LT’19 Community Outreach Day

Elena P. Ketchum, Stichter, Riedel, Blain & Postler,P.A.

“Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

Anne Frank

Have you ever taken a moment and really considered your many blessings? Perhaps in these days of technological wonders that can easily consume our every waking minute – Facebook, Twitter, 24-hour news service, constant email contact both personally and professionally, the Internet as a whole – I know that I don’t raise my head as much as I should to appreciate my individual blessings or the depth and breadth of the needs of my community. After participating in Leadership Tampa’s Community Outreach Day, however, my eyes are refocused on the needs of our community and the many organizations that are constantly keeping their focus on a variety of community challenges.

Our Community Outreach Day began with Clara Reynolds, President and CEO of The Crisis Center, and Thomas Mantz, Executive Director of Feeding Tampa Bay, outlining in broad strokes the many social services offered in the Tampa Bay area.  Social services touch upon education, employment, housing, food, health, veterans, the elderly, the homeless population, children, and other vulnerable populations. Our Leadership Tampa Class of 2019 also learned about the poverty cycle and the manner in which those in our community can find themselves in that cycle for many years, if not their entire lives.  For those in need, effective and efficient access to social services is a necessity.  This is where Call 211 comes in.  “2-1-1 Professional Information and Referral Specialists work with callers to assess their needs, determine their options and provide appropriate programs/services, give support, intervene in crisis situations and advocate for the caller as needed.”

LT’19 thanks Ms. Reynolds and Mr. Mantz for giving of their time and talent to lay the necessary foundation for our class to understand the needs and challenges of those in our community.

With this invaluable foundation, members of LT’19 visited various community organizations to experience first-hand the work being performed by each of them on a number of fronts:

  • The Crisis Center Tampa Bay
  • Feeding Tampa Bay
  • I.C.H. Program
  • Sulphur Springs Community School
  • Tampa Police Department
  • Meals on Wheels
  • Frameworks of Tampa Bay
  • Junior Achievement BizTown
  • Dress of Success
  • DACCO Behavioral Health
  • Quantum Leap Farm
  • James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital
  • Quest, Inc.
  • Goodwill
  • YMCA Reads
  • Sulphur Springs YMCA
  • Metropolitan Ministries
  • Redefining Refuge
  • University Area Community Development Corporation

I visited the R.I.C.H. House in the morning, In the afternoon, I met with individuals working to combat human trafficking in our community.  Through both of these experiences, I once again appreciated the instrumental work being done in our community. The R.I.C.H. House is truly inspiring.  This organization, run by three officers with the Tampa Police Department, provides a safe haven for children living in poverty-stricken neighborhoods.  Through the R.I.C.H. House, children are provided assistance with homework, access to educational materials, field trips, after school snacks and meals, arts and crafts, and a multitude of other activities.  In the words of Anne Frank, the R.I.C.H. House and the officers working there are not wasting a single moment to improve the lives of the children walking through its doors.  In fact, as a direct result of their efforts, more children are graduating from high school, enrolling in college and the military, and looking forward to a bright future.

Equally inspirational was the work being done by those on the frontlines of battling human trafficking in the Tampa Bay area. Learning the stories of the victims was particularly difficult but important to hear. It was important to learn that human trafficking does not only come in the form of sexual abuse but forced labor.  Most human trafficking victims are U.S. citizens with approximately 50% of the victims being trafficked by their parents. The victims are both girls and boys, with victims being as young as 9 years of age.  It was inspiring to meet those in law enforcement, the legal profession, and in the non-profit arena working to provide an escape and a path forward for the victims.

I know my classmates had equally moving experiences at the organizations they visited. One group experienced walking a mile each way to buy groceries.  Another group experienced a therapy exercise with therapy horses.  These experiences will not only stay with us but also motivate us to refocus our eyes on the needs of our community and use our time, talent, and treasures to shine a light on these issues.  Please visit these organizations’ websites and find one that speaks to you to volunteer your time, talent, and treasures.

Let us not wait another single moment to make our Tampa Bay community one that cares for all of its members. 

LT ’19 extends our sincere thanks to Sykes Enterprises for sponsoring Community Outreach Day.  A huge thank you to Amanda Uliano and her committee members – Melissa Silvest, Laura Frost, Kiana Wilson, Axah McCallah, Mark Segel, and Christopher Rogers – for organizing this extraordinary day and program!  A special thank you to Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa for providing the meeting space for the Community Outreach Day meetings.



LT’18 Sports Day

Emily Farkas, MacDill Air Force Base

“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” – Vince Lombardi

As a member of the military, there is an unwritten, courteous rule that where ever you are stationed you cheer for the home team.  Thankfully, being stationed at MacDill Air Force Base makes it very easy to support the local Tampa Bay sports teams because what we learned during LT’18’s Sports Day is that the good plays extend beyond the ice, pitch, diamond, or field!

