LT 2016: Arts & Culture Day

By Gerri Kramer, Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office



Do you get so busy sometimes that you forget to play? Stephanie Agliano told our Leadership Tampa class that Arts & Culture Day was our chance to learn what makes Tampa a great playground. Exposure to arts and culture makes us smarter. It gives us a shared identity and expands our viewpoints. And beyond just bolstering our mental health, our cultural assets play a critical role in the economic health of our community.

We started the day in a place I’d never been to, or even heard of—USF’s Graphicstudio. It’s a printmaking workshop that has quietly been attracting contemporary artists from all over the world to collaborate and create unique projects. Graphicstudio’s director, Professor Margaret Miller, taught us that “people who go to hockey games can also go to museums.” And that analyzing art can improve a medical student’s ability to make diagnoses.

I’m not sure what was more impressive. Margaret Miller’s passion for connecting communities to art and connecting artists to our community? The quiet focus of master etcher Tim Baker as he separated the paper from the copper plate and revealed a print (while we, quite literally, ‘oohed and ahed’)?  Or Trenton Doyle Hancock’s “accidentally 3D” wallpaper? And then there were the love bugs.

The next stop was Stageworks, the oldest theater-based arts organization in Tampa. Their mission is to ignite the human spirit. Artistic Director Karla Hartley, a third-generation Tampa native, has been saying that Tampa is America’s next great city since she was a teenager, and she thinks people are finally starting to believe her.

Stageworks has had its own space since 2012, leased to them by Grand Central for $10 a year. Each season, they bring a mix of productions to our community, some widely recognized, some edgy, some with not-safe-for-work titles…all meant to make you think and feel.

Karla Hartley wants all of us, and especially young people, to put down our Netflix and go to the theater because there’s value in sitting next to someone who is not like us, experiencing the same thing, then talking about our different reactions to the same experience.  (That’s exactly how I’d describe Leadership Tampa.)

During lunch, we sat among the chickens in the Ybor City Museum State Park and learned that the Cuban Sandwich is just as much of a cultural asset to Tampa as experimental art and theater.  Councilwoman Yolie Capin told us that Tampa City Council’s “Cuban Sandwich Resolution”—which includes specific instructions on how to make the “Historic Tampa Cuban Sandwich”—received more publicity than the RNC.

Inside the Ybor City Museum, we saw how different cultures have come together to influence the Tampa of today. And who knew that a tenth of an acre of Cuba is actually here in Tampa?

The history lesson continued at Tampa Theatre, built in 1926. This 1920s “movie palace” is more than just a historical landmark—it’s one of Tampa’s current success stories, having just had its most successful year for film.

President and CEO John Bell said he was there to preach to us about the power of the arts, and that he did. Nationally, the arts make up a larger share of our GDP than transportation or agriculture. Exposure to the arts improves academic performance. And local merchants benefit, too. We don’t just buy show tickets, we pay for babysitters, go out to eat, and spend money on parking or Uber. All that averages close to $25 a person—and we spend even more if we’re on vacation.

At the Straz Performing Arts Center, President and CEO Judy Lisi shared the Straz’s history and future before we broke up for backstage tours, which included ghost lights, Broadway trivia and a quick glimpse of the conservatory’s impressive young ballet students. Walking through the Straz, I kept wondering why I’d let so much time go by since the last time I attended a performance.

The Straz is now planning a riverside pavilion, where we can eat and hang out even if we aren’t there to see a performance.  What a great way to keep the performing arts top of mind.  The Graphicstudio would love to move downtown, where they’d get more foot traffic. And our final stop, Sono Café at the Tampa Museum of Art, sits across from one of our busiest parks. Its parking garage has a bright new mural demanding our attention.

Tampa’s arts and culture are weaving their way into our everyday lives and playing a prominent role in the development of downtown Tampa. And that’s good. When life gets busy, we tend to overlook the fun stuff. And we all deserve more time enjoying Tampa’s playground.

