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Silhouettes profiles Beth Garcia

Beth Garcia

By Tiffany Razzano
Published Feb. 16, 2024

Born in St. Petersburg, Beth Garcia moved with her parents, who both worked in the dental field, to Ocala when she was about seven years old. Her mother had family with property in the area, so they moved to be closer to them.
After graduating high school, she went on to attend Florida State University in Tallahassee. There, she was a marketing major and she worked part time in a real estate office while taking classes. It wasn’t long before she started working for a title company and eventually met the state manager for First American Title, moving up to work closely with him for about 12 years. She frequently traveled the state as part of her role with the company.
Garcia met her future husband while working for First American Title. After they married, the couple moved to Tampa – where her husband is from – in 1990. “My husband is a Tampa native. He’s been here his whole life,” she said. “His parents, grandparents, everybody lived here and worked here.”
When they relocated to Tampa, her husband left First American and bought a title agency in Englewood, which is in southern Sarasota and Charlotte counties. While he ran that company for a number of years, when the market got bad, Garcia took over its management and he went back to work for First American.
The commute from Tampa was difficult, about an hour and a half one way, she said. “But I had a good office manager. Going down there was an adventure and traffic isn’t getting any better.”
They closed down the business last year after Hurricane Ian pummeled Southwest Florida. “It was just not good down there,” she said.
Now, she works for a developer as a project manager on “a couple of historical projects,” she said. “I oversee product selection, like lighting and finishes.”
Garcia added, “I always had a background in design and decorating for other people. I put that to use now and it’s more fun than the title side of things.”
She’s also dedicated to the nonprofit group The Chiselers, which works to preserve, restore and advocate for the University of Tampa’s H.B. Plant Hall.
It was an easy decision to get involved with the organization; her father-in-law, husband and niece all attended the university. “I’ve had a long history with the university and the building and it’s just always been so incredible and impressive to me,” she said. “When I was asked to join The Chiselers, I jumped on that. I wanted to be involved in preserving that building. It’s one-of-a-kind.”
It “takes a lot of work,” Garcia noted. “Even when you have just a house, that’s hard to maintain, and this is a quarter-mile long historic building.”
Since joining the group in 2017, she’s worked her way through different departments, many associated with the organization’s infamous Chiselers Market.
This year’s market takes place on March 9, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thousands of new and gently used items, including plants, jewelry, kitchenware, books, art, furniture and more are available to purchase.
She’s helped in ust about every area of the market, including the furniture department and working in the warehouse to sort and price items. Garcia moved on to join the executive committee and currently serves as president.
She looks forward to this year’s market as it’s the group’s primary fundraising event and there’s a lot of work to complete at Plant Hall.
In addition to the market, there’s a special ticketed event, The Minaret Mixer, the night before, held this year on March 8, 6 to 8 p.m. Guests get a sneak peek at the items for sale the next day at the market and even have the opportunity to scoop them up early. There’s also an auction held that evening. Tickets to this event are $150.
“It gives you a preview of what’s for sale and even if you don’t buy that night, you have the lay of the land for Saturday morning or you can even snap something up that Friday night,” she said. “We have amazing finds at that market. I never go without bringing something home. I have a house full of Chiseler items.”
It’s not too late for those who have items to donate to the sale to contact the group and arrange for them to be dropped off at the Chiselers’ warehouse.
Sales from the market have raised as much as $170,000 in underwriting funds for the building, while the mixer usually brings in another $150,000. The two events usually raise anywhere from $250,000 to $300,000 each year.
“This is our major fundraiser,” Garcia said. “Right now, we have three projects in play over there.”
The Chiselers are matching $200,000 – the other $200,000 coming from the university – to install new “historically appropriate” composite decking on the west veranda that will be essentially maintenance free.
They also raised another $80,000 in matching funds to pay for an implementation plan. “Just to see what projects we want to do next and in what order,” she said.
The group has partnered with the state to pay for the replacement of the music room roof. Both the state and the Chiselers will spend $500,000 each on that project. “They’re replacing all the metal on top of the big dome on top of the music room. It’s very labor intensive work,” Garcia said.
The group has also partnered with Hillsborough County to fund the Hazel Ward Lounge. This project costs about $400,000 split evenly between the Chiselers and the county.
Next year the university will tackle “the big ticket items.” The balustrades, concrete decorative railing around both verandas, need to be replaced, according to Garcia. It will cost about $350,000 for each veranda.
The east veranda is also in need of roof repair and new terrazzo flooring, a $2.6 million project, she added. “So, we’re looking at about $3 million that we need to gear up for.”
In addition to the annual market and mixer, the Chiselers also host a walk each year that raises up to $70,000. But they’ll likely need to introduce a third, new fundraiser, most likely a gala in May during historic preservation month.
“That’s on the table right now but nothing is in stone at this point,” Garcia said. “There are definitely moving parts. We need to change it up and raise as much money as we possibly can.”

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