We started our day on the ice at Amalie Arena with LT’17 GOAT providing breakfast and a behind-the-scenes tour of Amalie Arena with Adam Lawson, Manager of Inside Sales and Nikki Gregory, Corporate Sales Manager. LT18 were “benched” for a rare photo opportunity in the players’ area and a fun picture with the Zamboni. After the tour, we received a warm welcome and sponsor remarks from Day Chair, Scott Garlick (LT’10), Senior Director, Managing Principal-Tampa Bay, Cushman and Wakefield, who certainly shared his passion for Sports Day. Next we were introduced and impressed by Jay Feaster, Vice President, Community Hockey Development, Tampa Bay Lightning. He presented the remarkable outreach and impact the Tampa Bay Lightning have on the community through their “Build the Thunder” and “Build the Thunder 2.0” programs, which is made possible by the Industry Growth Fund, a specific allocated fund built into the National Hockey League’s collective bargaining agreement that allocates a portion of league revenues to community programs. Starting in 2015, Lightning Chairman and Governor, Jeff Vinik, committed a 5-yr, $6M plan to put hockey sticks in the hands of 100K youth, 500 sets of hockey gear with Physical Education programs, target 100 7th graders for gear/training, and finally create 10 Junior Varsity Hockey Teams. In 3yrs, it’s clear by the numbers that the Lightning will exceed their goals. Furthermore, “Build the Thunder 2.0” uses the physics of hockey to teach STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) lessons in the schools. These programs as well as the numerous camps and clinics provided in the Tampa Bay community leave no doubt that the Lightning have a strong fan base to cheer them on during playoffs. Go Bolts!

Following Mr Feaster’s presentation, we received a brief on The Value of Sports Tourism from Rob Higgins, Executive Director, Tampa Bay Sports Commission and which he shared the economic impacts of bringing events like the NHL All-Star Event, the NCAA Women’s Frozen Four, and the NFL’s Super Bowl to Tampa Bay. For example, the NHL All-Star Event had an increase in hotel reservations by 2K and private/commercial air travel by 60% & 18% respectively. Rob also highlighted that the event had over 5K media mentions that directly supported the overall economic impact of $16M.

Perhaps the best part of the Amalie Arena visit was the special guest appearance by Brian Bradley, Tampa Bay Lightning ’92-’98. His passion for the Lightning makes him the perfect community relations representative and makes you think he could still hit the ice for the playoffs! We even received a special edition, autographed copy of “25 Years of Thunder.”

Our next bus stop was Al Lang Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rowdies pitch, across the bridge conveniently located in downtown St. Petersburg.  Lee Cohen, Chief Operating Officer and Vice President, Tampa Bay Rowdies, provided a welcome & tour of the facilities to include the pitch and ended at the Rowdies locker room. While we only had one LT classmate wearing a Rowdies shirt, all of us left with a generous Rowdies swag bag (including the new “Kick in the Grass” craft brew by Big Storm Brewery) that we could use to support our local #1-ranked USL team. Following the tour, Bill Edwards, Chairman, CEO and Governor, Tampa Bay Rowdies, shared a marketing video about the Rowdies program and shared his enthusiasm for his relatively new found love for soccer. The visit ended with Mr Cohen providing tickets to the next Rowdies match. Note: My young boys and their friends had a great time and enjoyed the access to the players at the end of the match!) Let’s Go Rowdies!

After the Rowdies, we headed down the street to Tropicana Field to visit the Tampa Bay Rays. We heard a State of the Rays brief from Brian Auld, President, Tampa Bay Rays; he spent a good deal of time discussing the pending move of the team to Ybor. We were provided a first-class baseball fare lunch and had the opportunity to watch an inning of the Rays vs. Texas Rangers game (Rays won!). We never left empty-handed all day…we left Tropicana Field with a bobble head and sunglasses.

Our final stop of the day was at Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. We started with a behind the scenes tour of the practice field, cafeteria and the team locker room. Next we heard from Atul Khosla, Chief Corporate Development and Brand Officer, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, about the recent efforts to update the Bucs brand. A panel discussion continued on the brand discussion and allowed Q&A. The end of the day concluded with a debrief in the lobby of One Bucs Place to reflect on the days events and a generous swag bag.

While not mentioned enough during the day, all of the organizations we visited support the military and their families in a way I’ve never seen in 20 years of military service. Along with providing free tickets, youth camps, visits to the base with team members/coaches/cheerleaders, and more, It is easy to applaud these Tampa Bay home teams!

Special thanks to our sponsor for the day Cushman&Wakefield!


LT ’18 Tampa International Airport & Economic Development Day

Rachel Feinman, Florida-Israel Business Accelerator

As someone who recently transitioned to a career that is focused on shining a bright light on innovation with a goal of stimulating economic development, I can say that I was truly inspired and, frankly, a little surprised by the creative ingenuity fueling the current pace of economic development in our awesome town.  It is often said that necessity is the mother of invention, but creativity and a little chutzpah (look it up, people) are needed to stand out.

Tampa International Airport

We began Economic Development Day at Tampa International Airport or TPA (just never TIA or so we were told), and it was the perfect place to start. This particular Wednesday morning, the airport was bustling with all kinds of travelers. At a glance, it was clear there were tourists, business travelers, locals, tourists, foreigners, you name it, they were buzzing around TPA that morning.

We were shuttled through the airport hubbub and into the TPA conference room.  We were welcomed by some of the airport’s executive team, Kenneth Strickland (Director of Air Service Development and Research) and Al Illustrato (Executive Vice President of Facilities and Administration).

