Board Member Profile: William “Bill” Fitch, A Man of Many Talents

Following life in the Pacific Northwest where he was born and raised, and career stints in California, Texas, Maryland and Ohio, BHA board member William Fitch and his wife Ann-Rhea decided they would move to Miami. Like many, they were attracted by the weather, but other aspects also factored into their decision.

“We moved to Miami in June 2005. We were looking for a place with blue water, sunshine, culture, an international airport and a walking lifestyle,” Fitch said. “My wife Ann-Rhea had lived in Washington, DC a block from the Watergate Hotel, three blocks from Kennedy Center and half a mile from Georgetown. We wanted all of that without the winter weather.”

They purchased their unit at Brickell on the River in 2004 during pre-construction, and rented a unit at Yacht Club on Brickell Bay until April 2006 when their condo was ready. Bill became president of the condo’s board upon its establishment in December 2006.

“I ran for president because one of the services we offered at Omega Point Laboratories was consulting on code compliance of construction. I also did consulting work for Becker & Poliakoff on construction defects in condominium construction throughout South Florida. As we were going into the 558 process with the Brickell on the River developer, I knew that I had plenty to offer our owners,” he said.

His Board Presidency automatically made him a delegate to the BHA which he also appreciates because, “I believe it is important to be an active participant and help guide the development of the Brickell area.”

BHA President Ernesto Cuesta soon tapped him for major bylaws updates in 2010 and the Nominating Committee didn’t waste time in making him part of the Executive Committee as a member at large in 2012.

Bill’s engineering career prompted many of his moves. After graduating from the University of Washington with a degree in Ceramic Engineering, he went to work for Owens-Corning Fiberglass in Santa Clara, California. While there, he became involved in product safety programs, ensuring all products complied with building and fire codes.

Following five years at Owens-Corning, Fitch says he was loaned to the National Bureau of Standards in Gaithersburg, Maryland, where he helped write a performance specification for federal office buildings. Upon completing the project, he returned to Owens-Corning, this time to their corporate headquarters in Toledo, Ohio where he managed the development of new market applications.

In 1982 Bill resigned from Owens-Corning, relocated to San Antonio, and joined with two partners to launch a fire testing and product certification lab called Omega Point Laboratories, Inc. Omega Point was the third largest fire testing lab in the United States when he sold it to an English investment company in 2005.

“Today, I still do consulting for manufacturers and expert witness consulting regarding fire safety performance of building materials and construction. I also provide technical support for people with Apple devices, computers, iPads, iPods, and iPhones to help set them up and resolve problems,” Fitch said. (BHA News convinced him to write a Tech Column on that very topic; see page xx.)

He and Ann-Rhea both share a love of traveling and exploring the world and its natural environment. With three grown children between them living in San Francisco, Washington, DC and Chicago, it leaves plenty of time for jet setting.

“People have often asked if we have a second home somewhere and our response is always a Business Class seat on American Airlines,” Fitch said.

In addition to her business as a graphic designer, Ann-Rhea is a nature photographer, so theirs are generally working trips. Together they have visited 91 countries on six continents and visited all 50 states in the U.S. This has allowed them to publish 12 e-books aimed at teaching children about nature, “one rhyme at a time” he says. “And she’s currently working on three photography books aimed at a wider audience.”

But even with all that travel, Bill and Ann-Rhea still love their life in Brickell especially “the sunshine, multi-cultural community and thriving arts scene that includes the opera, ballet, symphony, museums and theater,” he said. Having restaurants and other services within walking distance means “we have only one car at 6,500 miles a year…another plus.”

As for the future of Brickell and its evolution, Bill feels more great development is coming, but there are still some enhancements needed.

“The greatest need I see for our area is to work faster on the city’s desire to be a pedestrian-friendly place. We need wider, obstruction-free sidewalks; better crosswalk signals; and more enforcement of pedestrian right-of-way, especially retraining drivers from other areas to learn that pedestrians DO have the right-of-way,” he said.

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