LT 2016: Education Day

By Ocea Lattimore, Director Logistics and Asset Management, City of Tampa


Lattimore - Education Day BlogAs Leadership Tampa ‘16 began our journey through Education Day, we were greeted by two words as we exited Poe Garage and entered the Glazer Children’s Museum. The freshly painted instruction, ‘Stay Curious,’ was the hallmark of what would encompass our Education Day as we explored ‘non-traditional’ educational opportunities in Hillsborough County. Each stop sparked an unknown curiosity within me.

Because the day’s insight took us from cradle to grave, it was befitting that we started our exploration at the Glazer Children’s Museum and ended at the HCC Training Center. I am not suggesting that students attending the HCC Training Center have one foot in the ground. On the contrary, this hidden educational resource caters to individuals who realize that the traditional college setting does not fit their needs, so they are intentional about their work and career choices. To me, the ‘grave’ is analogous to the students already having figured out what they want to do with their lives.

Our expedition started with ‘play-time’ at the museum. Unlike ten or fifteen years ago when a child’s play day consisted of mom or dad sitting an infant or toddler on a lap to read a book, the museum gives children space to explore and imagine as they master life-long learning skills. Members of the LT ‘16 were given an opportunity to explore 170 interactive exhibits and several themed areas, such as ‘the water cycle’ and ‘flying over Tampa Bay’.

One particular area of interest for the Glazer Children’s Museum is that adults are only allowed to visit if accompanied by a child.

The next leg in our day took us to nearby Howard W. Blake High School, Home of the Marching Yellow Jackets. Even though Blake has a highly reputable band, the school is a diamond in the ruff for many high school students as they develop their talents in the Arts. These students are taught that the Arts and traditional subjects that encompass reading, writing, and arithmetic are interconnected. This was evident by witnessing our private show of only a few genres of Art that Blake has to offer in orchestra, guitar, poetry, piano, and musical theater. When questioned about their future plans and goals, several of the students remarked of their interests in pursuing physics, pharmacology, and English to name a few.

When used in education, the arts have proven beneficial in harnessing the power that lies within its various genres to raise educational outcomes for students. Even though Blake is a performing arts school, the Arts Council of Hillsborough County and the Hillsborough County School District partner to provide literary arts in every K-12 classroom.

After our cultural infusion from students at Blake, we trekked to Academy Prep to witness the extraordinary opportunities middle-school students are given to provide them with a competitive edge with other students in Hillsborough County. With 100 percent of the students living within 150% of the poverty line, intervention was needed to save children who live in economically challenged areas in close proximity to the school.

Academy Prep adheres to its mission:  “To inspire and empower students qualifying for need-based scholarships to become future community leaders through a rigorous middle school program coupled with ongoing graduate support.”

How is this accomplished? Through corporate sponsorship, donations, fundraising, and community tax credits, this not-for-profit organization has definitely made an impact….and the results are staggering.

Since its inception, 97% of these students graduated from high school and 83% are enrolled in college. The faculty and mentors follow these students even after they graduate from college. Many of the alumni come back to serve the school. Notwithstanding the efforts of the faculty and donors, these children have definitely invested in their own education by being educated approximately 11 hours/day. This includes their mandatory participation in musical theater and the arts.

By now, we were off to lunch at Outback, but not the typical restaurant one would patronize. This culinary experience teased our palates as we dined at Chamberlain High School with students in the culinary arts program.

Even though the food was exceptional, the students were disappointed that they felt rushed in serving us our lunch. I know of several restaurants that could definitely take notes from these teens. Before now, I did not realize how creative arts play such a vital role in the culinary industry.  Eye-appeasing food must be displayed. If it doesn’t look good, people may not get to know if it tastes good.