Al began his remarks with a video produced by the airport back in the 1960s, which revealed that our airport has been innovative and thinking creatively about how to improve the traveler experience at the airport for the past 80 some odd years.  Apparently, TPA was the first airport to implement the hub and spoke model and use the automatic people mover—both of which minimize the amount of time travelers need to walk with luggage and all from terminal to gate.  Al also unveiled details of the airport’s Master Plan, which is currently beginning Phase 2- the gateway development area and curbside expansion.  Phase 1 was the construction of the rental car center and updating the concessions within the terminal and airsides.  The focus with concessions was to include local restaurateurs—what a great way to showcase the best and brightest of our emerging culinary superstars.  Phase 3 will involve a new 16 gate airside that will accommodate the increasing amount of international travel to and from TPA.

As a Tampa native, I have always been impressed by how much better our airport is than EVERY other airport I have ever travelled to or through. There is no better indicator of this than the fact that 9 out of 10 times my checked luggage is looping around the conveyer belt before I even get to baggage claim. I was interested to learn that the baggage handlers are not TPA employees and are managed by the individual carriers rather than the airport.  How do they achieve such consistency and results across all the different airlines?  Well, a pizza party, of course!  TPA management understands that it is their responsibility to create the overall experience for the travelers coming through the airport.  For this reason, they motivate baggage handlers, TSA employees and other groups of individuals with awards, rewards and a healthy sense of competition.  Creative AND effective.

For Ken Strickland, it is clearly all about Big Data.  TPA is in lock step with many other industries in expanding its use of and reliance on data to achieve its goals.  Again, super innovative in the way they leverage this data to identify and recruit additional flights out of TPA is really cool.  I was particularly impressed to hear that we are successful in encouraging airlines to try new flights at TPA because our cost to operate for the carriers is much less expensive compared to other similarly situated airports.

We next went on a tour of TPA with a focus on the results of Phase 1 of the Master Plan—the Rental Car Center.  The space was well-designed, wonderfully lit and full of beautiful public art.  A key aspect of the Rental Car Center is the SkyConnect train, which can effectively transport passengers to and from the terminal.  We saw behind the scenes and heard directly from the TPA and Mitsubishi team members how they service and maintain these vehicles.  The airport is on the cutting edge of transportation in our market. They have the tracks and the plans waiting for integrated rail into the airport—it is just up to the rest of us to catch up!

Armature Works—The Heights

Sometimes innovation isn’t always about what is new and shiny.  Sometimes, it is about seeing opportunity in the old.  The team at Soho Capital quietly amassed a parcel of land approximately 50 acres along Hillsborough River for redevelopment.  The cornerstone of this redevelopment is Armature Works, which long sat abandoned and was previously slated for demolition on more than one occasion.  Thankfully for all of us, the Soho Capital team had the vision to reinvent this incredible space, tell the story of its history and reinvent it into something beautiful and useful.  The first part of this project to open to the Tampa public is the Heights Public Market, where we were fortunate to have lunch sitting outside along the Hillsborough River on a breezy and sunny March day.  It was one of those days that makes you feel almost guilty you get to live in such a beautiful place.  We dined on our choice of ramen, sushi burritos, house made barbeque, artisan pizza, and more.


After lunch we wondered over to Beck to hear from some of the leaders in the redevelopment of the Hillsborough River.  Speaking of creativity, the leaders of Beck were the true trailblazers in recognizing the potential of the Heights.  Mark House and his team built their space long before there were food halls, collective eateries, waterfront parks, craft breweries and art fairs abounding.

Adam Harden, Principal of Soho Capital, spoke to us in more detail about the vision for the Heights project and some of the trials and tribulations of completing a project as ambitious as the renovation and reinvention of the Armature Works.  His story about preserving the history was most impactful to me—it is important to keep in mind that sometimes development means honoring the past, not just building the new.

We were also fortunate to hear from Leroy Moore, Senior VP and COO for Tampa Housing Authority.   Mr. Moore reminded us that the Heights area has long been home to most.

Bob McDonough, Economic opportunity Administrator, City of Tampa, spoke with us briefly about the Mayor’s continued vision to make the river the center of the city.  The soon to open Julien B. Lane park is a true example of this vision and an amazing way to activate the other side of the river.

Hall on Franklin

It was a true pleasure to spend time at The Hall on Franklin for a coffee pick-me-up and an informal conversation with its ingenious founder, Jamal Wilson.  Jamal’s self-effacing style was genuine, but he is clearly an up and coming powerhouse in the Tampa dining scene.  Again, his combination of ingenuity and a new outlook resulted in what he claims is the first full service food hall in the country.  It makes perfect sense—all of the dining options you would want with waiter service to boot!  If only he can secure that pizza concept he claims is still missing from the Hall.  It will be a pleasure to watch his success as the concept undoubtedly expands to other regions.

Tampa Bay Rays 2020

We ended the day back at the Chamber offices for an engaging presentation by Ron Christaldi, Partner at Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP.  He, together with Chuck Sykes, President and CEO of Sykes Enterprises, is taking the lead on engaging the private business community in an effort to secure funding and support for the new Tampa Bay Rays stadium.  Acknowledging the Tampa community’s limited tolerance for spending public dollars on the stadium development, the leaders of the Rays 2020 initiative are using innovative techniques to galvanize community support and build funds.  The Rays stadium will be transformative for the Ybor City neighborhood, and the design will be iconic and groundbreaking.

