The Community Foundation for Ocala/Marion County’s 2023 Philanthropist of the Year | David Tillman

(352) 387-4540 | TILLMANENG.COM

On March 3rd, 300 guests gathered at the Inspire Gala presented by the Community Foundation for Ocala/Marion County (CFOMC) to honor philanthropists and thank nonprofits for their support of our community. One of the top honors was awarded to local business and community leader David Tillman.

“David’s exceptional philanthropic efforts have touched countless lives and transformed communities in ways that resonate far beyond measure,” explains Ashley Gerds, director of strategic engagement at CFOMC. “This prestigious award, determined through a rigorous process of peer nominations and voting by four esteemed community foundation agencies, underscores the profound impact David has made in supporting causes that matter most. His unwavering dedication, generosity, and compassionate spirit serve as a beacon of inspiration for all of us to create positive change and leave a lasting legacy of compassion. I was thrilled to witness his well-deserved recognition as the Philanthropist of The Year.”

Tillman is the president of Tillman & Associates Engineering, LLC, Marion County’s leading multi-disciplinary firm providing civil and environmental engineering, land planning, surveying and landscape architecture. The firm’s most high-profile projects have included On Top of the World, Calesa Township, Golden Ocala’s World Equestrian Center Ocala (WEC), and The Florida Crossroads Commerce Park. 

His success as a businessman can be attributed not only to his extensive experience, willingness to tackle challenges he hasn’t faced before and collaborative management style, but also to his special skill of building strong and lasting relationships. 

Accepting his award at the Community Foundation for Ocala/Marion County’s Inspire Gala.

“That is the most important part to me,” he says. “It’s the part I enjoy the most, building relationships with the clients.”

And he praises many of those clients for their stewardship of the communities they are building.

“These are people that are in there for the long haul—that have a true concern for the people who are living or the people that are coming to their projects,” he asserts, citing WEC, Calesa Township and On Top of the World among them. “And generally, those are the projects that you do that wind up looking the very best because your clients are spending what is required to make them the very best.”

Tillman is chairman of the Marion County Land Development Regulation Commission, treasurer of the Ocala-Silver Springs Rotary Club (OSSR), past chapter coordinator for Mathcounts sponsored by the Florida Engineering Society and a member of both the Ocala Metro Chamber & Economic Partnership and Horse Farms Forever. 

But the honor bestowed on Tillman was in recognition of his work on behalf of the multiple organizations and initiatives that he supports and his efforts to strengthen Marion County for all and build a more vibrant community. 

“David is one of the most generous guys I know. He is the type of guy that will give you the shirt off his back. There a lot of nonprofits in our community that have benefited and might even not be here if not for David,” offers Ocala Mayor-elect Ben Marciano. “We are blessed to have him in this community.” 

Among Tillman’s most public efforts is the Brick City Beer and Wine Festival (BCBF) first conceptualized in 2013 by OSSR Club members with the aim to create a signature charity event to benefit worthy local organizations. Tillman, along with Tarn Thompson, James Clardy and Steve Rudnianyn have built this initiative into one of our community’s most popular annual events. Over the years the BCBF has raised critical funds for many of the area’s leading nonprofits and, in recent years, has chosen to partner with the Marion County Literacy Council (MCLC), Kimberly’s Center for Child Protection and Interfaith Emergency Services on the event. This year, a total of $133,500 was raised and these funds will benefit the three charities.

Tillman surrounded by colleagues and community members at the 2023 Brick City Beer and Wine Festival check presentation to the benefitting community organizations.

“I first met David in his role as a founding organizer of the BCBF. David helped lead the planning committee, he reached out to his circles of influence to attract sponsors, he gifted to our effort the time and myriad talents of his own staff, and he worked from dawn until dusk on the day of the event. But it wasn’t until I spent two hours with David loading bags of ice into the back of a moving truck on a hot, humid Florida day that I realized the depth of his commitment to leaving the world a little better than he found it,” asserts R.J. Jenkins of MCLC. “Loading a truck full of ice when nobody’s watching—that’s what servant leadership looks like. He’s the kind of man you want in your corner.” 

Tillman volunteering at the Brick City Beer and Wine Festival.

Besides his willingness to roll up his sleeves, the beneficiaries of Tillman’s efforts say it is his commitment and the impact he has already had that distinguish him. 

“David Tillman epitomizes all that philanthropy is. His resolute commitment to improving the lives of the children and families we are called to serve at Kimberly’s Center is a testament to the profound effect that one person can have,” explains Executive Director Dawn Westgate. “His contributions will continue to resonate through the lives of all of the children we have been able to serve—having immeasurable impact for years to come.” 

Like his highly community-minded clients, notably the Roberts family and Ken Colen, who he praises for their deep commitment to giving and the welfare of others—Tillman’s own legacy will undoubtedly cast a long shadow of service and devotion to Marion County. But legacy is not in the forefront of his mind. 

“I don’t stop and think about it very much, because I just want to keep going,” he confides. “I hope that the majority of the things that I do have a positive impact. When you surround yourself with good people with charitable hearts, it just builds upon itself and continues to grow. You have to have the willingness to jump in and be part of it. I’ve gotten involved in a multitude of things and the events that we were doing, that inspires me to keep doing more and participate in other places. I’m willing to meet the challenge. I believe in giving back to my community. It’s treated me well and I want what’s best for us as a whole.”

Posted in Ocala Style Promotional Features

Share this post


What's New at Ocala Style

Remembering Ross Allen

The Ross Allen Reptile Institute was long a major attraction...

Learning to Love Slowcala

My wife, Amy, and I love to walk Rigby Floyd,...

Count Your Bugs

UF/IFAS Extension Marion County is encouraging area residents to take...

4WD Adventure

Twenty two-person teams will tackle off-road park trails in this...

Driveable Destinations: Dunedin

With two state parks, links to Scottish history and a...

A Mix of Cultures in Clay

Stone tools can tell us a lot about our ancestors...