Next, the panel discussion among the local college and university presidents proved most interesting to me as a local entrepreneur showcased her ‘No Mo Nausea’ invention and used the University of Tampa’s entrepreneurial center as the incubator for her product. I was aware that the University of South Florida has a research and entrepreneurial center as I had the privilege of using it during a previous employment; however, I did not know that a similar resource existed for the University of Tampa.

Finally, our last stop takes us to the Hillsborough Community College Workforce Training Center. By now, most of us are exhausted from a full day, but that did not stop us from learning about the police and fire academies, welding and automotive collision repair. Were you aware that there is an ‘art’ to the proper application of painting a vehicle? Apply too much and waste the product. Apply too little and have a very upset customer. Thankfully, the students gain the experience by using a paint simulator to get the feel of the arm and hand motions.

As you can see, from cradle (children’s museum) to grave (paint simulations), ‘Education Day’ convinced me that it is virtually impossible to separate art from traditional education.

Emerge Tampa Bay Welcomes New Leadership, Honors Young Professionals

IMG_8805Over 250 local professionals attended Emerge Tampa Bay’s 4th Annual Emerging with Influence event, presented by ChappellRoberts, Leadership Tampa Alumni, Northwestern Mutual and Tampa Steel Erecting Co., last night at TPepin’s Hospitality Centre. The event recognized young professionals in the Tampa Bay community and announced the organization’s 2016 leadership team.

Leading Emerge Tampa Bay for 2016 will be:

Program Chair:
Jennifer Lawson, HCI Group, Inc.

Program Vice Chair:
Jeff Chernoff, IAT, Inc.

Professional Development Committee:
Chair: Sebastian Matta, Dale Carnegie Training
Vice Chair: Matthew Ransdell, Jackson Lewis

Membership Committee:
Chair: Rayla Bailey, Raymond James
Vice Chair:  Cynthia Plunkett, Socius Marketing, Inc.

Public Policy Committee:
Chair: Sarah Schwirian, Conversa
Vice Chair:  David Loos, Beaux-Arts Group

Community Outreach Committee:
Chair: Lauren Albert, Elevate, Inc.
Vice Chair: Jelena Klisura, Grow Financial Federal Credit Union

Kim Lear of Inlay Insights presented on “Leveraging Your Network and Building Relationships to Get Things Done.”

Emerge Tampa Bay also presented the Deanne Dewey Roberts Emerging Leader Award to Audra Milligan, Director of Recruitment and Selection at Northwestern Mutual, for her service and dedication to the Tampa Bay community and the young professionals’ organization. In addition to the award, a $1,000 donation will be made to the charity of Milligan’s choice, the YWCA, courtesy of ChappellRoberts.

The award’s namesake Deanne Roberts was the co-founder of Emerge Tampa Bay and founder of ChappellRoberts, which is the Founding Sponsor of Emerging with Influence.

LT 2016: Law Enforcement Day “Shock and Awe”

By: Brian Winfield, CFO, Equality Florida Institute, Inc.

On October 14th, 2016 the Leadership Tampa Class of 2016 was treated to a behind-the-scenes look at the law enforcement infrastructure that forms an awe-inspiring safety net protecting those who live, work and visit the City of Tampa, as well as Hillsborough County and beyond. Before I share that experience, let me back up because our class had important homework to prepare for the day.

Prior to Law Enforcement Day, each member of the Class of LT’16 arranged a ride-a-long with either the Tampa Police Department (TPD), the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO), or both. Each ride-a-long is an extraordinary eight to twelve-hour hands-on experience, sitting literally shoulder-to-shoulder with the men and women who protect our community day after day, year after year. And they often do it for decades before retiring at an average age of 47. While many of us envy the thought of retiring at such an early age, less envious is the fact that the average life expectancy for career law enforcement personnel (Officers, Deputies, Troopers) is 60 years.