While it is true that we are still a town focused on economic development of the real estate variety, it was encouraging to see that an innovative spirit and risk-taking approach pervades this town’s most recent flurry of economic development.  I see big things for the future of Tampa Bay!

LT ‘18 Tallahassee

LaKisha M. Kinsey-Sallis, Johnson Jackson LLC

Recently, people from all different walks of life participated in the March for Our Lives to advocate for gun control. At the forefront of the march are teens from Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, who, in a little over six minutes, had their lives forever changed when a shooter killed 17 of their classmates.  Media outlets have described the march as one of the biggest youth protests since the Vietnam War and the largest single day protest in the history of the nation’s capital.

On the heels of this march, I write this blog post to recap those two days in February 2018, when LT ‘18 watched, not from a TV or some other remote means but up close and personal, these same students demonstrate on our state’s Capitol in a rally cry for legislative action. To be clear, this blog post is not about Parkland or its current impact on the political climate; there is a bigger theme at play here. On February 21st and 22nd, 2018, LT ‘18 had a front seat to what would lead to this historical moment and what has taken over the political scene in Florida and nationally.  This. Is. LT ‘18’s Tallahassee Retreat.

The Lead Up

It’s 7:00 a.m.  LT ‘18 traveled to Tallahassee joined by Joanne Sullivan (LT’91), Director of Community Relations, USF Health, who is a real trooper for embarking on this journey with us. Upon arrival in Tallahassee, LT ‘18 received greetings and a specific charge from Bob Rohrlack, President and CEO of the Greater Tampa Camber of Commerce. That charge was for LT ‘18 to be engaged, to ask questions, and to be mindful of the Chamber’s efforts to strengthen its voice and create a strategic position to advance Vision 2026.  LT ‘18 accepted and tackled that challenge. Josh Baumgartner, the Chamber’s Senior VP of Strategy, reviewed the Chamber’s state legislative agenda and highlighted the guiding principles as the framework for that agenda. Workforce Development. Healthcare. Transportation. Business Economic Development. With that, LT ‘18 was off to watch the state political machine in motion.

The Main Event

Day 1 at the Capitol

 To set the stage for the days ahead, through a panel led by H. Lee Moffitt, LT ‘18 received a preview of the state legislative agenda from experienced fixtures in the state political landscape—Jan Gorrie, Darrick McGee, Mac Stipanovich, and Mark Walsh. Naturally, giving the timing of the Tallahassee trip, a significant portion of the panel talk centered around the Parkland shooting and how it had changed the direction of the legislative agenda. However, for Moffit, efforts to receive an increase in the distribution Moffit Cancer Center receives from Florida’s cigarette tax, were also an important aspect of this legislative session.  This became abundantly clear as Moffit reminded LT ‘18 of the impetus of what is now known as the #1 cancer hospital in the Southeast and Florida—the loss of his friends Joseph Lumia, Honorable George Edgecomb, and Judy Barnett to cancer. According to Moffit, it took him seven years to persuade the legislature to sway the cigarette tax distribution and now he was “at it again” because the Center is out of room and in need of expansion.

The shared perspective of the panel was that the Parkland tragedy was a “gamechanger”.  In fact, Moffitt commented that he couldn’t remember a time when the legislature acted as quickly as they were doing right then and there.  Stipanovich’s opinion was that the Parkland tragedy and what’s happening in state government is all about a measure of the gun culture in Florida and the strength of the NRA. According to him, there’s aura of being “untouchable” as it relates to the NRA and that there will only be some change if the NRA suffers some defeat. The lawyer in Stipanovich could not help but to take to task the argument that regulating guns would somehow impair the Second Amendment where there already exists restriction on guns as it relates to ex-felons, concealing weapons in Florida, etc.

The panel also discussed the idea that placing more guns in schools may be the solution.  Walsh shared his belief that schools are targeted for mass shootings because weapons are not allowed on campus. However, according to Walsh, there remains a shared belief that this restriction remains the best way to proceed and that bringing extra guns on campus will not help the situation. It’s his belief that the legislature will continue to back this notion.

The million-dollar question . . . how is Governor Scott going to respond to the call to action?  Well, according to McGee, it is going to take the Senate to lead the charge on proposing legislation to keep schools safe. He mentioned his thought that many members of the House  do not want to lose NRA funding and hope the issue will die down by the primaries. It was his thought that, because Governor Scott has his own money to support an election campaign, the call-to-action may not phase him much.  Stipanovich disagreed saying that what really happens in Florida on this issue depends on what happens on the national level; three weeks from now, he surmised, neither school safety, gun issues, nor mental illness will be an issue.  Walsh added that the NRA is as powerful as it is because of the strong number of voters who support its agenda and who turnout to vote.

Turning to the mental health piece that has also been a hot topic following the Parkland shooting, our very own Dean Julie Serovich shared that her program has been at the center of the discussion. According to the Dean, there has been a significant decline in coordinated mental health services even though 25% of the population experiences mental health issues. The Dean highlighted the fact that individuals who are mentally ill are more often times victims of a crime than they are the ones committing the crimes.  She ended by noting that her program has observed a “change” since 2016; there has been a increase in violent occurrences. On this issue, the panel appeared to agree that, while legislative action might result in more money targeted toward mental health as a result of Parkland, there was some concern that the money might not be directed to the agencies with expertise in addressing the issue.  As a final thought on the topic, Gorrie shared her thoughts that the Florida House has been an advocate for SafetyNet providers such as TGH and Moffitt whereas the Senate has taken a different approach by spreading money across all hospitals.

