Tracy Duda Chapman – Helping to make Florida the best place to live and work
As a young girl, Tracy Duda Chapman had a pretty good idea of where her talents would take her. Today, as A. Duda & Sons’ senior vice president/general counsel and chief executive officer of Duda’s subsidiary The Viera Company, she has let her talents lead her to the spot of chairwoman of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. She began her one-year term last month.
“I was always interested in business and law,” Chapman said. “I wanted to go into a legal career because I enjoyed it and thought it matched my skill set, but more importantly I thought it would give me a career that no one else in the family had already pursued. It gave me an opportunity to have a key role in the Duda organization,” she said.
From its beginnings as a celery farm in 1926, A. Duda & Sons’ business operations have grown to include Duda Farm Fresh Foods, one of the world’s leading producers and suppliers of celery and other quality fresh and fresh-cut vegetables and citrus; The Viera Company, a highly regarded master planned community developer with fully integrated real estate operations including Viera Builders, a residential home builder; and Duda Ranches, manager of the company’s agricultural operations including sod, sugar cane, citrus and cattle. Learn more here. (http://www.duda.com/diversified-operations/)
Chapman earned her bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Alabama and law degree from the University of Florida College of Law. After working for two years at a law firm, Chapman joined the Duda organization in 1992. “It seems like such a short time ago,” she said. “I started out as an associate attorney. Then around 2000, I was promoted to general counsel of the company when our general counsel decided to take another opportunity. A little over five years later in 2005, I became a corporate vice president in charge of more than just the legal department. I had responsibilities in governmental relations, risk management and food safety, corporate communications and other areas. ”
As she grew in her position, Chapman took on various leadership roles in the agriculture and real estate industries and the communities in which Duda operates. “I got engaged in a lot of different organizations such as National Council of Agricultural Employers, FFVA’s Labor and Environmental & Pest Management committees, and I served on the Florida Environmental Regulation Commission for eight years,” she said.
Chapman also serves on the board of directors of Shands Teaching Hospital, the Florida Land Council and the Brevard Zoo. She is active in the Alumni Association of the Wedgworth Leadership Institute as well. She also has found time to help organize the Florida Specialty Crop Foundation’s benefit auction at FFVA’s annual conventions for more than a decade.
When Duda began its management transition from third generation to fourth in 2007, Chapman moved into the operational role for The Viera Company. “The company began the development of the master-planned community of Viera in 1989, and it’ currently about a third built out,” Chapman said. “But Viera today is a vibrant community with almost 25,000 residents, over 200 businesses creating jobs, four A-rated schools, and 13 houses of worship.”
Chapman says her favorite part of her responsibilities is working with quality people who share Duda’s values. “The underpinning of our mission and values is our Christian faith and our business integrity. We feel that should underlie every business decision. And we feel that we’ve been blessed as a business and a family, so that allows us to be a blessing to other people. That drives how we approach the day-to-day running of our business,” she said.
Chapman is excited about her new position as chairwoman of the Florida Chamber. “Duda has been involved in the chamber for many years, and in 2007 we joined at a level that gave us a board representation. Since I am responsible for a lot of the company’s government relations activities, I was chosen to sit on the board. Then I got really engaged in some of the Chamber councils. And that’s how it is with any large board. You can be engaged, or you can just go to board meetings. I sat on their policy council and political council, so I really got engaged in working to understand and set priorities in order to serve its large and diverse membership,” she said.
Chapman believes in looking at the Chamber of Commerce as more than an organization with a strictly business agenda. “I think that it’s developed an agenda that crosses over. It’s about making Florida the best place to live and work. It’s focused on ensuring that Florida has a great climate for jobs and for businesses, and that includes quality of life, health care, education. It’s an organization that’s really driving those fundamental things that makes Florida a great place to live and work for all Floridians.”
Chapman and her husband, Marc, have two daughters. One is a freshman at Florida State University and the other is a high school freshman. She says she loves to cheer her daughters on in their pursuits, sit down with a great book, and follow her favorite team. “I am an avid college football fan. My fall is taken up with Alabama Crimson Tide football games. And my husband is an avid Gator. That keeps things interesting!”