LeRoy Collins Institute Board of Directors
Director Lonna Atkeson, Ph.D.,
Board Chair John Marks III,
- Lester Abberger, Tallahassee
- Jim Apthorp, Tallahassee
- Tim Chapin, Tallahassee
- Roy Collins III, Tallahassee
- Richard Crotty, Orlando
- Bryan Desloge, Tallahassee
- Pete Dunbar, Tallahassee
- Rick Edmonds, St. Petersburg
- Joel Embry, Jacksonville
- Dykes Everett, Winter Park
- Pegeen Hanrahan, Gainesville
- James L. Ley, Sarasota
- John Martinez, Orlando
- Jane Menton, Tallahassee
- Janet Owen, Orlando
- David Rasmussen, Tallahassee
- Don Slesnick, Coral Gables
- Katy Sorenson, Miami
- Hansel Tookes, Palm Beach
- Nicole Washington, Miami
- Alan Williams, Tallahassee
Director Lonna Atkeson, Ph.D., Tallahassee
Lonna Rae Atkeson, Ph.D., is the LeRoy Collins Eminent Scholar in Civic Education & Political Science, and serves as director of the LeRoy Collins Institute at Florida State University. She is a member of the MIT Data and Election Science Board and an Associate Editor of Political Analysis, the official journal of the Society for Political Methodology.
Dr. Atkeson’s research focuses on election science, election administration, survey research, public policy, voting rights, state politics, public opinion, and political behavior. She has authored or edited four books, over 50 referred articles and book chapters, numerous policy reports, and several amicus curiae briefs. She has been a consultant to the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and various private companies, and has served as an expert witness or consultant in multiple legal cases.
Dr. Atekson assumed her position as director of the LeRoy Collins Institute in July 2021. In addition to her work for Political Analysis, Dr. Atkeson is the political analyst for KOB-TV in Albuquerque, NM. Her research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the JEHT Foundation, Pew Charitable Trusts, the Golisano Foundation, the Thornburg Foundation, the New Mexico Department of Transportation, the New Mexico Secretary of State, and Bernalillo County, NM.
Dr. Atkeson received her BA degree from the University of California, Riverside, and her Ph.D. from the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Chairman John Marks III, Tallahassee
John R. Marks, lll, former Mayor of Tallahassee, FL (2003-2014), is the managing principal in the law firm of Marks and Marks, LLC. Marks was among the first African Americans to attend Florida State University (1965) where he received his B.S. (1969) and J.D. (1972 Law). He served on the FL Public Service Commission (1979-1987) and is the Founder of the Jane and John Marks Foundation. An adjunct professor at both FSU and FAMU he has been recognized as an FSU Distinguished Graduate, inducted in the FSU Alumni Circle of Gold, the FSU President’s Club and the FAMU COE Gallery of Distinction. Marks is a US Air Force veteran (1972-1976) and served as president of the Florida League of Cities and League of Mayors. A life member of the NAACP, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Sierra Club with professional memberships in the American, National, Florida, Tallahassee Bar and Barristers Associations, and the American Law Institute.
Lester Abberger, Chairman Emeritus
Lester Abberger, of Tallahassee. Is managing partner of B.L. Abberger & Co. a public affairs and investment banking concern.
He is Chairman Emeritus of the Florida Conservation Campaign, the Tallahassee Bach Parley, and the Friends of Florida History. He is past chairman of Leadership Florida and a recipient of that organization’s Distinguished Alumnus Award. He was chairman of 1000 Friends of Florida, the Florida Humanities Council, the national Federation of State Humanities Councils, and a trustee of the National Trust for the Humanities. He was chairman of Horizon Communities, a national faith-based prison ministry, the Tallahassee Urban Design Commission, and Health News Florida.
Mr. Abberger serves currently on the boards of Florida First Capital Finance Corp., Neighborhood Medical Center, the League of American Orchestras, and the Florida Audubon Society. He is a graduate of Davidson College, where he served on the Board of Visitors, and is a Knight Fellow at the University of Miami School of Architecture.
James W. “Jim” Apthorp
James W. “Jim” Apthorp is the former director of the Institute, serving 2000-2007 and remains a member of the board. Prior to his work at the Institute, Mr. Apthorp served as Chairman of the board of Atlantic Gulf Communities, a community development company; and Chief of Staff to Governor Reubin Askew, 1971-1977. He also currently serves as a director on the board of Reynolds, Smith and Hills, an architectural and engineering company.A Tallahassee native, Mr. Apthorp earned his bachelor’s degree in government from Florida State. He served as president of his fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, was a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, student body vice president, and participated in the leadership organization, Gold Key. Mr. Apthorp is married to Cheri Boyd Apthorp, who is a native of Miami. They live in Tallahassee and have seven children, James, East, Laura, Bob, Jill, Kelly, and Cindy.
