Dick Batchelor: Position, Power & Philanthropy
By Elena Kennedy-Kunneke
I spent an early evening with Dick Batchelor at his office. He showed me photos in his office of him with former Presidents Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. The office was in a nicely appointed suite, low key, quiet, very personal but efficient. That’s Dick Batchelor, low key, quiet, personable and efficient with his time, energy, and resources. When people know your name, you don’t have to make a lot of noise.
“Name recognition, connecting the dots, knowledge is power, the more you know, the more influence you have.”
This is the voice of the former member of State of Florida House of Representatives turned businessman. Dick Batchelor, President of a business development consulting firm, Dick Batchelor Management Group – DBMG. His company is located in the heart of downtown Orlando, walking distance to everything business.
Mr. Batchelor, born in 1947, was the middle child of seven. His parents were tobacco farmers in North Carolina. He made sure I knew his parents didn’t “own” the farm, they just worked it. They were poor and Batchelor had no dreams or ideals of going to college to be anything in particular. His parents’ focus was on putting food on the table and making sure their children had an education like most parents. His mother, Bessie, who died last year at age 91, was a petite woman, 4’ 11” and 75 lbs. I asked Batchelor what motivated him.
“Watching my parents struggle. We were extremely poor and I was motivated by the sacrifices made by my mother.”She was his inspiration. She excelled in writing and graduated second in her class. She raised her children in the church. His father, Garland was a farmer until they moved to Orlando where he was employed in construction and later as a carpenter. Batchelor says they lived three years in Reeves Terrace, better known today as public housing. In 1960, they were able to move to Orlo Vista where their house cost a whopping $8000 and the mortgage was $50 per month. Batchelor attended Evans High School in Orlando.
Position and Power
Batchelor joined the Marine Corp and served in Vietnam. His experience in Vietnam made his decision clear to go into politics. While in Vietnam, Batchelor was exposed to different races and cultures not found in the south in the 60’s. Through the GI Bill, he attended the University of Central Florida and received a B.S. in Science Degree. In college his interest in politics continued to grow upon joining the Young Democrats Club.
Batchelor is one of the youngest individuals ever to serve in the Florida House of representatives. There he served as chairman of the Auditing Committee, the Health and Rehabilitative Services Committee and the House Energy Committee. He was also chairman of four subcommittees and is the recipient of more than 50 awards for his legislative service. ONYX Magazine would have to extend its pages to list the accomplishments of Mr. Batchelor. Suffice it to say that his body of work is one that has positively impacted those he has served and continues to serve.
Batchelor shared with me that through the many years of being a politician, he kept adding to his Rolodex. After his stint as a legislator, he came to understand the definition of power. “Power comes when you can get in front of the people who are in charge, call them by name, and have conversations that can lead to change.”
“After serving as a Florida State Representative from 1974 to 1982, I worked at Delta Business Systems and Vistana Resorts and then opened the Dick Batchelor Management Group – DBMG Inc. in 1986.”
Batchelor’s deep rich voice on any day can be found on Public Radio or TV offering opinions or political insights on current affairs, namely human rights issues. He blogs in the Orlando Sentinel and was #38 on the Orlando Magazine’s Top 50 Most Powerful in Orlando for 2012. Batchelor is a frequent flyer in the Top 50 club for the past seven years. I imagine he has the entire top 50 in his contact list. A valuable lesson learned in politics was networking is critical and he takes pride in the fact that he has 9000 contacts.
As a Board Member of the Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce, Batchelor says he recognized the public school system had some construction and space challenges. The Orange County Public School system had more students than space and needed to construct 50 new schools but only had funds to build 25 without a dedicated source for funding. In addition to the space issues, there were 136 schools in desperate need of repair. It was no surprise that some of these schools were in the poorer neighborhoods. Batchelor created and led a campaign called Change 4 Kids. Through this effort, Batchelor along with cooperation from other community organizations gained support for the half penny sales tax in Orange County. He raised over a half million dollars for the campaign. Batchelor was able to bring together labor groups, parent-teacher groups and business and civic organizations to put their differences aside for one cause.
“Another passion of mine is assisting victims of domestic violence. Because of that passion, for a number of years I have co-chaired and continue to co-chair the Domestic Violence/Child Abuse Commission – a group that makes recommendations to improve services to victims of abuse and to reduce the number of cases of domestic violence and child abuse.”
Dick Batchelor and his wife, Andrea, a former news reporter, support numerous charities, namely the Dick Batchelor 5K Run for Children which raises money to support the treatment of and protection of abused children. Batchelor has held this 5K run for 31 years. Dick and Andrea have been married 28 years and have three children, Richard, David and Matt, the youngest who is 19 years old and currently in college. Batchelor is Chairman of the Florida Hospital Foundation Board, Dick Batchelor Run for the Children, First Amendment Foundation, and is Vice Chairman of the Children’s Environmental Health Network. He also sits on several other boards, committees and commissions.
When asked what advice he would give young people today? “Knowledge is all powerful and the lack of knowledge is weakness! You have got to read to know what is going on.”