LT’21 Arts & Culture Day

Stacy Miller, LT’21

Leadership Tampa’s 50th class spent a golden day exploring arts and culture in the region. The theme of the day was small to large; illustrating how individuals and small businesses can lead to a big community impact. Each stop was a poignant example of how history, culture, food, music, and art all contribute to Tampa being the best city in America.  History tells us that Tampa Bay started out with cigars and Cuban sandwiches, but it is so much more now.

Tampa is rich in historical stories of triumph, success, missteps, and failure. Some of the best examples of this were found in the Oaklawn Cemetery. Can you believe that in the mid-nineteenth century, a white Tampa leader and his black servant wife were buried together?

Figure 1 “Here lies Wm. Ashley and Nancy Ashley, Master and Servant,” with Brian A. and Hero

Tampa is known as “Cigar City.” The cigar industry is a part of its history and identity.  The J.C. Newman Cigar Company has 125 years of excellence in making cigars, and the tour showed us the secrets to their success, including how they can claim to “still have Cuban” tobacco.

Figure 2 Bag of Cuban tobacco in the basement

Family-owned for over 100 years, the Columbia family of restaurants leads the way for food culture in Tampa Bay. The local story, authentic approach, and finest ingredients are only the tip of the iceberg. Their philosophy of taking care of family, including employees and neighbors, is at the heart of their continued success.

Crowbar, a great little dive bar whose owner-turned-reluctant-activist, was a fun and unexpected setting for the fantastic sounds of The Katara Trio. The panel of experts talked about the need to feed and nurture independent musicians to drive the music scene. When this is done well, technology often follows, drawing young talent and economic development. This discussion fit our small to large theme perfectly.

Figure 3 The Katara Trio performing for LT’21

Tampa has a vibrant and growing art scene, but, like many industries, it is struggling right now due to the pandemic. Exciting and promising news from the panel discussion, however, is that the Peninsularium, “cooler than a museum, smarter than a theme park, weirder than a carnival,” is expected to open in late 2021.

Each part of the day shed a light on the strengths of the Tampa Bay arts and culture ecosystem, and how each part is entwined with the others in driving economic success for individuals, businesses, industries, and the region. History, food, music, and art combine to make Tampa Bay the community we all love. It was an incredible day and an eye-opening experience for the newest leaders in the community.

LT ’21 Arts & Culture Day Photos

Search 6,000 Florida maps

On exhibit now at Tampa Bay History Center

J. C. Newman

About Your Cuban Sandwich

What is a Music City?

Gasparilla Music Festival


Arts Panel: Go see some art


Tampa Opera

LT’20 Tallahassee

Leadership Tampa 2020 – Tallahassee Trip
By Conan Gallaty, Tampa Bay Times

The trip started in Tampa. Eager as they could be at 6:30 in the morning, the nearly 50-member class of leaders boarded the bus headed to Tallahassee. Ahead of them was a full, two-day agenda with business leaders, lobbyists and elected officials.

Before the programming could begin, an obligatory stop at the Busy Bee to refuel and marvel at the cleanest bathrooms known to convenience stores was in order. The group made its contributions to the Live Oak economy, filling up on the best bee-inspired snacks, and was on its way to the state capitol.

They were welcomed by sponsors Merritt Martin, director of public affairs for Moffitt Cancer Center and Joanne Sullivan, director of community relations for USF Health. Mr. Martin then introduced H. Lee Moffitt, former speaker of the Florida house from 1982-84 and champion of the eponymous world-renowned cancer center.

Speaker Moffitt introduced an all-star lobbying panel of Mr. McGee as well as Jan Gorrie of Ballard Partners, “Mac” Stipanovich of Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney and Michael Corcoran of Corcoran Partners. The quintet of policy wonks were engaging, humorous and not afraid of challenging ideas. When asked about their impressions of Governor Ron DeSantis, the panel had positive reviews saying he has surprised critics and surrounded himself with good people.  Especially his wife, Casey, who takes a very active role.

When asked about the recent failure of the Hillsborough Transportation Tax, Mr. Stipanovich lamented that the state was overreaching into local issues, a drastic change from years ago. “There isn’t a local interest they won’t interfere with,” he said.

Mr. Stipanovich warned that institutions such as healthcare, education and tourism were under attack by the House. And that’s where the class was headed next.

First stopping to admire the many tributes to Florida’s rich history in the capitol, the class entered the House chambers, filling up the front rows of Republican seats and the back rows for Democrat representatives. As they were given a guided tour of the chamber’s history through its beautiful murals and portraits, the group would learn tradition is to sit the majority party up front and the minority party in the back. In addition to seating for the representatives, the round room also had a public gallery where bullet-proof glass had been removed in 2000 to allow for easier hearing for spectators and better acoustics for the members.

Following the tour, the top office holder of the minority party, Nikki Fried, introduced herself and gave the class an overview of her role as Agriculture Commissioner. Commissioner Fried spent her career as a public defender, private attorney, government consultant and lobbyist and now supports the vital agriculture industry for the state, boasting more than 47,000 working farms and nearly two million jobs. While she didn’t come from farming roots herself, Commissioner Fried spelled out her passion for encouraging consumers to buy local produce. She also detailed the importance of fuel regulations and fighting corruption against skimmers and weight scales in commerce. Her office also heads policy for weapons permitting, addressing food desserts and energy and climate concerns.

The group then moved to the smaller Senate chamber. Self-described by members as “40 Somali warlords”, the Senators represent roughly half a million Floridians each. They are framed as the deliberative body that usually evaluates House bills, though they initiate legislation as well. Senators have the aid of special software that tracks legislation as it progresses and allows them to research changes. In the back of the Senate chamber, a special closed-door room allows legislators to work with legal counsel and lobbyists to refine phrasing.

The class was then treated to a talk from Jamal Sowell, president and CEO of Enterprise Florida, the principal economic development organization for the state. Mr. Sowell, a former chief of staff at Port Tampa Bay and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, spoke of the need for public/private partnerships throughout the state to address its top need for business development: talent. He added that in addition to a dire need  of workforce readiness in trade skills, he is also working with Florida businesses to train abroad.

That evening, the Tampa Bay Chamber and LT class hosted a legislative reception at the The Governor’s Club. Attendees included House member David Smith, Republican from Seminole representing district 28. Following a wonderful dinner at Edison restaurant, it was time to enjoy the Tallahassee nightlife and get ready for day two.

The next morning kicked off with a view of the political landscape from Sarah Bascom of Bascom Communications & Consulting and political strategist Steve Schale. This was the duo’s third year of talking to LT classes and the experience showed.

“Florida is one of the most interesting places in politics” Mr. Schale said. Despite being a large economy and wildly diverse across its geography, only about 12,000 votes separated the Republican and Democrat electorate over the last decade in the state. “Florida is strangely competitive,” he said.

That close competition is a rich part of Florida’s history, going back to the 1876 election of Rutherford B. Hayes. As Mr. Schale explained, the Florida election for the president that year was so mired, the state did not render a final vote. “Florida couldn’t decide, so congress did,” he said and warned that the national congress picking the president is never a good idea.

