John Riddle, Greater Orlando Builders Association

As his presidency begins, John Riddle has in his crosshairs a story. Many, many stories, in fact –tales of the members of the Greater Orlando Builders Association [GOBA] – a force that numbers some 25,000 in Central Florida.

“What I’ve felt for many years is that we often work silently in the background, representing our builder members on all types of different issues … and we have so many important activities and events and that’s really my mission this year, to get us out in public, to share our news.”

A solid idea for a man who’s been on the front lines of marketing since his Midwestern childhood.

“I was the kind of kid who loved to put plans together,” Riddle told GrowthSpotter. “I was always into marketing, even though I didn’t realize it at the time.” Back in his hometown of Merrillville, Ind., he marketed everything from lemonade stands to fundraisers for his little league team to himself – right into a summer job on his friend’s dad’s landscaping crew, which worked out at the mall.

“It was the ‘80s,” he laughs. “Malls were kind of a cool place to hang out.”

It’s also one of the very few ways you can get a tan in Indiana, and so when college time came, Riddle headed for the University of Central Florida and didn’t look back. He credits the family vacations to Disney World, in part.

“But you know, once you’re here and it’s 75 in December, you just can’t leave!” he said.

He did, however, head home for summer breaks, and it was on one of these that decided to meet up with his mom and sisters in Springfield, Mo., where they were hard at work – at the Miss U.S. Teen Pageant. His mother was one of its directors.

“It was a great place to be hanging out for a young guy,” he laughs.

That year, the young woman representing Montana had gotten ill just before the competition, so the current Ms. Montana Teen U.S.A., Katie Adams, was called in as a last-minute substitute – and won the coveted title.

“And how corny is this?” Riddle says. “I went backstage with one of those Mylar balloons you get at a gift shop and I wished her congratulations and told her she was going to have a blast getting to know my mom and so forth….”

Five years later, after a long-distance relationship in the era of pay phones and stamped love letters, they got engaged.

“My daughters think those letters are so corny now,” he says.

Three children later (oldest son, Will, is in the Air Force; daughter Taylor is a UF grad with a nursing degree and a new baby boy; and daughter Lindsay is finishing up her last year at UF) Riddle and his beauty queen are keeping busy in their empty Maitland nest.

“We’re turning into foodies,” he says, “and we hit all the great spots in Winter Park – Chez Vincent is a favorite, as is Garp & Fuss. Disney is always on our list; we spent a weekend there for my 50th birthday a few years back – and movies in the middle of the week feel like a luxury!”

They love to vacation, as, well – and Miss Montana loves returning home to her large family as an annual event every summer. They discovered the joys of cruising and have since scratched the Caribbean and the Mediterranean off their to-do list.

For now, though, GOBA’s new president is looking to write the association’s story with the help of its members before calculating the itinerary for their bucket-list cruise to Alaska.

-- A.D. Thompson

A.D. Thompson / photo courtesy John Riddle
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