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2 Apopkans chosen for political leadership institute


Central Florida Political Leadership Institute Announces 2017 Class

The Central Florida Political Leadership Institute (PLI) announced its 2017 class, which will be held this month. The innovative, groundbreaking program is designed to strengthen and equip the region’s future leaders with training prior to their decision to run for public office. Since its inception in 2008, 17 graduates have served public office in the Central Florida region. Twenty-one finalists were chosen from Central Florida counties including Brevard, Flagler, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole and Volusia.

A selection committee made up of BusinessForce member and investors reviewed the strength of applications, conducted interviews and selected the participants, ensuring representation from a wide range of business, civic and community organizations across the Central Florida region. They include:

  • Denise Beamer Florida Office of the Attorney General

    Robert Agrusa is the Executive Director of BusinessForce, Director of PLI, and the incoming president of the Apopka Area Chamber of Commerce.

  • Zane Beard Florida Department of Financial Services
  • Melissa Byrd Orange County Public Schools
  • Rob Campbell CNL Financial Group
  • Lyndon Carter Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed, P.A; Chair, Young Professionals Advisory Council (YPAC)
  • Harry Ellis Next Horizon
  • Wilfredo (Will) Fonesca La Rosa Realty
  • Mike Gorritz Avant Healthcare Professionals
  • Eric Gray United Against Poverty Orlando; Graduate, Leadership Orlando, Class 66
  • Lori Hagey Feeding Children Everywhere
  • Brock Hankins Allen, Dyer, Doppelt + Gilchrist P.A.
  • Amer Hatoum ACR Solutions, LLC
  • Susan Makowski Orange County Government
  • Natalie Martinez Varela Align Public Strategies
  • Kahalid Muneer Jupiter Properties, Inc.; Board Member, Orlando Economic Partnership
  • Amy Pennock Pennock Consulting Group
  • Gonzalo Senior IRM-Investments, Real Estate & Management
  • Raleigh (Lee) Steinhauer Greater Orlando Builders Association
  • Heather Trick Jordan Law FL P.A.
  • Matt Weber ROAR! Internet Marketing
  • Kari Whaley President/CEO, St. Cloud Chamber of Commerce

“The Central Florida Political Leadership Institute trains those considering a future bid for public office on how to campaign, teaches leadership skills for effective governing and educates participants on the critical public policy issues that are affecting our community,” said Craig Swygert, chair of BusinessForce. “We are thrilled with the incredible diversity of the selected applicants and look forward to their thoughtful determination if elected office is part of their future,” continued Swygert, of Clear Channel Outdoor Orlando and a corporate sponsor of PLI.

The 2017 PLI sessions will be held Thursday, September 21 through Saturday, September 23, 2017 at the GuideWell Innovation Center in Lake Nona. During the course of the bipartisan three-day session, PLI participants will hear from prominent local, state and national experts discussing a broad range of topics including – government, media, campaigning, fundraising, grassroots efforts, ethics and key public policy issues. Following the campaign school, participants will undergo numerous leadership activities throughout the year and important networking opportunities.

Two of the 21 finalists are from Apopka - Melissa Byrd and Lyndon Carter. For the past several years, Byrd has been a stay-at-home-mother, raising her children and working as a private tutor and substitute teacher. Prior to that, she was the Title I director and first grade teacher at Forest City Elementary and a 1-4 grade teacher at Pace Brantley Hall. Carter is an attorney at the law firm of Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed, P.A, and Chairman of the Young Professionals Advisory Council (YPAC).

There is no cost to apply or attend. PLI is made possible by the support of its sponsors including AT&T, BusinessForce, Clear Channel Outdoor, Orlando Economic Partnership, and Universal Orlando Resort.

For additional information, please contact Robert Agrusa, Executive Director of BusinessForce and Director of the Central Florida Political Leadership Institute at 407.907.8082 or via email at robert.agrusa@orlando.org. Agrusa is also the incoming president of the Apopka Area Chamber of Commerce.

Central Florida Political Leadership Institute