The class discussed campaigning and some of the ugly tactics used in political advertising. Ms. Bascom explained that campaigns don’t usually go negative, but Political Action Committee (PAC) money does. These are groups unaffiliated with the campaign but acting in supposed support of a candidate or issue. While political ads remain heavily on broadcast, she said more campaigns and PACs are targeting voters on their phone, especially to reach a younger electorate.

“Political marketing is a lagging indicator,” Mr. Schale said. “When it comes to marketing politics, it is all about earning a certain marketshare on a certain day.”

If earning that marketshare on a certain day is hard, the work once you win is even harder. Rep. Grant underlined this when he spoke to the class next and described slippery relationships as an elected official.

“You have no idea who cares about you or who likes you,” he said, tacking on the adage “If you want a friend here, get a dog.”

Rep. Grant has had the national spotlight on him for controversial positions he’s taken. He’s made enemies, but given his two options for political currency, he says intellectual honesty is what guides him.

He made his thoughts clear: “The bigger and more powerful I make government, the worse society becomes,” he said.

Democratic Senator Janet Cruz spoke to the class next. She explained the mandate to create a balanced budget and said they were close on the roughly $91 billion the state would spend. Sen. Cruz lauded the state’s work in public schools, pointing to Sulphur Springs community school and the wraparound services that have been added.

Next to address the class was Attorney General Ashley Moody. In her role, she is tasked with protecting the citizens of Florida. While Ms. Moody described a challenging year, she was proud of the strides her office has made in fighting the opioid crisis. She said opioids kill more Floridians than car accidents and gun violence, combined. Ms. Moody has also gone after vaping, claiming vape companies have targeted minors. She stated that two-thirds of consumers don’t know that vape cartridges contain nicotine.

Cyber fraud was another focus for her office. According to Ms. Moody, Florida leads the nation in cyber fraud because of its rising senior population. She is hoping to get more money from the legislation for education and prevention of cyber fraud. “We are not prepared,” she said.

The final stop was the Governor’s mansion. Originally built in 1907, it is the working home for Governor DeSantis and his family. The DeSantis family has brought the youngest children into the mansion in 50 years and will further that record with a baby expected later this year.

While it is his living quarters, Governor DeSantis uses the mansion for hosting numerous events throughout the year. A full-time staff of nine operates the facility and the doors open to guests and dignitaries from around the world.

After leaving the mansion, it was time to board the bus back to Tampa. The leadership class left Tallahassee a little wiser to how state government works, both good and bad. However imperfect, our politics are always a work in progress. During the discussions, Winston Churchill’s timeless quote was evoked and rang true. “No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise,” Churchill said. “Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

LT’20 Government & Economic Development Day

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

How Local Government Impacts You

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


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

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

City of Tampa Overview: Jane Castor

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

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


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

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

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

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


Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections

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

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

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


Hillsborough County Entrepreneur Collaborative Center (ECC)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Housing Affordability

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


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

LT’20 Energy & Conservation Day

LT ’20 Energy & Conservation Day

By Sheri Anderson, Tampa Bay Lightning

The Leadership Tampa class of 2020 was privileged to be part of an inaugural programming day focusing on the highly relevant topics of energy and conservation. Environmental discussions happening on the global mainstage were brough front and center, highlighting ecological challenges and ongoing efforts to combat them in the Tampa Bay region.

The day started at the Florida Conservation and Technology Center (FCTC) at Apollo Beach where LT ‘20 had the opportunity to hear from Archie Collins, Chief Operating Officer of Tampa Electric Company (TECO). With its beginnings in Tampa dating back to 1899, Tampa Electric was purchased by Halifax, Nova Scotia based Emera in 2015. At a glance, Emera has $32B in assets, $6.5B in revenues, 2.5M customers and 7.5K employees. 51% of the company’s earnings come from Florida, 36% from Atlantic Canada, 5% from Maine, and 4% from the Caribbean and New Mexico, respectively.

Emera’s corporate strategic initiatives include carbon reduction, rate stability, innovation, and sustainability. Although Florida is a regulated energy market, meaning TECO owns the lines and associated infrastructure, and generates or purchases electricity, and sells it to the end customer, it prides itself on exceeding customer expectations and being the provider customers would choose – in a regulated or unregulated market.

Emera is investing hundreds of millions of dollars into cleaner energy. In Nova Scotia, wind power investment has resulted in 36% lower CO2 emissions between 2005 and 2010. In Tampa, TECO expects to see 30% lower CO2 emissions by 2023 through the combined efforts of its use of solar energy and phasing out coal for natural gas in energy production.


After hearing from Archie, the crew embarked on an informative, albeit chilly on the rare 45-degree morning, tour of Big Bend station and the manatee viewing center. TECO’s Big Bend Power Station dates back 50 years to when the first coal-fired unit became operational in 1970, with three additional units coming online between 1973 and 1985. TECO has added flue gas desulfurization systems – scrubbers – to its units over the years to meet environment regulations set by the US Clean Air Act, removing 95% of sulfur dioxide from the four energy producing units.

In addition to adhering to national environmental regulations, TECO repurposes the byproducts of its energy production. Gypsum, created during the scrubbing process, is repurposed and used locally in construction for drywall and cement as well as in agriculture as a soil nutrient or fertilizer. Fly ash and slag, also byproducts of the combustion of coal, are used in the cement and concrete industries.

In cooler weather, manatees flock to the power station’s discharge canal where warm water flows into the bay after being used to cool the energy producing Big Bend. The warm water refuge now serves as a state and federally designated manatee sanctuary where Tampa locals and tourists alike can see the gentle mammals up close and personal.

Rounding out the morning programming, we heard from TECO’s Tom Hernandez, Senior Vice President of Distributed Energy & Renewables, who presented on energy transition and renewables. Tom has been integral in leading TECO’s efforts to phase out coal in exchange for natural gas and to implement solar energy initiatives. Big Bend is home to rotating solar panels that follow the suns movement to maximize energy production and can power 3,500 homes. By 2021, TECO anticipates adding 6 million solar panels, enough to power another 100,000 homes, leading to 7% of Tampa Electric’s total energy generation coming from the sun. Because of the significant space needed to house solar panels, TECO is exploring alternatives to scale the renewable energy source, including the possibility of floating solar panels in the water surrounding Florida.

The afternoon started with an overview of the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center and the work being done there in partnership with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), TECO, The Florida Aquarium, and The University of Florida. Dr. Kathy Guindon spoke about indoor/outdoor classroom space and the learning opportunities provided to kids and families through recreational outdoor activities. In addition to day camps, the grounds are used free-of-charge for student field trips allowing hands-on learning in the areas of marine science, science based natural resource management, and stewardship behaviors and conversation literacy concepts.

We then heard about the extensive work being done by The Florida Aquarium in research, conservation, and aquatic rehabilitation from Andrew Wood, Chief Operating Officer. The three key pillars for The Florida Aquarium include:

  • Coral Conservation with the objective of restoring Florida’s coral reef tract through successful land-based propagation and re-introduction. Currently, less than 5% of coral coverage remains in the Florida Gulf. Here’s a great overview of The Florida Aquarium’s work in coral reproduction as aired on NPR in August of 2019.
  • Sea Turtle Conservation with the objective of rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing endangered sea turtles.
  • Shark Conservation with the objective of better understanding shark biology, specifically reproductive health, to inform species protection strategies.


