time.”
Other GMA board members include Owen Pach (Industrial Arts Center), Vice President; Biff Lagan (Gulfport Beach Bazaar), Treasurer; and Marsha Warner (Gulfport Tuesday Fresh Market), Secretary. Other board members include Daniel Hodge, Suzanne King, Michael Knettel, Scott Linde, Larry Musfelt and Richard Radovic.
The GMA sponsors the two-decade ArtWalk tradition as well as GeckoFest, Holiday Hoopla, and Get Rescued.
As with many other volunteer-driven organizations in Gulfport, the board elections saw no competition. Rosso stepped into her vice presidency at the chamber as well as presidency at the GMA unopposed. Rosso is active with the county’s Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, a frequent silent attendee at city hall meetings, and owner of one of the two lodging facilities in town, Sea Breeze Manor.
And, as when she took the helm at the Chamber, Rosso sees her new command staying true to the course the GMA has set.
“I don’t see us fundamentally changing at all,” says Rosso. “We’re very happy.”