By Lisa Puster
A Westchase resident will be shaping county-wide plans that will affect local lives for decades. Many Westchase residents know Ramond (Ray) Chiaramonte, 60, as the president of the Townhomes of West Park Village.
Chiaramonte, however, has been in the planning profession for more than three decades. His distinguished career and positions have included Assistant Director of Celebration, Orlando’s best known new urbanist community, assistant director of the Hillsborough County Planning Commission and executive director of the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), the county’s main transportation planning agency. After suggesting West Park Village be modeled after Celebration, Chiaramonte is also responsible for helping transform it from an apartment-only community to the popular, mixed-use community it is today.
On May 12 Chiaramonte begins a new job as Executive Director of Hillsborough County Planning Commission, where he will succeed its longtime director, Bob Hunter, who is retiring. Chiaramonte beat out 38 applicants from across the country to win his most noteworthy role to date.
Chiaramonte said he had considered the position for a while, “It just felt right,” he stated. “I’ve always been attracted to planning, cities and architecture. As a matter of fact, everyone thought I was going to be an architect early on but planning attracted me more because it’s not just one building you are working on but a whole area you are creating or redeveloping.”
Chiaramonte has big plans for his new role, including reorganizing the planning office and staff, developing a new master plan for downtown Tampa and redeveloping the USF area. “I’m excited about this opportunity,” he said. “I’m looking forward to working with the new mayor, who really understands urban planning and what the area needs.”
Chiaramonte added, “I want Tampa to be the kind of community my grandchildren don’t want to ever move away from.”
Although Chiaramonte has an amazing professional story, his personal story is just as impressive. In 2010,while acting as Metropolitan Planning Organization Executive Director, Chiaramonte was diagnosed with Lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system. “From the time I was diagnosed, I was determined I was going to beat it,” he said. While battling cancer and going through chemotherapy, Chiaramonte never neglected his responsibilities with the MPO. “I never missed one board meeting during my treatment!” he said with a laugh.
Chiaramonte, who completed treatment in June 2011, is now healthy and cancer-free. Beating cancer was a life-changing experience for him. “It definitely changes your outlook on life,” he said. “I’m not afraid to do things now. I have more confidence and always try to keep a positive attitude.”
Chiaramonte believes his battle with cancer was his inspiration and motivation to take on his new role as executive director of Hillsborough County Planning Commission. But he may not stop there. Chiaramonte has pitched combining his current MPO position with his new position at the Planning Commission, a plan he says would bring transportation and land use closer together, save the city money and advance the careers of others in the office.
If anyone can put a plan into action, it’s Ray Chiaramonte.
Best of luck in your new role with the Planning Commission, Mr. Chiaramonte!
By Lisa Puster