Chamber Announces Leadership Tampa 2018 Class

The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce announces the members of the 2018 Leadership Tampa Class.   Established by the Chamber in 1970, Leadership Tampa is the third oldest leadership program in the nation and strives to identify, guide and enhance the skills and opportunities of current leaders in Tampa and Hillsborough County. The Class Chair is Josh Bullock, Tampa Bay Rays, and the Vice Chair is Julie Serovich, University of South Florida.

The members of Leadership Tampa 2018 include:

Jolyon Acosta, Bush Ross, P.A.
Chris Adkins, Tampa Marriott Waterside
Josh Adkins, Moffitt Cancer Center
Robbie Artz, Tampa Bay Rays
Lee Behensky, The Florida Aquarium
Heather Brock, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney
Nick Buchanan, Keller Williams
Ernest Coney, Jr., Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa, Inc.
Adam DePiro, Visit Tampa Bay
Emily Farkas, MacDill Airforce Base
Craig Federer, Raymond James Financial
Rachel Feinman, Hill Ward Henderson, P.A.
David Ferreira, Warren Averett
Nikki Foster, Mosaic
Jessica Fugate, Crisis Center of Tampa Bay
Christine Glover, City of Tampa
Kari Goetz, Tampa International Airport
Leslene Gordon, Florida Department of Health – Hillsborough County
Lindsay Grinstead, Tonic Consulting Group
Sarah Ham, AACSB International
Dale Hoffman, Hillsborough County Tax Collector
David Judd, III, Wehr Constructors, Inc.
LaKisha Kinsey-Sallis, Johnson Jackson, LLC
David Loos, Beaux-Arts Group
Jennifer LaRocco, GrayRobinson, P.A.
Leah Millette, BayCare
Katie Molloy, Greenberg Traurig, P.A.
Adrienne Morgan, Sparxoo
Linda Olson, Tampa Bay WaVE, Inc.
Sara Palmer, USAmeriBank
Dustin Pasteur, IV, Tampa General Hospital
Stacey Pittman, Bank of Tampa
Kevin Preast, Tampa Bay Lightning
Randy Prescott, KCI Technologies, Inc.
Ryan Reynolds, Cushman & Wakefield
Natalie Roberts, Flagship Law, PLLC
Kay Schwartz, USAA
Matthew Serynek, RS&H, Inc.
Eric Stewart, Synovus Bank
Rolfe Thompson, GTE Financial
Susan Thompson, CS&L CPAs
Charles Tiernan, Community Foundation of Tampa Bay
Marshall Tucker, TECO
Alberto Vazquez, Hillsborough County Public Schools
Elias Vazquez, City of Tampa Police Department
Virginia Veit, CliftonLarsonAllen LLP
Caroline Vostrejs, The Beck Group
Jennifer Whelihan, Hillsborough County Economic Development
Kiana Wilson, A Sharper U, LLC
Jennifer Yeagley, Community Tampa Bay

Members of Leadership Tampa are business/professional people who hold leadership positions within their companies or organizations. Additionally, they have demonstrated a concern for community issues and volunteered their time with service and professional organizations. The selection process is rigorous and competitive for the 50 seats available in each class.

The Leadership Tampa year begins in September and runs through May with members meeting every other week for briefings, seminars and hands-on experiences. Each Leadership Tampa program brings in top-level business, civic and government leaders for panel discussions and question and answer sessions. Topics covered include healthcare, education, law enforcement, the environment, economic development, government and other important community issues.


LT 2017: Tourism Day


By: Maria Porto-Duarte

The final day for Leadership Tampa Class of 2017 – G.O.A.T. had come! I could hardly believe that this day had arrived; Tourism Day was here. The day started, as usual, at the crack of dawn. As I was driving over the Howard Frankland Bridge watching the sunrise over the Tampa skyline, I was excited for what the day would bring. I had been a tourist to the Tampa Bay area for a number of years prior to moving to the United States of America and I was looking forward to the behind the scenes look at the impact of Tourism on Tampa Bay.

Thanks to Randall Woods and Toi Walker, our G.O.A.T. shirt sponsors, and to our fearless leader, Susan Maurer, we were able to wear our G.O.A.T. shirts for the day. After a quick change in Bibiana Gomez’s darkly tinted car, I was ready to get on the bus with my bus buddy Derek Kantaskas and head to our first stop, Busch Gardens!

After our security pat down we went through a beautiful tree-like arch. Wait, did that tree arch move?? Tourism Blog 1

Once we passed the moving trees we headed to breakfast and were greeted by none other than the Sesame Street cast!

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While we had a delicious breakfast sponsored by Busch Gardens, we heard from Tim Harding, a representative from the University of Tampa, our sponsor for Tourism Day, about the impact that UT has on tourism through the Henry Plant Museum, Bailey Arts Studio Theatre, the national conferences that UT hosts and the international students from 110 different countries that attend UT. When conference attendees, students and their families come to Tampa they not only come to UT they also visit the beaches, Busch Gardens and the other many attractions Tampa has to offer.

We also heard from Troy Manthey of Yacht StarShip who shared with us that it was a bittersweet day as it was the first time that the late Thom Stork was not present for Tourism Day. Thom Stork was the President and CEO of The Florida Aquarium and was known as the Godfather of Tourism in Florida and Tampa. Manthey went on to announce the formation of the Thom Stork Hospitality Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship will sponsor a seat in Leadership Tampa for a person working in the hospitality industry in Tampa for years to come.

