Coming off the heels of co-chairing one of the most successful fundraising campaigns for economic development in this community’s history, Vision 2015, Jim Donatelli was honored in February by the Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce as its Emerging Leader of Year at the 51st annual PACE (Pensacola Area Commitment to Excellence) Awards.
Few can disagree that the Pensacola City President for Regions Bank has made an impact in the greater Pensacola area since assuming that role in September 2007.
“The Emerging Leadership award is an award given to those who show strong leadership abilities within our community,” Hope Allen, Vice President of Member Services of Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, explained. “It is presented to newcomers who demonstrate a continuous positive impact on the Pensacola community.”
Donatelli has met all of those requirements. Leadership is indeed one of his defining characteristics, and he has never shied away from community service.
“I have often found myself in the position to lead,” Donatelli told IN. “If you have the ability to help, then you should. If not me, then who?”
The Pittsburgh, Pa. native began his career in banking at an entry-level position in 1999 at First Union, which later merged with Wachovia Bank. He soon became a district manager and followed that with a regional manager position.
In April 2007, Donatelli joined Regions as a consumer banking executive responsible for Regions consumer banking sales and service activities from Pensacola to Panama City. When Jim Schmitz was tapped to serve as Regions Bank’s Middle Tennessee area executive, he was promoted to head the Pensacola market.
“I am in the career I wanted to be in,” he said. “I didn’t know this was the career I was supposed to be in, but I am, professionally, where I think I should be.”
His life hasn’t been without adversity and personal challenges. As a teenager, he lost his mom to cancer. Two years ago, Donatelli found himself facing the disease again that challenged both him and his family.
During the pregnancy of their second child, his wife Kim was diagnosed with atrial myxoma, a tumor on her internal heart wall. The cardiologist determined that bringing the pregnancy to full term was the best option before attempting heart surgery.
“In a strange way I found the experience fulfilling and challenging at the same time,” said Donatelli.
Their son William was born in January 2010, and Kim was finally able to undergo successful heart surgery. Then Will was diagnosed with Down syndrome. The Donatelli family has taken it all in stride. Donatelli has thought of his youngest as their miracle baby, because without him they may not have discovered the tumor that was growing on the back of Kim’s heart and strangling her valves.
Donatelli didn’t let his personal challenges force him to cut back on his community commitments. “It was important to still be there for the community as well as my family.”
When the Pensacola Chamber was looking for someone to head the important drive to create a new economic development push to create 3,000 jobs by 2015, Donatelli and Bentina Terry, vice president of external affairs and corporate services for the Gulf Power Company, were chosen to lead the charge. Their mission was to raise $6.5 million over the next five years. They far exceeded that goal by getting pledges for $7,363,000.
Donatelli hasn’t limited his community service to only the Chamber. He is a board member of the University of West Florida and on the executive committee of United Way of Escambia County. He is also currently involved in the Regions Bank “Share the Good” book drive. The 19 local Regions branches are collecting through April 1 new or gently used books for nonprofit organizations in our community. In Escambia County, the books will be distributed by United Way of Escambia County to nonprofit agencies that serve children as well as to adult literacy programs and programs that serve senior citizens.
“This is a way for the Regions Corporation to give back to the community,” Donatelli said.
He loves his new hometown. “We love the charisma, charm and the people of Pensacola,” said Donatelli. He is optimistic about its future.
“Pensacola has room to grow,” he told IN. “There are resources here that are not in other places, and the economy is relatively stable with the government spending due to the military.”
According to Donatelli, the impact of the BP oil spill on this community revealed many brave people who have been forced to deal with situations that others haven’t yet, proving Pensacola will continue to bounce back. Cooperation, collaboration and regionalization will play key roles in that comeback, but the foundation will be the character of the greater Pensacola area.
“This community is incredibly resilient,” said Donatelli.