LT 2017: Government & Infrastructure Day

Government and Infrastructure Day started at the Greater Tampa Chamber Office and was sponsored by Bryant, Miller Olive and their most capable representative Kareem Spratling (LT 12).


Bob Rohrlack, President and CEO of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce

Our Day began with an introduction from Bob Rohrlack (Leadership Gainesville ’89), who provided an overview of Vision 2026, the roadmap to Organizational Excellence for the Chamber. This 10 year Plan is built upon 3 Pillars: To be a Catalyst; to be a HUB for Business; and to be an Inclusive Organization. This plan is the foundation for strategic planning and is reflected in the Strategic Goals for 2017 – 2019.

Dr. Susan McManus, Professor of Public Administration and Political Science at the University of South Florida

drmcmanusOur next speaker was the nationally known political expert Dr. Susan McManus, and we knew we were in for a thorough and insightful discussion. Dr. McManus focused on the important role of local government in Florida. We learned how the “Ps” of politics (e.g., Police, Potholes, Property, and Pollution, etc.) are driving issues in local politics and that by being closer to their constituents, the leaders of these nearly 2,200 local governments, separated into 4 areas (i.e., Counties, Cities, School Districts and Special Districts), are best able to address these issues. As a result, they tend to be the most trusted by their constituents. Dr. McManus explained that local governments are created by the individual states and are uniquely subject to obligations, privileges, powers and restrictions they impose. She went on to describe the three forms of county government in Florida (Traditional Commission, Commission Administrator, and Council-County Executive) and the four forms of city government (Commission, Council Manager, Weak Mayor-council, and Strong Mayor-council). For example, Tampa is a strong Mayor-Council city within Hillsborough County, which is a County-Administrator county. Dr. McManus explained that we elect our local officials either through At-large District Residency, Single Member Districts or a combination of the two. Of the 67 school boards in Florida, 41 of the superintendents are elected, while 26 are appointed by the School Board. Finally, although the Special Districts are often the least well known, their functions are often the most popular among residents, including Community Development/Redevelopment, Fire Control & Rescue.

Dr. McManus explained that there are big challenges for local governments in the Tampa Bay area, especially since most of these issues are metropolitan-wide which require cooperation vs competitiveness between jurisdictions to find solutions. This must also be balanced considering the many federal and state mandates that must be met while addressing the concerns of voters, including an anti- tax sentiment, economic uncertainties, and a new way of communicating with constituents while addressing ever-changing technologies and cybersecurity concerns. Tampa Bay is increasingly becoming a power in Florida politics when you consider its racial/ethnic makeup, diverse political geographies (rural/urban/suburban) diverse age composition, partisan composition and the size of the media market. As data from the 2016 election is gathered and analyzed, it has become clear that Tampa Bay is playing an increasing role in Florida and national politics while working to support the needs of local communities.

Mike Suarez, Tampa City Council, District 1 and Council Chairman

mikesuarezWe were fortunate to have Mike Suarez join us to discuss the Tampa City Council and his role as Council Chairman. Mr. Suarez explained that although the main responsibility of the City Council is to enact ordinances and resolutions administered by the mayor, it is also tasked with reviewing and signing contracts, land-use planning and zoning issues, and establishment of various boards. Questions from the LT ’17 crowd addressed impacts of legalized marijuana on current zoning, balancing conflict of interest while performing council duties and impacts for future infrastructure work under the proposed Trump Administration spending. An interesting point stressed by Mr. Suarez was that as a City Council member he is prohibited from discussing zoning and land-use issues privately, and that if approached by anyone on a personal level (including family), he is obligated to report it at the next council meeting.

Hillsborough County Center discussions

  • Craig Latimer, Supervisor of Elections for Hillsborough County

craiglatimerSeveral speakers awaited us at the Hillsborough County Center, starting with Craig Latimer who was both knowledgeable and engaging. He shared how he and his team delivered superior results to the voters in Hillsborough County, earning the Governor’s Sterling Award for performance excellence. Mr. Latimer stated “It’s all about the process,” and that includes having a well-trained and dedicated staff to execute the process. He shared that Election Day voting is 9 times more expensive and  voters are increasingly choosing the mail-in and early voting options. Even still, some 3,500 poll workers were needed on Election Day to ensure a smooth process and delivered with secure results. Since Hillsborough County has picked 20 of the last 21 Presidential Candidates, it is no wonder that there was a media blitz in Mr. Latimer’s lobby on Election Day with all eyes on Florida and the I-4 Corridor. Mr. Latimer fielded a barrage of questions from the LT ’17 attendees related to election security, sun-setting of the Voters Rights Act, vote re-counts, ballot style and configuration, exit polling and the certification process. In the end, it was reassuring to know that voting in Hillsborough County is serious business.

  • Andrew Warren, Hillsborough County State Attorney

andrewwarrenWe then heard from Andrew Warren (LT ’16) who was recently elected to his position over incumbent Mark Ober. Mr. Warren began with the question “What does the State Attorney do?” and went on to explain that his office prosecutes state level crimes in Hillsborough County whereas the Attorney General prosecutes civil cases for the state of Florida. His office has 308 employees, including 135 prosecutors, making it the largest law firm in Hillsborough County. He stated that a strong community is built upon three areas that are interdependent: Economics, Education and Criminal Justice. He believes that Criminal Justice must consider these 4 components: Retribution, Recidivism, Rehabilitation and Restitution. In the long run, the community becomes safer when it addresses the long-term consequences of the justice system on education and economics. Mr. Warren fielded several questions from the LT ’17 attendees related to which cases his office pursues, normal time to adjudicate cases, roles of schools in criminal justice, relationship between law enforcement and citizens, and the increase of cybersecurity crimes. It is clear that Mr. Warren is excited and ready to lead the Hillsborough County State Attorneys forward.

  • Transportation and Infrastructure Panel Discussion

Joe Waggoner, CEO, Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA)

Katerine Eagen, CEO, Hillsborough Area Rapid Transit Authority (HART)

Ray Chiaramonte, Executive Director, Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA)

transportationpanelWe ended the morning with a panel discussion on Transit and Transportation where each of the panelists described their organizations and the challenges/opportunities that they face. A common theme was that Transportation and Transit solutions are not complex and require cooperation across many jurisdictions.

Mr. Chiaramonte explained that TBARTA was established in 2007 and adopted its first master plan in 2009. TBARTA represents the 8 county Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) impacting Tampa Bay, and coordinates closely with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).

Ms. Eagen described several initiatives at HART including rideshare, autonomous vehicles, incorporating Google technology into bus service, and providing service to those living in food deserts and/or having physical disabilities. She stated that HART is “blowing up the current transit model” and is transforming from a bus company to a transit company.

Mr. Waggoner explained that THEA owns and maintains the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway. Explaining that the tollway was built using bonds, he said that the current revenue stream supports maintenance and operations. Mr. Waggoner explained how the use of Reversible Express Lanes (REL) was a first in addressing urban congestion. THEA is also exploring new technology moving forward, including automated vehicle technology and connected vehicles.

The panel fielded several questions from the LT ’17 attendees including how to best overcome resistance to change, change management, funding, and communication across jurisdictions. It became obvious that Transportation & Transit continues to be a complex issue requiring cooperation among leadership to resolve.

Lunch with Mayor Bob Buckhorn

mayorlunchThe group experienced the healthiest mode of inner-city transportation by walking to Tampa Club to meet with Mayor Buckhorn (Leadership Florida ’98). As expected, Mayor Buckhorn provided an inspiring introduction where he shared his pride of the City of Tampa over hosting the National Football Championship. The Mayor fielded questions for the LT ’17 attendees including what’s next in development of Tampa as a “Well City” in Channelside, capturing the essence of Tampa, future development of the Port of Tampa, and looking at other cities as role models.

In a nutshell, the mayor shared that Tampa is a city on the verge of radical transformation with a unique and diverse community. This city is a magnet for talent and new business but recognizes that we must address our lack of mobility. To do this, we can look to what other cities are doing and take lessons when we can.

