© St. Petersburg Times, published February 3, 2003
New position: President, Merchants Association of Florida, Tampa
Previous position: Partner, Ernst & Young, Tampa
A native of Tampa, Peter Rodriguez Jr. has worked in his hometown throughout his career.
After taking early retirement from the accounting firm Ernst & Young in Tampa, where he spent 33 years as an executive and partner, Rodriguez segued into another executive position, as president of the Merchants Association of Florida, also in Tampa.
In his new role, Rodriguez will oversee a staff of nearly 100 throughout the state with two major offices, in Miami and Tampa. The Merchants Association provides a variety of services to its member businesses, from credit and collection to employment and residential screening.
"My role will be to help the organization meet its objectives," Rodriguez says. "That's a president's role, to be responsible for strategic and operational management."
His new position with the Merchants Association will require a trip to Miami every couple of months, Rodriguez says, much less travel than during his last years with Ernst & Young, when he traveled throughout the United States.
Founded in 1960, the Merchants Association does an estimated $28-million in annual business. The 5,000-member organization has three operating divisions: the Merchants Association Credit Bureau, the Merchants Security Exchange and the Merchants Association Collections Division, which was the first totally automated consumer collection agency in the nation.
The collections division is the largest of the association's operations, assisting its members with debt collections on request. "Most organizations will periodically attempt to collect directly" from the customer, he says. "At some juncture, they may elect to get assistance with their efforts.
"Most collectors, including ourselves, are fee-based, on a commission basis," Rodriguez says. "We only get paid if we collect."
As a lifelong resident of Tampa, Rodriguez attended Hillsborough High School and earned a bachelor of science degree in accounting in 1969 from the University of South Florida. He has been a CPA since 1970.
Until his retirement from Ernst & Young on Oct. 31, Rodriguez had worked with the company since graduating from USF except for six months of active duty with the Marine Corps.
He says he was attracted, at 55, to the executive position at the Merchants Association "because this is much more broad-based. I get to use the skills honed over the years. I've had quite a bit of personnel responsibilities. Now I have a lot more. I have the opportunity to really kind of help an organization grow and develop its business line throughout the state.
"That's something different for me," Rodriguez says. "That's what enticed me. Most of my role (at Ernst & Young) focused on taxes and accounting. Now I'm doing strategic management, personnel, operations, a whole array of things you have to consider if you manage a business.
"It's really very exciting. It's definitely the right thing for me -- a lot of fun," he says. "You have to have fun with what you do."
Rodriguez is active in a number of community organizations. He is treasurer of the Rotary Club of Tampa and on the board of directors of both Florida Environmental Services, a nonprofit organization looking at the impact of hydrology in the Tampa Bay area, and the USF Advisory Council for the School of Accounting.
Rodriguez and his wife, Augusta, live in Temple Terrace. They have three children.