Stewart Clark, President of Busch Gardens, welcomed us to Busch Gardens and, after teasing Jamie Johnson, LT’17 G.O.A.T, shared how Busch Gardens did not start as a theme park but as a bird park for employees of Anheuser-Busch 58 years ago. Busch Gardens is not only a theme park, it is also recognized for its zoological expertise and is rated among the world’s best working zoos with over 12,000 animals. Clark stated that their key philosophy is to have a park that is safe and clean with amazing guest service that inspires visitors every day. Busch Gardens generates over $20 million in sales and use taxes and $3 million in property taxes. When asked about the greatest limiting factor for Busch Gardens he stated that it is the lack of public transportation in Tampa. This did not surprise us as transportation has come up numerous times in LT’17 as a limiting factor to growth and as a class we experienced it first hand during Transportation day.

We then got a chance to hear from Roger Dow, President and CEO of U.S. Travel Association, and Ken Lawson, CEO of Visit Florida, about the economic impact of tourism both in Florida and nationally. It is amazing to think that for every 85 visitors to the state, one tourism job is sponsored. This equates to more than 1.2 million Floridian’s employed in the tourism industry! Further, tourism is the single biggest reason why Florida residents do not pay state taxes since tourism raises over $5.3 billion in sales and use tax in the state.

And so with our tummies full of breakfast and our minds full of how much tourism saves us in tax dollars, we walked to our first Busch Gardens attraction, the safari ride! On the walk there we got a close up look at an alligator, the cheetah enclosure and a chance for the compulsory group photo outside the Serengeti Overlook.

Tourism Blog 3

We split into groups and hopped aboard the open-aired vehicles for our wild and wonderful tour of the Serengeti Plain with our personal tour guide who shared stories of the habitat and the wildlife that inhabits it.  We also made some friends along the way as there was a giraffe or two that followed us for a while.

After we disembarked from our safari vehicles we headed to another wild ride of a different variety: Cobra’s Curse! Fortunately we had some fellow LT’17 GOATS who were kind enough to hold our belongings as some of us crazies went on the ride.

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We have still not fathomed what Jose and Casey were discussing as we braced ourselves for the ride!Tourism Blog 7

By the time we finished this ride we were behind schedule and we half-walked, half-ran to our behind-the-scenes look at Iceploration, Busch Gardens‘ 30-minute ice skating show that explores the four corners of Earth. Our big screen introduction to the show was none other than a larger-than-life Jamie Johnson who shared how he and his team strive to create guest experiences that matter.

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He certainly did not disappoint as we were privileged to see how the incredible scene changes occur backstage, how it takes two people on 14 inch drywall stilts to operate the large elephant character and saw firsthand how live animals bring a certain unpredictability to the show. We were also treated to a live presentation of Alex and Allison in action on the ice and our jaws dropped as we saw how close Allison’s head came to the ice during their presentation!

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After this amazing experience we ran back to our bus, searched for our bus buddies and headed off to our next stop, Lowry Park Zoo!

We were welcomed to Lowry Park Zoo by Elizabeth Henning, Chief Financial Officer. She shared that the zoo relies on gate revenues and fundraising to supplement the dwindling state and local grant revenues to continue to deliver their life-sustaining rehabilitative work with manatees and other wildlife. We then proceeded to our first stop at the zoo, the newly launched Dino’s Alive exhibition. While we learned several very interesting facts about the dinosaur era, the one that stood out most in my mind was that chickens are mini T-Rexes!  Who would have thought? On a serious note, we also heard that vultures are under threat of extinction due to the use of pesticides and that zoos exist to support and sustain wildlife that are under threat of extinction, like Aya, the clouded leopard cub. Lowry Park Zoo participates in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Clouded Leopard Species Survival Plan (SSP) designed to support the conservation of select wildlife at risk of extinction. These facts were shared with us by Joe Couceiro, CEO of Lowry Park Zoo, during lunch at Reilly’s Reserve, sponsored by Lowry Park Zoo.

Another speaker was Jason Carroll, Executive Director of Friends of the Riverwalk, who shared the impact of the Riverwalk on bringing Tampa residents and national events to downtown Tampa. The Riverwalk was center stage during the 2017 College Football Championship Game where fans were able to get just about everywhere by foot.  One of the features of the Tampa Riverwalk is the Historic Monument Trail which displays 26 bronze busts of prominent people in Tampa’s history. A little known fact of the busts is that they are at the actual height of the person depicted.

Our lunch panel discussion closed with Don Barnes, Executive Director of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla, who shared that the Gasparilla Children’s Parade is the largest children’s parade in the U.S.A. and that the Gasparilla events have a $22 million direct economic impact on the local economy.

Then, instead of hopping on board the bus for our next stop, we took the Pirate Water Taxi to the Convention Center and walked to our next stop, the Florida Aquarium. The Pirate Water Taxi ride was a welcome change to the traffic on the Interstate and it was a beautiful and relaxing ride. One G.O.A.T. got to reenact a scene from the Titanic!

Before our behind-the-scenes tour of the Florida Aquarium, we heard that the Florida Aquarium building was an old Coca-Cola Bottling Plant that was donated to the City of Tampa and that the Aquarium has been the catalyst for development in the area. This was followed by a panel discussion with Ron McAnaugh, GM, Marriott Waterside Hotel and Marina and Eric Blanc, Director of Sales, Tampa Convention Center. They shared how the Convention Center attracts national and international conferences to Tampa by hosting over 200 events a year and is active for over 330 event days. These events generate over 304,000 room nights at local hotels.

During our behind-the-scenes tour, we learned about the incredible work that the Florida Aquarium does with sea turtles and coral and that they seek to inspire people to care about sea life.

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We departed the Florida Aquarium via the Streetcar and headed back to the Tampa Convention Center where we were welcomed by Rick Hamilton, the Convention Center and Tourism Director. Our final panel discussion for the day was with David Downing, Executive Director for Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater and JoLynn Lokey, Chief Operating Officer, Visit Tampa Bay. They stressed the importance of tourism at the local level, that it brings over 22 million visitors Hillsborough County alone and that one in 19 jobs in Hillsborough County is tourism-related.