I approached my ride-a-long experience with both excitement and trepidation, not knowing what to expect. I arrived at the District 3 office of the Tampa Police Department at 7:30PM and was greeted by Lieutenant Neal. He’s about to celebrate his 15-year anniversary with the department. I immediately related to his rookie-year experience as 2001 was also my first full year with Equality Florida. It was a difficult year for the Tampa Police Department as well as Tampa’s LGBT community. Lt. Neal and I recalled that summer and the enormous loss of Tampa Police Officer Lois Merrero who was killed in the line of duty. Her domestic partner and a fellow Tampa Police Officer, Mickey Mashburn, became a unifying figure between the department and our community. I still recall the moment Chief Holder presented Mickey with the flag that draped Lois’ coffin, and he did it in front of thousands of onlookers. Months later, the World Trade Center towers fell in the worst domestic attack on our nation and a new era in law enforcement was about to begin. What a year to be a rookie!

My ride-a-long with Tampa Police Officer Tagliani was enlightening though less eventful than that of some of my classmates.  While not the least bit disappointing for me, “Tag” and his fellow patrol officers strongly encouraged me to sign-up again, but this time for a Friday or Saturday night. My experience was exactly what it was meant to be. The lack of unlawful activity on my particular night provided the opportunity to speak with and, in a small way, get to know the officers who patrol my neighborhood and surrounding areas each night. I got to hang with the Victor team of Sector F, District 3, and to see how the entire system of law enforcement hangs on a single crucial element – teamwork.  Lastly, it did not escape my notice that many of the officers on night patrol are in their mid-twenties. We ask a lot of our patrol officers, beyond expecting them to run toward danger when everyone else is running away. There’s a certain constant stress of not knowing what is around the next corner, or what the next hour, the next traffic stop, the next call will bring. These folks are brave and I know it helps to know they have each other’s backs when the chips are down.

Moving ahead to Law Enforcement Day, it truly was a day of shock and awe. Our morning tour of the Orient Road Jail could easily have consumed an entire day. The place is enormous, as would be required when you consider that 55,000+ people are processed through its doors annually. We walked through two pods – one low security and one much higher. Many in my group, myself included, found the high security pod downright haunting. Inmates here spend 23 hours per day in their tiny steel and concrete cells. Even the area where they spend their one-hour out of the cell is still all concrete and steel, more reminiscent of a stairwell than a rec room.

After lunching with law enforcement personnel from both the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and Tampa Police Department, our class jumped back on the bus and we were shuttled a short distance to the TPD’s training center where we got to experience first-hand what it is like to pull someone over and have no idea about what you will encounter. We rode in police training vehicles as highly experienced drivers performed PIT maneuvers. What can best be described as a rollercoaster ride without rails, our ride began by accelerating to 45 miles per hour, backwards, spinning the vehicle around violently, tires screeching and then accelerating again.

The TPD and HCSO truly pulled out all the stops for LT’16, even putting on a SWAT team hostage demonstration, complete with officers rappelling from the roof and into open windows. Also on display was the special teams gear and machinery from bomb-dismantling robots to scuba gear, sharp-shooter rifles, riot gear, and on and on. As the title of this post makes clear, It was an absolutely awe-inspiring day. Now you may be asking yourself, “So where’s the “shock?” That my friend came in the form of being tased. Myself and two other brave souls in my group willingly subjected our bodies to some of the worst physical pain I’ve ever felt. Like the entire day, those 5 seconds won’t be soon forgotten.

On behalf of Leadership Tampa Class of 2016, I’d like to say “Thank You” to everyone who helped to create an amazing experience for us during Law Enforcement Day. More importantly, I want to thank all of the officers, deputies, troopers, corrections officers, etc. who are the backbone of the safety net protecting our community. Thank you for your service!