Afternoon activity “Leadership Tampa Amazing Race”

There are no words to express the shock and awe that awaited us as we were broken into 12 teams based purely on the luck of the draw. Our task: To be the first to return to the Chamber Office after completing a series of stops using five separate modes of transportation (documented with selfies), and completing 5 Road Block Challenges. Each team had their own unique experiences and challenges along the way, and the debrief left us all in stitches. The afternoon can best be captured in a single phrase, “Man Down!!”


LT 2017: Health Care Day

By Ray A. Wong and Jason Grinstead

Health Care Day marked an almost one month holiday break from our typical biweekly Leadership Tampa program schedule.  What better way to pick up where we left off than to investigate some of Tampa’s best healthcare institutions: Tampa General Hospital, Moffitt Cancer Center and St. Joseph’s Hospital.
It’s worth noting, prior to diving into the details of our program day, the reasons behind the need to dedicate a program day to Tampa’s healthcare industry.  One need not look deeper than the economic impact that hospitals have in Florida to realize why the subject is a matter of concern to us here in Tampa.  Recent figures show that, in Florida, nearly 850,000 jobs and nearly $48.6 billion (in salaries and wages) can be directly attributed to the healthcare industry.  Healthcare facilities in the State of Florida are also responsible for nearly $115 billion in revenue.  “Uncompensated care costs” are estimated to be in the $2.4 billion range, a figure that is significant because it represents a type of “hidden tax” that each citizen of the State of Florida is helping to pay for. These figures help highlight the need to better understand the healthcare industry’s immediate impact to our city.

lt-day-1Our healthcare day kicked off at one of Tampa’s newest Healthcare facilities.  Interestingly enough, the facility is slated to be operated by one of Tampa’s oldest and most prestigious healthcare institutions: Tampa General Hospital (TGH).  Mark Anderson, Senior VP of Ambulatory Services was kind enough to kick off the day by introducing us to their newest care center and by discussing TGH’s role in our community.  TGH has the region’s only level one trauma center, is the primary “teaching hospital” in the region, and the Consumer’s Choice winner for eleven consecutive years.  However, the focus this morning was the introduction of the Brandon HealthPlex which marks TGH’s foray into the realm of Ambulatory Care Services closer to the outskirts of a region they’ve been serving for decades.  The HealthPlex was conceived, as Mark explained, to provide convenient, cost effective and comprehensive services to a growing healthcare market.   The building itself lt-day-2is a four story, 130,000 square foot facility which is scheduled to open in February of 2017.  The facility, offering a variety of primary care, ambulatory surgery, imaging and pharmacy services (just to name a few) will support TGH’s commitment to expand outpatient care services “closer to areas where patients live and work.”  Not only did we talk about the HealthPlex, but we had the unique opportunity to tour portions of the facility ahead of its grand opening.   The tour included a behind-the-scenes look of the Emergency Department and the Ambulatory Surgery Center.  The tour also included a hand washing demonstration which highlighted the right way to conduct one of the simplest, but most effective, ways to prevent the transfer of infection in a health care setting.

The tour of the HealthPlex was followed by a lively panel discussion which focused on emerging innovations to reduce health care costs.   The panel was composed of experts in the field as well as executives and doctors representing various local institutions.  One of the issues that the discussion highlighted is the way that out of control costs can undermine the ability of facilities to provide better quality of care.  The conversation covered a wide range of subject matter from reducing unit costs for medications and procedures to developing new solutions to increase efficiency and help drive cost down.  The conversation also included discussions on how policy and regulatory considerations, the primary being the Affordable Care Act, help to drive the development of innovation down the line.  This conversation was certainly an eye opening look at just one of the myriad of considerations that healthcare providers must grapple

Our next stop was Moffitt Cancer Center.  Moffitt is Florida’s only National Cancer
Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center and one of only 47 throughout the U.S.  It is also ranked No. 6 on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Hospitals for Cancer rankings.  Moffitt employs over 5,200 people with three outpatient facilities and 206 inpatient beds in Tampa.

lt-day-4After receiving inspiring introductions to Moffitt by both Dr. Dana Rollinson (LT’16), Chief Data Officer and Dr. Tom Sellers, Center Director, we separated into two groups.  Our group first participated in a fantastic discussion with Dr Eric Haura, Co-Program Leader of Chemical Biology and Molecular Medicine, regarding precision diagnosis and therapy for cancer care.  The tremendous innovation in molecular mapping has enabled cancer specialists to identify which medications and doses will be most effective, driving personalized treatments for patients that improve their likelihood of treatment success and minimize unnecessary side

Following this discussion, our group excitedly made its way to the “Ritz Carlton of Mouse
Facilities”.  Moffitt is home to a 28,000 square foot vivarium that holds over 30,000 mice and includes a full suite of miniaturized scanning machinery (x-ray, MRI, CT, etc.).  There we were met by Dr. Robert Engelman, the Director of Comparative Medicine, who, after we donned protective gear and air-showered into the vivarium, gave us a fascinating tour punctuated with important historical and medical facts that helped us understand the tremendous importance of mice in medical research. And, if you think mice are very cheap, their most expensive mice cost $26,000!

After the stimulating discussions and tours, we were treated to a delicious lunch while participating in a simultaneously invigorating and heartbreaking panel that discussed caring for the most vulnerable populations.  This panel included some incredible people who lead organizations that care for vulnerable and under-served individuals as well as, with great impact, a patient who found herself struggling through the current system with very limited resources and access to care.  Our key takeaways here were:  that access to care, particularly mental health care, remains a major challenge, despite gains made as a
result of the Affordable Care Act, and that there are tremendous opportunities for efficiencies that currently are overlooked due to the complex nature of healthcare
payment systems.  I left in awe of both the leaders who serve our Tampa Bay community lt-day-6selflessly to enable those needing care to receive it, and of the patients who have to struggle to receive the care they need on a timely basis.  As an aside, the issue of mental / behavioral health was highlighted to us previously at Law Enforcement Day, and I took from both of these LT days that we need to focus as a society much more on de-stigmatizing mental illness and becoming more proactive to address mental and behavioral health issues.

Our final stop was a healthcare facility that’s been a part of the Tampa community since 1934.  St. Joseph’s Hospital (SJH), a place “where care never stops,” contributes significantly to both the delivery of care within our City limits and also to our City’s economy.  Take for example the fact that, at just one campus, the hospital operates three very distinct facilities: St Joes Hospital, SJH Children’s Hospital and St Joe’s Women’s Hospital.  These facilities, along with other sister facilities, contribute an economic output of nearly $1.3 billion to the State.  St. Joseph’s Hospital alone had a total of over 50,000 admissions and performed in excess of 28,000 surgeries last year, ranking “high” in five adult procedure categories (U.S. News) and second overall in the Tampa Metro area (U.S. News).  These figures and data make it clear why St Joe’s was picked as one of only three stops on our healthcare program day.

lt-day-7Our visit to St Joe’s was kicked off by Kimberly Guy, who is the President to both St. Joseph’s Hospital as well as St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital. Kimberly was gracious enough to share with us parts of her inspirational professional journey from a time prior to her starting with St Joe’s in 2005 to current day as of the organization.  Her message to us was simple, encouraging and powerful:  don’t be afraid to take on more professional responsibility and get involved in the community you live in.

Our conversation with Kimberly was a perfect
segue to the class splitting up into groups to tour several departments.  I found the Imaging department to be one of the most fascinating, in part because of the unique nature of the equipment used within this department, but also because of what the technicians are able to do with the equipment.  Computer Tomography (CT) and Magnetic lt-day-8Resonance Imaging (MRI) represent two of the most significant ways through which technicians can provide surgeons with detailed internal images ahead of surgical procedures as well as during surgical procedures with the “hybrid OR” being a perfect example of the latter.  Our tour of SJH Hybrid OR, one of only a handful in the State of Florida, focused on exposing us to how surgeons are now uniquely able to perform imaging procedures within the confines of an Operating Room setting.  Our tour also included a look into the SJHS dedicated 3D Imaging Suite which focuses on gathering the information collected via various pieces of imaging equipment to create more detailed three-dimensional models that can then be manipulated to provide practitioners views unimaginable prior to the advent of this technology.  The experience can be described as nothing less than mind-blowing.

As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. And such was the case with the LT 17’s Healthcare Day.  The day concluded with a quick debrief where we were able to share, as a group, the unique perspectives and experiences gained throughout the day.  Undoubtedly, we all took away a great deal from the day but, most of all, we gained a better understanding of the challenges faced by some of the most prominent healthcare facilities our great city has to offer.


