Ideas come readily to Rod Mayhew; sometimes they can wake him up in the middle of the night.
The city of Zephyrhills and its future growth are where his thoughts have been focused, day or night, for the past two weeks.
He is the new executive director of the Greater Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce, stepping into the leadership role held by Vonnie Mikkelsen for six years.
Mikkelsen departed in July to accept a similar chamber position in Springfield, Oregon.
Mayhew, 61, is starting at a particularly busy time as the chamber prepares for the Pigz in Z-Hills BBQ & Blues Fest coming up in January. This annual shindig takes thousands of volunteers and months of planning.
“I’m still getting my feet wet,” Mayhew said. “But, I enjoy this. I’m the person who doesn’t like to sit idle.”
Less than one week into his new job, Mayhew woke up in the early morning hours thinking about a Leadership Zephyrhills program.
He is putting his experience in business ownership, marketing and publishing to use, as he sorts through what’s next on his plate, day to day.
The Zephyrhills’ chamber position opened up just as he was rethinking his career options. The opportunity to take the helm of a chamber proved too good to pass up.
“I’ve been working with chambers all my life,” Mayhew said. “I know how the economy works. I know what makes businesses successful. I know what makes communities grow.”
His dual perspectives of business owner and chamber enthusiast makes him a good fit, according to Tim Linville, the chamber’s president and search committee chairman.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for Zephyrhills to continue to move forward with somebody that has previous skills, both in business and working with the chamber on the other side of the fence, as he has in his past other jobs,” said Linville in a press release announcing Mayhew’s selection. “It should be a good move for Zephyrhills in its future.”
Some early ideas from Mayhew include the nine-month leadership program and increasing the number of education programs available for business owners to keep up with technology and resources in the community.
He is excited about the growth potential in Zephyrhills, especially with plans to redesign and widen roads into and out of the city.
“The way to growth is coming,” Mayhew said. “It’s coming in this direction. There is so much that is happening. It’s just primed for growth. It’s a good, central hub.”
He is a believer in teamwork at the chamber and among other chambers in the area.
“I want to see everyone all working together,” he said.
Mayhew has experienced, first-hand, growth in other counties. He moved his mortgage company – Presidential Mortgage – to Brandon when that area was still largely cow pasture.
“There wasn’t too much there,” he said. “I saw the growth coming.”
He also met his wife Cathy when she became office manager at Presidential. They live in Brandon with daughter Danielle who is a mass communications student at Hillsborough Community College. The 20-year-old plans to transfer to the University of South Florida.
The Mayhew family will soon move to Zephyrhills.
Mayhew grew up in Annapolis, Maryland, across from the U.S. Naval Academy. In fact, he was born at the academy during a blizzard.
“It was either give birth at home or go to the Naval Academy,” he said.
Mayhew initially considered journalism as a career but steered toward marketing and public relations. He has an associate’s degree from Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, Maryland; a bachelor of science marketing from Towson University in Towson, Maryland; and, a master of business administration from the University of Miami.
It was in 1984 when he headed to Tampa, where he got into banking.
He also did a “financial facts” column for the Tampa Bay Builders Association, and occasionally appeared on Channel 8 with anchor Gayle Sierens, discussing financial matters.
He has worked as a mortgage broker and real estate agent, and owned his mortgage company for about 15 years.
And wherever he has gone, Mayhew has published magazines focused on real estate.
His first magazine went from zero to 100 pages in five months, Mayhew said. He has done magazines in Brandon, Riverview and Apollo Beach.
“This was before the Internet became really popular with real estate companies,” said Mayhew, who also created the hometown magazine website.
He has always been a chamber supporter and served on the board of directors of the Ruskin Chamber of Commerce.
Real estate interests took him to Pennsylvania, where he and his wife have a second home. Mayhew helped with a Main Street initiative in Bedford, Pennsylvania.
For a time, he was marketing director for Pierpont Community & Technical College in West Virginia. He created a campaign to name the school mascot, Montgomery “Monty” the Lion.
In upcoming months, Mayhew will put his marketing and business skills to the test.
With more than 450 businesses enrolled as members, he sees room for growth, as new jobs and development come to Zephyrhills.
“Our membership is ready to take off,” he said.
And then there is the annual barbecue festival, and volunteer recruitment that will keep Mayhew and his staff busy.
“I’m always looking for volunteers,” he said. “We want people who want to participate.”
For information or to volunteer, contact the chamber office at (813) 782-1913, or visit ZephyrhillsChamber.org.
Published October 21, 2015