Speaking of funding, the panel shared their perspective on whether there is money available in Florida or nationally to take legislative measures to make schools safer.  Walsh stated that while we can expect to see some increase in K-12 funding by the end of the legislative session, that increase would not be enough to make an impact given the growth in the number of schools in Florida. Moffitt agreed stating that Florida’s budget is not keeping up the population, which he believes is putting a strain on the government’s ability  to fund certain causes like education.

#MeToo. The panel discussion would not complete without a discussion regarding the MeToo movement and the impact on state government. On that, the panel members who spoke on it primarily shared that there will be a lot of change in that area and that it was time for change. Before LT ‘18 moved on to the next activity, McGee directed LT ‘18 to keep an eye on the Constitution Revision Committee while Moffit directed LT ‘18 to be more informed and involved citizens in the legislative/political process.

After the informative panel discussion, LT ‘18 took on the Capitol. . . . literally. Our Day Chairs, Clint Shouppe and Merritt Martin, sent us off on a scavenger hunt that required us to reach out to (and in some cases, stalk, due to the competitive nature of LT ‘18) our local legislators and to explore the historic Capitol grounds.

Next, LT ‘18 enjoyed a presentation in the Florida Senate Chambers followed by greetings from Senator Dana Young (District 18). Senator Young provided LT ‘18 a preview into certain bills she filed this session including her bill to move 25 million from rail funds to TBARTA and a bill to ban fracking in Florida.  Regarding the first bill, Senator Young shared “it’s a big lift” but “it’s moving” along. With respect to the second bill, Senator Young mentioned that 77% of Hillsborough County residents live in areas where fracking is prohibited. According to her, Tampa is in a good legal position on the issue but she wanted to be sure to send a message that it’s not good for Florida. [Quick commercial break here . . . for anyone like me who is new to “fracking” . . . fracking or “hydraulic fracturing” is a drilling technique that involves shooting water and chemicals deep underground, breaking up rock to get at oil and natural gas that cannot be reached by typical drilling methods].

Senator Young also discussed other local issues impacting Florida politics including school safety, bikesharing, and teacher pay issues. On the Parkland shooting, Senator Young disclosed that the Senate had been in caucus trying to figure out what they could do.  Some bills or discussions have centered around increasing funds to pilot a mental health program in schools, placing more school resource officers in schools, and developing a process that allows a party to seek a protective order in instances where a person experiencing mental illness is in possession of a firearm.

The day ended with a reception at the Governor’s Club where LT ‘18 had the opportunity to host and network with members of the Bay Area Legislative Delegation, including Representative Sean Shaw, Senator Bill Galvano, Representative Jackie Toledo, Representative Ross Spano, and Senator Jeff Brandes. Because no LT ‘18 program day would be complete without a “debrief” of sorts, LT ‘18 capped off the night with dinner at the Township.

Day 2 at the Capitol

It’s the top of the morning.  LT ‘18 participated in a breakfast and briefing with political communications expert Sarah Bascom and political strategist, Steve Schale, on the present and future political scene.  Schale defined politics as “combustible” due to its back and forth nature in terms of who runs government—Republicans or Democrats.  He predicted that it will be that way for a while.  According to Schale, the signs are that the Democrats will have a good year in state and national elections . . . “the ‘blue wave’ is coming”, he said.  Bascom agreed, stating that while you cannot predict what will happen with any surety, she is hearing that the Democrats are poised to take on Republicans except in the House and the Senate on a national level.  Schale left LT ‘18 with his prediction that Former Vice President Joe Biden may make a bid for the presidency in 2020 and that the “showdown” will be between Biden and President Trump.

The two panelists ended their presentation with the following recommendations to LT ‘18 for connecting with legislators so we can be more involved in the process: (1) make it personal; (2) be respectful of the legislator’s time; (3) make friends with the legislator’s aide (they are the gatekeepers to the legislators); (4) be careful of what you do and say while at the capitol; and (5) do not speak to legislators on social media outlines.

Before we could head to the Capitol for our second day on the hill, our Day Chairs had to announce the winner of the scavenger hunt . . . there was no “you are all winners in our eyes” in this battle.  Congratulations to Nikki Foster for showing us all up and clearly studying day and night to plot how she was going to be “the” winner of the LT ‘18 Tallahassee Retreat Scavenger Hunt.  Now back to the serious stuff . . .

Unlike Day 1, where LT ‘18 moved about the Capitol building with an ease and much like a group of tourists, Day 2 had a different feel.  On Day 2, the Capitol was busy with media outlets, protesters and posters, politicians and constituents, and us.  Students from Parkland and friends of the cause had taken over the Capitol this time and impacted everything that was happening that day.  According to our planned agenda, we were to have a House Chamber talk with Minority Leader Janet Cruz followed by a Senate session viewing and recognition. However, the presence and political activism of the Parkland students changed our course.