We then headed to the grand finale for the day: a ride back to Channelside on board the Yacht StarShip II. Little did we know as we boarded the Yacht StarShip that there was another surprise waiting for us: Josh Bullock, our vice chair, had arranged for our significant others join us for our final ride of Leadership Tampa, Class of 2017, the GREATEST OF ALL TIME!

What an amazing experience this has been! Friendships have been forged for life and we are now equipped with the knowledge to continue to support this community we are lucky to call home!

Thank you Susan, MaryBeth, Josh and Hannah for your tireless dedication to making this the most enjoyable and informative experience ever!

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Chamber Celebrates Leadership Tampa Graduates

Leadership Tampa, a program of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, celebrated the graduation of 50 members of the class of 2017 on April 26th, 2017 at Embassy Suites in Tampa, FL.  The 2017 class marks the 46th class to graduate from the nationally recognized leadership program established in 1971.

Members of Leadership Tampa are local business people who hold to mid-to upper-level management positions within their companies or organizations.  They represent a wide variety of industries across Tampa and Hillsborough County, and are accepted into the program following a selective application process.

The 2017 Leadership Tampa class was led by Class Chair Susan Maurer of Atlantic Coast Bank, a 2014 Leadership Tampa graduate; and Vice Chair Josh Bullock of the Tampa Bay Rays, a 2012 Leadership Tampa graduate.

LT'17 Graduation

Leadership Tampa Class of 2017 graduating class members:

Daniel Abou-Jaoude, Skanska USA Building, Inc.
Charlesetta Amos-Coles, Amica Mutual Insurance Company
John Astrab, PNC Bank
Lee Bercaw, City of Tampa Police Department
Josh Bomstein, Creative Contractors, Inc.
Kristy Chase-Tozer, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo
Brenden Chiaramonte, Hillsborough County Tax Collector
Andrea Cichon, Tampa General Hospital
Karen Cowan, USAA
Casey Coy, The Florida Aquarium
Chris Farkas, Hillsborough County Public Schools
Michael Ferrone, Cigna
Jose Fourquet, Merrill Lynch
Meredith Freeman, Shutts and Bowen, LLP
Ryan Garlow, 6th Air Mobility Wing, MacDill AFB
Bibiana Gomez, Regions Bank
Matthew Gomez, Gerdau
Todd Gregory, GTE Financial
Jason Grinstead, Tonic Consulting Group
Nicole Hawker, Vistra Communications
David Hendrix, GrayRobinson, P.A.
Miray Holmes, City of Tampa
Jamie Johnson, Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay
Derek Kantaskas, Carlton Fields Jorden Burt PA
Man Le, Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority
Nicole Leontsinis, Sypris Electronics, LLC
Connor Lewis, Ryan Companies US, Inc.
Dennis Manelli, Hendry Marine Industries, Inc.
Maggie McCleland, Academy Prep Center of Tampa
Edward Norstrem, Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation
Penny Parks, Links Financial, LLC
Travis Pelleymounter, Tampa Bay Lightning
Maria Porto-Duarte, AMIKids
Christopher Rogers, Sykes Enterprises, Incorporated
Julia Ruddock, The University of Tampa
Dean Rustin, Bisk Education, Inc.
Meredith Seeley, 927th Air Refueling Wing, MacDill AFB
Maribel Serocki, U.S. Special Operations Command, MacDill AFB
Ethen R. Shapiro, Hill Ward Henderson, PA
Erica M. Shea, Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP
John Thompson, Wilder Architecture, Inc.
Shelley Thornton, Mosaic
Maria Vaca, Cristo Rey Tampa High School
Scott Walden, VetCor, LLC
Toi Walker, BayCare Health System
Kelly Warhola, AACSB International
Calvin Williams, University of South Florida
Ray A. Wong, Gresham, Smith and Partners
Randall Woods, Florida Blue
Glenn Zimmerman, Mad Bear Productions

Applications for the 2018 Leadership Tampa class are available online at The deadline for application submission is May 5, 2017 at 5:00 p.m.  For more information on Leadership Tampa, please contact MaryBeth Williams at (813) 276-9445 or at


LT 2017: Tallahassee Retreat

Walden, Scott.jpg

By: Scott Walden

I think it is safe to assume each attending member of our LT 2017 class would agree, the highly anticipated two-day visit of our State Capitol did not disappoint. The session was intended to provide our class with a broad overview of our state’s political structure and processes supplemented with select panel discussions aimed at providing greater insight into certain aspects of Florida politics.

Day One of the retreat started early with a scheduled bus departure of 0700 on 4 April, 2017. Aside from a couple near death experiences caused by inclement weather, the bus ride to our hotel in Tallahassee was mostly uneventful. The sentiment on the bus was one of excitement and anticipation and, as usual, the conversation was lively.

Shortly after our arrival, the class gathered in the hotel’s conference room for a joint lunch / panel discussion moderated by former Speaker of the House, H. Lee Moffitt. Mr. Moffitt’s opening comments included a brief history on the establishment of the Moffitt Cancer Center, as well as a bit of insight regarding the unique political power held by the Speaker of the House. Panel members for this discussion included Jan Gorrie, Managing Partner, Ballard Partners, “Mac” Stipanovich, of Council, Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney, PC, and Mark Walsh, USF System Assistant Vice President for Government Relations.

The panel primarily addressed those political issues relating to the Greater Tampa Chamber’s agenda: USF funding, additional cigarette tax revenue for Moffitt Cancer Center, statewide transportation network regulations and K-12 funding. Equally important and interesting during this discussion was our ability to hear from those who participate in the political process as a lobbyist. Also noteworthy were the numerous “tongue-in-cheek” comments regarding Florida’s current Speaker of the House, Richard Corcoran, and his stance on several contentious issues. This behavior did not go unnoticed by our class and highlighted how personality and party differences remain an enormous obstacle in the political process.