LT 2016: Community Outreach Day

By: Andrew Warren, Attorney, United States Government

Warren“Don’t Eat Fortune’s Cookie.”  That was the title of the 2012 commencement address given by Michael Lewis, author of Liar’s Poker and Moneyball, to Princeton University, his alma mater. During the address, Lewis explained how researchers at Cal-Berkeley staged an experiment in which students were broken into teams of three and tasked with solving some complicated problem, with one member of the team having been arbitrarily assigned as team leader. Thirty minutes into the session, the researchers brought the team a plate containing four cookies. Four cookies for three teammates. Each member of the team ate one of the cookies, but with remarkable consistency, the person arbitrarily appointed leader ate the fourth cookie on the basis that he or she felt entitled to it as the team leader, despite not having earned the title or the cookie. Using this experiment as illustration, Lewis advised the graduating class to recognize that their own success in life results from not only their hard work but also luck in the form of their parents, upbringing and a variety of other factors.  Lewis counseled, “With luck comes obligation.  You owe a debt to the unlucky.”

That was my mindset on September 30 as I walked into the Children’s Board at 7 a.m. for Community Outreach Day, the first event for Leadership Tampa Class of 2016. And I was not alone. Even before the program began, I heard many classmates echo a similar sentiment.

The day began with an introduction by Stephanie Agliano (LT’09) of Aggie Enterprises, the chair of Leadership Tampa Class of 2016. Stephanie identified that it is no accident that Community Outreach Day is followed by Law Enforcement and Education because the intersection of those three issues forms the fabric of the community. Understanding that intersection is critical to a community’s progress. Interdependence was a theme that would be reinforced throughout the day.

Before Leadership Tampa, I knew there were many socially disadvantaged individuals in our community, but now I got a glimpse of the true extent of hardship and suffering. – Dana Rollison, Moffitt Cancer Center

As members enjoyed breakfast by Inside the Box, a social enterprise operated by Metropolitan Ministries, sponsor Fred Lay (LT’14), president of Construction Services, Inc., addressed the group. Lay told a moving story about his own experience with Community Outreach Day and how it inspired his commitment to sponsor the event and to continue his company’s commitment to public service. Fred cautioned us, as the top one percent of the community, to remember our luck as well as our efforts as having contributed to our success. His description of offering both hands to those who have fallen—not to pull them up, but so that they may pull themselves up—left the room in silent agreement.

The amount of need in our own area is staggering. However, just one person with a vision to help has made a difference. – Mary Layton, Walbridge Aldinger

Rolfe Arnhym (LT’13), chairman of Vistage, was the emcee for the day. Reiterating his guidance from LT’s orientation, Rolfe reminded the group that today was the day to “decide to decide” to get involved. He then moderated the impressive panel of local leaders: Suzanne McCormick, CEO of United Way Suncoast; Tim Marks, president of Metropolitan Ministries; Kelly Parrish, executive director of the Children’s Board; and Kris Rawson, vice president for Workforce Development at Goodwill Industries, Suncoast. As each panelist explained his/her respective organization’s mission, each echoed one another’s themes about the overwhelming demand for services, the amazing impact that one person can make, and the reward of doing so. When McCormick said that 45% of Hillsborough County lives below the “ALICE” standard (“Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed”), which demarcates working families who are financially unable to meet basic living standards, the group gave a collective gasp. When we heard that Hillsborough County ranks third worst in the nation for children to escape poverty, we prepared to roll up our sleeves to begin the day’s volunteer activities.

The opportunity exists for those of us that are most fortunate to give back to those who are not. Hopefully now we all understand that there are organizations in place that can help facilitate that giving. – Jeff Locker, Raymond James

The LT’16 class was split into 12 groups of four (one group had four people in spirit but only three in body), with each group venturing out to participate in a different social impact organization for the remainder of the morning. After the two-hour session, the class reconvened at the Lions Eye Institute for a box lunch provided by Goodwill Industries. I enjoyed a chicken caesar wrap along with my three teammates and, after witnessing Felicia Harvey of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce swap the objectively inferior Nacho Cheese Doritos for Cool Ranch Doritos, pondered whether I could do the same. We swapped stories of our morning’s educational adventures with the other team at our table. My teammates (Bob Bincarousky, TECO Energy; Scott Nolan, WUSF; and Ryan Sladek, PNC) and I talked about going to Meals on Wheels and being amazed at the logistics of an operation that brings a hot lunch to 700 homebound individuals every weekday: ten distribution centers and 70 volunteer drivers distribute nearly 175,000 meals a year, in addition to another 175,000 catered meals for hospice and similar groups. We listened to our lunch mates describe visiting the Tampa Lighthouse, an organization that provides rehabilitation training for the blind, and the impact of experiencing, if only for a few moments, the world through the eyes of the visually impaired.