First, we had a tour of the House. There we learned that there are currently only 120 members of the House, 13 of which represent the city of Miami alone. We also learned that the House Speaker selects seating and that Minority Leader Cruz’s seat is located in the back aisle, which  is reflective of her experience and power in the House. Following the House Tour, we sat in the halls between the House and the Senate above the words “We, the people of the State of Florida” (which are etched in the capitol’s structure) and observed the Senate in session. There, we watched how the Senate, in recognition of the 17 lives lost in Parkland, took the longest 17 seconds in history in the most moving moment of silence.  There, we listened as the Senate Speaker spoke with a spirit of admiration coupled with grief about Peter Wong who sacrificed his own life on February 14, 2018, to save the lives of some of his Stoneman Douglas classmates.  There, LT ‘18 witnessed the aftermath of the “gamechanger” in action.

Before we left the Capitol, we had a special session in which we heard from local legislative contacts including Sarah Scwirian (legislative aide to Senator Tom Lee), Senator Jeff Brandes, Andrew Wiggins (Florida Chamber of Commerce), Representative James Grant, and Representative Jackie Toledo. From this presentation, LT ‘18 learned about the Chamber’s increased advocacy efforts, how LT ‘18 can increase its advocacy efforts, what Tampa politicians are working on in Tallahassee to help us locally and on a state-level, projections of what issues like transportation, criminal justice, and gun control will look like in the next 5 to 10 years, and just how significant the 2018 election year really is for our state.

By midday, the Capitol building bid LT ‘18 farewell but only pointedly against the backdrop of a demonstration right on its stairs in the name of change.  And, LT ‘18 was right there in the midst of it all.  I cannot speak for the entire class, but I would be shortchanging the experience if I did not admit that the LT ‘18 Tallahassee Retreat left me forever changed. As I walked back from the Capitol building to the board the bus home, I stumbled upon these words in a marker on the ground . . . “There were hundreds and thousands of ordinary people who did extraordinary things.” LT ‘18 shall be in that number of ordinary people who will do extraordinary things.

Thank you Clint and Merritt for your vision and work on this retreat!

LT’18 Port Tampa Bay & Agriculture

Kiana Wilson, A Sharper U, LLC

Leadership Tampa

Port Tampa Bay and Agriculture Day

The Leadership Tampa Class of 2018 spent a fun-filled day at the Florida Strawberry Festival and Port Tampa Bay learning about the impact that agriculture and port transportation have on the Tampa Bay economy.

Florida Strawberry Festival

The day started like most days – early (although we were able to enjoy a slightly later departure time). With excitement and eagerness in the air, we traveled to our first stop of the day – the Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City, FL. Those of us who have attended the festival before, had strawberry shortcake on our minds (YUM)! while first-timers simply took it all in.

Upon arrival, Lee Bakst, Assistant Manager of the Florida Strawberry Festival, welcomed us and provided a bit of history and background.

  • The festival began in 1930 as an event to celebrate the harvesting of strawberries.
  • As one of the top festivals in North America, this 11-day event draws an annual attendance of over 500,000 people.
  • Strawberry shortcake is in high demand with approximately 250,000 served during the festival.

Next, we headed to the Strawberry Field Exhibit led by Tiffany Dale and Kenneth Parker from the Florida Strawberry Growers Association. We learned about the growing/harvesting of the strawberry plants, robotic harvesting, workforce shortages, and the overall economic value to Plant City – approximately $1 billion. This engaging session left many of us in awe as we gained a greater understanding of the berry process from field to grocery.

“The greatest challenge to the industry is imported products from central New Mexico.”    ~ Kenneth Parker, Executive Director

Our final stop before lunch was to the livestock exhibit where we briefly toured the stables. Then, we headed into the arena where several presenters (including high school students Cole and Maddie) discussed the process of preparing steer to be sold. The presenters also discussed Future Farmers of America organization and the impact it has on middle and high school students in the areas of business, ethics, discipline and scholarship.

Last up on the morning agenda was a roundtable luncheon with members from the Florida Strawberry Growers Association, Mosaic and the Southwest Cattle Company. We enjoyed a great menu of southern comfort foods, ice tea and a huge piece of strawberry shortcake! With full bellies and smiles on our faces, we headed back to the bus for departure where we recapped the events of the morning as we headed to our next destination.

Port Tampa Bay

Port Tampa Bay was the next stop for the day. We learned about the port’s history, current initiatives and strategic direction from John Thorington and Mike Griffin. Highlights included:

  • The port of Tampa is the largest and most cargo diverse port in the state of Florida.
  • Approximately 85,000 jobs in central Florida are supported by the port with an economic impact of approximately $17 billion dollars.
  • Over the next 5 years, the port will spend approximately $380 million to expand infrastructure and capacity to include new docks and terminals.

Mike concluded his presentation by sharing the port’s 2030 vision of a $1.4 million capital investment over the next 15 years, how the port is preparing for continued growth and why it will remain an economic driver for the Tampa Bay community.

Last up for the day was an hour-long tour aboard the Bay Spirit II from the Florida Aquarium. While cruising the waters and taking pictures of the port and city skyline, one couldn’t help but think about how fortunate we are to reside in this growing and robust community. Today was an experience some of us would have never explored had it not been for Leadership Tampa. As residents, leaders and community advocates, we had the opportunity to shed our perceptions and really see and explore our city in a new light.

