After graduating from Boca Ciega High School, I passed up four college scholarships I had won and instead caught a Greyhound bus to Cleveland, Ohio to find my fame and fortune. What I found out along the way was that I was good at typing, I could think and type and I liked to figure things out. On January 1, 1941 my mother, Sara Elizabeth Zahnizer Robertson, moved four children ages 2 to 12 into a small cottage on 7th Avenue in Pass-a-Grille and said, “There, now grow up.” And I did.
By 1973 I was working for a hospital consulting firm as a secretary. Because the principals didn’t want a lot of staff, they let me learn to do the statistical analysis for long-range plans for everything from a 1,500-bed community hospital to a 200-bed long-term care facility. I learned who reported to whom, what they needed to know for planning and what worked and didn’t work in planning health care facilities.
That was my training. By 1981 I was training staff at the State of North Carolina’s Planning Department and soon after that was hired to help design an Emergency Room patient tracking system for the New Jersey Hospital Association. By 1980 I had bought my first personal computer with money from a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan, an $ 8,000 Vector Graphics which was a real good machine in those days. I sat in a small room in the black district of Princeton, New Jersey where I was living after a divorce left me pretty broke, and learned how a computer thought. Day after day I watched the prompts and saw what patterns it worked in.
I sent letters introducing myself to all the people I had met through my years with the State of North Carolina. I was soon developing medical staff analysis for small hospitals to help them plan for their needs. In 1983 I decided to start my own business, CBR Associates (Cleo B. Robertson) and printed up a business card and letterhead.
She introduced me to Robert Winfree, Associate Chancellor of the Medical Center and together they hired me to run a $ 375K Fullerton Foundation grant to see how small personal computers could be of help to small hospitals in managing their patient data. In those days, the fact that I knew how one ran at all was valuable so no one cared that I had no degrees. The project was a great success with six software programs being developed for the small hospitals under my direction in the areas of nurse staffing, inventory control, emergency room, physician credentialing, and personnel. The Duke Foundation provided personal computers to six hospitals as part of the project. That same year, through very wonderful circumstances (read Whim of Iron I wrote) I met Dr. Jane Elchlepp, head of Duke University Medical Center’s Planning Department in Durham, North Carolina.
Along the way I worked with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill on various projects.
Today CBR Associates has close to 800 hospitals using our systems in all 50 states and three other countries. By 1985 these programs were running well and I decided to take one, the physician credentialing system, and develop it into a fully marketable product which Duke sold to me for $ 1.
One section allowed residents to discuss issues, so I posted the bridge as my issue. Out of twenty or so people who responded, one explained how much pollution was drifting into Vina homes from the low bridge and I made my decision for a high bridge. Of course the whole subject got sidelined, but the website had been useful. Travel called again and I forgot all about it, however. In 1993 I was retired out of my business and I moved back to Pass-a-Grille, now part of St. Pete Beach, Florida. I decided to travel, which I did for the next 15 years. Sweden, Spain, Mexico, Norway, Italy, Germany, Scotland, New Zealand-I was on the move. But by 2008 I was getting tired of not using my brain. When an issue came up in the City regarding whether we should have a high or low bridge for the Bayway, I needed clarity. Out of a need to hear from others, I hired a programmer, Woody Pelt, and we put together the first prototype of stpetebeachtoday.com.
We also needed to feel like a friendly community again, so we added features such as an Events Calendar and Our History. Nature articles and photo albums were added along the way as were staff. Mike Hebert joined us and immediately took us to a higher level than we could have gone without him. When the City of St. Pete Beach started getting sued, I realized we needed to be able to communicate with each other. But there were other needs now. We needed more people to find us and once here, to stay on the beach and shop and play.
Cory Chlapowski joined six months ago as a staff helper and within a month, told me to move over, she could handle the posting and day-to-day work herself. As she has ever since! It was Cory, realizing that marketing was not her talent, who recently brought in Britany Poole who is awesome at marketing and sales. Britany is busy visiting businesses to help support our efforts while the rest of our team is busy daily posting news, reporting sightings of wildlife and highlighting businesses. It was Woody who suggested that we put every business on a map for ease of getting around and finding things and personally that decision has been great for me as well as everyone in the City.
But what we do make from advertising on the site will go to pay overhead first. After that, we will allocate money for St. Pete Beach projects that the City will never do such as putting a roof on the fishing docks to keep people out of the sun. In other words, we are here to serve the community and we hope what we have developed is a pleasure and help to all who live in or visit our wonderful Paradise. So there you have it. An eclectic background founded on the small-town principals of fairness, openness and sharing which brought about a website designed solely for the community. We are not ever going to make big bucks.
I will concentrate on writing articles and taking photos of people, their pets and all the animals that share this wonderful place with us. This is your site folks, so enjoy it and please let us know how we can make it better and better for you. And me? Well, the staff of St Pete Beach Today is so good, I am no longer needed day to day.
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