Dr. Tim Chapin is dean of the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy and a professor of Urban and Regional Planning at Florida State University. Prior to his appointment as dean after a national search in 2017, Chapin served a six-year term as chair of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, two years as associate dean for development for the college, and one year as interim dean from May 2016 to May 2017. Since joining FSU in 1999, Chapin has undertaken research on the effectiveness of Florida’s growth management system and the role of sports facilities in the promotion of urban redevelopment. He is a noted expert on land use and comprehensive planning, growth management, and urban redevelopment. Chapin’s current research interests revolve around how Florida’s demographic trends influence urban patterns and transportation systems in the state. Over his career he has secured more than $3 million in outside funding from federal, state, and local governments to support his research.
Chapin also serves as the Senior Associate Editor and Review Editor for the Journal of the American Planning Association. He holds a BA in Sociology from Emory University, a Master’s in City and Regional Planning from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and a Ph.D. in Urban Design and Planning from the University of Washington.
Leroy "Roy" Collins III
LeRoy Collins III serves as the Vice President of Cybersecurity for CEA Group, a Tampa-based boutique investment banking firm, where his primary focus is originating deal opportunities and building strategic partnerships within the cybersecurity, intelligence, government and military communities. Previously, Collins worked for the City of Tampa's Economic and Urban Development Department, where he was the City Liaison to MacDill Air Force Base, responsible for renewing and expanding Tampa's Enterprise Zone with newly established Community Redevelopment Areas. He was individually responsible for securing more than $1.3 million in state grants. His start‐up experience was with Z‐Tel Communications, where he served as the territory manager and director of military sales of personal telecommunications services, generating $3.1 million in annual revenue in a seven‐state territory. Z-Tel went public on the NASDAQ stock exchange. Collins also served on active duty as an Airborne Ranger, where he executed tactical operations and training as a paratrooper of the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment in Ft. Lewis, Washington under U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), before receiving an honorable discharge. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Tampa VA Research and Education Foundation for James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital, as well as the Board of Directors for the LeRoy Collins Institute at Florida State University and the Advisory Board for the LeRoy Collins Public Ethics Academy at Florida Atlantic University.
Mr. Collins received a BA degree in Government and Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia.
Richard Crotty grew up in Orlando, attending Orange County public schools, Valencia Community College and the University of Central Florida (then known as Florida Technological University) where he majored in Public Administration and Communications. After graduation, Mr. Crotty was selected to the prestigious Florida Legislative Staff Internship program where he attended Florida State University completing a graduate level executive program in Public Administration. While in Tallahassee, Mr. Crotty worked on the Senate Staff and completed his service as a member of the United States Army Reserve, serving in a military police unit.
He served fourteen years of legislative service as a member of both the House and Senate and was known as a reformer and consensus builder who succeeded by working closely "with both sides of the aisle". His legislative accomplishments and awards are many. Senator Crotty left the Legislature and was elected Orange County Property Appraiser in 1992. During his tenure as Property Appraiser, Mr. Crotty went to work using technology and innovation to streamline an already successful operation. He also attended the executive program for State and Local Government at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
He was then appointed as Chairman of Orange County by Governor Jeb Bush and later elected to a full term with 73% of the vote. Orange County citizens later voted to change the county leader's title from Chairman to Mayor to better reflect his function as chief executive.
Mayor Crotty has taken tough stands to improve transportation and school capacity, while working with regional partners to protect our valuable water supply and diversify our local economy with an appropriate balance of high tech, high fun jobs. Mayor Crotty also teaches a class on Political Science and Politics at Rollins College. He and his wife Pam live in Belle Isle with their daughter Christina and son Tyler.
Bryan M. Desloge is a nationally recognized business leader and elected official with experience serving in leadership roles at the local, state, and national levels. As past president of both the National Association of Counties (NACo) and the Florida Association of Counties (FAC), Desloge has worked hard to make America's counties better. Desloge was first elected to the Leon County Board of County Commissioners in 2006, and has run unopposed in 2008, 2012, and 2016. He stands out in public service because of his business experience at all levels, from Fortune 100 company IBM, to working on a board of an international manufacturing company, to starting his own successful company that was included in the prestigious INC. 500 List, which recognizes the fastest growing privately held companies in the United States. In addition to his leadership in state and national organizations, Desloge was appointed by the Governor of Florida as the director and is a past board member of the Early Learning Coalition of the Big Bend. He is a founding board member of the Village Square Organization and serves as a member of the Knight Creative Community Initiative. He has served as board member and past chair of the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce and the Leon County American Red Cross. Additionally, he has served as a past board member of the Senior Center Foundation; Florida State University, School of Business, Board of Governors and many others. He is a graduate of Leadership Tallahassee and Leadership Florida. Today, Desloge continues to bring his unique combination of business, nonprofit, and government experience to bear whether at his local office, at the State Capitol, or at a forum hosted by the White House. He is a native of Tallahassee, earned a bachelor’s degree in Finance and Real Estate from Florida State University and has four children: Elizbeth, Lina Marie, Marcella and Patrick. Outside of his professional life, Commissioner Desloge stays active running, cycling, reading and traveling.