Jason Woody (LT’13), president and CEO of the Lions Eye Institute, welcomed us to his organization’s historic building. As he described the Institute’s mission to restore eyesight through tissue transplantation, we thought of the Lighthouse team. One organization dedicated to helping the blind; another to eradicating blindness.  Interdependence.

Awareness is the first step to sustainability. Being enlightened about the various organizations begins to set the stage for many of us to make a difference.– Ocea Lattimore, City of Tampa

During lunch, each team had three minutes—and only three, lest they risk the wrath of Rolfe’s pleasant scowl—to talk about the organization each visited. As iPhone stopwatches hummed to signal time was up, the class’s appetite to hear more about each organization was apparent. Three minutes was clearly not enough time to convey the two-hour experience and neither is this summary. So, in the interest of brevity, here are the organizations visited and the major takeaway from each group (noting the group’s spokesperson):

  • Big Cat Rescue (Matt Michini, Michini Wealth Management): This is the rare problem with an obvious solution: banning privately owned big cats would eliminate the need to rescue them from mistreatment.
  • Dress for Success (Melissa Silvest, Busch Gardens): They are giving women not just clothes but confidence.
  • Feeding Tampa Bay (Angie Brown, The Florida Aquarium): Ninety percent of the people served have a job and a home but remain food insecure.
  • Girl Scouts of West Central Florida (Gerri Kramer, Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections): The high percentage of female business owners and congresswomen who were Scouts is a testament to the group’s ability to develop leadership.
  • Goodwill Industries (Todd O’Donnell, Wharton-Smith, Inc.): Helping the underprivileged achieve their full potential through the dignity and power of work.
  • Humane Society (Ted Tamargo, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney): Giving homes to homeless animals shows that every life counts.
  • Meals on Wheels (Bob Bincarousky, TECO Energy): Meals on Wheels gives its members the freedom to live without permanent assistance.
  • Quantum Leap Farms (Yvette Segura, USAA): Because horses and humans have the same gait, riding horses provides mental and physical therapy to wounded vets, autistic children and others.
  • Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind (Neil Anderson, CI Group): The simplest tasks become incredibly difficult with impaired vision.
  • Trinity Café (Rich Marulanda, Depository Trust & Clearing Corp.): The number of children who come through their doors each day in search of a meal is tragic.
  • YMCA, Tampa Metro (Rob Liddell, Saint Leo University): The charity that we all know develops youth and promotes health living and social responsibility throughout the community.
  • YMCA Veggie Van (Dana Rollison, Moffitt Cancer Center): There are children who live in food deserts who have never seen the inside of a grocery store.

It was heart wrenching to learn about some of the horrors abused children experience but uplifting to know there are Tampa services available to make the healing process as comfortable as it could be. – Tiffany Morgan, U.S. Air Force

After lunch, the twelve teams again went to their own volunteer activities. As with the morning, the afternoon sessions were enlightening and impactful. And as with the morning, after another two hours spent trying to walk in the shoes of the less fortunate, we reconvened at the Children’s Board, greeted by a snack of pita, vegetables, and hummus. Throughout the day we heard about how many people live in so-called “food deserts” where fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy food is scarce and expensive.  In the morning, one panelist told the story of how a large donation of hummus was received awkwardly by food insecure families who were unfamiliar with what they perceived to be a delicacy. Several class members commented on the tasty irony of our afternoon snack. We then, again, did our best to share our collective experiences in 180 seconds.