Following our initial panel discussion, the class walked to the old State Capitol. After an informative briefing on the building’s history, we were turned loose to explore. As one would expect, the old Capitol is a fascinating facility, steeped in history with a collection of very well-preserved artifacts and, of course, provided a great group photo opportunity.

Blog 1Figure 1 LT-17 on the reconstructed staircase in the Old Capitol

Next on the agenda was a short walk to the new Capitol and the opportunity to view the political process in action. The group split between the House and Senate, and each were allotted 30-minutes to witness our lawmakers at work. The formality of the process was particularly interesting, but the process generally seemed confusing and a bit inefficient, and lawmaker attendance and attention seemed low. Many of these concerns were addressed during the following day’s panel discussion.

Before departing the Capitol for the day, LT’17 was treated to an informative briefing and Q&A with our Attorney General, Pamela Jo “Pam” Bondi in the Cabinet Room. Serving in this capacity since 2010, Mrs. Bondi has remained focused on solving issues that most impact Florida citizens. During our time with her she emphasized her current focus on combating drug and human trafficking-related problems.

Blog 2Figure 2 Florida Attorney General Bondi

Having the Cabinet Room all to ourselves presented some unique photo opportunities…

Blog 3Figure 3 Ryan Garlow for Governor?

The final item on the agenda for Day One was a formal Legislative Reception held at the Governor’s Club. The legislative session ran long on this day, so our ability to visit and interact with members of the Bay Area Legislative Delegation was very limited. In their absence, our classmates took the opportunity to visit socially and recap observations from the day’s events.

Once formal activities concluded for the day, the LT’17 GOATs took advantage of the first real opportunity to gather as a group and socialize. Class members utilized skills learned from previous sessions in navigating various means of public transportation as they made their way to Township, a local bar / restaurant, where Erica Shea secured a private room for dinner. It was evident everyone had a great time, and who would have guessed so many GOATs had such great JENGA skills!


Figure 4 GOATs on the loose in Tallahassee!

 After a long day of political education and socializing, some class members began retreating to the hotel in preparation for the next day – but not all class members. Others decided to extend the socializing to other local establishments. I don’t know what has taken place the evening of Day One with other classes, but there are two specific things I do know which clearly set the GOATs apart from all others: 1) There is significant doubt previous classes found the gem of an establishment many of our classmates found for after-dinner socializing, and 2) There is NO possibility their evening could have been nearly as epic!

Day Two of the retreat began with a panel discussion and breakfast focused on the Present & Future Political Landscape. Conducted in the hotel conference room and moderated by Clint Shouppe, State Government Relations Manager, St. Joseph’s Hospital, this was perhaps the most informative and insightful panel discussion of the retreat. Sarah Bascom, President, Bascom Communications & Consulting, LLC., and Steve Schale, Political Strategist, Florida, shared their vast experience in Florida politics through an extremely interactive questions and answer session. Classmate Michael Ferrone addressed some of the shared concerns our classmates had while observing the House and Senate sessions. There is little doubt this was the correct panel to address those concerns, and their feedback shed significant light on what occurs on the floor of each house, why/how things occur, and why we should (or shouldn’t) be concerned with the process.

Another short walk to the new Capitol for a briefing in Senate Chambers with Senator Dana Young was next on the agenda. A former State Representative, Young gained the Senate seat representing western Hillsborough County in 2016. It was a privilege to listen to her speak to our class regarding those issues affecting the Tampa Bay community. As you can see in the photo, she had our undivided attention.

Blog 6Figure 5 Future State Senators?

Our final scheduled event of the retreat was a tour of the Governor’s mansion. The mansion, which was designed to resemble Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage, was designed by Marion Sims Wyeth who also designed numerous Palm Beach mansions including Mar-a-Lago. The building has 30 rooms and 15,000 square feet of living space on 1.5 acres of land. Our half-hour guided tour of the mansion was a nice way to wrap up our visit. No visit to the Governor’s mansion would be complete without an LT-17 group photo…

Blog 7Figure 6 GOATs at Governor’s Mansion

It remains a bit of a mystery, but the bus ride back to Tampa may have been the quietest 5-hr bus ride in the history of bus rides. Was it simply exhaustion from the fast and furious pace at which information was imparted on us during our visit – or could it be something else? In any case, I believe I can speak for my classmates in saying this was certainly one of the more informative, insightful, enjoyable experiences we have had during our time in Leadership Tampa. Thank you to the sponsors, and to those charged with putting all of this together for us.


LT 2017: Military Day


By: Julia Ruddock

220720RMAR17: Early morning haze, a stillness in the air, and the hum of engines and feet pitter-pattering in cadence off into the near distance.  It was an all too familiar o’dark:30 start to Military Day for the Leadership Tampa Class of 2017 (GOAT), sponsored by Bank of America. Overlooking the Tampa city skyline from the southwest sits MacDill Air Force Base, a strategic gem to the US military and the Tampa Bay Community.  To get a sense of appreciation of the value-add of this base, I share a few quick facts (FY14):

  • Employs and supports over 42,000 military and civilian personnel and their dependents (including coalition partners)
  • $2.94 Billion in economic impact to the region
  • Nearly 25,000 jobs created
  • Home to the headquarters of two combatant commands: US Central Command (USCENTCOM) and US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM)

Upon our arrival, we were greeted on the bus by a loud and thunderous Major Brian Craft, Chief of the 927th Air Refueling Wing’s Command Post. To the envy of all Veterans in our group who were not in the Air Force, we entered the unit’s common area that was squared away with a full continental breakfast and fresh coffee, courtesy of a very welcoming Lieutenant Colonel John Schwartz of the 927th Operations Group. While enjoying breakfast, we had the lovely pleasure of meeting Edward Spenceley, former Army and Senior Vice President at Bank of America, whose opening remarks centered on a very important theme that resonated with all of us: that Military Day was all about perspective. At this point, with nostalgia digging a foxhole into my brain for the remainder of the day, I knew we were in for a right ‘ole treat.


