By LINDA CHION KENNEY
Tanya Doran made good on her promise to stay in the community after she left her job as president and chief executive officer of the Greater Riverview Chamber of Commerce, where she worked and rose through the ranks over the course of 14 years.
Having left the chamber in early January, it didn’t take Doran long to land her new job, as founding president and chief executive director of the nonprofit Tampa Bay Ferries Alliance, launched in April by a diverse group of local leaders to deliver on the promise of regional waterways across Tampa Bay.
More specifically, as noted in an April 19 news release, the nonprofit is “dedicated to embracing the region’s historic waterways and delivering on the decades-long vision of permanently connecting our communities via safe, cost-effective, accessible and congestion-proof, year-round ferry service.”
In a May 1 interview, Doran made it a point to recognize that the Tampa Bay Ferries Alliance is not affiliated with Cross-Bay Ferry, which in October began its sixth season linking via waterways the downtowns of Tampa and St. Petersburg.
“We’re an independent, nonprofit organization not affiliated with any vendor,” Doran said. “We are truly focused on bringing permanent ferry service regardless of who the vendor is in the Tampa Bay area.”
Doran noted that community organizations, Cross-Bay Ferry, civic groups and community leaders have heard for a long time that Tampa Bay needs a full-fledged ferry system. “There’s been a lot of talk,” Doran said. “The alliance has been building on let’s get together, let’s have one united voice and let’s take action. That’s what our goal is, to expedite permanent ferry service.”
“Right now, ferry service is for recreational use,” and it’s seasonal, Doran said. “What we want to see is bringing a terminal to south Hillsborough County, and thanks to the generosity of the Mosaic Co., the site and land has been secured, a little north of Big Bend. The terminal specifically will make routes to downtown Tampa and St. Petersburg, for recreation, as well as a commuter service to MacDill.”
As a cheerleader for her new mission, Doran said it’s “good sense” to utilize untapped waterways for sustainable, year-round ferry transportation, and especially so as the south Hillsborough County population continues to grow. She said she is especially excited for the impact ferry service will have on military families, who are “near and dear” to her heart. Moreover, she said, “it is going to be a great economic impact to our community.”
Doran said she recognizes there are concerns and that it is essential “to meet with community folks and groups and share with them what the process is.” That work is underway and ongoing and will help to address what Doran called “a lot of misinformation out there.”
While the alliance’s focus first is on “making the longstanding dreams of a permanent, year-round ferry and commuter service to MacDill a reality,” Doran said that effort is just the beginning. “With community buy-in and committed local leadership, we can sustainably bring accessible and reliable ferry service to communities across the entire region.”
Along with Doran, the alliance’s founding board of directors has been named as well, and it includes Joe Eletto, the chamber’s 2015 Riverview Key Citizen awardee and founder and chair of the Riverview Chamber’s Military Affairs Committee. He has been a residential realtor with Century 21 Beggins for more than 17 years.
“As an Apollo Beach resident for more than two decades, I’ve seen the surrounding community expand beyond expectations, driving many military families from MacDill to reside in south Hillsborough County and face daily hours-long commutes,” Eletto said, in prepared remarks. “As a military and veteran advocate, a ferry is a win-win for us all and the only transportation option that will improve these heroes’ quality of life by giving them back well over an hour with their family each day.”
The alliance board is chaired by Michael Ball, a retired naval officer and experienced Edward Jones financial advisor, who is active in community advocacy organizations. He said that despite its “incredible waterfront,” the Tampa Bay area “remains the nation’s largest waterfront region without a ferry system.”
The vice chair is Fred Fallman, retired MacDill Air Force deputy director for Mission Support. His U.S. Air Force career spans more than 40 years. “Our community has so much to offer, but traveling efficiently on our roadways is not one of them, and adding new highway lanes isn’t the answer,” Fallman said. “We need to lead by example and use our waterways as the readily available and flexible resources they are, beginning with a MacDill to south county foundation built on the strong level of support among MacDill military and civilian personnel.”
Rounding out the board are Bryce Bowden, a member of the Hillsborough County Planning Commission and a commercial realtor with Turner Cole since 2103; Kelly Flannery, South Tampa Chamber president and CEO; Chris Steinocher, St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce president and CEO; and Nancy Stevens, environmental chair and Tampa Bay Sierra Club conservation chair.
For more, visit www.TampaBayFerriesAlliance.org/.