  • Alpha House (Felicia Harvey, Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce): Teaching life skills to homeless and pregnant mothers saves the community millions of dollars.
  • Artista’s Cafe (Angie Brown, The Florida Aquarium): Artista’s strives to make autistic individuals feel unique and valuable.
  • Big Brothers, Big Sisters (Larry Braue, USF): Helping a child reach his/her full potential impacts not just the child but the entire family.
  • Crisis Center (Michelle Clapper, Ernst & Young): The Crisis Center is a safety net for children and families during the most desperate of times.
  • Good Samaritan Inn (Maggie Fowler, Peak 10): They help the homeless, people who have fallen through the cracks and are the most vulnerable of society, after all the other agencies and programs have been unable to help.
  • MacDonald Training Center (Brian Harris, Akerman): The Center immerses people with developmental disabilities in the community rather than isolating them from it.
  • Mary Lee’s House (Tiffany Morgan, U.S. Air Force): Collaboration by five different agencies creates a supportive and loving environment to give abused children their childhood back through hope and love.
  • Metropolitan Ministries (Kim Williams, Frameworks of Tampa Bay): Metropolitan Ministries has an outstanding success rate of instilling self-sufficiency.
  • New Beginnings (Maggie Fowler, Peak 10): By demanding accountability from participants, New Beginnings is helping those who want to be helped: helping up, not handing out.
  • Positive Spin (Time Ford, Hill Ward Henderson): A small organization that is thoughtful and strategic in the way it provides services, using metrics to measure progress and empowering families to create their own plans for bringing themselves out of crisis and into a place of strength.
  • Team Red, White & Blue (Patrick Sharpton, Sharp 10 Group): We can support veterans by doing something active with them rather than for them.
  • YMCA Reads! At Sulphur Springs Elementary (Andrew Warren, U.S. Government): There are many children who lack not only books in their homes but also someone to read to them.

All people want to be treated with dignity and respect, no matter what their situation.  Non-profits must keep that in the forefront of their mission in working with people in need to empower self-sufficiency. They don’t need just a handout, but need a hand up. – Kimberley Williams, Frameworks of Tampa Bay

As we concluded, the gravity of the day was palpable. Class members were tired but inspired, daunted but hopeful. The activities were fast and fleeting, but their impact would endure. An eight-year-old student struggling to count to 20. A working mother unable to put food on her children’s table. Tiny handprints of abused and neglected children.

The day freed us from our bubble. We drove through parts of town that we had never seen. We met people who we never would have known. And we experienced problems that we knew existed in concept but had never touched in reality. As class members lingered in the parking lot and moved on to The Bricks in Ybor for a drink, we continued to discuss, share, and learn. The ease with which Brian Yarborough (Skanska USA Building) sprang for $3 cans of Pabst tall-boys reminded us of how lucky we are. With luck comes obligation. As a class, we realized we owe a debt to the unlucky in our community. As a class, we decided to decide.

Guest Blog: Professional Development Series Recap: “Guide to Perfect Your Networking”


By Sebastian Matta, Dale Carnegie Training Tampa Bay

Have you ever been to a networking event and did not know how to start up a conversation? Nor did you know what to talk about after the initial introduction? Thanks to Dale Carnegie Training Tampa Bay, Emerge members who attended our last Professional Development Speaker Series event of the year on a “Guide to Perfect Your Networking” now have the tools necessary to make a stronger first impression when building their professional network.

The speaker did a great job and taught us the proper way to:

  • Start a conversation
  • Build a relationship by focusing on the other person
  • Capture their information by being sincerely interested
  • Setting an appointment to follow up
  • Gaining a referral or giving a referral

Everyone that attended was highly engaged and found great value in more than one, if not all, of these objectives. It is safe to say that after this networking workshop everyone is a stronger networker than before!

