LoveLakeland’s April 2022 CityMaker

Peter Golotko

By Jonathan Camargo

Pictured: CREATE at Catapult, Gillian Fazio

It’s said the tallest mountains cast the farthest shadows. In our community, these mountains aren’t made of rock and stone – they’re carved from a genuine love and appreciation for the people around them. Their shadows share their brilliance with all they’ve impacted, both large and small.

When it comes to Lakeland love, our April 2022 Lakeland CityMaker is a true mountain of a man. From championing efforts to improve local healthcare, education, and housing, he’s given us a glimpse of the beauty lying just beyond the peak. 

Lakeland From the Start

When people come to our city, they don’t tend to leave. The same can be said for Peter Golotko, president and majority owner of CPS Investment Advisors. For him, what started as an educational venture became so much more.

Peter came to Lakeland from his home state of New York in the 1980s to attend Florida Southern College, where he studied accounting as an undergrad and business administration in his graduate years. It was during the former in which he became an intern at CPS.

At the time, only six people were employed by the company. Peter answered phones and filed paperwork before taking on a full-time position upon his graduation. A little over a quarter century later, he sits at the helm of the business.

An Investment Firm

CPS Investment Advisors first opened its doors in 1975. Founded by the late Charles ‘Chas’ Smith, the business now boasts over 50 full-time employees and manages some $2 billion in investments. Though their success as a business has been nothing short of amazing, it’s what they do in the community and beyond that sets CPS apart from the rest.

Giving back is a core value for everything that Peter and CPS stands for. The business runs CPS Cares, a 501(c)(3) aimed at giving back to the community through a variety of charitable efforts. Employees are incentivized to share in the philanthropy and seek out volunteering opportunities for which the rest of the company can also get involved with. 

“Giving back is important to the owners,” Peter explained, “but also everyone giving back is important to us because we’re successful because of the community we’re in.”

CPS Cares provides donation matching to any contributions made to applicable charities by CPS employees. The team is also encouraged to take time off work to attend and support local volunteering opportunities.

“On the philanthropic side, I think what we did differently is – instead of us individually doing our own philanthropic thing – we brought it as an entire team effort,” Peter shared. “So we do it as a company rather than each individual.”

“We always do the right thing. Even if it costs, even if it hurts, you always tell the truth and you do the right thing.”

– Peter Golotko

“We always do the right thing. Even if it costs, even if it hurts, you always tell the truth and you do the right thing.”

– Peter Golotko

A Holistic Focus on Health

When it comes to supporting our community, Peter knows better than most just how much need is present in the streets of this town that we call home. He’s spearheaded numerous philanthropic efforts for a variety of causes, though it’s his involvement and support for providing mental health services that stands out above the rest. 

Peter has served on the board of local nonprofit Peace River Center for over 20 years. At the beginning of their time together, the organization needed assistance with their finances and Peter jumped at the opportunity to lend a hand. Unbeknownst to him, the work they did would strike a chord. 

“I saw that they went to work passionately every day to help these people and it kind of rubbed off on me,” Peter said. “It’s become one of these organizations where it gives so much good back to the community.”

With almost 500 employees and 27 different locations, Peace River Center serves a valuable role in our community. Their mission is simple: To engage, restore, and empower individuals in our community to reach their fullest potential.

“We all live with mental health issues, nobody’s immune from it,” Peter explained. “Most of the time, people don’t know where to turn so this is a huge resource for our community.”

As their current Chairman, Peter works hard to ensure that Peace River Center is able to provide quality services to the individuals in our community that need their help the most, but his involvement in supporting our community reaches far beyond just that.

In looking at healthcare as a whole, he lauds Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine (LVIM) for the excellent quality of services that they’re able to provide. 

“If you take a look at LVIM, they handle Polk County’s working poor. They pay nothing, everything’s donated,” Peter explained. “This is really what a community healthcare system looks like.” 

He doesn’t just talk the talk: In 2021, he helped raise over $120,000 for the organization.

To Infinity

It’s beyond our field of vision that Peter truly goes the extra mile. As someone who shies away from the limelight of recognition, he’s an example of communal excellence in its highest form.

On a property he purchased in Lake Meade, Peter regularly hosts clay shooting events that benefit local nonprofits and charities. Their last event benefiting the Polk Education Foundation raised some $32,000, a testament to Peter’s commitment to supporting our community in whatever way possible. Yet, he recognizes that finances are just part of the equation.

“Money isn’t the only thing that [not-for-profits] need,” Peter shared. “They need money, but they also need labor, you know, elbow grease.”

It’s for this reason that Peter so strongly advocates for philanthropic behavior amongst his employees. In the past, he’s sent members of his team to serve as guardians for the Flight to Honor program, offering them first-hand experience to feel the power of change that philanthropy can provide.

“When I wake up in the morning, my goal is to impact people’s lives in a positive way,” Peter said. “How can I do that if I’m not doing it for my employees first?”

And Beyond

In present day, Peter’s appreciation for those around him knows no end. In accepting the Lakeland CityMaker award, he turns to shine the light on his team for making this all possible.

“I equate this to football and CPS just won the Super Bowl,” he explained. “I may have put the team together, but I didn’t win a Super Bowl. I couldn’t do this by myself. The fact that we’re successful has really nothing to do with me, it has to do with how everybody deals with our people on a daily basis.”

Peter’s seen quite the change in our “busy little city” since he moved here those 30-some-odd years ago, but there’s one thing that hasn’t worn in the slightest to the elements of time: His passion for making this community the best that it can be.

“We always do the right thing,” Peter shared. “Even if it costs, even if it hurts, you always tell the truth and you do the right thing.”