SANFORD A DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH NO LONGER
By Nikki Namdar
Inside The Old Jailhouse restaurant, Jeff Triplett sips a drink while giving dental flossing advice to his youngest son on the phone. Brick walls, barred windows, and shiny chandeliers embellish this old-time slammer while classic rock plays. From the outside, he looks like a normal guy, but as noted on his burgundy button-up, he’s the Mayor of Sanford. Currently in his third term as Mayor, Triplett is also the President at the Greater Sanford Regional Chamber of Commerce, a coupling which he refers to as a “great relationship.” Mayor for just shy of nine years, Triplett is a former Senior Vice President in the banking industry and currently, a consultant specializing in commercial loans and business strategies.
In the early 1990s, his boss at the time instructed him to take over a bank in Sanford. Triplett’s first question was, “Where is Sanford?” Then he never left.
“As a former chairman of the chamber in 2001, I’ve always been a champion for our chamber. I see this as a perfect fit to continue the mission of the GSRCC, be a proponent of the city, county and region, and lead the way for the 100-year anniversary”
Triplett’s mentor advised him to do something that would make a difference. Believing in Sanford’s potential of becoming a prime business hub, he has devoted his life to making Sanford financially successful. Triplett believes this job is his civic duty, despite some painful decision making and sacrifices to his personal life.
“That’s why I decided to run for mayor. I was tired of hearing we were ‘a diamond in the rough’,” he said. “How do we create something in the City of Sanford that makes it easier for developers and businesses to come in and do business? How do we make good policies for the City of Sanford? How do we streamline the City of Sanford? How do we improve the City of Sanford technologically?”
Triplett saw the answer as the chamber because it was already business oriented.
“I’m not really an event guy,” he said. “Instead of sitting on a thousand boards for bankers, being the leader of the largest city in Seminole County, the county seat, and now, the chamber, I can truly make a difference.”
The GSRCC’s past chairman, Suzanne Kelly, added, “The Greater Sanford Regional Chamber of Commerce celebrates its 100-year anniversary in 2020, and we couldn’t think of anyone better to lead the charge for next year and beyond. The chamber is the leader of economic initiatives, and Jeff has proven himself to be a professional, business-oriented mayor who will continue to push us forward in the business community.”
Incoming Chair Rick Vaughn stated, “I am looking forward to working with Mayor Triplett during my term as Chair. I have personally known Jeff for over 20 years, and I am excited about him bringing his experience, knowledge, and proven track record of uniting our community.”
While spending more than 25 years in the financial services industry, Triplett was responsible for multi-million dollar loan and deposit portfolios consisting of small business and commercial real estate holdings all across Central Florida — a background he relies heavily on in his current role.
“All of our events are focused on business and that’s what he wanted to bring,” Kim Fulford, Director of Events and Services, said. “Let’s not be what everyone wants us to be; let’s be what the businesses want us to be. We listened.”
Now, the Chamber focuses on events that represent all businesses, which in turn benefits our great citizens.
The goal is to unite the city to work on projects together as a collaborative.
“We saw all these different groups doing different things,” Fulford said. “When someone mentioned his name, I thought, ‘That’s perfect.’ He can bridge that gap. Now, we have someone invested, someone who believes in our community. Let’s all do this together.”
From the boating marina to cultural culinary cuisine, both Triplett and Fulford rave about the great things our city offers. On the rare occasion that he takes time off, Triplett is often approached by members of the community who recognize him and vent their frustrations. He listens then offers them his business card to address the matters when he’s back at work. “I forget I have a recognizable face. I could use a stunt double,” he jokes.
“We’ve been blessed, honestly. We must be mindful that it only takes one incident to change everything we have going on right now. It can just stop at the drop of a hat — not just us, any successful city that makes all the right decisions. You’re charting your path. If Sanford ever had the capability to do the right thing and build a cultural center, it’s now,” he said.
And how do they do that? Power in numbers is the philosophy he lives by. When he speaks of the references to the city on travel shows and the impact of our many community forces, he smiles — a rare gesture for a seemingly serious man — with pride.
In fact, “a diamond in the rough” is a phrase he hasn’t heard in a long time
“Kim Fulford is the woman behind the curtain. Kim wears many hats and works diligently to meet the needs of our members. Her attention to detail allows her to organize all the chamber events, membership relations and marketing initiatives. She has always stood ready to help our members grow their business and be a strong part of the community. Kim and I have worked together on many chamber issues over the years and I truly look forward to us working together.” –Jeff Triplett