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New chamber chair takes the gavel
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Jeff Rhoads, Dunedin chair of the board, shares a moment at the podium with Gabriella Mullins, incoming chamber chair.
DUNEDIN – The Dunedin’s Chamber of Commerce’s new chair says her priorities include addressing the chamber’s role in the city’s tourism industry.

“I hope to grow the emphasis on tourism and the chamber’s integral role in being the friendly face of tourism to our visitors and snowbirds,” said Gabriella Mullins, owner of the Holiday Inn and Express, at the chamber’s annual Awards Dinner Nov. 3.

Among her other goals is to strengthen the relationship with the chamber’s local partners, “the obvious one being the extremely important partnership we have with the Toronto and Dunedin Blue Jays,” she said.

Mullins also hopes with the help of her board to start a professional networking system that will fill a need in the chamber and present a member-to-member discount program that “has been a long time in the planning stage.”

Mullins was born in Toronto. Her family established themselves in business in the Clearwater area in the early 1980s.

Mullins married a native New Yorker, Peter Mullins, in 1989 and relocated to Brooklyn. Her first job in New York was for Cosmopolitan Magazine as a freelance editorial designer.

Within a few years, she was promoted to associate art director of the magazine, working with her boss, Helen Gurley Brown. In 1996, the Mullins relocated to Dunedin to be near their family.

A former chamber president, Bob Bellavance, asked her to envision a hotel as they stood staring at the empty parking lot on the corner of Alt. U.S. 19 and State Road 580.

“Being an artist, trained to think outside the box, I did envision it, and the more I thought about it, the more it seemed to make sense,” she said.

The hotel opened in 2001.

“We rejoiced in being part of Dunedin, and as a result, I feel I need to do my part to ensure the success of Dunedin, and my service to the chamber is something I feel fortunate to be part of,” she said.

Mullins, who has been involved with the chamber since 1996, praised current Chair Jeff Rhoads, saying she “has big shoes to fill.”

Rhoads said the chamber experienced a year of change.

“We added staff, lost staff, saw some leadership changes, expanded services, more opportunities and new ways of doing things,” Rhoads said.

Rhoads, president of Florida Auto Exchange Co. in Dunedin, said his focus was the financial stability of the chamber, “and we made strides there.”

“Our organization has been very stable for many years, but thanks to the dedication of the board and many volunteers, we’re even stronger,” he said.

As the chamber begins its 87th year and the 100th anniversary of its building at 301 Main St. downtown, “we are also on the verge of owning the building outright,” he said.

“Many thanks for all that you’ve contributed to the chamber this past year,” Rhoads said, “and my heartfelt best wishes for a new year full of accomplishments and success, both for our organization and your businesses.”

The awards dinner was held at the Dunedin Golf Club.
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