When Stacy Ritter, 60, first moved to Fort Lauderdale in 1974, she says she encountered a city much different from the one we know and love today. She recalls a “sleepy little beach town” with small motels and hotels—and limited dining options. “You could get a club sandwich basically anywhere, but not much else,” she says with a laugh. Now, as president and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau (GFLCVB), Ritter has not only witnessed Fort Lauderdale’s evolution, she’s helped it become a vibrant city with international appeal.
Ritter previously led a successful political career—including a stint as mayor of Broward County—before joining the GFLCVB in 2016. In her current role, she enjoys traveling the world to promote the place she’s called home for 47 years. What was once a “predominantly white and very male-dominated” town is now a “diverse and inclusive destination where 180 languages are spoken,” she says. She champions inclusivity via marketing campaigns and hospitality initiatives and led the CVB’s rebrand (officially launching this month), which departs from the “Hello Sunny” tagline—which Ritter considers outdated—in favor of “Everyone Under the Sun.”
“We’re not a vanilla destination,” she says. “We are a destination that weaves an incredible tapestry of multicultural fabric, and we want to celebrate that, embrace it, and show the world.” Below, the leader, wife, and mother of two reflects on her life in Laudy.
FLI: How has Fort Lauderdale changed?
Ritter: It was not a diverse destination at all. … [There] really has been a change in the flavor of Broward County. I don’t just mean that from a culinary perspective; the people have made it what it is. That’s what we think makes us special from any other beach community: We have everyone under the sun. If you want to dip your toe in something you might not have experienced before and open your mind, this is where you want to be.
What are some GFLCVB initiatives you’re proud of?
[We] have a great campaign called Celebrate You [that] comes out of our LGBT+ department. We were the first CVB to have a dedicated LGBT+ department, which we’re proud of because we recognize that as the community was changing, it was becoming … not just gay-friendly but gay-welcoming and gay-inclusive.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
My husband and I have been consistently eating out during the pandemic. It’s part of our obligation as residents of this city to keep businesses afloat as best as we can [with] whatever small contribution we can make. I’m a big fan of the lobster tacos at Quarterdeck on Las Olas, and I love Casablanca Café on the beach. I’m also a big beachgoer. Give me a blanket and a book and I can sit out there for hours.