Davis is the 20th recipient of the Plant City YMCA’s annual award for people who go above and beyond to make a difference in the community.
The TECO Exhibition Hall at the Florida Strawberry Festival was packed with well wishers last week as well-known local resident Paul Davis was honored as a community leader who exemplifies the YMCA’s commitment to youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Davis was announced as the Y’s 2023 Strong Leader Award recipient.
Paul Conley, Tampa YMCA’s District Executive Director for Plant City, East Pasco, Dade City called Davis a fixture in the Plant City community and well deserving of the award. “He has represented the Florida Strawberry Festival and this community for so long and so passionately that our committee felt he was an obvious choice to be the 20th Strong Leader of the Plant City YMCA,” Conley said.
Davis has served on both the Brandon and Plant City Chamber of Commerce, and for the last three years has been on the Unity in the Community Board of Directors. He was the Christmas Parade Grand Marshal in 2022 and the Florida Strawberry Festival Grand Marshal in 2023. While at the Festival, he served on the Florida Federation of Fairs Board as its president. Under his leadership, the Florida Strawberry Festival has been the number one Festival/Fair in Florida for the last seven years and in the top 40 nationwide. During his 15 years at the festival, the group completed approximately $15 million of construction and improvements.
During his law enforcement career that spanned 32 years, he ran several state, local and federal drug task forces; he was was the Division Commander of the Homeland Security Division created after the 9/11 attacks. He was also on the Brandon Chamber Board, Plant City Chamber Board and the Hillsborough County Drug Alliance Board.
Seated in the audience were more than a dozen officers with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, community leaders, Florida Strawberry Festival redcoats, elected officials and Davis’ family members.
Speakers at the event, whose remarks included Davis’ accomplishments, candid stories about the man and more than a few humorous roasts, were former Mayor Rick Lott, City Commissioner Mike Sparkman, Dub McGinnes, Tim Lovett and Davis’ son Jeremy Davis, whose remarks showed a depth of love, respect and admiration a son has for his father. “When I think about my father, I think about a leader,” he said. “When you talk to a manager you get the feeing they’re important but when you talk to a leader you get the feeing you’re important and that’s something my father has a very unique ability to do.”
When Davis took the stage to accept the award, he did it with humility. “I’m so humbled, I just want to say no one is great by themselves,” he said. “My heart is overflowing.”
In true YMCA fashion, the event was not only an awards ceremony but a vehicle to assist local families. Proceeds from the event benefit children and families in Plant City through YMCA programs and services.