Early bird special for outgoing Visit Florida chairman? Oui!

William “Bill” Talbert expects he’ll have some time on his hands in the coming weeks to cross the peninsula and visit the restaurant of his successor leading the Visit Florida board of directors.

BillTalbertBut the menu may have to be expanded to meet his tastes.

“Madam chair, I can’t wait to be at your restaurant,” Talbert told Maryann Ferenc, a downtown Tampa restaurateur who will officially become chairwoman of the Visit Florida board on Saturday. “I’m going to want to have the early bird special at your restaurant the next time I’m there.”

The exchange occurred during a Visit Florida teleconference Tuesday.

Ferenc, co-owner of the upscale Mise en Place, told Talbert replied that she’ll have to adapt her menu to accommodate her predecessor.


“I’ll create one for you, Bill,” Ferenc said.

According to the tony restaurant’s website, Chef (and co-owner) Marty Blitz follows two masters: “the season and Marty’s whim.”

As for his time as chairman, Talbert said that after a of “transition,” that has seen the agency downsized and its funding threatened, he doesn’t believe he’d have done anything different at the helm.

“I can’t say that necessary I was the right chair, but I’ve been honored to serve,” said Talbert, who is also the president and CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Visit Florida was in the line of fire for House Speaker Richard Corcoran and other GOP House members, inflamed by the agency’s spending on marketing contracts, including a $1 million deal with Miami rapper Pitbull.

The House wanted to eliminate the tourism agency’s funding, before finally agreeing to a Gov. Rick Scott‘s $76 million request during a special session earlier this month. Scott had waged an all-out campaign to fund the agency.

Talbert said Tuesday that, as chairman he spoke “face to face” with Scott at least twice a month.

“My goal as chair in leading the board was to maintain the institution and to maintain the funding,” said Talbert. “While there’s been an up and down process, and quite a ride, but I want to thank the board. You traveled to Tallahassee. You testified. You sent emails. You did social media. That all made a difference.”

Posted by Jim Turner.