LT’20 Government & Economic Development Day

The Leadership Tampa 2020 class recently embarked on the Government & Economic Development program day, and the agenda did not disappoint! The day was spearheaded by Program Day Chairs Bemetra Simmons (LT ’13), Managing Director, Florida Mutual of Omaha Bank, and Gerri Kramer (LT ’16), Director of Communications, Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office, and was sponsored by Julian Mackenzie (LT ’19), with Aussie Pet Mobile.

How Local Government Impacts You

The day kicked off at the 13th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office with a brief welcome from the current State Attorney, Andrew Warren, followed by a panel on the impact of local government. Panelists included Melissa Snivley, Chair of the Hillsborough County School Board, Kimberly Overman, Hillsborough County Commission Co-Chair, and Luis Viera, Chair of Tampa City Council, and was moderated by former Florida Governor and Tampa Mayor, Bob Martinez.


The panel focused on the role local representatives play in effecting change in our community. Panelists reflected on “points of pride” in their career history, including Snivley’s initiative to successfully enhance financial stewardship of the school district, Overman’s strides in infrastructure and affordable housing, and Viera’s successful completion of the New Tampa Rec Center and sensory-friendly park.

The panel also touched on the importance of voter turnout. Viera shared his belief in our patriotic duty to vote, reminding us that people sacrificed their lives to ensure our right to vote. The panel also proposed the impact local elections play in providing a future leadership bench for state and national representatives.

City of Tampa Overview: Jane Castor

After the panel concluded, we had the pleasure of hearing from current City of Tampa Mayor, Jane Castor, accompanied by her lively four-legged companion, Alcaldesa (“Dessa”, for short). Mayor Castor shared several exciting statistics and insights into how our city is evolving. She also shared five areas of focus she is committed to enhancing during her tenure as Mayor, which include:

  1. Development Services
  2. Transportation
  3. Housing Affordability
  4. Workforce Development
  5. Sustainability & Resilience


Mayor Castor shared several examples of how we are making strides in each of these core areas, from reducing permit obtainment timeframes, to increasing housing “affordability” (defined as housing options between $180-200k), to educating youth on alternative trade-focused career paths and water conservation initiatives.

Mock Trial: Led by Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office

After our dialogue with Mayor Castor, we had the opportunity to participate in a mock trial exercise, facilitated by members of the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office. LT ‘20 class members served in various courtroom roles – from judge, to defense and prosecuting attorneys, witnesses, suspects and even a Bailiff. The remainder of the class served in jury groups entrusted with sentencing decisioning.

After an Oscar-worthy mock trial performance, the jury groups convened to determine their sentencing recommendations. One of the biggest takeaways from this exercise was how varied the sentencing outcomes were for each group and how likely this is to apply in real trial experiences.


Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections

After our morning at the State Attorney’s office, we made our way to the Robert L. Gilder Elections Service Center. The group alternated between a mock voting exercise and tour of the facility.

The facilities tour was led by our very own Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections, Craig Latimer. Many of us were in awe of how thorough and involved this behind-the-scenes operation is. The Election Service Center includes an impressive system for printing, mailing, counting and sorting ballots.

The mock voting exercise allowed members the opportunity to practice voting on a handful of hypothetical issues and experience the in-person ballot-casting process. This simulation incited a spirited conversation around the challenge of understanding legislative verbiage and how this could likely impact clear understanding of what you are voting for/against on ballots in an actual election.


Hillsborough County Entrepreneur Collaborative Center (ECC)

We then made our way to the Entrepreneur Collaborative Center (ECC). The ECC is a one-stop shop for entrepreneurial resources, information, collaboration, and mentoring, hosting more than 2,300 programs and 34,000 participants since opening its’ doors in December 2014.

One of the crown jewels of the local ECC is its’ partnership with 1 Million Cups Tampa – a startup presentation and networking organization which provides a safe environment for entrepreneurs to share their business ideas and receive feedback from experienced Tampa business owners.

Our class had the opportunity to participate in a 1 Million Cups pitch simulation, where we heard from two local Tampa start-up founders – Meghan Tauber, Owner of Hogan Made Tees – a tee-shirt design company focused on local neighborhood apparel, including the infamous Ybor Rooster – and Chad Walker, Owner of ClienTell – an app subscription service for contracts to rate/review clients.

The presentation format is a 6 minute “pitch” of your business, focused on answering 4 questions:

  1. Who are you?
  2. What problem you are trying to solve?
  3. How does your product/service serve as a solution to the problem?
  4. How can the community help you?

Our class was then given the opportunity to provide feedback to these budding entrepreneurs real-time and tips for marketing, growing and scaling their businesses. It was awesome!

Housing Affordability

We ended our day focused on a critical issue facing our community during this time of growth and development: housing affordability. We heard from a panel of subject matter experts including Leroy Moore, Sr. VP & COO for the Tampa Housing Authority, Carole Post, Development & Economic Opportunity Administrator with The City of Tampa, and Lauren Valiente, Sr. Counsel for Foley & Lardner LLP and Tampa Bay Chamber Affordable Housing Caucus Chair. The panel discussed some of the housing affordability issues our community is currently facing and ways to proactively support a variety of residential options for all community members during this time of rapid growth.


In an effort to illustrate some of the strides being made in affordable housing within our community, we then departed on a tour of active affordable housing sites in the downtown Tampa area. Leroy Moore guided us on a sobering drive through an older affordable housing community that was dated and rundown. He then took us to the Central Park Redevelopment Project – a mixed income, mixed use multi-family housing development, The Encore District. We hoped off the bus and toured one of the District’s apartment buildings, complete with an amenities space, pool and parking garage. It was encouraging to see the emerging, dignified residential options becoming available to members of our community from all walks of life.

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