“The Flying Jennies”

Our first stop was a static display of the KC-135 Stratotanker provided by the airmen and operators of the 63rd Air Refueling Squadron. For a living, the Flying Jennies conduct aerial refueling missions as the reserve component of the 6th Air Mobility Wing, the host unit of MacDill AFB.  Commissioned into service in 1963, we learned that our plane carries over 30,000 gallons of fuel and has at least 40 more years left befoPic 3re it is retired. Used extensively throughout the Vietnam War and recent conflicts such as
Operation Desert Storm, the pilots and notorious “boom operators” of the 63D and many other similar units apply resolute focus and precision to extend the range and endurance of US tactical fighter jets and bombers in conflict.  Spending my latter high school years in Okinawa where F-15s like the one pictured above roared every 15 minutes across the skies, I knew airmen like the Flying Jennies did a dangerous job. Just how dangerous, though, was a piece of knowledge not wasted on any of our LT’17 classmates that morning.

“C-130 Rolling Down the Strip…Mission Top Secret, Destination Unknown”

 After departing the Hangar, we proceeded to the Davis Conference Center for our commander’s mission briefs. Delivering our welcome brief was C
olonel April Vogel, Commander of the 6th Air Mobility Wing.  The first thing that came to my mind as she spoke was, “I finally get to meet a pilot who flew the C-130s I used to jump out of!”

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Col. Vogel opened the brief with a comprehensive overview of MacDill, its mission to provide support to combatant commanders in their mission accomplishment, and the history of her career coming up through the ranks from an airman to an officer who has commanded at all levels. What was most interesting to our class was Col. Vogel’s take on leadership and her role as Commander of a base that serves both a local and worldwide mission. The main takeaways of our discussion were:

  • As the youngest of the armed forces, the Air Force has over 317,000 active duty airmen, over 69,000 reservists and 30,000 in the National Guard.
  • MacDill hosts 52 coalition nations on base supporting co-commands’ global missions.
  • The commander’s role is as much about aiding understanding between the base and the Tampa Bay community as it is about providing her airmen the space they need to grow and excel at their jobs.
  • The Air Force’s focus is on building leaders that know a little bit about all of its components, encouraging a broad area of expertise and relying on others to keep them on their toes.
  • She internalizes the “Servant Leader” philosophy in that she doesn’t see herself as an expert in the role of commander. Instead, she exercises command through a network of influence built on trust in her people, encouraging others to learn from their mistakes, and consistently impressing upon her airmen the strategic importance of the work they do.

Asked by the group how Tampa can support the base community, Col. Vogel ended her brief with the following:

  • Help in finding homes [work] for Veterans in the community after service.
  • More engagement of the external community on the base i.e. being supporting of and welcoming to service members and MacDill’s mission

Colonel Frank Amodeo, Commander of the 927th Air Refueling Wing, delivered our second mission brief.  As commander of the combined reserve and civilian component consisting of nearly 1,000 personnel, Col. Amodeo oversees the aforementioned Flying Jennies, cargo and passenger airlift, aeromedical evacuation and other “enterprise” support functions of the base including logistics, maintenance, force protection as well as humanitarian missions.  While Col. Vogel’s brief was largely representative of the active duty component of MacDill, Col. Amodeo shared some very interesting facts that (to me) hit the nail on the head of what the day was all about:

  • 70% of the recruitable US population is not eligible to join military service.
  • While the active component of airmen under his command (15%) spends on average 2-3 years at MacDill, the majority (85%) are reservists who come from our community with regular jobs like you and I.
  • In addition to their day-to-day, the focus of these 850+ reservists is mostly on transferable skills training they may leverage in their civilian careers.

Asked what his biggest leadership challenges are, Col. Amodeo responded:

  • Finding funds to provide professional development opportunities for service members to keep up their skill set to meet the needs of the future Military.
  • Taking a 27-year-old plane to a modern-day race and winning, adding that our service members face this challenge every day as they serve multiple rotations in the nation’s longest war


Talk about Perspective!

In closing, Col. Amodeo ended his brief with an ask of the group: to support and encourage the support of reservists doing their best to balance their commitment to service to our nation and their civilian employers.

“There are some units we just don’t talk about,” 

said Mr. Ken McGraw, Deputy Public Affairs Officer of US Special Operations Command Headquarters, in response to one of our classmate’s questions on the role of Delta force in the US military. Mr. McGraw delivered this classic response at the end of his SOCOM 101 Brief, during which we gained an in-depth understanding of the unit’s mission, scope of operations and composition.  With brute force strength of at least 70,000 of the nation’s elite forces across all branches of the military, USSOCOM serves global responsibilities and interests under the direction of both Congress and the Department of Defense. As the owner of the strategy and execution for countering trans-regional terrorist threat and weapons of mass destruction, we learned that SOCOM’s scope of operations spans from direct action operations (unconventional warfare) to community partnerships (foreign humanitarian assistance, winning hearts and minds). Working with the Northern Alliance to oust the Taliban in Afghanistan or opening the national airport to allow international relief to flow into Haiti after the country’s January 2010 earthquake are but a couple examples of the reach of SOCOM’s impact in the global community.