LT 2017: Media Day

hawker-nicoleBy Nicole Hawker, Vistra Communications

The fifth program day of our Leadership Tampa 2017 journey, Media Day, was made possible by the generous sponsorship of the Tampa Bay Times. Our program chairs for the day, Scot Kaufman (LT ‘09), Media Sales Manager, WUSF Pubic Media; Dawn Philips (LT ’14), Senior Advertising Manager, Tampa Bay Times; and JoAnn Urofsky (LT ’00), General Manager, WUSF Public Media, were gracious hosts. They organized a fulfilling and engaging program, and set up #MediaDay on Twitter for classmates to tweet thoughts throughout the day.media1


Christopher Rogers ‏‪@csdrogers Nov 16

Thank you to ‪@TB_Times for sponsoring ‪#LT17 ‪#MediaDay & fellow ‪@Tampa_Chamber Board member Bruce Faulmann for rousing kickoff!


Media Day provided insight into the changing media landscape, specifically addressing how media impacted the most recent presidential election. We visited and were engaged by organizations that represent the major mediums that push news, including newspaper, television, radio and social.

We began the day in downtown Tampa at the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce Skanska Room with a light breakfast to get us energized for everything that was to come. Bruce Faulmann (LT ’03), Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Tampa Bay Times, provided a brief introduction on the state of media today and how it is evolving in a time of change. Three key points he made on the state of the media today include: it is a crucial element in our country’s founding, it provides an opinion on where the country should go, and it’s role is to influence opinion.


Our first speaker of the day was Joey Baird, Senior Director, Digital Marketing, Sparxzoo. As brand leaders and digital trendsetters, Sparxzoo fuses branding and marketing to help businesses and organizations market themselves through online platforms.

Joey presented on the age of “always on digital media” and the world we live in today. His focus was on how digital media affects us in general and how it affected the most recent presidential election. He also provided some interesting predictions on how digital media will affect future elections. He said we’ll see an increase in negative campaigning, more people will say things on social media they wouldn’t say in person and email hacking will continue to grow.

WUSF Public Media

Our next stop of the morning was on the University of South Florida campus at WUSF Public Media. Founded in 1963, WUSF offers a variety of programming on television, radio, and online, as well as curriculum-based programming in Title One schools throughout the Tampa Bay region. With four TV stations – WUSF TV, WUSF Create, WUSF Knowledge and WUSF Kids – viewers experience a variety of PBS and other programming that focuses on public affairs, science, nature, travel, drama and kids. Radio listeners have the option of tuning in to WUSF 89.7, west central Florida’s NPR station or Classical WSMR, 89.1 and media2.jpg103.9, which is devoted to classical music.

WUSF Public Media also produces a weekly radio show, Florida Matters, which tackles tough issues, highlights little-known stories about Florida, and provides a greater perspective on what it means to live in the Sunshine State. The weekly show explores issues that are most important to Floridians and covers challenges that face our state. Our class was honored to witness the taping of Florida Matters: Social Media, ‘Fake News’ And Politics. Guests panelists Peter Schorsch, Publisher of SaintPetersblog and Sunburn, Josh Gillin of Politifact Florida, and USF Communications Professor Kelli Burns, sat down with WUSF Host Carson Cooper to discuss how the 2016 presidential election was affected by social media, fake news and fact checking.


Glenn Zimmerman ‏‪@GlennZimmerman Nov 16

“Anyone who makes an all or nothing statement, be wary” ‪@jpgillin ‪#MediaDay ‪#medialiteracy ‪@Tampa_Chamber ‪@wusf


Class members Ray Wong, Gresham, Smith and Partners; Maggie McCleland, Academy Prep Center of Tampa; Ethan Shipiro, Hill Ward Henderson, PA; Dean Rustin, Bisk Education, Inc.; Krsiti Tozer, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo; Ryan Garlow, 6th Air Mobility Wing, MacDill AFB; Calvin Williams, University of South Florida; Glenn Zimmerman, MadBear Productions; and Randall Woods, Florida Blue were brave enough to ask the panelists challenging questions during the audience engagement portion of the show.


Maggie ‏‪@maggiemccleland Nov 16

Tampa, FL

Learning about fake news sites, the 2016 election & discussing ammunition vs information during ‪#mediaday ‪#lt17 ‪@wusf ‪@FloridaMatters


media3An interesting tidbit from Peter Schorsch – he said, “Political candidates are selling an idea and vision. If you are searching for facts in politics, you will never find it.” A key thought into the state of our political climate today and the challenges media outlets face when covering politics.

Florida Matters: Social Media, ‘Fake News” And Politics was produced by Robin Sussingham.  The show aired on WUSF 89.7 on Tuesday, November 22 and is available to stream online at

After the taping of Florida Matters, we broke into groups and participated in various media exercises, including mock radio newscasts and television segments.


media4Next we headed back downtown to WFLA, Tampa’s NBC affiliate television broadcast station. We were greeted by Andy Alford, President & General Manager, WFLA, News Channel 8 & WTTA, Great 38 and Bill Berra, Vice President, News, WFLA, and were given a brief overview of the station during lunch.  As a part of this community for 60 years, WFLA’s first broadcast was of the Gasparilla Parade. The station now produces more than 60 hours a week of locally-produced content, including shows such as Daytime, exclusive coverage of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and news.

During the recent political season, WFLA provided local coverage of rallies and local elections, as well as broadcast the national debates and conventions. Financially, this time of year is significant for television stations, as ad revenue for WFLA topped more than $70 million.

media5As the 11th largest market in the country, WFLA faces many challenges as to how they cover politics in the future. It is common for people to think television news outlets have an agenda, which they say they don’t. And anticipating the sensitivities on the way they cover politics now that the election is over is important. With the industry changing so much, WFLA is focused on serving the local community through a multi-platform approach for both editorial and advertising.

After the presentation by Mr. Alford and Mr. Berra, we were given a tour of the News and Daytime sets. We had the privilege of meeting Daytime hosts Jerry Penacolic and Cyndi Edwards.media6

 Tampa Bay Times

We ended the day at the Tampa Bay Times. Joe Deluca, Vice President and Publisher, Tampa Bay Times, provided an interesting overview of the future of newspapers in an ever changing media environment. As a publisher he sees many challenges the newspaper industry is facing. He conveyed the perception that newspapers are a dying industry and said that is self-inflicted.  After review of several statistics on the newspaper industry and readership numbers during the past two decades, it was presented that the decline is not about the product. It is about the way it is being delivered. Journalism is still as important as ever, but technology has changed the behavior of consumers.  In order to overcome these challenges, the newspaper industry must understand the product and its value, and provide locally relevant news, high caliber journalism and locally relevant advertising, while continuing to build a portfolio of distribution channels that make sense for the consumer.

We then had the privilege of witnessing Sue Carlton, Columnist, Tampa Bay Times, interview Paul Tash, Chairman and CEO, Times Publishing Company. Mr. Tash answered questions that were submitted by members of the class. He discussed the acquisition of the Tampa Tribune and the opportunities and surprises that have come from it. He also discussed the election coverage and the Times’ approach to balance.

And last but not least, Ernest Hooper (LT ’03), East Hillsborough County Bureau Chief & Columnist, Tampa Bay Times, took our class through “The Front Page Exercise”. We broke into groups and were tasked with determining the headlines for the Tampa Bay Times 1A and 1B sections for next edition. We were provided a list of headlines to choose from, and were interrupted throughout the session with breaking news items or additional information on stories we were already aware. The exercise was helpful in better understanding how the newsroom makes editorial decisions every day.


LT 2017: Arts & Culture Day

holmes-mirayBy Miray Holmes, City of Tampa

The fourth program of our Leadership Tampa ’17 adventure, Arts & Culture Day, was generously sponsored by the law firm of Macfarlane Ferguson & McMullen. Our gracious chairs for the day who kept us on time and informed were Jeff Gibson (LT’13), Partner, Macfarlane Ferguson & McMullen & Jim Porter (LT’99 & LT’15 Chair), Partner, acday1Adams and Reese. The Arts and Culture Day program provided a behind the scenes look at the breadth and scope of the creative industries in Tampa. While the economic impact in spending, jobs and events can be measured, the arts contribution to the heart, soul and fabric of the city, county and region cannot be quantified.