Mr. Dunbar’s legal practice focuses on governmental, administrative, and real property law. He began his long career in Florida government in 1967 as staff director in the Florida House of Representatives. Mr. Dunbar later served for five terms as a distinguished member of the Florida House representing Pinellas and Pasco counties in the Florida Legislature. Upon leaving the Legislature, he held the posts of General Counsel and Director of Legislative Affairs under Governor Bob Martinez and as General Counsel at the Department of Financial Services. Mr. Dunbar served as Chief of Staff during the transition from the Martinez administration to the administration of Governor Lawton Chiles, and he is former Chairman and two-term member of the Florida Ethics Commission. Currently, Mr. Dunbar serves on the inaugural committee for the Condominium and Planned Development Law Certification for The Florida Bar. He served on the inaugural LeRoy Collins Institute board. Mr. Dunbar was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1972. He is a member of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers, an adjunct professor at Florida State University College of Law, and has recently been selected by his peers as a member of Florida Trend’s Florida Legal Elite Hall of Fame.
Rick Edmonds is the media business analyst for The Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg. He has been doing research and writing on journalism and business topics for the last 15 years for Poynter. He was also co-author of the newspaper chapter of the Pew Research Center’s State of the News Media report from 2004-2013. He has presented his research twice at annual meetings of the American Society of Newspaper Editors and to international groups in Paris, Norway, Chile and Madrid. His most recent work has focused on new media challenges to the traditional newspaper business model. Mr. Edmonds spent 11 years with the St. Petersburg Times organization in various roles and was editor, publisher and columnist for Florida Trend through the 1980s. Earlier in his journalism career he was James Reston’s assistant at the New York Times and a reporter at the Philadelphia Inquirer where he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in national reporting in 1982. He earned a B.A. from Harvard College in 1969.
Mr. Edmonds has also done extensive work and written major reports on Florida public policy issues. He was executive director of the Business/Higher Education Partnership for the Florida Council of 100 and co-director of Governor Lawton Chiles’ study Commission on Education. In 2005 and 2006, he wrote the short version of the Tough Choices report for the LeRoy Collins Institute and The FCAT Project for the Florida Forum on Progressive Policy. Mr. Edmonds is married to Marianne, a public finance advisor, and has two daughters.
JOEL EMBRY is founder and CEO of Civic Software, Inc. a real estate development and consulting firm located on Amelia Island, Florida. He has over 40 years experience in banking and real estate development with large-scale mixed-use projects in Florida and Georgia. He also served as Senior Vice-President and Director of Community Development of CNL Real Estate & Development Corp. Mr. Embry is founder and developer of Amelia Park, a nationally recognized and award winning example of New Urbanism development in Fernandina Beach, Florida. He has also directed planning and development of New Urbanism communities in Covington, GA and Tallahassee, FL as well as independent development of 7 residential neighborhoods and 3 commercial retail and professional office projects on Amelia Island. Mr. Embry has also completed adaptive reuse development of 5 historic buildings on Centre St. in the Fernandina Beach Historic District. Mr. Embry has served as Director of 1000 Friends of Florida and National Town Builders Association. He is a graduate of Leadership Florida where he served as Founding Chairman of the Leadership Florida Institute. He is a graduate of the Florida State University School of Business. A native of Quincy, Florida, Joel moved to Fernandina Beach in 1979 from Jacksonville where he was Trust Officer and Director of Real Estate Assets at Barnett Banks Trust Company.
Dykes Everett, a native Floridian, comes from an agricultural tradition of many generations. After earning his law degree at the University of Florida in 1985, Everett began his law practice in Central Florida with the firm of Winderweedle, Haines,Ward & Woodman, where he practiced until 2006. During his law career, Mr. Everett practiced primarily in the areas of land use, conservation, environmental, government and litigation, and he served as City Attorney for the cities of Orlando and Winter Garden. He also served as Counsel to the St. Johns River Water Management District, the South Florida Water Management District, and other local and regional governments as well as a variety of private sector business and agricultural clients.