Working hand-in-hand with FWC and The Florida Aquarium, Dr. Josh Patterson of The University of Florida is permanently housed at the Conservation Center. Dr. Patterson and other scientists work on-site to further research in aquatic life reproduction and conservation.

The learnings throughout the morning and early afternoon came full circle when we had the opportunity to tour the grounds and see the work being done firsthand. LT ’20 was split up into smaller groups and participated in hands-on activities including testing water quality, catch-and-release fishing, a tour of the endangered turtle rehabilitation facilities, visiting the coral reproduction building, and exploring the riverbank.

The day concluded with powerful discussion about conservation in Tampa Bay – as well as the state of Florida and beyod – and was led by an esteemed group of experts representing Tampa Bay Watch, Aquatech Eco Consultants, The University of South Florida, The Florida Aquarium, and South Florida Water Management District. Key takeaways and actionable advice given by the panelists to better the environment include:

  • Using native Florida plants in our yards and gardens, reducing the amount of watering needed to maintain them. Utilizing barrels to collect rain and use for watering.
  • Turning off the water while we brush our teeth
  • Eliminating the use of single use plastics like bottles and plastic grocery bags. Use reusable cloth bags whenever possible.
  • Washing vehicles on the lawn instead of the driveway so nutrients don’t run off into the water supply

Energy and conservation day was informative and provided a deeper understanding of environmental threats as well as the work being done to protect and conserve the natural resources that make Tampa Bay such a wonderful place to live.

LT’20 Military Day Recap


Military Day for the LT class of 2020 will be one of the highlights of the year.  The day was full of acronyms, astonishing statistics, state of the art technology and most of all, the amazing men and women of our armed forces.  We got an inside look into many features of MacDill Air Force base as well as first-hand accounts from many of those that have served.  We are fortunate to have such amazing people protecting and serving our country and it was awesome to get a small glimpse of what they do daily.

We started our day with a bus tour around MacDill to get a sense of how large the base is.  MacDill is considered a medium sized base but still seems to have all the amenities and needs you could ask for if you live on base.  There are grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and a pharmacy that filled 1.2 million scripts just last year.  As for entertainment there is a 36-hole golf course, bowling alley, gym and movie theater just to name a few.  MacDill is home to 7.1 miles of beach and while most of that isn’t usable waterfront, it is home to a great beach for the residents.  Medical facilities, schools and even two RV parks on base make it very accommodating for both active and retired military that call the base home.

MacDill has gone through four major phases since its inception in 1939.  It was a training facility from 1939-1946 for the Third Air Force.  The second ERA was for the Strategic Air Command and a focus on bombers from 1946-1962.  From 1962-1993 Tactical Air Command and Fighter Jets were the third phase.  Air mobility Command started in 1994 and remains today with a focus on Tankers and refueling procedures.  MacDill employs 22,773 employees and when you add in dependents that number goes above 57,000 with an annual military payroll of over 815 million.  Total payroll is 1.1 billion, retiree payroll is 943 million with a total economic impact to the Tampa Bay area of over 4.1 billion dollars annually.

MacDill is home to two major command centers for the United States Military.  United States Central Command and United States Special Operations Command.  We were fortunate enough to visit SOCOM and to experience the inside of this exclusive building.  This was an impressive facility with state-of-the-art technology.  The hallways were draped with previous war heroes and plaques honoring different battles throughout our history.  The war room was what you might picture from the tv shows and movies.  The war room was where we spent time with four decorated individuals that took our questions and shared some of their stories from inside the Special Operations world.  Like every other individual that we met that day, they were humble and grateful to us and the Tampa Bay community.  It was a shocking outlook to a lot of us as we are the ones that are grateful for them and their sacrifices.  The panel took our questions and answered every one honestly and openly and were extremely engaging.  SOCOM will have an average of 9,500 soldiers deployed at any given time to over 85 countries and territories.

After our trip to SOCOM we spent some time learning about the mental health and family initiatives that are vital to the health and wellness of military families.  Dr. Dora Mays and SGT Michael Smart spent time going over how important mental health is for each individual and the steps that they are taking to help where needed.  The military life for the individual and for the family can be very hard.  Short notice deployments, moving every three to four years, parenting imbalances and financial stress are just a few of the challenges that these families face.  The Military and Family Readiness Center focuses on assisting with these challenges and much more.  They are also finding that Generation Z (majority of the younger men and women in the armed services) are more likely to have less than excellent mental health as compared to previous generations.  The Military and Family Readiness and other resources like them are playing a crucial part in trying to increase the stability and wellness for military families.

MacDill’s primary function now is the refueling procedures and its KC-135 tankers.  We explored one of these massive planes inside and out to get a sense of the skill it would take to fly one on a successful refueling mission.  Since 1956 the KC-135 has been the tried and true refueling tanker for the air force.  There have been over 700 made to date and many of those are still in operation today.  You will not find the comforts that we are used to when flying our commercial airliners.  It takes a crew of four to successfully fly a refueling mission.  The pilot and copilot as well as two others that focus on the refueling aspect of the flight.  One crewman guides the target plane to the correct speed and location with a series of lights while the other is laying down in the back looking through a small window.  Through this window and two controllers, they will be responsible for guiding the boom into the target plane for refueling.  The KC-135 is not designed for passengers but does carry cargo on occasion.  There are only two long bench seats on each side of the plane with an open center big enough for pallets of cargo.  The KC-135 is an impressive tanker and plays a vital role in our nation’s military needs.

After seeing the KC-135 we got to take a tour of the military working dog facility.  The primary breads of these dogs are German Shepherd, Dutch Shepherd and Belgian Malinois.  They are extremely intelligent breads and the individual dogs are chosen and trained at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.  Once training is complete the dogs are available for one of two primary functions, Bomb Detection and Drug Detection. While they can only be trained one of these skills, they are all combat trained for their missions.  We were able to witness a training activity where we got to see the power, discipline and intelligence of these animals while still maintaining a tight bond with their trainers.

We had a unique and fun insight on leadership provided by COL Andy Stephan.  COL Stephan had many interesting stories about his travels around the globe and some of his challenges and successes that he faced with his leadership style.  He believed that it was important to know your people and be able to do any job that they do.  The Colonel felt that if you believed in somebody that you may need to take a chance on them even if it meant putting you in a tough situation.  COL Stephan had a unique approach and some of the most bazaar stories, but the common message was the importance of being a great leader.

We ended the day with a visit from Colonel Douglas Stouffer from the 927th Air Refueling Wing.  Colonel Stouffer was very proud and engaging with all of us.  He spent quite a while answering our questions and giving us a lot of information about MacDill and the important role that the reserves play in our military.  Over 355,000 men and women are a part of the reserves across the four main branches.  36 percent of the Air Force is in a reserve status.  Reserves are part time and usually dedicate two weeks a year and one weekend a month to the armed services.  Their training is designed to get them ready for duty if the need arises and to be able to coordinate with full time military without any issues.  Colonel Stouffer spoke very highly of the important role that Reservists play in our military and reminded us that we interact with these people in our everyday lives.

