Cooper to leave Chamber position to take on newly created role with Mote Marine

He will serve as vice president for communications and strategic initiatives

Kevin Cooper. Photo courtesy of Mote Marine

The president and CEO of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce will be transitioning into a different community role come early 2019.

Kevin Cooper, who has held the position since 2016, will take on the new position of vice president for communications and strategic initiatives with Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, Mote President and CEO Michael P. Crosby announced this week.

Cooper is expected to begin his official duties with Mote “at some point during the 1st quarter of 2019,” a news release says, “following an appropriate transition period at the Chamber.”

“As a highly respected leader in the Southwest Florida business community … Cooper is joining Mote — an independent, nonprofit, marine science and education institution — during a pivotal time in its 64-year history,” the release points out. “Mote is actively expanding its initiatives focused on research, education and the ocean-driven ‘blue economy’ through five campuses,” the release adds. Those facilities are in Sarasota County, Boca Grande and the Florida Keys.

Mote also has been working with Sarasota County staff on its proposal for a $130-million Mote Science Education Aquarium on approximately 12 acres at Nathan Benderson Park near University Parkway.

On Oct. 24, the County Commission unanimously approved a “term sheet” laying out the process for Mote to initially lease and then possibly buy the property.

“Mote aims to transform its current main campus on City Island [in Sarasota] into an International Marine Science, Technology & Innovation Park,” the news release explains. While planning these changes, the release continues, Mote is “implementing multiple, high-impact, scientific initiatives to address environmental emergencies, such as major red tide blooms in the Gulf of Mexico and an unprecedented coral disease outbreak in the Florida Keys.”

In his new position at Mote, the release explains, “Cooper will play a leadership role in helping to facilitate, communicate, execute and sustain Mote’s strategic initiatives. In overseeing Mote’s community relations and communications staff, he will also be responsible for some of the Lab’s most visible efforts: public and media relations, marketing, exhibit messaging, branding, outreach efforts and publications designed to deepen public understanding and stewardship of the oceans locally to internationally,” the release adds.

“Some of the world’s most important work is happening in our oceans, and some of the ocean’s most important work is happening at Mote Marine Laboratory,” Cooper said in the release. “Ever since I began working with the team at Mote on the creation of the Siesta Key Crystal Classic sand-sculpting event, I’ve admired the organization. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to devote my time to Mote’s transformative efforts,” he added in the release.

Abram Waterman and Walter MacDonald celebrate their top prize in the 2016 Crystal Classic. Photo courtesy Mote Marine

Cooper was on staff of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce when Siesta Key resident and master sand sculptor Brian Wigelsworth won community support for the first Crystal Classic. That event draws master sand sculptors from around the world to build creations several feet tall on Siesta Public Beach, in competition for monetary prizes. Proceeds from the Crystal Classic initially were directed to Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation & Research Program.

The Mote news release notes that Cooper will report directly to Crosby, who said in the release, “A critical role for Kevin will be to work with and influence people [in the] entire organization,” as well as members of “external stakeholder groups,” and then provide Crosby “recommendations related to optimal effectiveness and efficiency of overall Mote operations.”

“This will be especially important,” the release points out, with the ongoing evolution of Mote’s 2020 Vision & Strategic Plan. The 2020 Vision & Strategic Plan (available at “sets goals for Mote to conduct world-class research, nurture the best and brightest minds in marine research and technology, translate and transfer scientific knowledge to society, and deliver public service focused on science-based conservation and sustainable use of the oceans,” the release explains.

Crosby added in the release, “As a Chamber Board member, I have witnessed [Cooper’s] impact and success in moving the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce in positive directions, showing dedication and passion for ensuring the members’ individual and collective success. His emphasis on a healthy ‘ecosystem’ of businesses, nonprofits and community programs, and his deep respect for Mote and the oceans we serve, will accelerate our progress in enhancing the public’s ocean literacy, pushing the frontiers of marine science and fostering a thriving ‘blue economy.’”

Michael Crosby. Image from

A 37-year-old native of northeast Ohio, Cooper moved to Sarasota County in 2008. He had spent six years in the U.S. Army — including a tour of duty in Iraq — and had pursued extensive work with nonprofit organizations, he told the Pelican Pressin the fall of 2011.

Prior to becoming president and CEO of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, he served as director of community investment at the Gulf Coast Community Foundation — from November 2015 to October 2016.

He became membership services manager of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce in 2010 and then was named executive director of the organization in January 2011.

Along with his work at the Greater Sarasota Chamber, Cooper has had highly visible roles as a member of the Sarasota County Planning Commission, to which he was appointed in September 2015, and as treasurer of the Decide the Date Sarasota City of Sarasota Charter amendment initiative, which passed on Nov. 6. That amendment moves the city election cycle from the spring to August and November, in conjunction with the state primary and general elections.

Cooper holds a Master of Business Administration from Florida State University and a Bachelor of Business Administration from Kent State University in Ohio, the Mote news release adds.