TAMPA ó When she was 19 years old, Allison Martin, 27, competed in the Miss Tampa pageant and was first runner up. A year later in 2010, she won the title and was given an opportunity to connect with the city she calls home.
"I was invested into my community and my year as Miss Tampa was very time consuming," said Martin, who grew up in Dover.
Through every luncheon and all the appearances she learned much that prepared her for the Miss Florida pageant, but she also gained skills she took with her into her future. She used those lessons to earn a spot on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers cheerleader squad, and prepare for her work as a third grade teacher for Foster Elementary School in Hillsborough County.
Martin credits the success to Bob Clark, executive director for the Miss Tampa scholarship program, who invested his time in helping her reach her full potential in her title year.
This yearís pageant, set for Saturday (Feb. 3) at Busch Gardens, marks a seminal moment for Clark. Heíll celebrate his 25th anniversary as executive director of the Miss Tampa Foundation, part of the Miss America scholarship program. He looks back with pride at the number of winnners who have gone on to enjoy successful careers.
"I donít look at this as a milestone," Clark said. "Itís just another year gone."
Martin said she is appreciative of the friendship she and Clark share even now, years after winning the crown.
"When I was Miss Tampa, Bob [Clark] intimidated me because he was so successful and I was just a college student," Martin said. "I took it as I was representing him, not just Tampa. Heís always been proud of the accomplishments of all Miss Tampaís."
Clark, longtime owner of Tampa Steel and Erecting, first started in pageants when his daughter won Miss Hillsborough County in the 1980s and remained involved when the Miss Hillsborough and Miss Tampa programs merged and moved forward with the Miss Tampa title.
Clark said he strives to make sure every women has what they need to be successful not just in the Miss Florida pageant, but become more involved within the community.
"Iíve seen a lot of young ladies grow up," Clark said. "They become women with a lot of energy and self confidence. They get what they need, so they can go on to represent Tampa well."
For Ashley Panaggio, 32, her time as Miss Tampa in 2009 opened up opportunities to gain connections in the area. After her reign, she enrolled in Stetson Law School and is now in her third year with Holland and Knight.
Panaggio said the program helped her, and she appreciates how Clark continues to put on a great program and get more women involved, according to Panaggio.
"Clark is wonderful and extremely professional," Sidney Resmondo, 25, said. "He treats Miss Tampaís like gold. He is always interested in how you are doing and showcasing you to the community."
Resmondo, held her title as Miss Tampa in 2015 after only competing in the Miss University of South Florida pageant the year prior. She was not an avid pageant competitor, but at the time it was great for stepping out of her comfort zone.
She serves as a clinical trials infusion nurse at the Miami Cancer Institute where she helps with clinical trial research. Although having recently moved from the Tampa area, she credits being able to network with others at the Moffitt Cancer Center when she was Miss Tampa for her current success
"My time with Moffitt laid the groundwork," Resmondo said. "Bob really helped when it came to support. He knew what I wanted to work on and wanted me to know he was there. I hope this encourages women to jump out of their box."
Clark has gotten to work with the Miss Tampa board that is equally as enthusiastic about seeing the women in the program succeed. Clark said his role with Miss Tampa is easily his most expensive hobby.
"Itís more expensive than my deer hunting, my elk hunting and my moose hunting," Clark said wryly. "Itís all worth it after itís over and we can say we had a good year."
For Cristina Bermudez Przybycin, 38, her time as Miss Tampa in 2000 paved the way for her future. She currently owns the boutique Platinum Zipper located at 2800 N Macdill Ave N.
"I wanted to do what I could do," Bermudez Przybycin said. "I love being able to give back through my store and help others. Iím just giving what Tampa gave to me."
Bermudez Przybycin said Clark was able to take that extra step with her and find the people she needed to get to the finish line. Through her boutique, she finds that sheís able to help young women boost their own confidence and even gets to dress women that are going through the Miss Tampa program.
"If you ever have the chance to meet him heíll probably be wearing one of his Mickey Mouse ties," Bermudez Przybycin said. " In a weird way heís like the Walt Disney for Miss Tampa because he makes pageant dreams come true."
Contact Katelyn Massarelli at [email protected]