Our first stop was the Graphicstudio, Institute for Research in Arts at the University of South Florida. The USF Institute for Research in Art is the umbrella organization for Graphicstudio, the Contemporary Art Museum, and the Public Art program. Many of us were experiencing for the first time this unique experiment in art and education, one of only three in the country, including the University of New Mexico and the University of Wisconsin. Through the art on display, we were able to view the Institute’s philosophy of providing artists with the freedom to experiment and pursue innovative directions to advance their creative discipline.

The dynamic Director Margaret A. Miller graciously rearranged her schedule to join us and acday2provided the history and unique collaborative model the Institute has created which serves students, faculty, visiting artists and the Research Partners. Margaret explained the business model of the Institute and how the Research Partners Programs allows participants to collect significant art while supporting research and education commitments. Some of the leading museums and collectors including the Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, the New York Public Library and the Centre Pompidou in Paris continue to acquire Graphicstudio editions.

We viewed a variety of works of art that used traditional and experimental printmaking techniques, bronze casting, wood, stainless steel, digital output of film, dead insects (yes insects!) and other pioneering mixed media materials. Research Associate/Printer Tim Baker demonstrated the intricate printmaking process. In addition to the exhibitions, collection development, publication of limited edition graphics and sculpture, multiples and commissioned public art works, the Institute also hosts lectures, workshops and special events designed to bring an awareness about the role of contemporary artists in shaping our culture and society.

Our next stop of the morning was the iconic City of Tampa landmark, the Tampa Theatre. acday4The magnificent Tampa Theatre was designed and built by John Eberson, one of the most internationally renowned and prolific movie palace designers of his time, responsible for building about 100 theaters all over the world including works that still survive in Miami, Chicago, Ohio, Michigan, New York, Texas, Paris, France and Sydney, Australia. The Tampa Theatre opened October 15, 1926 to immense anticipation and was enormously popular.

Our host and guide was Tampa Theatre President and CEO John Bell. John came to Tampa from North Carolina where he managed the historic Carolina Theatre in Greensboro, NC. John spoke with knowledge and passion about the history and significance of the Tampa Theatre. Sitting the in the red velvet seats, we were transported back to 1926 when the lavish downtown movie palace opened allowing common citizens for the first time in history access to opulence on a scale never before imagined. For 25 cents people could escape into a fantasyland for two hours, enjoy first-class entertainment and be treated like royalty by uniformed platoons of ushers and attendants. The Tampa Theatre remained a jewel at the center of Tampa’s cultural landscape for several decades allowing generations of people who stole their first kiss in the balcony to follow the world through the newsreels and grow up coming to the Theatre week after week.

But by the 1960s, times had changed. America’s flight to the suburbs was having a damaging effect on downtown businesses, and among the hardest hit were the movie palaces that lit up America’s main streets, especially with the advent of television. Audiences dwindled and costs rose. Many of our nation’s finest movie palaces were demolished as the land beneath them became more valuable than the theater’s operations and in 1973 the Tampa Theatre faced the same fate. But Tampa’s citizens rallied, committees were formed and community leaders got involved, leading to a deal for the City to rescue the Theatre. By the time the Theatre reopened to the public in January 1977, it had become something of a national model on how to save an endangered theater. Tampa Theatre was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

acday3 The Theatre is managed by the not-for-profit Tampa Theatre Foundation and is one of the most heavily utilized venues of its kind in the United States. Tampa Theatre’s single auditorium hosts more than 600 events each year, including a full schedule of first-run and classic films, concerts, special events, corporate events, tours and educational programs. Since its rescue in 1977, more than 5 million visitors to downtown Tampa, including 1 million school children for field trips and summer camps, have visited this passionately protected and beloved community landmark. The theatre is currently embarking on an $11 million capital campaign to renovate the seating throughout the theatre.

The award-winning Tampa Museum of Art was the next stop on our tour and one of the newest buildings complimenting the Tampa arts and culture landscape. We first had a delicious lunch at Sono Café, operated by the iconic Mise en Place, on the Museum’s expansive, covered terrace with an unparalleled view of the University of Tampa Minarets, Curtis Hixon Park and the downtown skyline overlooking the banks of the Hillsborough River.

The Tampa Bay Art Center (founded in 1923) and the Tampa Junior Museum (founded in acday61958) served Tampa’s cultural needs until 1964. At that time the City of Tampa requested that the Arts Council of Tampa/Hillsborough County, in consultation with community arts organizations, develop a plan for a City art museum to be built with funding from a bond issue. The following year, the plan was approved and began to materialize under a newly created private/public partnership with the City of Tampa known as the Tampa Museum Federation. The Federation was the genesis of what is now the Tampa Museum of Art. In 1979, the new art museum opened and operated in downtown Tampa on a riverfront site behind the Convention Center for 8 years until it relocated to West Tampa in 1987. To prepare for construction of a new museum facility in downtown Tampa, the Museum relocated to an interim facility in West Tampa in December of 2007. Construction began in April 2008 and the new Museum opened on February 6, 2010 with a commitment to providing innovative public programs with a strong focus on antiquities and modern and contemporary art.

Dr. Michael A. Tomor, the Museums Executive Director since April of 2015 initially addressed the group in the expansive lobby. Dr. Tomor came to Tampa from the El Paso Museum of Art and prior to that, the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Dr. Tomor described how the Museum balances a growing collection with a dynamic annual schedule of special exhibitions that bring the world’s finest visual arts to the region. The Tampa Museum of Art, Inc., a private IRS 501(c)(3) entity, owns the permanent collection. The City of Tampa owns the museum building and provides a grant for partial operational support. Through its Board of Trustees, the Museum is responsible for all operational policies and procedures, as well as for funding for the collection, exhibitions, education programs, and staffing. Dr. Tomor has implemented free general admission to all university, college, and higher education students. He has also created Connections, a community engagement program for those experiencing depression, dementia, and trauma, in partnership with the University of South Florida Honors College.

The building was designed with clean lines and tall white walls that allow the art to stand out and not compete with its surroundings. The exhibitions we toured with the curators were:

  • Complicated Beauty: Contemporary Cuban Art is the Museum’s first survey of contemporary Cuban art from the 1970s to the present, reflecting a cross-generational look at recent trends in Cuban art.
  • Manuel Carrillo: Mi Querido Mexico (My Beloved Mexico) is an exhibit by Manuel Carrillo (Mexican, 1906-1989), known as “El Maestro Mexicano,” and is a collection of intimate black and white photographic images of workers, the elderly, and families in his native Mexico.
  • Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum which propose reframing American folk art through the concept of “self-taught genius,” as an elastic and enduring notion whose meaning has evolved over time.

A short walk away was our next the stop, the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts venue which anchors the downtown cultural stretch along the Hillsborough River that includes the Tampa Museum of Art, the Glazer Children’s Museum, Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts.

We gathered in the Jaeb Theater, one of the smaller of the five theaters within the world-class David Straz Center complex. Judith Lisi, the President and Chief Executive Officer joined us in the theater. Judith is an accomplished theater producer, director and playwright whose deep theater roots began at the prestigious Juilliard School of Music as well as the Metropolitan Opera, Downtown Cabaret Theatre in Bridgeport, Connecticut and the Shubert Performing Arts Center in New Haven, Connecticut.

Judith described the evolution of the humble beginnings on an abandoned gravel lot in a city that was lacking cultural offerings to the Straz Center of today, the largest performing arts center in the Southeast and the only one with an on-site performing arts conservatory and the first in the state of Florida with multiple venues.

Florida Governor Bob Martinez laid the groundwork for the center when he was Tampa Mayor from 1979 to 1986. Mayor Martinez campaigned on building a performing arts center and didn’t want a city-run facility but rather a nonprofit board to oversee it. Martinez was passionate about offering the hundreds of kids that don’t play sports an opportunity to experience the fine arts.

While it was slow getting started, the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts was incorporated in 1980. Although Martinez resigned in 1986 to make a successful run for governor, Tampa’s next mayor, Sandy Freedman, continued the support for the center, which opened the following year on September 12, 1987 as the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center.