Throughout the entire visit to MacDill the overwhelming sense of honor and gratitude from everyone we encountered was amazing.  To spend the day on MacDill Air Force Base and see a little of what these heroes do each day was very humbling and will be something that I will never forget.  This day was so full of incredible stories and people that I could never do it justice in one written recap of the day.  I would just like to thank all who have served and the sacrifices their families make to provide us the freedoms that we enjoy today.

Kris Knox, LT’20

LT’20 Education Day

By Tate Kubler, EY

Throughout Tampa, we are witnessing transformational change with the presence of cranes in downtown and other infrastructure projects spreading to the north, south, east and west. Established businesses are moving to the region and local entrepreneurs are establishing their own presence through creative new ventures. There are so many who are contributing to the thriving economy of Tampa and our community’s educators might have the greatest and longest-lasting impact of them all. The Leadership Tampa Class of 2020 (LT’20) had the opportunity to spend the day with Tampa’s great educators; those who are responsible for refueling the economy and facilitating the learning that is the foundation for Tampa’s sustained growth.

Education Day was organized by Mark Colvenbach, Director in the Office of Career Services at the University of Tampa.  It was held on November 20, 2019, and showcased the amazing and wide-ranging educational opportunities that residents of Tampa have at their fingertips.  As leaders in the community, it was an education for the LT20 class on how the various institutions and systems operate with the same objectives to facilitate learning and skills development for students who will ultimately contribute to the Tampa Bay economy.

To prepare for Education Day, each member of the LT20 class spent a full day, shadowing teachers in an elementary, middle or high school in Hillsborough County Public Schools (HCPS).  The experience taught the class firsthand that the teachers of Hillsborough County Public Schools are heroes to their students and are truly making an impact on the lives, and families, of the students in the classroom. Quite honestly, they were heroes in the eyes of the LT20 class as well, as many in the LT20 class were amazed at the teachers’ abilities to control the focus of the classroom, their commitment to extracurricular education (e.g. teaching debate) and above all else their passion for the students.  As the author of this article, I personally got the opportunity to spend the day with Marie Smith and Lee Gaspar at Sickles High School.  These two amazing teachers truly care for the students who walk through their doors each day, and it was evident not only in how they taught their students but in how their students respected them. There is no doubt that these teachers give it their very best each day to educate the students who sit in their classrooms. Today’s teacher not only has to come prepared to equip students with the skills necessary to grow intellectually, but they also have to come prepared to handle today’s classroom distractions, which are many.

For perspective on the activities of Education Day, Jeff Eakins, HCPS Superintendent spoke to the LT20 class sharing that HCPS sees itself as the economic driver of the Tampa community.  That is in fact reality considering Hillsborough County Schools has 217,000 students, just became the 7th largest school district in the United States and expects the growth trend to continue with 3,000 to 5,000 new students enrolling each year.  It was fascinating to hear how the leader of such a large school system manages that commitment to community growth.  Mr. Eakins said that to meet the needs of the current student population the HCPS needs to be nimble and provide more choice options, and in doing so HCPS must create pathways that meet students’ needs and local business needs.  Following that concept, we learned that HCPS is not simply classrooms teaching kindergarten through 12th grade anymore.  HCPS has evolved to include 4,000 pre-K students, a VPK program associated with Head Start, 4 technical colleges to serve members in the skills-based workforce, and virtual programs that are increasing exponentially to align with the shifting landscape.  As important as the evolution in learning delivery or student reach, HCPS has established community partnerships with the families in the neighborhoods surrounding the schools.  Schooling does not end when a student reaches 18 or 19 years of age nor does it end when the last bell rings and that has been recognized by HCPS.  Community outreach programs have been established at many schools, such as on-campus food pantries to ensure families and their students have the ability to eat dinner, or adult programs designed to meet the needs of those living within the community.  This additional shift in the reach of public education has also found its way into the Hillsborough County Jail and into Tampa General Hospital.  This broader, unrestricted access to public education is establishing a much greater foundation for the future workforce of Tampa.

The other aspect of Mr. Eakins’s conversation with the LT20 class was around HCPS’s strategic plan.  It was explained that upon his hiring as Superintendent a five-year plan was established that focused on improving graduation rates. An analogy to a 4×100 relay was used to explain how long a student spends in HCPS, and HCPS measures itself on how a student finishes.  Over the past five years, HCPS went from 10,500 graduates in 2013 to over 14,000 in 2018 representing an 85.8% graduation rate, an outstanding accomplishment given the size of the student population.  After achieving a positive trend in the graduation rates, Mr. Eakins and the school board learned that there is a correlation between on-level preparation in 3rd-grade students and high school graduation rates.  As a result, the next strategic plan is focused on being very deliberate around teaching the foundational skills taught in pre-K, elementary and middle schools.  It is this linkage that has HCPS focused on improving the learning readiness of students entering kindergarten, as well as improving the on-level reading percentage for third graders from the current 50% level to 80%. The foundational skills learned in the early education years have been determined to be critical to the future success of Tampa’s workforce and education level of the Tampa community and HCPS is focused on making improvements in those areas.

Mr. Eakins spoke to the LT20 class after the first stop of the day; however, his words were important to frame Education Day and what was observed.

During the morning of Education Day, the LT20 class arrived at Academy Prep Center of Tampa, which is a non-profit, private middle school for economically disadvantaged students in Tampa.  It is dedicated to educating students by providing an academically challenging, enriching and structured environment followed by 8 years of support and guidance through high school and into college.  We had the opportunity to hear from L’Tanya C. Evans, Head of School, as well as certain members of her staff. What makes the Academy Prep Center succeed is a combination of the students attending school for 11 hours a day for 11 months coupled with graduate support services through high school and into the student’s preparation for college.  The school is predicated on developing the middle school mind and establishing the foundation for high school and college success.  Ms. Evans believes the middle school student is susceptible to impression and can be taught the skills and learning necessary to go on to be successful. In fact, many students arrive at Academy Prep below level and by the end of their first year at the school are above level.  The LT20 class visited the classrooms and it was evident that a high degree of learning was taking place.  All students were in uniforms and were completely engaged in the curriculum.  In one classroom, eighth-grade girls who were writing sentences with an abstract noun, stood when the LT20 class entered the room, shook hands with everyone and one-by-one introduced themselves to the members of the LT20 class.  This was completely unplanned and showed their preparedness for high school and life beyond the classroom walls.


In the auditorium of Academy Prep are pennants that show all of the high schools that graduates have attended, with many of the pennants being from the most prestigious private schools in Tampa and in other cities.  It is a testament to the educators and counselors at Academy Prep who support the students and help them secure need-based scholarships in the hopes that they continue and become community leaders.  As is a focus of Mr. Eakins, foundational skills are key to high school graduation and 98% of Academy Prep alumni graduate from high school and approximately 87% go on to college, while 9% serve in the armed forces. Academy Prep of Tampa is a place where educators are making an impact.