Against Mr. McGraw’s historical backdrop of SOCOM came Mr. Dennis D’Angelo’s brief on US Central Command’s Area of Responsibility. As the Deputy Director of Logistics and Engineering at CENTCOM, Mr. D’Angelo painted a complex for our group of what is perhaps the most challenging of operating environments for the US military. CENTCOM’s operations span 20 countries and nearly 5 million square miles, is home to three of the world’s five major religions, and houses 530 million people comprised of 22 ethnic groups who speak 18 major languages. From its Tampa headquarters, CENTCOM provides strategic vision, plans and guidance to enable the success of subordinate commands while addressing theater-wide geopolitical and military issues.  The end vision: a more stable and prosperous region that is poised to counter state and non-state actors posing a threat to US national interests.

For years, hundreds of thousands of troops from the US and over 52 coalition partners have stepped foot in the desert sands, mountains and snow of the CENTCOM AOR, most recently in Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn.  Echoing Col. Amodeo, Mr. D’Angelo’s challenges are very similar: maintaining balance between continuity of operations and multiple troop rotations for what is now America’s longest running conflict. Mr. D’Angelo ended our time together with a charge to us that “it’s a great time to be in the military!” Indeed, as the 21st century ushers in new challenges such as cyber warfare and the effects of climate change on our capabilities, those of us who have served see some exciting opportunities on the horizon for our youth.


“Bridging the cultural gap”

While enjoying a fabulous lunch, a seemingly unassuming Mark Haskell, Middle East Culture Instructor, lit the room on fire with his vibrant personality as he delivered an introduction to our group on the Foundations of Islam.  Bringing back memories of my time at West Point studying Arabic and middle east culture (knowing full well I would eventually serve in Iraq), Mr. Haskell opened this session with an introduction to the first pillar of Islam – the shahada – the profession of faith expressing the two simple, fundamental beliefs that make one a Muslim: there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the prophet of Allah.

The dichotomy between the depictions above of the shahada in the Qu’ran (the holy book of Islam) and on the Isis flag, respectively, mirrored the varying degrees of understanding among our group about Islam.  At the end of our session with Mr. Haskell and with a new perspective, the answer to the question of who or what we are up against in the continuing global war on terror began to blur significantly. Applying this realization to the men and women who serve every day in countries where Islam is the predominant religion, we gained a more refined sense of appreciation of the burden of service our military and civilian counterparts bear in defense of this country.

Following this session, we enjoyed a panel discussion with SOCOM international officers from Lithuania, the Netherlands and Denmark.  Each officer provided a short overview of their countries, talked about global perception of the US versus reality based on their experience, and enlightened us about the significance of their assignment to SOCOM as an ambassador of their country.

Last but not least, LT17 wrapped up Military Day with the Marine reservists of the 4th Assault Amphibian Battalion (4th AABn).  After signing in old-fashioned military in-processing style, Captain Eric Benjamin briefed us on the composition of his unit and the significance of their mission while we rotated through 25-minute static demonstrations between their various equipment and small arms (rifles, machine guns).  Throughout the demonstrations, we had the opportunity to learn more about the Marines of 4th AABn, many of whom were barely 30 years old and yet had already served 7-8 years with multiple deployments overseas.

Military Day was all about perspective and bridging the gap in understanding between our service members and our community.  Learning that our military and community’s leaders are challenged by the same issues:

  • Attracting good talent and providing for their continued development without risking burnout
  • Ensuring our systems and infrastructure capabilities continue to enable our people’s success
  • Preparing ourselves to ensure we are ready to meet the needs of the needs of the 21st century

…left some of us rather speechless.  Starting at the top through Leadership Tampa and other leaders in the Tampa Bay community, we left Military Day charged with a new mission: One Tampa!

Pic 7

Thank you to all who made LT17’s Military Day very special.

Mission Accomplished!



LT 2017: Port Tampa Bay & Agriculture Day

Port Ag 1By: John M. Astrab IV

On March 8th, the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce Leadership Tampa Class of 2017 spent the day at the Strawberry Festival and at Port Tampa for Agriculture and Port Day.  The group boarded the bus from Port Tampa at 8:45am for a land far away known as Plant City to learn about the impact that agriculture has on Hillsborough County at the Strawberry Festival. The program Day Chairs were Tino Provenzano, Senior Environmental Specialist for Mosaic and John Thorington, Jr., Vice President of Government Affairs and Board Coordination of Port Tampa Bay.
At 9:30am the class arrived at the Festival grounds and was greeted on the bus by Lee Bakst, Assistant Manager of the Strawberry Festival, who provided an overview of the day at the festival. His enthusiasm for both the festival and Hillsborough County agriculture resonated throughout the day. After disembarking the bus, the group headed to the festival’s executive board room where Festival President Dan Walden provided information on the history of the festival and its annual production. Dan pointed out that the festival is self-funded, requiring no assistance from government entities, and is a family-friendly, alcohol-free environment.

Festival Statistics:

  • The festival was started as a Country Music venue in 1930.
  • The 2017 Festival theme was “We’re Playing Your Song.”
  • The 10-day festival has approximately 500,000 visitors annually and takes a volunteer staff of approximately 2,000 people to assist the paid staff of 20 to execute.
  • There is an $11 million net GDP increase to Hillsborough County on approximately $26 million in customer spending as a result of the Festival.

After the ovPort Ag 2erview of the festival, the class went to see the Florida Strawberry Field Exhibit. There, the class participated in a discussion with the staff of the Florida State Growers Association (FSGA) on the impact of the strawberry industry on Hillsborough County. The FSGA was created to help growers have a voice on trade with the local, state and federal legislatures as it pertains to international trade.  Currently, Mexican strawberries have been suppressing the price of berries for Florida growers as the crops have overlapping seasons. The FSGA is lobbying for more fair trade practices to support the price per flat of strawberries, which has remained at breakeven level for most farmers in the last 5 years due to the competition from Mexico.