On behalf of the 2018 Leadership Tampa class, a BIG thank you to the chairs, sponsors and presenters for this eye-opening experience! #LT18



LT’18 Military Day

Kari Goetz, Tampa International Airport

Military Day Briefing

Greetings fellow classmates, I’m Kari Goetz, your scribe for Military Day 2018. This is an UNCLASSIFIED information briefing. The purpose is to give an overview of Military Day for your personal records. Below I will outline the SOP for members who attended and an overview for those who missed the day.

During this briefing, I will attempt to include names or approximation of names of those who presented. All mistakes are mine, and I accept the Alpha Charlie I might receive for any unintended oversights.

As always, the day began with a bus ride. This time the target location was MacDill Air Force Base. Upon arrival, we were escorted to a briefing room. Special thanks to Bank of America for sponsoring the day and chest candy to Katie and Jackie from the Chamber for joining us Major Ryan Garlow, Lt. Col. John Schwartz, Brian Carson, Chief, Community Relations, U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), Office of Communication Operations, and Commander Meredith Seeley for providing the morning briefing and organizing our day.

We even received a fly by from the Commander of the 6th Air Mobility Wing, Col. April Vogel. (“Nobody kicks ass without tanker gas!”)

The first briefing opened our eyes to the realties facing our men and women in uniform. Tech Sgt. Cleveland Sanders walked us through the very real and very immediate needs and responsibilities facing a soldier on deployment. Deployment affects all people in the soldier’s life, from partners, to children, to the family pet.

We learned about the emotional cycle of deployment:

  • Anticipation of Deployment
  • Emotional Disorganization
  • Stabilizaiton
  • Anticipation of Return
  • Readjusment

All soldiers are in Constant Mission Readiness, prepared to deploy, with a family prepared to deploy.

There are several services on the base to assist all aspects of the deployment process – from financial assistance to employment assistance and emotional support and counseling. This Herculean task is accomplished by 2 readiness officers, 14 APF civilians and 9 contract civilians. The budget is tight and constantly at the mercy of decisions made in D.C.

It was an eye-opening briefing that left all of us with newfound perspective and understanding of the sacrifices made by our military families and the opportunities for the community to support.

Next, Lt Col John Schwartz, USAF Reserve (LT’15) Chief, Standardization and Evaluation (927th Operations Group), Maj Ryan Garlow, USAF (LT’17) 6 Maintenance Squadron Commander gave us the opportunity to run around in a KC-135 that was considerably older than anyone in LT ’18. With many KC-135s approaching their 39,000 flight hours, new standards are being created to get these critical planes to 60,000 hours and beyond. It is expected that many of the planes will fly past their 100th birthday. At a current value of $60M and an expected cost to build new aircraft of almost twice to three times that – the Air Force is committed to maintaining the current fleet.

Keeping on schedule, we received another briefing, this time on the MacDill Mission. That mission is to



In the air, with 5500 combat and non-combat aircraft and 2/3 of the nuclear triad.

In space, with 90% of all DOD assets, space launch bases, and navigation, timing, communication and weather satellites.

In cyberspace, with the DOD and Government networks gaining intelligence and acquisitions.

By the Numbers

48 Nations are represented at MacDill AFB

33 Units are on base

$2,802,766,833 is the economic impact of the base in Tampa Bay

19,978 Base employees

43,148 Dependents

18 KC 135s, with 6 inbound

3 C-37A 375 Gulfstreams

Finally, we watched our fellow LT member, David Ferreira, get into full protective gear, because he is clearly the best sport in our entire class.

We then fell in for chow line and while we ate, Col. McHale gave us a briefing on the Special Operations Brotherhood. USSOCOM – J3 International is a “global network powered by trust,” because war is not something you go into alone. We learned about the exchange and interoperability and the overall of increased soft capabilities with like minded nations. As Col. McHale stated, “Business is good, there’s a lot of tasks in the world.”

We then heard from international representatives serving as Foreign Liaison Officers from the Netherlands, Denmark, and Lithuania. Equal parts hilarious and informative, we got a great deal of insight into how our culture is perceived.
Next, we were back on the bus for the Wargames Center of SOCOM. No cell phones, no smart watches, nothing that rings, beeps, dings, or otherwise alerts the enemy to your whereabouts.

So that was comforting.

Walking into the Wargames Center was like walking into the movie Wargames, only there was no Matthew Broderick and no one asked us if we wanted to play a nice game of chess.

Major General Slife, USSOCOM Chief of Staff gave us incredible insight into the 2,200 people who work at SOCOM, as well as an overview of the creation and purpose of the division. Today, 8,300 SOF are in 93 countries – Army Special Forces, Rangers, SEALS, Marine Corp SOF, Air Force Commandos, Army Civil Affairs, and Army Psychological Operations.

He shared with us his insights as a leader with a focus on inclusion and diversity and how these two elements cannot live independent of the other. As Maj General Slife shared, “Diversity is about brining as many perspectives as possible to the situation,” and inclusion “is valuing everyone’s perspectives.”  He used the example that “Ducks can’t pick ducks,” meaning that you should find leaders that aren’t like you. I know I’ve called a lot of people ducks since I heard that.

We had a short Q&A with members of USSOCOM both active and retired and the interesting factoid that came out of the session was the operating budget of USSOCOM is $13B – or about the same as one aircraft carrier.