The next stop on Education Day was Carter G. Woodson K-8 School to which the LT20 class was hosted by Ovett Wilson, Principal.  At the school, the LT20 class heard from Jeff Eakins followed by Mr. Wilson.  Carter G. Woodson was an important stop because it showcased how HCPS is evolving to meet the needs of the community and the students of the school. Carter G. Woodson had previously been Cahoon Elementary (grades K-5) and Van Buren Middle School (grades 6-8) but was combined under the stewardship of Mr. Wilson and renamed as Carter G. Woodson for the 2018-2019 school year. This is an example of a community-focused school where pre-K classes are now offered; adult programs occur each month and there is a clothing closet and food pantry on-campus; both of which are accessible to the families of the school.  Mr. Wilson shared his 1-2-4 philosophy where everything operates around the student.  His teaching staff is determined to help the students achieve their potential sharing with them that, regardless of their background or situation, greatness is within them.  Another example of where educators are making an impact and HCPS is evolving to allow for the greatest impact.

After visiting Carter G. Woodson, the LT20 class headed to East Hillsborough County to Strawberry Crest High School in Dover, FL which was named in the Top 50 most beautiful campuses.  Upon arrival the junior ROTC regiment, in full uniform, greeted the LT20 class providing direction and answering questions as we found our way to the media center.  After entering the doors, full restaurant-style seating was prepared for the LT20 class, hosted by the school’s Culinary Arts Students under the direction of Chef Paul Bonano. Lunch was prepared from scratch by the culinary students and served using their culinary skills which ranged from baking to restaurant management including front of the house management.


It was only fitting that their delicious meal was finished off with strawberry shortcake.  While having lunch, a more humbling conversation over school safety and security was had with John Newman, Chief of Security for HCPS.  Mr. Newman explained that following the February 2018 school shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, Florida became the only state under legislative mandate requiring school systems to implement measures to secure school campuses. Mr. Newman shared a disturbing video, Inside Building 12, that in schematic display showed the gunman and students’ movements during the incident that day.  He explained that a lot has been learned from that event and HCPS is paving the way when it comes to acting upon what was learned.  In response, Mr. Newman explained that schools have always had good plans and basic training, but a cultural change had to happen for action to be taken.  In response, every HCPS school began target hardening (e.g., establishing single entry points for visitors) and began a cultural change to ensure every teacher or member of staff had the ability to identify a threat, communicate a threat and mitigate a threat.  To do so, the teachers needed the tools.  Teachers were not hired to provide security, but they do need to have the ability to communicate when something is happening.  This was a critical lesson learned from the February 2018 incident and in response, HCPS invested in the Centegix security platform, which allows all employees of HCPS to call for help at any time and anywhere on a Hillsborough County Schools property. It is a system that allows HCPS staff members to initiate an alert quickly and reliably anywhere on a school campus, inside or outside the building.  The system identifies where the call is being made to allow for timely security response, as well as provides for preventative access controls to take effect such as automatic door locks.  In addition, every school in HCPS now has an armed police officer that is trained in active shooter situations further hardening the schools.

While security is one way to address the issue, the other path is through mental health awareness.  HCPS has adopted the Sandy Hook Promise and is actively focused on prevention, awareness, and inclusivity with regards to mental health matters.  It is clear that with such a tragedy HCPS is serious about the safety of its students and is being a leader in that regard.

After lunch concluded, the LT20 class headed across the Hillsborough River to the University of Tampa for a prestigious panel of university and college presidents.  The participants included Dr. Ronal Vaughn, President of The University of Tampa; Dr. Jeffrey Senese, President of Saint Leo University; and Dr. Kenneth Atwater, President of Hillsborough Community College.


Each of the presidents had interesting viewpoints as their schools are each uniquely different and serve different populations.  For example, UT is a talent importer to Tampa with 50% of its student population enrolling from out of state, with a large majority remaining in Tampa after graduation. Saint Leo has the goal of being more known and connected with the Tampa business environment as it has 25,000 students spread across 33 locations.  It was evident from the dialogue that universities and HCC are developing workforce-ready talent and are working hard to keep their graduates local so that Tampa can be the beneficiary of the economic impact.

The final stop for Education Day was at the Allied Health Building on the Dale Mabry Campus of Hillsborough Community College.  The Allied Health Building is a recent addition to the campus designed specifically to develop the skills of health providers and lab scientists operating in the health arena.  The building is state of the art with collaboration spaces and high-tech equipment used in simulation labs to train students in real-life medical situations.  In the Med Lab, the LT20 class learned about blood schmears and how a laboratory scientist can determine what disease is in the blood ultimately helping a doctor recommend a treatment.  In the EMS Lab, the LT20 class learned that when performing CPR, one should no longer perform mouth to mouth immediately and instead perform 30 chest compressions to the tune of Stayin Alive. Lastly, in the Sim Lab there are 8 simulation rooms with real-life mannequins that have given names, blink, have mannequin babies and are cared for almost as if they were human.   The LT20 class had to react to the mannequin, Apollo, and his medical emergency.  The LT20 class performed a tracheotomy on Apollo to get his airway cleared so he could breathe again.  It was such an incredible experience because HCC is facilitating the hands-on development training that is necessary to support the technical trades workforce.


In conclusion, Tampa is thriving on the underlying foundation of its education system across all levels.  It was evident that Tampa’s educational institutions are lead by passionate leaders who want to make an impact on students and their families. Mr. Eakins indicated that one of the first questions businesses ask when they are looking to relocate to Tampa is “How are the schools?”  It is with pride that Tampa can affirmatively say the schools are great and consistently improving across all levels from the pre-schools to public and private grade schools to the colleges and universities in the area. Without the commitment to education, Tampa’s economy would not be refueling every year.  The strength of the education system in Tampa was on full display during Education Day and it would be negligent to not extend a thank you to all of the educators and staff members who serve Tampa’s students each and every day.  You are heroes to your students and are making a real impact on Tampa today and into the future!

LT’20 Media Day

By Rob Kane, Sparxoo

With so much focus and attention on the media in today’s world, the Leadership Tampa Class of 2020 continued on their immersive syllabus throughout Tampa Bay recently, visiting iHeartMedia, the Tampa Bay Times Printing Plant and 10News WTSP. The class’s goal in visiting these organizations was to gain a deeper understanding of how and why some stories are deemed newsworthy, while others are less frequently covered.

iheartmediaPanel discussion with iHeartMedia Market President, Chris Soechtig.


After LT’20 was welcomed by the day’s sponsor, Kerry O’Reilly (LT’15) of The Tampa Bay Times, the class was treated to a panel discussion of senior media executives from iHeartMedia, including Market President, Chris Soechtig.

 The iHeartMedia team articulated how iHeart is much more than just radio. iHeartMedia has the largest combined reach of any radio and television outlet in the U.S., reaching over 250 million listeners per month and is the #1 commercial podcaster in the country.

The panel discussion also uncovered two common underlying themes repeated throughout the day, which is that media is changing faster than ever and that there is a constant battle for consumer’s attention.

iHeartMedia and others are highly reliant on advertising dollars to continue to fund and expand programming. Tommy Chuck, SVP of Programming at iHeartMedia summarized it best by saying there are constant discussions internally and with on-air talent to ensure that advertising is aligned with the iHeart brand and the values of the person delivering the message.

Tampa Bay Times Printing Press

 The next stop saw LT’20 visiting the Tampa Bay Times Printing Press. Executive Vice President and GM, Joe DeLuca kicked off the session by reframing the challenges that the newspaper industry is currently facing. “Local news and information is our product and the printed newspaper is just one delivery mechanism”, said DeLuca.

timesPrinting Press at The Tampa Bay Times Printing Press Facility

After touring the once buzzing printing facility, it was clear that the speed of change in the digital era has forced the newspaper industry to adapt and evolve in order to meet the demands of today’s consumer.

