A Salute to our Board of Trustees

It has been eight years since the inception of the Downtown Waterfront Parks Foundation (WPF). The organization has worked diligently over this period to "Preserve, Protect, and Promote" St. Petersburg’s amazing waterfront parks. Our success as an organization has been made possible through the generosity of our supporters and the unwavering commitment to the Foundation’s Mission by our Board of Trustees. I’d like to take this opportunity to publicly thank the WPF Board members for the time, talent and treasure they have each afforded to the community through their service to the Foundation. 

The Waterfront Parks Foundation began in 2012 with two boards: the Board of Trustees and an Advisory Board. The Board of Trustees was the governing Board that guided policy for the organization and was comprised of men and women passionate about the preservation and protection of the privately-funded gift of the waterfront parks, by our City founders, for the benefit of all of St. Petersburg. The Trustee Board was made up of myself, as President; Charles Osterholt, Secretary; Tami Simms, Treasurer; and Board members Kent Lydecker, Ph.D., Robert Lovejoy, Joan Jaicks, Peter Betzer, Ph.D., Doug Fischer, Ed Montanari, Will Michaels, Ph.D., Don Howe and Marty Wallace.  Joel Giles, Esq. provided pro bono legal services for the WPF formation. Later Board members were Mike Cheezem, John Bowman, Helen Levine, Ph.D., David Feaster, Velva Lee Heraty, Karen Brown Dunlap, Ph.D. and Jesse Perez. The first Advisory Board was made up of like-minded community stakeholders and leaders that included the Foundation officers, and members Robert Carter, Tim Clemmons, Philip Graham IV, Mack Hicks, PhD., Sherry McBee, Ed Montanari, Peter Belmont, Esq. and Matt Shapiro. In 2016 we joined the two boards into one Board of Trustees. The current Board is comprised of officers Phil Graham, Charles Osterholt, Tami Simms and Logan DeVicente, Vice President, who make up the Executive Committee; and members Peter Betzer, Ph.D.; Robert Carter; Colleen Crutchfield; Bill Dahl; JP Fatseas; Doug Fisher; David Fischer; Harvey Ford, Esq.; Philip Graham IV; Patti Helton, Ph.D.; Mack Hicks, Ph.D.; Don Howe; Joan Jaicks; W. Richard Johnston; Will Michaels, Ph.D.; Sally Poynter; Ross Preville; and Robert Ulrich, Esq.  Mike Jefferis, Parks & Recreation Administrator and Councilman Ed Montanari are Ex-Officio members and Therese Johnson is our Executive Administrator. 

These dedicated volunteers represent the BEST of St. Petersburg and provide leadership in other areas of our community as well. We are most fortunate to have these individuals guiding the policy and performance of our organization. I am grateful for their contributions toward the preservation, protection and promotion of our amazing Downtown Waterfront Parks!  Thank you, Board Members, Past and Present! 

Phil Graham, Jr.
Waterfront Parks Foundation


Meet Our Board Members—Peter R. Betzer, PhD

Peter R. Betzer, PhDBoard Member Peter Betzer has served on the Waterfront Parks Foundation since its inception, and he brings a valuable wealth of knowledge and experience to the board. Peter and his wife, Susan Beers Betzer, MD, moved to St. Petersburg in 1971, soon after he earned his PhD in chemical oceanography from the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography. He joined the faculty of the University of South Florida’s Department of Marine Science, where he served until retiring in 2008. During his tenure there, Dr. Betzer served as Founding Dean and Professor of USF’S College of Marine Science. “It was exciting to play a key part in converting an industrial backwater into the largest marine research complex (www.spoceanteam.org) in the southeastern United States,” he remarks. “I am especially proud of the donations ($10 million) I solicited that endowed 18 student fellowships during the 25 years I led (Department Chair/Dean) the College of Marine Science.”

The author of over 60 scientific publications in journals and books, Dr. Betzer was a co-recipient of a Distinguished Authorship Award from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 1985. From 1986-89 and again from 1995-99, he was appointed to the Ocean Sciences Advisory Panel for The National Science Foundation. 

After retiring from USF, Peter was appointed CEO of the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership, a group that has been pivotal to the emergence of St. Petersburg, Florida as an internationally prominent center for marine research. After retiring from the Partnership in 2017, he was appointed to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Sea Grant Advisory Board which oversees Sea Grant Programs in 33 university systems.

In addition to Peter’s illustrious career in oceanography, he also immersed himself—quite literally—in the waters at North Shore Aquatics Center, where he joined the St. Petersburg Master’s team in 1973 and over the next 47 years, swam over 25,000 miles with the group! While competing in the 2002 World Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand, his time for the 100-meter breaststroke was the fastest recorded for all U.S. male swimmers in the 60–64-year-old age group. Of this honor, Peter remarks, “I was delighted to become an All American swimmer, something I could have never imagined during my college career.”

He has also made time for extensive public service, donating his energies to the Pier Aquarium, Bayfront Medical Center, Canterbury School of Florida, Ocean Optics, serving as Coach of St. Petersburg High School Swim Team, the Lawrence University Board of Trustees, as a member of the International Relations Committee for the City of St. Petersburg, the Florida Orchestra, the Palladium Chamber Players, and as a member of the Sea Grant Advisory Board.

Peter and Susan raised two daughters in St. Petersburg, Sarah and Katherine, both of whom now live out-of-state. The Betzers enjoy living across the street from Crescent Lake Park in St. Pete. 

Of his service to the WPF, Peter says, “It is immensely satisfying to be part of the Downtown Waterfront Parks Foundation, a group that is working not only to preserve but to enhance some of St. Petersburg’s most beautiful assets. I hope that my active collaboration with the members of the Downtown Waterfront Parks Foundation, with local business leaders and with the city, will help maintain and improve our waterfront parks so they remain a destination for residents and visitors alike.”


Tampa Bay Times ArticleWaterfront Parks In The News 

The recent flower bed plantings that took place earlier this month at North Straub and Flora Wiley Parks that were made possible by a generous donation from the Majeed Foundation got us some good coverage by the Tampa Bay Times. 

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