With an annual $110 million economic impact, more than 2,200 events per year, a loyal base of patrons and season ticket holders and 600,000 patrons annually, the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts has become a major cultural asset for Tampa. Since its opening, more than 12 million patrons have walked through its doors and thousands of performers — actors, musicians, singers, dancers and comedians — have stood on its stages. Theater goers have enjoyed performances ranging from Broadway productions such as of Jersey Boys, Lion King, Wicked and Flashdance, to performances by comedian Jerry Seinfeld, the classic opera “La Bohème” and the musical group The Carolina Chocolate Drops.

We had an opportunity to tour the 2,6100seat Carol Morsani Hall and the three-story, 45,000 square-foot Patel Conservatory. The Conservatory sits at the north end of the Center offering more than 100 performing arts classes in dance, theater and music for students of all ages and experience levels. The Patel Conservatory provides the finest performing arts training in an inspirational setting by giving students the tools to dream, reach, discover and create the performing arts; integrate them into everyday life; and contribute to the community.

acday12The last stop of the day was StageWorks Theatre. A theatre that while small in its stage stature, is large in its mission to showcase socially conscious theater. StagewWorks is nestled in the courtyard among a complex of beautiful gleaming hi-rise condos known as Grand Central. This one-of-kind theater is the bridge from the Straz Center to Ybor City’s vibrant arts scene and a gathering place for Channel District residents. The co-developers of Grand Central at Kennedy, who kindly lease the space to Stage Works for $10 a year, are Ken Stoltenberg and Frank Bombeeck.

StageWorks founding Artistic director was Anna Brennen, whose career accomplishments have included actor, director and all things related to building and sustaining an up-and-coming theater. Anyone who’s met Brennen or worked with her — actors, colleagues, students, critics, donors, developers, subscribers, even construction workers — describe her as a bit larger than life. Brennan was able to keep a theater company going for 28 years without a home of its own, including the seven years it took to plan, build and fundraise for the $1.2 million, 8,000-square-foot Channel District space.

We were educated and entertained by StageWorks’ exuberant Producing Artistic Director/Technical Director/Jill-of-all trades, Karla Hartley. Karla received a BFA in Theater Studies from Boston University and is the owner of three Theatre Tampa Bay awards for Best Director. She also directed the inaugural show, the David Friedman musical revue, Listen to My Heart, when StageWorks opened in its current location in 2011. She was named Best Director 2009, 2012, 2014 and 2015 in the Creative Loafing Best of the Bay Awards as well as The Artist Most Likely to Have Been Born on the Planet Krypton. We all understood why after spending just 20 minutes with her. Karla works alongside an eight-member board, 5 full-time staff, six part-time staff, 168 artists and over 100 volunteers.

Karla passionately lives and breathes the StageWorks mission: “We provide the highest quality professional theater that respects, ignites and celebrates the human spirit while challenging the thresholds of intolerance and sensitivity”. StageWorks is renowned in the theatre community for it’s commitment to offering a home for diverse at risk youth to learn and ‘do’ theater, while being sanctuary for artists to congregate, create and perform. Over 20,000 people annually experience performances that give voice to those marginalized by circumstance and explore the cultural tension inherent in living in a multi-cultural society that is still struggling with painful legacies of racism, sexism, homophobia and anti-Semitism.

LT 2017: Education Day

pelleymounter-travisBy Travis Pelleymounter, Tampa Bay Lightning

“Challenge how you think about education.” – Julie Serovich (LT’14), Dean of the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences, University of South Florida

Education Day for the Leadership Tampa Class of 2017 started early on a Wednesday morning with a simple quote. These six words would echo throughout the day as we experienced the full variety and depth of educational opportunity across Hillsborough County.

Academy Prep of Tampa

Our sponsor for the day, Pat Moser (LT’08), Vice President, Governance and Special Projects with AACSB International, greeted us in the cafeteria at Academy Prep of Tampa to kick off the day. AACSB International is the world’s largest business education network with over 1,500 members in 90 countries. Their vision is ‘Transforming business education for global prosperity.’ They are a fitting partner for the day and Pat was sure to mention how important education at all levels in Tampa is to AACSB International.

Julie Serovich, one of our Chairs for the day, then shared the aforementioned quote in her opening statements before introducing our other Chairs, Mark Colvenbach (LT’12), Director, Office of Career Services, University of Tampa and Jeff Eakins (LT’11), Superintendent, Hillsborough County Schools. Hillsborough County Public Schools (HCPS) provide jobs for over 27k (the largest employer in the county).ed-day1

Jeff, who has been a part of the school system for 28 years, began by pointing out that education is something “we’ve all been a part of in some way.” Everyone has their own perspective and preconceived notions about how our children should be taught. He asked that we open our eyes and take in the day for what it is.

For those wondering why we started at a private school, Academy Prep, and why we were being hosted by the Superintendent of the public schools, Jeff made a seamless transition by mentioning that collaboration is essential to success. “We all have to hold hands.” He also shared that “Every family has to know that their child has the right seat.” By working together and understanding all the options for our children, we can be most effective as a collective group at educating.

Jeff then introduced Lincoln Tamayo, Head of School, Academy Prep of Tampa. Academy Prep is a private institution serving grades five through eight. Lincoln welcomed us to the school and was quick to point out the banners of secondary schools hanging throughout the cafeteria. The names of several well-known private high schools in Tampa and throughout the country are displayed as a visual goal for the students and faculty. Lincoln shared: “We broaden the horizons of our children.”

An astounding 100% of the students that attend Academy Prep are at or below the poverty line. They all qualify for free or reduced lunch. Just 44% of the residents within a 1 mile radius of the campus have a high school degree.

Amidst these challenges, Academy Prep’s students attend school 11 hours/day, 11 months/year and, often times, 6 days/week. There is no tuition for qualifying students. The school depends on private donors and fundraising to ensure education for all of the students. This is viewed as a college prep education and the students are there on a mission to better themselves.

Lincoln was very proud to let us know that 97% of the students that passed through these doors as graduating 8th graders have completed high school. Equally amazing, 84% of Academy Prep’s students enroll in college.

Lincoln ended his opening remarks by telling us, “We are developing the leaders of the future.”

The group was then split into smaller segments. The writer of this article was sent to 8th grade (all boys) English with Mrs. Guthrie. The five of us from Leadership Tampa were immediately impressed with the outgoing nature of the students. Each one of the young men stood up, greeted us with a welcoming statement, a handshake and their first name. We all work with people in a professional setting who aren’t this good!

Our assignment in the class was to join a ‘pre-reading’ discussion of To Kill a Mockingbird. My partners, David, Joseph and Omar were gracious enough to let me take part and we quickly began a conversation on our neighborhoods. What are the people like? What are their attitudes and fears? What do you think about growing up there? – A very heavy topic indeed.

David, Joseph and Omar could not have been more open and honest about where they live and what their experiences are like. They have fears and concerns about their neighborhoods but they did express quiet, enjoyable times as well. We compiled our answers and shared them with the class.

The other groups mentioned some deep conversations on justice, innocence and growing up as an adult. It was a short but impactful English class that told us many positive things about Academy Prep and about these young men.

We left the classroom for a debrief on our classroom experience and Q&A with our hosts and the faculty. Major takeaways from this session are below.

  • All of the other groups had the same experience with student introductions. It is part of their culture…and it is very impressive.
  • Academy Prep is built for the students as a “great goal with a plan behind it.”
  • The staff and faculty act as wings around the students to replace other parental or adult figures in their life that may be missing or unable to support their children.
  • Parents and guardians are required to do 40 hours of service to the school.
  • The kids come back. At a recent reunion (Middle School reunion!) 42 out of 250 recent graduates returned.
  • Faculty and staff focuses on getting the little things right. They want to create a healthy family dynamic to foster learning.
  • The longer schedule is an advantage. Students are committed and want to stay longer to learn each day.
  • Could this longer schedule be distilled to public schools? Our group seemed to be in favor of this, but it is too costly to bring to the entire county.

ed-day2Our time at Academy Prep concluded with remarks from Charles Imbergamo, President of Cristo Rey Tampa High School. They are one of the institutions that Academy Prep students aspire to attend.

