Governing Board Chair Todd Pressman.
Those who knew Governing Board Chair Todd Pressman as a child probably aren’t surprised that he chose the professional field of land-use issues, political campaigns and lobbying.
As a middle school student growing up in Cleveland, he possessed one thing that few other middle schoolers would have, or possibly want — a newspaper subscription.
“I was always interested in what was happening and why. I always liked government.”
Pressman is the son of a podiatrist and a former actress who was one of the original “Little Rascals” and also appeared in the first talking motion picture, “The Jazz Singer.” The Cleveland native attended Ohio State University where he naturally became involved in student government. Being situated in Columbus, the state capital, the university afforded Pressman an opportunity to lobby the state Legislature on behalf of the students. From there, he followed a natural progression to active political campaigning.
Pressman said his move from Cleveland to Florida was an “obvious one. Florida was the Promised Land. We went there for vacations, college breaks. And every time I came down here, I thought, ‘Why not stay?’ ”
He took a job in Miami that primarily involved fundraising.
“In Columbus, I’d done a lot of political campaign work, some state lobbying, and I wanted to go in a different direction. Get more involved in brick and mortar projects and campaigns.”
Pressman stayed in Miami for a couple of years, found that he loved the city, but was “not wild about fundraising.” His next move took him to Dallas where he became involved again in issue campaigns. As good as it was for him professionally to be knee-deep in issues that had always sparked his interest, the move also was life-changing for him personally. It was in Dallas where as a single professional in a city filled with single professionals, he met Stacy, the woman with whom he would marry and raise a family.
“We met at a party and it was absolutely right from my first glance at her … I was a goner!”
Preparing to marry, the young couple began looking at places to settle down and start a family. They felt no strong ties tugging them to any particular city. They knew they wanted to go to a sunny climate, but didn’t want to go to California. Tampa had just earned the title of the next great American city. Pressman felt the old allure of Florida beckoning. Plus the transient nature of the Tampa Bay area political circles provided opportunities for a newcomer to establish himself.
“It was a geographic move rather than a job move. We were young and had no kids. We just looked for a place we liked.” Twenty-two years later, Pressman concludes the Tampa Bay area was a good choice. “It worked out well for the family. It was what we wanted as being a great place to raise a family.”
The Pressmans live in Palm Harbor. Stacy is a top executive with The Pampered Chef. Todd and Stacy have two sons. Reuben, 20, will be a junior at the University of South Florida St. Pete campus, and Elliot, 15, attends the Palm Harbor University High School International Baccalaureate program.
When he first moved to the area, Pressman was involved primarily in political campaign work, but he eventually transitioned into his current areas of governmental affairs, land-use issues and industry representation. His personal interest has remained at the local levels of government — where growth and land-use issues are generally decided. His company has represented more than 100 separate businesses and interests throughout the country on a wide variety of issues.
His interest in these issues extends beyond his job. Pressman has served on the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, the Hillsborough County Code Enforcement Board, and the US 19 Task Force and Pinellas County Re-Development Committee. He also has served on the board for the Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services and as a volunteer for the 5-to-1 Task Force.
It was while serving on the Regional Planning Council that he began looking for additional volunteer opportunities. His research led him to the Southwest Florida Water Management District Governing Board. He asked around about what being a Governing Board member would involve. “I was told it was only one day per month.”
All Board members past and present laugh at that joke because the reality is that the volunteer job entails significantly more than one day per month, including prep time needed to read voluminous binders for Governing Board meetings and representing the District on Basin Boards, advisory committees, with other organizations and at public events.
“It’s a whole new world. I had a general conception, but certainly not the clarity of what is actually involved. Two things that have particularly struck me: the complexity of the water resource issues and the universally high degree of professionalism by the District staff.”
Pressman said he was honored in May when his peers on the Governing Board elected him unanimously as the new chair. One of his primary goals is to reduce the amount of potable water being used on lawns and landscaping. He especially wants to ensure that available reclaimed water is being fully reused. Pointing to Tampa’s wastewater treatment plant that produces more than 50 million gallons a day of reclaimed water, he praises the city’s completion of a master water plan to maximize the beneficial reuse of that water.
“A good step was made forward. We have to assist in getting that plan implemented and keep it moving at a fast pace. It greatly bothers me to see so much water that could be providing a real benefit to the community instead being poured into the bay.”
Pressman wants all the parties, private and public sector, to work together developing solutions, especially to the difficult problem of retrofitting neighborhoods to be able to use the reclaimed water.
“It’s important to combine incentives, regulation and education to make the most of these reclaimed water sources and to develop new sources of water.”
The new chair will work toward those goals using the traits that have made him successful professionally: a strong work ethic, open mind, good listening skills and, like that sixth grader in Cleveland pouring over the day’s newspaper, an innate interest in what’s happening and why.