If you are interested in getting involved with the Professional Development Committee and being a voice in determining our topics for next year’s Speaker Series events contact Sebastian Matta at 813-385-4250.

Guest Blog: Now Is a Good Time to Start Planning and Organizing Your Taxes

Courtesy of Marsocci, Appleby & Company, PA

You may be tempted to forget all about your taxes once you’ve filed your tax return, but that’s not a good idea. If you start your tax planning now, you may avoid a tax surprise when you file next year. Also, now is a good time to set up a system so you can keep your tax records safe and easy to find. Here are some tips to give you a leg up on next year’s taxes:

marsocciTake action when life changes occur. Some life events (such as marriage, divorce, or the birth of a child) can change the amount of tax you pay. When they happen, you may need to change the amount of tax withheld from your pay. To do that, file a new Form W-4 (“Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate”) with your employer. If you make estimated payments, those may need to be changed as well.

Keep records safe. Put your 2014 tax return and supporting records in a safe place. If you ever need your tax return or records, it will be easy for you to get them. You’ll need your supporting documents if you are ever audited by the IRS. You may need a copy of your tax return if you apply for a home loan or financial aid.

Stay organized. Make tax time easier. Have your family put tax records in the same place during the year. That way you won’t have to search for misplaced records when you file next year.

If you are self-employed, here are a couple of additional tax tips to consider:

Employ your child. Doing so shifts income (which is not subject to the “kiddie tax”) from you to your child, who normally is in a lower tax bracket or may avoid tax entirely due to the standard deduction. There can also be payroll tax savings; plus, the earnings can enable the child to contribute to an IRA. However, the wages paid must be reasonable given the child’s age and work skills. Also, if the child is in college, or is entering soon, having too much earned income can have a detrimental impact on the student’s need-based financial aid eligibility.

Avoid the hobby loss rules. A lot of businesses that are just starting out or have hit a bump in the road may wind up showing a loss for the year. The last thing the business owner wants in this situation is for the IRS to come knocking on the door arguing the business’s losses aren’t deductible because the activity is just a hobby for the owner. If your business is expecting a loss this year, we should talk as soon as possible to make sure you do everything possible to maximize the tax benefit of the loss and minimize its economic impact.

Avoid Gift Treatment by Paying Expenses Directly. The annual exclusion for gifts remains at $14,000 for 2015. (Married couples can gift up to $28,000 combined.) This limit applies to the total of all gifts, including birthday and holiday gifts, made to the same individual during the year. However, any payment made directly to the medical care provider (for example, doctor, hospital, etc.) or educational organization for tuition is not subject to the gift tax and, therefore, is not included in the $14,000 limit.

So, when paying tuition or large medical bills for parents, grandchildren, or any other person who is not your dependent minor child, be sure to make the payment directly to the organization or service provider. Don’t give the funds to the parent or other individual first and have them pay the school, doctor, or hospital. By doing so, you have made a gift to that person, subject to the $14,000 limit. In summary, make direct payments to schools or medical providers and avoid taxable gifts that could be subject to the gift tax or reduce the payer’s unified credit.

Caution: Direct payments of tuition reduce the student’s eligibility for financial aid on a dollar-for-dollar basis. However, if the gift were made directly to the student, only 20% of the gifted assets would be counted as assets of the student for financial aid purposes. Accordingly, careful analysis of the trade-offs between the gift tax exclusion and impairment of financial aid eligibility should be considered.

On our website, WWW.MACCPAWEB.COM  you will find information about Marsocci, Appleby & Company, PA, including our list of services. We also provide you with online resources to assist in your tax and financial decision-making. Please contact Gerald Appleby or Mike Demas at (813) 932-2116 for all your tax and accounting needs.

Marsocci, Appleby & Company, PA
3815 W Humphrey St, Suite 101
Tampa, FL 33614
Telephone: (813) 932-2116
Fax: (813) 930-0489
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