Charles shared that Cristo Rey is viewed as “rigorous college prep.” They want to see students “to and through college.” Similar to Academy Prep, their hours are 7am-7pm for many of the 91 students enrolled. Unique to Cristo Rey is that school is just 4 days a week with a 5th day set aside to work. Their students are in the workforce, learning on the job each and every week. The have a true “adult learning community.”


Potter Elementary School

Melanie Hill, Principal, Potter Elementary School was our next host. We were greeted in the Media Center to prepare for an information session on HCPS Head Start Program by Jeff Eakins.

The conversation started with Jeff letting us know that just 42% of U.S. students are kindergarten ready. The achievement gap happens during entry into school. The Head Start program, which prepares 3 and 4 year old children for kindergarten, currently services about 3,800 income eligible students in 92 classrooms with certified teachers at 56 locations. But, there are over 8,000 on the waiting list! The large waiting list is due to federal funding. The County Commissioners decide on distribution of funding. Money is doled out based on several criteria, including quality. It costs $2,700 per year per student for the Head Start Program.

VPK or Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten is another popular option in Hillsborough County, but it is not as widespread. This program covers just 3 hours per day. VPK is funded by state dollars to the Early Learning Coalition.

After this introduction we were given the opportunity to tour Head Start classrooms. The students and teachers were all hard at work with a variety of activities. Painting, counting, play-doh, identifying letters and numbers, amongst other things were all in full swing. We were all impressed with the independence of the children. They all knew what they were supposed to be working on and how long they could be at a particular station.ed-day3

Of particular interest was the technology station. Several computers with headphones were set up in each classroom. The students were completely dialed into the task at hand, trying to get a ‘high score’ while learning their numbers and letters. The ease with which they use the computers at 3 and 4 years old is remarkable. When it was time to switch, a different student’s photo appeared and the student sitting at the station simply stood up and knew to go alert the student in the photo.

Learning about the Head Start Program and witnessing firsthand what the students are experiencing, made it readily apparent that the children in this program will be kindergarten ready. They are doing very good work and enriching the lives of many children at a young age.

Several Leadership Tampa classmates left thinking about, and discussing, the 8,000+ on the Head Start waiting list. Where are we as a County leaving these children? Do they have the same chance to succeed?

ed-day4As Jeff Eakins pointed out, “Early childhood is a space where we have to think past immediate rewards.” Making difficult decisions now in terms of funding for the children in need would not pay off in the short term. But, wouldn’t it be valuable to the students, their families and our community in the future?


Chamberlain High School

It was a busy and thought provoking morning…we were all ready for lunch. Little did we know, we were going to Outback Steakhouse at Chamberlain High School. You read that right. An Outback Steakhouse in a High School!

The Culinary Academy at Chamberlain High School, run by Chef Erik Youngs, is comprised of approximately 150 students in all levels, from grade 9-12.

ed-day6Chamberlain High Principal, Celeste Liccio, introduced us to an eloquent senior named Tatiana Munoz for an overview of the program. Tatiana shared that she began the program as a shy, introverted freshman. Chef Erik Youngs and the program have given her the confidence over her tenure at Chamberlain to do many things, including a presentation to 50 Leadership Tampa professionals. She also stated that, from the beginning, she wanted nothing to do with the kitchen. The program allowed her to learn about many of the other parts of running a restaurant while supporting the work that is done in the kitchen. Their mission is to enhance transferable skills learned in the program and prepare students for the next step in their career, whether that is a post-secondary education or immediate immersion into the work force. Last year, all of the seniors in the culinary program graduated and 50% went on to a post-secondary opportunity.ed-day5

While Chef Youngs and Tatiana were presenting, we were served an amazing lunch of salmon, risotto carbonara and apple pie won-tons. Students prepped and served our meal. They do everything from start to finish.

If you are looking for a good lunch spot in the Chamberlain area, you have the LT’17 stamp of approval to make a reservation. Be prepared to be impressed!

An important takeaway on the bus ride leaving Chamberlain was the conversation regarding the size of the culinary program. With 1,750 students in total at the school and 150 in the program, less than 10% have the opportunity to experience this unique but effective education option. How could this program, or something similar, cast a wider net?


University of South Florida

The next Education Day stop was the University of South Florida Alumni Center for a panel ed-day7on higher education. The panel, moderated by Julie Serovich, provided opening statements on their institutions and took questions for the better part of an hour. A few members were quick to point out that they are not in competition. They are “different but complementary.” Listed below is each of the panelists with the major points they made throughout the session.

  • Dr. Judy Genshaft, President, University of South Florida
    • USF is a top 25 research institution with 50k students on 3 campuses.
    • $488.6M in grants are received to further enhance research status.
    • USF is proud of its diversity. All ethnicities graduate at the same rate.
    • All students are encouraged to have international experiences.
    • The school teaches tolerance, understanding and respect.
    • A winning football team has helped across the school – attitudes, donors, enrollment, etc.
    • STEM is important but at USF the largest major by number of students is psychology (#2 is criminology).
  • Dr. David Stern, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, The University of Tampa
    • The University of Tampa is a private, secular institution on a singular campus.
    • Highly focused on students as individuals and professional programs.
    • 8,310 students – 7,000 are undergraduates
    • UT is proud of the creation of its Academic Success Center.
  • Dr. Eric Weekes, Vice President of Business Affairs, Saint Leo University
    • Founded in 1898, St. Leo is the 3rd largest Catholic University in the U.S.
    • Over 16k students with a large online program
    • Education and personal growth are their focus.
    • St. Leo is proud of its new state of the art Kirk Hall building which provides 16 new classrooms and academic support service space.
    • STEM is important but we can’t leave behind the soft sciences or liberal arts.
  • Jeff Eakins, Superintendent, Hillsborough County Schools
    • With over 1,000 buses, HCPS represent the largest transportation department in the county.
    • In addition to traditional schools, there are 4 technical schools and a classroom at Tampa General in our county.
    • Jeff is proud of the open access across institutions to further learning.
    • Kids need to have a balance. STEM serves a purpose.
  • Dr. Kenneth Atwater, President, Hillsborough Community College
    • HCC has 3,500 employees and serves over 48k students on 5 sites.
    • 160 programs are offered to the students.
    • 60% of their students transfer to another institution after graduating.
    • 40% of their students go directly into the workforce.
    • 84% of HCC graduates stay in our local community.
    • HCC is proud of its ongoing partnership with USF.
    • We need to get people qualified to work in the 21st century but we cannot forget about soft skills.
    • Encourage the business community to provide internships to keep students and our talent local.

ed-day8Our class was thankful for the time that each of the panelists took out of their busy schedules to provide information and details regarding their institution for us. We left with a better understanding of how each of these schools act independently and that they collaborate effectively as well.


Hillsborough Community College Workforce Training Center

Leadership Tampa Education Day’s final stop was the HCC Workforce Training Center. Mark Colvenbach provided a brief recap of our day to this point and then introduced Dr. Ginger Clark (LT’15), Vice President, Workforce Development, Hillsborough Community College.

ed-day9Dr. Clark shared that the training center provides 160 workforce degrees and certifications meant to get graduates right into their careers. They also have upwards of 15 vocational programs. The question posed rhetorically by Dr. Clark was “How do we get underserved people into the workforce?” She said, “We meet people where they are, no matter where they are and we have a pathway for them.”

Members of the HCC Workforce Training Center staff then took us in groups to experience some of the programs on their campus. We were taken through welding, firefighting, mechanical & electric for vehicles.

Of particular interest to our group was the quick infusion of the students at the center into the workforce. Josh, the gentleman who teaches welding, told us that he had representatives from a company last year come with job offers (not applications) to graduation! And, a few of his graduating students couldn’t even attend the ceremony because they had already started their jobs.

ed-day10The variety of good opportunities at this location were very impressive. An aspiring student can feel confident in their investment of time at the HCC Workforce Training Center that a real job is within reach.


Time to Think

“Challenge how you think about education.” After a full day across our County, the Leadership Tampa Class of ’17 had a much stronger sense of the depth and breadth of learning that is offered to our children. We all have the opportunity to see education through a different lens.