Hillsborough County Strawberry Statistics:

  • Strawberries are grown from October to April each year and are approximately 40% of the agriculture revenue in Hillsborough County.
  • There are two main varieties of berries currently being commercially grown in Hillsborough County: Radiant (70%) and Sweet Sensation (30%).
  • Of the 12,000 Acres of Strawberries planted annually in Hillsborough County, only 250 acres are dedicated to organics. The low organics acreage is due to the challenges that weather and bugs present to growers in Florida.
  • On average, each acre of strawberry fields yields approximately 30,000 flats of strawberries per season.

The festival tour continued to the Livestock Exhibit Show Floor where the class was treatedPort Ag 3 to an overview presented by two Hillsborough County high school students participating in the Future Farmers of America (FFA) program.  This is a program of approximately 18,000 middle and high school students across the state of Florida, 5,000 of which come from Hillsborough County.  The presenters discussed that FFA educates students on not only the business of livestock but ethics and the dedication and discipline needed to care for animals.  The students in the program purchase and raise animals, including rabbits, sheep, goats and cattle, with the intent to sell them at the end of the school year. At the end of the presentation, the students took the class on a tour of the stables where the animals were being kept for judging during the show.

Port Ag 4After the livestock tour, the class was treated to a fantastic southern comfort meal of pork and chicken back in the executive boardroom. Of course, no trip to the Strawberry Festival would be complete without a gut-busting strawberry shortcake for dessert (which was well received by the class).

As the class was finishing up lunch, Day Chair Tino Provenzano led a panel discussion with Jake Austin, CEO of Plant City Economic Development Corporation and Alex Walter (LT’14), Managing Partner of Walson Ventures, LLC and Owner/Operator of Thundercloud Ranch. During the discussion, the topic of trends in agriculture struck a nerve with both Alex and Jake.  Alex, being a farm owner, discussed how water rights are becoming an increasingly large problem not just for him but for farms nationwide.  He talked about the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tightening regulations on the definition of clean water to the point that some their standards call for water cleaner than rain water.  Additionally, Alex felt that there needed to be more collaboration between the local and federal levels of the EPA.

Jake, coming from the economic development side, talked about labor and the impact of mechanical harvesting grant funds on agribusiness. The goal of the grant funding is to lower the cost per acre of product harvested by removing the need for unskilled labor and in turn keep more small farmers afloat so they can compete on pricing pressures being caused by foreign product.

The panel discussion concluded at 1:00pm and the class boarded the bus to head back toPort Ag 5 Tampa for a 2:00pm discussion with Paul Anderson, President and CEO of Port Tampa Bay.  Port Tampa can trace its roots back to the early 1800s with the first shipments of goods being cattle to Cuba. Through the early 1900s, it would grow to become a major port along the Gulf Coast, primarily through the moving of agricultural product including cattle and timber. Today, the port moves break bulk, liquid bulk, cargo containers and cruise passengers.  Paul also provided the following facts about the port:

  • In 2016, the port had a $17.2 billion impact on the region and supported 85,000 jobs.
  • In 2016, the port generated $52 million in revenue and $28 million in profit.
  • The port maintains an A-rating by various ratings agencies.
  • The current Port Tampa is a quasi-public entity that was founded in 1945 and is the largest, land acreage-wise, in Florida.
  • Nearly half of the fuel in the state of Florida comes though Port Tampa.
  • The cruise terminal continues to grow with 8 year-round ships and is expected to surpass one million passengers for the first time in 2017.
  • In early 2016 the Port invested $24 million in two new container cranes to support larger cargo ships that will be coming through the Panama Canal as the expansion is completed.

To end the day, the Class went for an hour-long boat tour of the Port aboard the Florida Aquarium’s Bay Spirit II.


LT 2017: Sports Day

By Josh Bomstein

Those folks, like me, who grew up a fan of the Bucs, Rays, Rowdies, Lightning, and Bandits (now defunct) know that being a Tampa Bay sports fan takes grit and perseverance. Our teams raise us up with their successes and frustrate us with their losses.  But most importantly, we love them! There is no denying that Tampa Bay is a region imbued with affection for sports, and they play (no pun intended) a significant role in our business community and culture at-large.

Donned in fan gear from our favorite Tampa Bay teams, LT ’17 (GOAT) was pumped up for sports day (sponsored by Troy Atlas of Raymond James and chaired by Scott Garlick of Cushman Wakefield (LT ’10)).  The first stop was the Amelie Arena, home to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Sports Day 1

We toured the 20 year old arena and learned some interesting facts about it and the franchise:

  • The Lighnting have invested more than $60M in improvements to the arena since 2011.
  • The Lightning (as of that day) had sold out 94 consecutive home games.
  • They have the largest pipe organ in sports and the second largest tesla coil in the world.
  • Franchise financial performance goal is to break-even in regular season; 2016 the franchise broke-even in the first round of the playoffs.
  • Vinik (principal owner) is intensely focused on good service, fan experience, and always opts for the “best” in decision-making even personally sitting in every new seat option evaluated prior to replacing all seats in the arena.

We heard from Jared Dillon (EVP of the Lightning, Storm, and Amelie Arena); highlights of his talk include:

  • The lightning are relentlessly focused on their fans and treating them to a great experience.
  • With only 1/3 of the fan base from Florida, a challenge is breaking residents of their non-Tampa team allegiances; hence a strong focus on making the youth of Tampa bay lifelong fans of the Lightning.
  • Jared is a fan of Dale Carnegie and Simon Sinek’s theories on effective leadership.
  • He practices the “golden rule” and focuses on leading with empathy, genuine care and concern for people utilizing eye contact and human contact.
  • An unofficial mantra of the staff of the Lightning is “What Would Jeff Vinik do?” Clearly Mr. Vinik is the heart of the organization and his pursuit of excellence has created a culture focused on victories on and off the ice.
  • The Lightning have an “employee innovation lab” where employees can share their great ideas many of which have been used by the team.