In 2006, Mr. Everett founded Dykes Everett & Company, a land and natural resource consulting and investment company headquartered in Orlando. The Company provides advice, management and investment services for land, natural resources, agriculture and conservation projects. Through his practice and company, Mr. Everett has been directly engaged in the conservation of land, water, and habitat on over 2,000,000 acres in the U.S. He has overseen the management and operations of over 1.3 million acres of farms and ranches. His companies have handled the restructuring and disposition of over one billion dollars in commercial, industrial and residential real estate. Mr. Everett has served on private and public company boards in the land, natural resource and agricultural sectors, as well as boards and committees in the areas of education and conservation. Current board memberships include Audubon Florida, the Florida Cattlemen’s Foundation, the University of Central Florida’s National Center for Integrated Coastal Research, and the Winter Park Land Trust. He is also a member of The Florida Bar Association. Mr. Everett has also served in leadership and board positions in numerous community organizations including All Saints Episcopal Church, Trinity Preparatory School, Winter Park Day Nursery, Mead Gardens and United Way. He is most recently a founding member of the Civility Posse; an organization in Winter Park dedicated to restoring and fostering civil community debate and decision making. Mr. Everett and his wife, Lisa Simonton Everett, own the Christmas Creek Ranch in Ft. Christmas, Florida, and reside in Winter Park, where they are active in arts, conservation, and civic affairs.
Pegeen Hanrahan is a registered Professional Engineer and Principal of Community and Conservation Solutions, LLC. A native and lifelong resident, she served Gainesville, Florida as its Mayor from 2004-2010, and as a City Commissioner from 1996-2002, leaving office both times as a result of term limits. Pegeen has over twenty five years of experience in environmental remediation, public participation, grant writing, renewable energy, land conservation, and local government finance. For over ten years, one of her primary clients has been the Trust for Public Land's Conservation Finance Program. With TPL, Ms. Hanrahan has helped develop and pass ten successful bond or sales tax initiatives for land conservation. She served as Campaign Manager and Deputy Campaign Manager for a statewide citizen’s initiative, Amendment #1, Florida’s Water and Land Legacy (FWLL), to provide sustained funding for land and water conservation and ecosystem management, including Everglades Restoration. Amendment #1 passed with 75% approval in 2014. Pegeen has served as President of the Florida League of Mayors, Chair of the Alachua County Library District, and currently serves on the boards of Florida State University’s LeRoy Collins Institute, the Mayors’ Innovation Project, Local Governments for Sustainability, The Wagmore Foundation, The Children’s Movement of Florida, Innovation Gainesville, the Alliance for Renewable Energy, and Alachua Conservation Trust. Ms. Hanrahan was appointed by Governor Charlie Crist to serve on Florida’s 2010 Census Complete Count Committee. She has received numerous honors, including being named a "Woman Who Makes a Difference" by the Gateway Girl Scout Council, a "Woman of Distinction" by Santa Fe College, a "Voice for Equality" by Equality Florida, a "Women in Conservation" award winner by Florida Audubon, and "A Woman Who Inspires" by Asterisk Communications/KTK. In her 12 years of public service, Pegeen was named "The Female Democratic Elected Official of the Year" three times by the Alachua County Democratic Executive Committee. A member and former Alumni Sponsor of the prestigious Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society, Ms. Hanrahan holds Master's (1992) and Bachelor's (1989) degrees from the University of Florida in Environmental Engineering, and a B.A. in Sociology (1989), also from UF, and was a National Merit Scholar, a Florida Academic Scholar and a Florida Graduate Scholar. She is a member of Leadership Florida and Florida Blue Key, UF’s Leadership Honorary. Pegeen is married to Tony Malone, a Professional Engineer in the field of civil infrastructure with CH2MHill. Together they are the delighted parents of Evyleen Mary, 9, Quinn Joseph, 7, and Tess Lucille, 4.
James L. Ley
Jim Ley has almost 40 years of experience in county government, most recently serving as the Sarasota County Administrator. His earlier years were spent in growth management and planning, transitioning to administration in the late 1980s. Jim is a passionate advocate of the principles of democracy – civil community dialogue, citizen stewardship, sustainable community building and public accountability. Jim’s advocacy for innovative solutions to problems earned him a seat on The Alliance for Innovation Board of Directors, a national group of government leaders devoted to transforming the cultures of local governments through high-quality thinking and creativity, maximizing technology and networking with non-profits, schools, professional associations and the business community. While active in his profession, Mr. Ley was also a member of the International City/County Management Association, is a past chairman of the Urban Consortium Steering Committee of Public Technology, Inc., and is a past president of the National Association of County Administrators. He currently provides business consulting services to a select group of entrepreneurs involved in insurance related and land development ventures. Jim is a Board member for Florida PACE, one of several statewide organizations that offer a cutting edge vehicle to finance energy efficiency and hurricane hardening for homes and businesses. He has also recently been appointed to sit on the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce.