After an incredible demonstration by the brave K-9 unit at MacDill, we were on the bus and off to SOFWERX in Ybor City.

A former church, and an unassuming building, SOFWERX is providing a platform to increase collaboration and innovation to solve challenging warfighter problems. For the next 60 minutes, we alternated between being scared to death of the kinds of ways technology can kill us and hopeful that the incredible talent being developed and innovated at SOFWERX may keep that imminent death at bay a while longer. Special thanks to Tambrein Bates who lead us through the facility and his incredible staff for letting us see the next generation of warfighter tools.

And with that, my notes conclude as we loaded on the bus and reported back to our cars.

Many thanks to everyone who made the day possible and the generosity of their information and their love of country.


LT’18 Government and Transportation Day

Jennifer LaRocco, GrayRobinson, P.A.

From the County Commission Chambers to the streets and sidewalks of Tampa, Government and Transportation Day gave our class in-depth (and hands on) perspectives on both the obstacles and the opportunities facing Tampa Bay as our local governments grapple with one of the area’s most stubborn challenges – transportation.  To round the day out, our friends from LT ’17 brought us goats…

The day began at the Chamber with presentations from Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman (Chair, District 1) and Tampa City Council Member Luis Viera (District 7).  Commissioner Murman began by putting today’s transportation discussion into historical context; Hillsborough County has more than 50 transportation plans in the last 25 years.  For current plans to have a chance, we will need to overcome the biggest challenges facing any plan, where to find funding and how to convince constituents to buy in.  Commissioner Murman’s approach is to focus on phased implementation building on achievable goals, from expanding ridership on existing modes of transportation like HART to building feeder connections like a link between USF and downtown.  Property tax revenues alone simply will not be enough to get Tampa Bay the transportation system it wants. For that, we will need business investment and taxpayer buy-in.  Meeting those challenges is crucial because a functional transportation system is a key component to economic development for the region.

Council Member Viera focused on the role that local government plays in our lives, not only in transportation but in a host of challenges and opportunities.  As the most accessible level of government, local governments can be more responsive to the individual needs of their communities.  From funding local rec centers to bringing the Warrior Games to Tampa, he described ways that local governments can respond to what their constituents tell them is important.  As he put it, “if you put ideas out, people will listen.”

Heading over to the Hillsborough County Center, we got a chance to see the funding problem for ourselves. In an informal class poll by the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) on transportation goals, we promptly voted in favor of improvements carrying a $9 billion price tag – well in excess of our $500 million budget.

We also heard about another aspect of the transportation problem – safety.  Florida leads the country in traffic deaths, with Hillsborough County often leading the state.  We learned about Vision Zero, a multi-national road traffic safety project that aims to achieve a transportation system with no fatalities or serious injuries involving road traffic.  Here in Hillsborough County, Vision Zero is focusing on low-cost, quick-to-implement projects developed as neighborhood-based solutions  to tackle this problem.  Next, we heard from WalkWise, which provides pedestrian safety education to citizens, and we all took the WalkWise pledge to be safe and to share what we  learned with others.  (This pledge would soon be tested when we got to the goats, but we didn’t know that just yet…)

Next up was lunch at the University Club, where Dr. Susan MacManus of USF spoke to us about how local government works and how we interact with it.  Two out of three people say government is “not functional”, and more than 70% say it is “the worst ever.”  But while respondents in these polls were likely thinking about dysfunction at the federal level when they gave those answers, it is local governments that provide the most daily services to citizens. Despite that daily presence, local government receives the least focus in civics education, which can result in citizens not knowing how to interact with the level of government that impacts them the most.  Education is important for another reason, Florida is now more representative of overall U.S. demographics than any other state.  Contrary to the state’s snowbird and retiree reputation, millennials and Gen X’ers combined now make up more than half of all registered voters, and 27% of those voters are registered as NPA or independent.  All of this gives Floridians, particularly along the Tampa-Orlando corridor, considerable political clout and makes it that much more important that Tampa voters and taxpayers understand exactly how government works and how projects get funded.

After lunch, we heard from our transportation panel, which included representatives from HART, the Hillsborough County MPO, Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA) and FDOT.  Almost all of the panelists pointed once again to funding as one of the main challenges facing any transportation plan.  Other common themes included the need for regional solutions and cooperation, a focus on transit being about moving people (not necessarily cars) and implementation of new technologies.  The panel also called on businesses, which are largely impacted by transportation problems, to be louder voices in the transportation debate and to foster greater education within the business community regarding available solutions.  The panelists noted that the discussion about transportation is not a “postcard argument”, it isn’t simple, and there is no single fix. is a great resource to find out more about the current plans and to find ways to get educated and get involved.

And then came the goats.  From the hallowed heights of the University Club, we hit the streets in The Amazing Race – Tampa Edition.  Challenged to visit pit stops, including Ybor City, Harbour Island and UT (who knew there were two cannons?!), each team had to use at least seven different modes of transportation during the race. We walked, biked, taxied, Uber’ed, and hopped on buses, trolleys, water taxis and Tampa’s own Downtowner enjoying the fun and feeling the frustration that the different modes had to offer.  While we couldn’t all win, we did all gain an appreciation for new and different ways of getting around our own City of Tampa.  That, and we got to hug goats.  All in a day’s work for LT ’18!