Next we heard from Rob Higgins, Executive Director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission. Highlights of his dynamic presentation include:

  • The commission targets the “right” events that will have the best impact for the community.
  • They donated $1M to Pinellas, Pasco, and Hillsborough Schools via their “Extra Yard for Teachers” campaign which ran in conjunction with the NCAA Football National Championship game in January.
  • Though the exact economic impact is still being tallied, the National Championship game was a massive success with major increases in hotel rooms stays and rates and an increase in flights into and out of TIA.
  • The Commission is constantly focused on “raising the bar” and the National Championship game was the penultimate success showcasing Tampa Bay in a great light. Key elements of the fan experience and subsequent media coverage was the Riverwalk, the “Yacht Village”, and the beaches.
  • The Commission hopes for Tampa to be the first city to host the game twice.
  • A big push for the commission is hosting youth sports events which have a large economic impact (i.e. recently the youth volleyball tournament was hosted here with 390 teams!)

Next stop was Al Lang Field in downtown St. Petersburg, home to the Rowdies.

Sports Day 2

We were led on a tour/discussion by Lee Cohen, Chief Operating Officer of the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Highlights of the visit include:

  • The Rowdies have a long history in Tampa Bay preceding the current team. The Rowdies originally played at old Tampa Stadium in the late 70s and early 80s.

Sports Day 3

  • The Rowdies play in the United States Soccer League, a minor league to Major League Soccer.
  • Rowdies are competing for one of four new Major League Soccer franchises to be awarded over the next 18 months.
  • They are highly focused on using technology to maximize results and utilize extensive data analytics to track performance.
  • Minimum salary is $65,000 in the MLS and the average USL player earns $5000/month.
  • The team is made up of players from many countries, and their “designated” player is Joe Cole.
  • Al Lang Stadium currently holds 7000 (average game attendance is 5800); the proposed renovation to the stadium to host MLS team (if awarded one) will add an additional 11,000 seats.

From there we headed to Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Sports Day 4

After pictures with Raymond, Josh Bullock (Vice President Corporate Partnerships) led us to the field. Highlights included:

  • An amazing live rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” led by the talented soprano voice of Josh Bullock followed by a tour of the locker room.
  • Delicious lunch of various Cuban sandwiches and other tasty treats and coffee, finally coffee. Thanks Rays!
  • Josh spoke briefly regarding the organization’s efforts to put employees first creating a strong culture of community involvement.
  • He also addressed the ever-present question regarding a new stadium by simply stating that the team has narrowed their potential sites to two in Pinellas and two in Hillsborough.
  • Josh kindly presented an award to this author for the “Best Rays gear” worn that day, an obvious choice.

Sports Day 5

Jeff Cogen, Chief Business Officer for the Rays, spoke. Highlights of his discussion included:

  • Many innovative new programs to “thank” season ticket holders including a rewards points program similar to those used by credit card companies.
  • Many new options being offered for fans to purchase tickets in addition to new incentive programs to help attract more fans to the games.
  • The goal is to build a season ticket holder base that is sustainable.

Eric Wesiberg, ‎Senior Director of Marketing, also spoke. Key points he addressed include:

  • New video marketing which is being completed in-house. They provide a more “homegrown” and relatable feel than previous campaigns.
  • They are focused on their gameday giveaways and research shows that fans want “wearable” items so mark your calendars for July 22 – DJ Kitty adult onesie giveaway night!

Stephen Thomas. Director of Community Engagement spoke last regarding Rays community involvement and the motto of “making dreams come true.” He discussed some programs including “Reading with the Rays” of which 20,000 kids have participated and the yearly work done with local Little League teams including free jerseys for the youth. Many Rays players are enthusiastic about giving back to the community notably Chris Archer and Evan Longoria.

From the Trop we headed back across the bridge to One Buc Place, the training facility for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There, we received a tour of their impressive facility which has state-of-the-art fitness, health, wellness and administrative components. Brian Ford, Chief Operating Officer for the Bucs, started his discussion with the statement:

“We are a sports town. No doubt about it.”

Sports Day 6

His in-depth look at the Buccaneers on and off the field included the following highlights:

  • Jameis Winston has exceeded expectation on and off the field.
  • He is the first QB with 4000+ yards in each of his first two seasons!
  • With no more long term season ticket contracts, they are focused on exceeding expectations each season.
  • Raymond James is the second longest naming rights of any venue in all of major league sports.
  • The business side of the NFL is extremely organized.
  • There is great sharing of information on business operations across teams.
  • All improvements to Raymond James Stadium are to enhance the fan experience, and they have been ranked #1 for gameday fan experience.
  • He stressed that they are in the “entertainment” business.
  • The Glazers are “fans first.”
  • The Bucs are highly focused on community giving through their “Bucs for a Better Bay” initiative. They encourage players to give back and have strong connections with both military and local schools.
  • He expressed great gratitude that he gets to do what he does every day, and noted that Tampa Bay is not a big city but is a true “community.” Words get around quickly, hence the relentless emphasis on good behavior and giving back.

Brian’s discussion was followed by a panel discussion around ticketing/marketing led by Ben Milsom, Chief Ticketing Officer. The Bucs then graciously hosted us for de-brief, snacks, and beverages in the impressive lobby of One Buc Place.

It was day filled with fun and a lot was learned about the role each team plays in the City of Tampa and larger Tampa Bay region. Our teams emotionally connect the region like no other asset we have. Go Bolts! Go Rowdies! Go Rays! Go Bucs!