The innovation highlight of the Tampa Bay Times visit was when Bruce Faulmann, VP of Sales & Marketing, introduced the LT’20 class to the latest on-premise advertising solution from the Times. The solution replaces traditional static posters in businesses with modern televisions that can sense when consumers are watching and engaging with the advertisements, even making assessments on the consumer’s reactions from smiling to indifference.

10News WTSP

The final stop of the day was with 10News WTSP, where the LT’20 class was exposed to what it is like to be in front and behind the cameras of a large, local television production.

Kari Jacobs, President & GM of 10News WTSP spoke to the advancements in local news and how tools such as social media and real-time analytics dictate what is broadcasted, today more than ever before.

wtspLT’20 Class Chair, Lance Lansrud, on the set Great Day Live at 10News WTSP

It was here at 10News where the LT’20 class had the greatest opportunity of the day to ask the tough questions regarding objectivity in the media. What ensued was an engaging and professional conversation where the 10News staff shared their perspectives around the sensationalizing of stories and the difference between the national and local landscapes.

Overall, the day was educational and engaging with the LT’20 class coming away with a deeper appreciation of the difficult decisions that go into selecting what is seen and heard within our Tampa Bay region and nationally.

LT’20 Law Enforcement Day

By Eddie Phillips, MacDill Air Force Base

The cornerstone of civilization has been the rule of law since ancient times. As defined in the Oxford English Dictionary, rule of law is “the authority and influence of law in society, especially when viewed as a constraint on individual behavior; the principle whereby all members of a society (including those in government) are considered equally subject to publically disclosed legal codes and processes.”

The Leadership Tampa Class of 2020 (LT20) had the opportunity to spend the day with Tampa’s defenders of the rule of law; men and women of the Tampa Police Department (TPD) and Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO). Many in the group already experienced what patrol officers encounter during their individual ride-along.

Our day started at the HCSO Orient Road jail and finished at the Tampa Fire and Police Training Center. While these professional women and men walked us through policies, procedures, tools and techniques required to enforce the rule of law, LT20 learned it’s really about people.  It was a cool morning as the class arrived at the Orient Road Jail and learned about the impressive facts behind the facility. The jail supports 27 law enforcement agencies and process about 130 people per day for well over 40,000 bookings per year. It is run like a small city with a $26M budget to pay for everything from laundry, to food, to transportation. The group also learned the jail is primarily used to house about 3,000 individuals in pre-trial confinement, meaning they may not have been convicted of a crime yet. After a conviction, the courts can assign up to a year in jail, or transfer the person to prison. The group toured the facility and saw all parts of the process from booking, to court, to confinement.


The officers in the jail spoke about their 1:72 ratios in the confinement areas. They explained that the 8 weeks of training after the Academy was just the first step to understanding the dynamic. In addition to the training and tools, each officer is a master at ‘verbal judo’ to control and shape behavior, helping each inmate to correct their behavior and return to society. Their life of service is not easy, but they seemed to make meaningful connections with everyone. Understanding the connectedness, whether to family, officers, or medics helped get to the core issues behind the initial incarceration. One officer said he connects with people by asking them to ‘look behind the uniform’ not as an officer, but as a mother, part of a family, or part of the greater Tampa community.


The group also learned mental health and drug use are two common factors behind many of the crimes committed. To combat this, HCSO takes an aggressive and innovative stance on getting to the root of behavior issues in the community. Their new program moves away from confinement as punishment and works to build stability at the individual level. Stability can shape behavior with many other added benefits. Medicine is also used to help treat issues.  HCSO also builds partnerships with USF and other community agencies. The program focuses on not allowing crimes to define a person, but how every person can feel they are cared for. This also helps with the transition from jail back to society and is likely to reduce the rate of recidivism or relapse back into criminal behavior.  Having a community approach to neglected individuals can have an impact on jail populations. We also heard from our senior leaders on this topic and their strategic message was on par with the morning’s session. It’s much harder to be smart on crime, than tough on crime, but it is worth it. A family unit will keep people out of jail, but it’s sometimes the family you make, not the one you are born into.


After a serious morning, and lunch with district commanders, it was time to head to the Training Center. There LT20 participated in some hands-on activities with unique teams and their tools of the department. In discussions, we learned the officers have a lot of discretion in what they do. Just as the county is working towards problem-solving courts, officers have a choice for most minor crimes. They get to decide the best course of action for each individual.

Our community demands accountability and officer safety is paramount. To say this is complex is an understatement. This was very evident during the use of force simulation where LT20 got to see how quick officers must act in a wide range of situations. The team was also surprised by the amount of officer training.  While we all have a responsibility in our community, certainly many were not ready for law enforcement duties.


It was critical to see where officers are asked to make life-and-death decisions with imperfect information.  The group also experienced high-speed police pursuits and special teams such as K9, SWAT, Explosive Disposal, and Traffic. All teams demonstrated the skills needed to influence or stop behaviors at an individual level.

As the group gathered to finish the day, 8 brave souls were able to experience the electronic persuasion device for 5 seconds each. This alone may have been a good bit of prevention towards any future crimes.


Tampa has a lot to be proud of including groundbreaking programs, leaders with vision, and professional, well-trained law enforcement officers representing the rule of law. At the end of the day, LT20 was left to ponder what they can do. The rule of law is everyone’s responsibility and an active community is a caring one. First, everyone can build trust in law enforcement, tell the story of police as well as criminals. Movies and culture do not do these brave first responders justice. Second, change how you see people, like an iceberg, you only see very little of a person in your interactions, and there is a life behind the profile picture. Third, get involved! Everyone can contribute in their own way to help build connections, focus resources, and build a family bigger than one family tree. And as a bonus, don’t forget to vote.

A special thank you to all of our first responders who put their lives on the line to help us on our worst of days. Stay safe and know LT has your back.

LT’20 Community Outreach Day

By Susan Nunn Williams, Visit Tampa Bay

Leadership Tampa 20 Community Outreach Day was an impactful experience for all of those in attendance. The Children’s Board of Hillsborough County hosted the program. It’s central-local in Ybor City was a great location from which to explore the community. The 49 members of the class joined a motivated and well-rounded ten-person planning committee made up of LT Alumni, the Chamber staff and the class chair and vice-chair.

The day’s sponsor, Christopher Rogers from Sykes Enterprises Incorporated, was a fitting choice as their stated goal as a company is: To help people, one caring interaction at a time.

Kicking off the day, the group was introduced to the Non-Profit Community in Tampa Bay by Clara Reynolds, President & CEO of the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, and Thomas Mantz, the Executive Director of Feeding Tampa Bay. They introduced the issues that social services organizations strive to impact: Education, Health, Employment and Food & Housing. They also brought to light the populations in our community that use social services: elderly, veterans, homeless, children and other vulnerable populations. Because 1 in 7 adults in our community uses these services, Mr. Mantz encouraged everyone to remove from our language “them” and “these people”. Mr. Mantz also provided a very clear example that was particularly impactful in speaking about diabetes care and its relationship to food banks. He said that a diabetic-related hospital stay costs $15,000, diabetes medication costs $2,000 and that the entire family of a diabetic could be fed healthy food to combat the illness for just $800. So, he asked, which should we invest in?