We met some amazing people in leadership positions throughout the schools in Hillsborough County, both public and private. They all want the same thing…the very best chance for all kids to be their best in fantastic environments at the elementary, middle, high school and college levels.

It is up to all of us as local citizens to consider what things are most important when it comes to education and find a way to make a positive impact for all children in both the short and long term.


LT 2017: Law Enforcement Day

ferrone-michaelBy Michael Ferrone, CIGNA

“Good morning, please pull a card from the bowl and find your Bus Buddy.”

Program Day #2 – Law Enforcement Day – kicked off with a new concept, the Bus Buddy. As the LT class pulled a playing card and found the classmate with the same card, they became a unit for the remainder of the program day.  This is a good system to establish on a day someone could potentially be forgotten at a jail.

As Bus Buddies found each other, it was clear that each LT classmate was eager to see each other again. There we no nerves, no ice breakers – just a group of people excited to continue to build relationships.

leday1As pairings were made, each classmate also received their test results from an exam taken when they first gathered as the Leadership Tampa Class of 2017. The test questions spanned Tampa’s history – from sports, to local government, to community statistics, etc.  It’s safe to say the class morale and enthusiasm took a momentary step backwards as each person learned their score.  With a high score of 56%, and a low score of 12%, the entire class found solace in there being room for improvement.


7:35 AM – Sharp – the class was on the bus and in route to the Orient Road Jail.  The bus was buzzing with classmates telling stories and tales of their Tampa PD or Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Dept. ride-along experiences.  Some classmates controlled public protests, some found themselves in the Tampa General trauma center, and some even found themselves chasing assailants on foot.  One commonality among the entire class: there is a newfound respect for the men and women that serve 12-hour shifts to protect and serve the Tampa Bay community.

leday2 “Home” to 1400 inmates, the Orient Road Jail is the oldest jail in Tampa.  The class was welcomed by Major Mike Perotti and our title sponsor, Richard Grammatica, President and CEO of the Tampa Bay Federal Credit Union.  Established in 1935, the Credit Union has a long relationship with first responders in the community.

Major Perotti laid the groundwork for the visit – LT would be exposed to a ‘day in the life’ of a new inmate, from booking to confinement. He also explained the difference between a jail and a prison – jail being short term, pre-trial/sentencing, and prison being longer term after sentencing.  This distinction painted the jail as a very transient, possibly volatile environment due to the coming and going of the “unknowns.”

The Major and his staff are tasked first with assessing a newcomer – medically, physically, mentally, etc. – then determining whether they should be placed in individual confinement or with the general population. The general population facilities typically have a ratio of 60 inmates to one, unarmed officer.  This sort of ratio of ‘good guys’ vs. ‘bad guys’ is only achievable through strong leadership and communication.

During a one-hour Q&A with the Major, questions from LT’17 varied from gang violence, drug use, crime trends, inmate treatment, legal rights, to inmate placement. One classmate was even curious about how many inmates have escaped over the years.  Everyone was grateful to learn the number of escapees was zero.

A giant takeaway from this session was regarding mental health and inmate healthcare costs – both at the Orient Rail Jail and socially in the community. Over $22 million a year is spent on healthcare for inmates.  More than 30% of those inmates are taking psychotropic drugs upon arrival.  Though the Orient Road Jail is capable of performing onsite transfusions, assisting with treatment for chronic care conditions, and has behavioral health specialists, it is not meant to be a center for healing.leday3.jpg

When asked about his number one priority in running the Jail, Major Perotti replied “communication.” He wants everyone communicating their hopes, dreams, fears, concerns, confusion, etc.  This dialogue leads to broader perspectives and allows his team to better control situations that may arise during their shifts.


10:00 AM – LT’17 breaks into two different tour groups and the first stop was Booking. This is where detainees are initially brought before they become inmates.  There was just one new detainee at the time and he was wearing a sarcastic “this is my fan of teaching smile” T-shirt. One LT class member appreciated the irony.

In Booking, a newcomer is medically assessed, patted down, and is required to forfeit their belongings. If a newcomer is intoxicated or uncontrollable, they are put in a separate room to settle down before continuing the process.  The Jail also had a cell specifically for a newcomer who appears to be ill with an unknown condition.  This is to prevent a new airborne illness from spreading to the general population.  Jose Fourquet, of LT’17, mentioned his relief that this quarantine room exists, as it could potentially be useful in the event there is a zombie apocalypse.  This was difficult logic to argue.

From Booking, the class moved to Intake. The newcomers receive a final pat down and walk through both a metal detector and an x-ray.  (Fun fact: some of the most interesting items identified via x-ray have been a light bulb and a cell phone with charger!)

The general population cells house about 60 inmates. There is a large common area and a half-court basketball area.  At the time, nobody was playing basketball or watching television in the common area.  Nonetheless the class learned that the TV channel is decided on a ‘first come, first serve’ basis.  It seemed that the default channel was the talk show “Wendy.”

The general population also has access to a number of self-improvement courses. Culinary school, sewing, anger management, AA, etc. are all voluntary programs the inmates can join.

Following the tour, the LT class had the opportunity to have lunch with both Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Dept. and Tampa PD. Each officer stood and introduced themselves and each expressed a genuine appreciation and love for their career choice.  Most of the officers had been with their department for over a decade and one was just 5 days away from retirement.  It takes a certain type of person to commit to a lifetime of service in this field and the LT class was noticeably appreciative that Tampa Bay has so many of those types of people.


12:00 PM – The class departed Orient Road Jail and headed to the Tampa Police Department Training Facility.  They were greeted by Assistant Chiefs Dugan and Hamlin in the Defensive Tactics Room, a training room for close combat that hosted a temperature similar to a meat locker.

The Assistant Chiefs explained the next steps in our program day, beginning by informing the class they would have the opportunity to be tazed for 5 seconds. They explained the live-action simulations we would be participating in, as well as the new video training program they created to aid officers in making split-second decisions.  At this point, though, most of the class seemed to be counting just how long a 5-second taze would feel while simultaneously analyzing each LT classmate to determine who would volunteer to be one of the victims.  This endeavor seemed to drive much of the discussion throughout the program.

Chief Eric Ward, the Tampa PD Chief of Police, welcomed us to the facility and emphasized the great relationship TPD has with HCSO. He mentioned they have a mutual focus on three key areas – youth, crime reduction, and training – and that they partner on these areas often.  Chief Ward wished the class luck in their activities and the class was on their way.

leday4Separated into three groups, each group experienced three different exercises. The first was a video simulation designed to simulate real life events an officer may encounter.  One scenario, for example, revolved around a teenager with a gun in a park.  The participants were told only that they received a call about a perp with a gun.  Arriving on scene, they found the teenager and asked that she drop the weapon.  The teenager seemingly began arguing and pointed the gun at the participant who then fired their weapon.  Upon review of the tape, the teen was not arguing but trying to explain that it was a toy gun, and was not pointing but rather trying to show that it was a fake.  This is just one example of the situations experienced, each with a profound ‘gray’ area that required the participant to make a split-second, life-changing decision in the line of duty.

leday5From there, the group moved to real-life situational training. Two officers acted as a driver and passenger during a traffic stop.  An LT class member acted as the officer who pulled over the car for not having a license plate.  The class ran through a number of different scenarios.  Some resulted in shootings, arguments, misunderstandings, and one even ended up with the LT student’s patrol car being stolen.  Again, the theme and discussion revolved around how quickly the landscape can change between an officer and their circumstance.  The pressure it takes for an officer to make that decision – to communicate effectively enough to make a life or death decision – again made the LT group appreciative of our law enforcement.

leday6Finally, the LT group was moved to non-lethal force training. They learned about pepper spray, batons, bean bag rifles, and of course, the tazer.  From this group there were initially two brave souls willing to be tazed.  The feeling was described as “uncontrollable muscle movements” – the displeasure was heightened by the fact that LT’17 class member Conner Lewis was screaming in their ears as he held them still.

Shortly after the second participant went, the officer offered a free T-shirt to the next volunteer. Toi Walker, free T-shirt connoisseur, stepped up to the plate and handled her tazing with grace.


As the groups came together after each experiencing the breakout activities, they were able to observe a mock SWAT mission. They looked on as a team of 8 SWAT members effectively handled a violent and dangerous man shooting at them from a building.  It was a unique sight, and – once again – the LT class was taken aback by the poise, experience, and expertise that Tampa Bay law enforcement brings to our community.