Both Ms. Reynolds and Mr. Mantz described the limitations on how they can use their funding and how that affects the populations they can serve. Ms. Reynolds went further in describing better outcomes for people by allowing individuals to choose from a menu of services to get what they need and to get to “their place of better”.

After this great introduction, the group split into 12 smaller groups and headed out into the community to learn and serve.

Crisis Center of Tampa Bay: The mission of the Crisis Center is to ensure that no one in our community has to face a crisis alone. This impressive facility houses several critical services for the entire Tampa Bay area including the Gateway Services (211 call center) and the certified rape crisis center for Hillsborough County.
The Gateway Services call center was very eye-opening in several ways. They are the call center for our county’s 211 services, 1-844-My-FLVET (expressly for and staffed by veterans), the Suicide Lifeline (including the phones at the top of the Skyway Bridge), and the Substance Abuse Hotline. The busiest time at the call center is Monday at 9 a.m., when parents have their kids out of the house or individuals are safely at their jobs and can call for help. The group also found out that the call center is staffed by highly trained and rigorously supervised professionals, but, because the burnout rate is about 5,000 calls or 1 year, there is a constant need for new staff.  The group was able to tour the Rape Crisis Center and learn that this facility is the resource for all of Hillsborough County and provides extensive medical and counseling services. Please go to for more information.


Meals on Wheels of Tampa: We nourish and enrich the lives of Tampa seniors and homebound by providing hot meals delivered daily by a caring volunteer. The team deployed to Meals on Wheels learned that the organization provides 1400 meals per day here in our community. This meal-delivery also serves as a safety check. The 26 employees of the organization depend on over 60 volunteers a day and all private funding. The “a-ha” learning for the LT team was that this is often the only meal the recipients have all day. On a fun note, the organization also deliver Holiday Pies and Birthday cakes! Please go to for more information.


YMCA Reads: A Literacy/Mentoring Initiative Targeting First Through Third Grade Students. Reading changes children’s lives. Learning to read opens young eyes and minds to a world full of possibilities. The YMCA READS! program seeks to close the gap in students’ reading performance and the State of Florida’s reading performance expectations. This team visited the Sulfur Springs K-8 Community School to see the YMCA Reads program in action. The school serves 950 students in a small 1 square mile district and this reading program is one of the ways the school improves outcomes for their students. For more information please go to

Frameworks of Tampa Bay: To teach youth to manage their emotions, develop healthy relationships, and make good decisions for academic, career, and personal success. This team visited Broward Elementary School to see the Frameworks curriculum in action. This curriculum teaches teachers how to instruct students on “Emotional Intelligence”. They conduct exercises with students to be emotionally aware and then how to deal with those emotions. The group’s “a-ha” moment was that Frameworks helps teachers understand the kids better. Schools with a Frameworks program see a measurable suspension rate decline. For more information please go to

Junior Achievement BizTown: This engaging, hands-on program that introduces 5th graders to economic concepts, workplace skills, and personal and business finances in a student-sized town built just for them. One lucky team went to visit the JA BizTown and Finance Park. BizTown is a kid-sized town where kids learn important lessons about how businesses operate and what jobs are like in those businesses. The LT team thought that this program makes kids appreciate their parents! The “a-ha” moment was learning that the program relies on volunteers every day – as there are only 8 employees! For more information please go to


Feeding Tampa Bay: Feeding Tampa Bay, part of the national Feeding America network, focuses on providing food to the hundreds of thousands of food-insecure families in the 10-county area of West Central Florida. A group from LT’20 went to the Feeding Tampa Bay Mobile Pantry at the University Area Community Development Center near USF. The team spent the morning learning about this important work and spent time distributing food to 230 people who showed up. They learned that there is no bias or criteria for who they serve. Participants simply get in line. Their “a-ha” was how much fresh meat and vegetables were distributed. Additionally, they had a “ta-da” moment in realizing that folks from many walks of life were in line – not just homeless people. For more information on Feeding Tampa Bay Mobile Pantry please go to

Metropolitan Ministries: We care for the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless in our community through services that alleviate suffering, promote dignity and instill self-sufficiency as an expression of the ongoing ministry of Jesus Christ. A team went to visit the $25 million Metropolitan Ministries facility just north of Downtown Tampa. They toured the facility and learned about the many programs used to fight homelessness and hunger in our community. The group learned that the people who work and volunteer take care to get to know the people they serve as individuals. The team got to work the Holiday registry, getting families signed up to receive meals during the upcoming holiday season. The big learning for the team was how the MetroMin staff and volunteers are flexible in going to the people in the community. For more information on this organization’s work please visit

MacDonald Training Center: MTC has transformed lives through innovations in educational advancements, vocational training, employment pathways, residential supports and life enrichment opportunities for more than 6 decades. The LT team learned that they train adults in transferable job skills at the MTC, like recycling computers for Jabil and teaching students how to work with patients for Moffit. They also teach social media skills and package all of the SunPass transponders! The team’s “a-ha” was just how professional the operation is and that they teach to the full professional standards. For more info on MTC please click on

CARIBE for Refugees: The CARIBE Program is an Adult Education project funded by the state Department of Children and Family Services. The program provides support and direction to refugees and asylees in learning to speak English and helping to eliminate those barriers to gainful employment. A team went to visit the CARIBE program at Mission Hills Church. There they learned how refugees in our community prepare for Citizenship and learn English. Refugees in this program have come here to Tampa from countries all over the world that are in the news today. CARIBE can also come to your workplace and provide their services to employees. For more information please visit

NOPE Narcotics Overdose Prevention Education: Reaching communities through education, research and support. The all-volunteer organization takes their drug prevention message directly into schools. The LT team caught up with them delivering their program at an assembly of the 6th graders at Franklin Prep Boys Academy. The team learned right along with the 6th graders that if narcotic drugs are taken in 6th grade that person has a 45% chance of becoming an addict. That’s why prevention is so important. The program has been very progressive in adapting to new threats like vaping. Visit for more information.

Children’s Home Network: Improving lives and changing life stories. This organization focuses on Foster Care and operates a 60 kid residential facility complete with maternity care. They place 700 kids a year in foster homes but also work on counseling within families to prevent the need for kids to go into foster care. The teams’ big “a-ha” was learning the logistics of keeping kids’ lives normal. Go to for more information.


Senior Connection Center: a not-for-profit, 501(c)3 corporation dedicated to helping people age at home with dignity for over 30 years. Help older adults to live with independence and dignity. The team that visited the Center learned that they serve a 5-county area with the Elderly Help Line, Medicare Help, Health & Wellness programs & Elder Abuse Prevention. The organization even has “mini-grants” to help individuals with small projects like wheelchair ramps or to fix broken A/C’s. For more info please visit

After a busy morning visiting these 12 organizations, the teams came back to the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County to share their learnings with the whole group. Following an entertaining speed round of presentations, the group split up into 5 larger groups for the afternoon deep dive into issues. The issues tackled included Homelessness, Food Deserts, Human Trafficking, the Opioid Epidemic and Veterans Mental Health.