The entire experience – each exercise, simulation, and speaker – highlighted the importance of training and learning new ways to approach new situations. The embodiment of this message was found on by the gun range wall, where a quote was posted in large print:

When you’re under pressure you don’t rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training. Train well.”



4:00 PM – Closing time.  As the bus took the class from the training facility back to the Chamber, the class reflected on their day.  Each person seemed amazed at the day-to-day gray areas and instant decisiveness our officers are tasked with each day, both in the jail and in the field.  The media paints a very bleak picture of a very tiny percentage of officers who may or may not have made mistakes. If this day did nothing else, it reinforced the age-old saying – “walk a mile in my shoes.”  For Leadership Tampa 2017, it was a privilege to “simulate” what that mile looks like for Tampa’s finest.

LT 2017: Community Outreach Day

chiaramonte-brendenBy Brenden Chiaramonte, Hillsborough County Tax Collector’s Office

It was a typical September morning in Tampa Bay. The sun had not yet crested over the horizon, it was 81 degrees out, but with the humidity it felt more like a sauna. Members of Leadership Tampa’s class of 2017 – undeniably the Best Class Ever – were coming together for the first of many adventures in our community. Fresh from the opening retreat, and a moving experience with Dr. Rick Weinberg, the class was ready for whatever it was that would await us throughout the day. Dr. Weinberg showed us the importance of considering the circumstances of one’s life and how it can and will impact the outcome.

co-pic-1If you’re in Leadership Tampa, it’s likely you have experience working with non-profits organizations that strive to make a difference for some of our most vulnerable residents. Community Outreach Day is a call to action. It is about finding your passion and working hard to make a difference for those struggling with circumstances that have impacted their lives.

co-pic-2We gathered the class at the Children’s Board in Ybor City for opening remarks. The class knew they would likely be divided up and scattered throughout the area to engage with some of the non-profits. We had no idea what organizations we would be visiting or who would be on our team. Amanda Uliano and Axah McCalla worked with Lance Lansrud to plan out our day. The Tampa Bay Rays were the sponsor and Josh Bullock, LT ’12, had the opportunity to “tell the story of the team” and their focus on the community. Josh talked about the Rays’ mission to energize the community through Rays’ baseball. Every employee of the Rays’ organization is given one paid day off each month to volunteer in the community. That is the kind of culture they have worked hard to build – they’ve empowered their employees to go out and make a difference and to be a positive influence. Through programs like Reading with the Rays’, partnerships with YMCA’s teaching children how to swim, and providing over 10,000 hats and jerseys to Little League Baseball organizations, the Rays’ have made a lasting contribution to our community.

co-pic-3At this point in the morning it was time to head out on the smaller group adventures. My group was the first one called and we quickly grabbed our packet and were out the door. We went straight for the MacDonald Training Center (MTC) on Cypress Blvd. The organization focuses on empowering people with disabilities to lead the lives they choose. They accomplish this through a series of services including job and technical skill training, life skills, community skills, and transportation services.  While waiting to meet with our tour guide, we had time to visit their onsite fine art gallery with works produced by members of the MTC family. All of the artwork is available for purchase at the center. The skill level demonstrated by these artists is on par with works you will find in any fine art gallery across the country. Our team would highly recommend you stop by and find a new piece for your home or office.


Did you know that every Sunpass sold in the state of Florida is packaged at MTC? On our tour we were able to see first-hand the packaging process, along with their electronics recycling business, and the space they have set aside to label all the garments sold by Cigar City Brewing. This facility provides the developmentally disabled opportunities that they would never have on their own. It is truly inspiring to have spent the morning with their staff. Their passion, respect, and dedication to their clients was obvious in every aspect of the business. Before we departed from MTC, we were part of a mock job interview process for the MTC clients. The mock interviews are used as part of the advanced job skills training the clients go through to prepare them for a real interview with a potential employer.

co-pic-7J. Clifford MacDonald’s commitment to developmentally disabled citizens is alive and well over 60 years after he founded the organization. One would be remiss to discuss Mr. MacDonald’s contributions to the community without mentioning that he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by John F. Kennedy in 1963. Sadly, both President Kennedy and J. Clifford MacDonald passed away before the award ceremony but Mr. MacDonald’s wife was there to accept the award from President Johnson during a ceremony late in 1963.

Upon leaving MTC, our orders directed us to head over to Metropolitan Ministries for a panel discussion, and lunch feast of Inside the Box Cafe. If you have yet to eat at Inside the Box, stop reading this article and go straight to one of the two locations in Tampa. There’s one on Westshore Blvd., and the other is located in Downtown Tampa. Not only do they serve excellent food, they are a social enterprise (Google it) that helps Metropolitan Ministries fund their operations. The cost of your meal goes “directly back to feeding a hungry and hurting Tampa Bay Neighbor.” Metropolitan Ministries was awarded an Innovative Business Plan Grant in 2010 for $25,000 to start Inside the Box Cafe. It has more than paid for itself over the years.

After lunch Jane Castor (LT’00) moderated a panel discussion that included Metropolitan Ministries President & CEO Tim Marks, Non-Profit Leadership Center CEO Emily Benham; Tampa Police Captain Yvette Flynn, and Children’s Board of Hillsborough County Director of Operations Buddy Davis. They shared some great lessons on how to truly engage with the needs in our community. We have to be champions for a cause. One of the panelists made this bold statement: “Don’t just buy a $50 ticket to an event, show up and have a few cocktails, and feel good about yourself. Do something more.” Events are great but look to other ways to be involved with the goal of leaving a lasting impact.

Speaking of deepening roots and relationships, Captain Yvette Flynn spoke of TPD’s efforts to reduce and solve crimes in unique ways – to engage the community to bring about real change. The RICH House in Sulphur Springs, is one of the ways TPD has collaborated with the community to enhance the lives in one of our most financially disadvantaged areas. Members of the LT ’17 Class visited the RICH House during the morning portion of the day to see first-hand the impact this organization has on the community. The house is administered by TPD and serves as a resource for children and their families in the Sulphur Springs neighborhood.

If you aren’t familiar with the role the Children’s Board plays in the community, it’s time for a quick lesson. A portion of ad-valorem (of value) property taxes are collected to fund the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County. In turn, they take that money and invest in programs to promote the well-being of children and families in our community. They provide funds to organizations such as Alpha House of Tampa, Boys & Girls Club of Tampa Bay, Inc., YMCA, and The Spring of Tampa Bay just to name a few. Not all of these organizations receive the same funding amount. Funds are directed to specific programs within these organizations to benefit the children and their families.

After lunch, the class was again divided up into smaller groups for an afternoon adventure. My team was chosen to visit The Spring of Tampa Bay. The other groups would head out to learn about Drug Treatment, Food Deserts, Human Trafficking, Transgender Issues, and Foreign Refugees coming to America.

If you’ve ever been to The Spring of Tampa Bay you already know why they are very secretive about their location. In addition to the confidentiality agreement, location services had to be disabled on our phones and electronic devices. It became clear, after spending a few hours with CEO Mindy Murphy, that the security measures were more than necessary to protect the survivors – a term for the victims of abuse – that were seeking assistance at The Spring. They have a 128 bed emergency facility, 46 transitional housing options, along with an outreach location that serves survivors without them living onsite. With a Kindergarten through 5th grade accredited school onsite, the Spring is truly a safe haven for a family disrupted by abuse.

The debrief was held back at the Children’s Board in Ybor City. This was going to be a time for each team to share their experiences from the afternoon’s activities. Some of the discussions were more lively and passionate than others, but the take away is that everyone left the room with a better understanding of some of the real issues being tackled on a daily basis in our community. Though many of us are very involved in the community, we all left Community Outreach Day passionate about some aspect of the day. The chatter at our “debrief after the debrief” – you know what I mean – was lively to say the least.


This article was written solely from one person’s perspective of the day. It would have been great to bring all the non-profit stories to the reader but logistically it wasn’t possible. If you run into an LT ’17 class member, ask them about their experiences during Community Outreach Day. One thing is for sure, they’ll have a great story to tell you!