Food Deserts: This team was hosted by the YMCA in Sulfur Springs – in a hands-on experience each group was given $100 to shop for a family and had to make some tough choices which included walking over a mile to a WalMart grocery store to make their money go farther than it would at the convenience store in the neighborhood. They also learned how thoughtful you must be in shopping on a limited budget and with limited transportation options.


Human Trafficking: This team started at the Tampa Police Department with a presentation by TPD, an FBI agent, an advocate from the Crisis Center and a survivor. They learned many disturbing realities – that $32 billion a year is spent in human trafficking and that 12-14 is the average age of victims. One-third of runaways are forced into sex work and 75-80 % are runaway foster children. The team also went on a driving tour of the areas of Tampa where human trafficking is most prevalent.

Opioid Epidemic: A team went to DACCO Behavioral Health to learn about the opioid epidemic in Tampa Bay. They learned how hard drug programs are and that 50% of people relapse within the 1st 3 months and 90% within the 1st year. DACCO uses a medical treatment like methadone and more holistic approaches like acupuncture for underlying pain. They have both in-patient and outpatient programs and it can take 2-5 years to complete a program. They shared that in Hillsborough County the problem is still on the rise.

Mental Health of Veterans: This team got a chance to visit Quantum Leap Farms and learn first-hand about mental health issues like PTSD, traumatic brain injury and anxiety. This unique facility treats veterans with equine (horse) therapy! The horses can sense something is wrong and provide patients with the opportunity to work through obstacles with the horse, which in turn helps them with their issues and pain. The participants must be present around the horses, so being in the moment with the horses means you are not in your problems.

Homelessness: The team that explored the issue of Homelessness took a van tour through a progression of areas that represent different types of homeless populations in our community. They learned about the working homeless, homeless families, homeless but housed, mentally ill homeless and many other factors. The Metropolitan Ministries team was a wealth of information. Explaining how they are taking their programs out into the community to service more people and help more people find stable secure homes. After the bus tour, the group had a discussion with MetroMin’s CEO Tim Marks about the need for affordable housing and was treated to a panel discussion on the many faces of homelessness with a group of MetroMin staff. This team shared success stories of people that had been helped by their programs.

Overall this day was heavy with serious issues but hopeful for progress. The program went a long way toward exposing the issues and educating the class on the social services programs that work to wrap around the issues.

LT’20 Arts & Culture Day

By Heather Rubio, 10 News WTSP

For the 50 classmates of Leadership Tampa Class of 2020, Arts & Culture Day brought to life the rich history of Tampa and how it formed the city into what it is today.  The perseverance of early Cuban entrepreneurs who settled here instilled in their subsequent generations an entrepreneurial spirit of hard work, family values and teamwork and allowed them to establish successful businesses.  However, all of them overcame adversity in one way or another.


The City of Tampa was built on an economy of cigars, phosphate, and military.  The businesses that thrived here survived on hard work, perseverance and joining together during difficult circumstances.

“Tampa is the anti-St. Augustine” – Brad Massey, Tampa Bay History Center

The Spanish settled in St. Augustine, but Tampa, by contrast, was a settlement of Cubans who were displaced first to Key West and then to Tampa.  A series of Spanish came to Tampa in the early days of exploration, but they were always unsuccessful against the Indian population here.  As a result, the Spanish never returned to settle in Tampa.  The Seminole Indian Wars began a slow trickle of settlers into Tampa because Fort Brooke was a staging area to fight the Seminoles.  One of those settlers was a pirate named Juan Gomez.  Gomez told stories about a pirate named Jose Gaspar, which created a myth that is still celebrated today in Tampa.

When Henry Plant built the railroad in Tampa, it changed the city by allowing the phosphate and cigar industries to flourish.

Vicente Martinez Ybor was a Cuban cigar manufacturer who fled from war in Cuba. Ybor originally set up business in Key West, but after encountering labor issues, eventually came to Tampa in 1880, negotiating land for his cigar factory for $4,000.


The signature for Ybor’s initial land transaction with the Tampa Board of Trade, along with many of Ybor’s business transactions, are found in the Tampa Board of Trade books in the Tampa Bay History Center. 

Tampa became known as “Cigar City”.

“The Cigar industry was the economic engine of the city” – Eric Newman, J.C. Newman Cigar Company

By 1894, there were more than 150 cigar factories in Tampa, producing more than 18 million of the hand-rolled cigars the area become famous for.

Another Cuban who settled in Tampa in the 1890s was Casimiro Hernandez, Sr, great grandfather of Richard Gonzmart of The Columbia Restaurant, a restaurant that is synonymous with Tampa today.  Hernandez Sr. opened a brewery called Columbia Saloon.  Then came prohibition.  In what would be the first of many ways this business faced adversity and persevered, Columbia Saloon merged with the café next door in order to survive. The new Columbia Café was open 24-hours a day and was the main place Tampa’s cigar workers came to eat.

Meanwhile, Vicente Ybor became more than just a cigar factory owner.  He was a benefactor of the city, selling homes to most of the workers in his factories.


Vicente Ybor was such a well-loved patriarch of the city that all of the cigar factories shut down the day he died on December 14, 1896, so the cigar workers and the entire town could join the procession from Ybor’s home all the way to the Oaklawn Cemetary. 

As the cigar industry flourished in the United States, there were five main cigar companies dominating national sales and smaller factories struggled to compete.  But one company in Tampa’s “Cigar City” made a name for itself as a premium hand-rolled product.  Two struggling cigar companies, J.C. Newman Cigar Company and Arturo Fuente Cigars joined forces to stay afloat.


Today Fuente Cigar Company is thriving and has a reputation as one of the world’s finest hand-rolled cigars. 

“Fight, determination, love for the business and trying to make it work” – Cynthia Fuente, 3rd generation owner of Fuente Cigar Company says of the reason her company survived.


Richard Gonzmart, now 3rd generation owner of The Columbia Restaurant, believes it’s important to preserve the history of Tampa by telling the stories of the families who banded together to overcome hard times.

“If you want to be different in your business, you’ve got to do that which others aren’t willing to do” – Richard Gonzmart, The Columbia Restaurant Group owner


Richard Gonzmart speaking at The Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City which has come a long way from when it opened in 1903 as a 24-hour cave for cigar workers with no front door. 

Cynthia Fuente, a 3rd generation owner of Arturo Fuente Cigar Company, grew up in the cigar business. Fuente remembers the values her parents and grandparents instilled in her from a young age being love, respect, dignity, and trust.  Even the kids worked in the factories rolling cigars.  And the company that her grandfather started with seven employees now employs 1,100 people, three of the original employees are still with the company today.

“Through any obstacle, he fought and fought” – Cynthia Fuente, speaking of her grandfather Arturo Fuente, Cuban founder of Fuente Cigar Company

Arts in Tampa

The Cuban American history of Tampa permeates the artistic community of the city.  As the LT’20 group toured the Tampa Museum of Art, they encountered amazing works by Cuban artists (among others).

“Art should be in every conversation your companies have. Artists process the world differently” – Michael Tomor, Tampa Museum of Art Executive Director


LT’20 class members even got to create a work of art of their own