John Martinez is currently the Executive Director of JP Morgan Private Bank in Orlando Florida.
Mr. Martinez previously served as co-founder of Benchmark Securities, LLC, and as Vice President at Gardnyr Michael Capital, Inc., both in Winter Park, Florida. In 2011, at the age of 30, Mr. Martinez was selected by Governor Scott to fill a vacancy on the Orange County Commission, where his duties included making policy decisions that affected the 1.2 million residents, a $3.4 billion budget and a County government of over 7,000 employees. Among the issues he addressed were homelessness in his district and the problem of vacant and abandoned properties. He chose not to run for election and concluded his term in 2012.
Prior to his career in finance, Mr. Martinez served as an associate attorney with the Orlando law firm of Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed, P.A., where he handled real estate transactions, land use and governmental affairs, and complex commercial litigation. Mr. Martinez graduated from Wake Forest University in Winston Salem, North Carolina with a Bachelor of Arts in 2003 and from Florida State University College of Law with a Juris Doctorate in 2006. He currently serves on the board of directors for the Central Florida YMCA, the Frederick Leadership Initiative and the Wake Forest Alumni Development Board. He is also the Chairman for the Orange County Sustainability Committee. He was also the former Director at PNC Capital Markets in Orlando, overseeing Florida's Public Finance business. He facilitated state and local governments, authorities and agencies in financing a variety of projects.
Jane Aurell Menton
Jane Aurell Menton is a community volunteer in Tallahassee, with primary interests in education, cultural arts, and historic preservation. She has enjoyed involvement with Leadership Tallahassee, Friends of Florida History, Holy Comforter School, Maclay School, and St. John’s Church. She previously worked as a Cabinet Aide to former Education Commissioner Betty Castor, artist representative for W. Stanley Proctor, and as the Director of Development at Holy Comforter School. Jane is also the published author of The Grove: A Florida Home through Seven Generations. She received her BA from Davidson College and her EdM from Harvard University. She is married to attorney Steve Menton and is the mother of three adult children - Jane Darby, Caroline, and John.
Janet Owen is University of Central Florida’s Vice President for Government Relations and Associate General Counsel. She previously served in that same role for the University of North Florida, and as the legislative liaison for the Florida Board of Governors overseeing the State University System. At UCF, Janet serves as the university’s principal liaison with federal, state and local governmental offices, and educational entities. She is responsible for development and implementation of strategies and programs to attain public funding goals, and to foster mutually supportive, on-going relationships with elected officials, executive branch leaders and other education institutions. Janet has worked on system wide initiatives and legislation to increase efficiency and flexibility for the state universities and has served on several statewide committees to review, develop and recommend laws and policies governing public higher education. A Jacksonville native and graduate of the University of Florida, Janet received her law degree from Stetson University College of Law and spent nearly a decade in private practice before moving into the field of public higher education. Active in her community, Janet has served on numerous boards, chambers and non-profit arts and education organizations and is a member of the Florida Bar’s Education Law Committee, the National Association of College and University Attorneys, and the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists. In addition to the LeRoy Collins Institute Board of Directors, she serves on the boards of the National Center for Simulation and the Orlando Economic Partnership and is a member of Leadership Florida’s Cornerstone Class 30. She has been recognized by the Jacksonville Business Journal as a Woman of Influence and as an EVE Award Finalist in the field of education by the Florida Times Union.
David W. Rasmussen
David W. Rasmussen, James H. Gapinski Professor of Economics, joined the FSU faculty in 1968 as an assistant professor and was promoted to professor in 1979. He served as director of the Policy Sciences Program from 1991 to 1998 and directed the DeVoe L. Moore Center for the Study of Critical Issues of Government and Policy from 1998 to 2003. Dr. Rasmussen served as dean from 2003 to 2016. He is an award-winning teacher and has served as a consultant to domestic and international government agencies and nonprofit organizations. Professor Rasmussen’s scholarly research and policy evaluation studies have addressed important public policy questions, including economics of inequality, urban and regional economic development, crime and substance abuse policy, and housing economics. He has written (or co-authored) five books and published more than 75 articles in leading professional journals. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Florida State University Panama Foundation, and the FSU International Programs Association. Before his retirement as dean, he served as an ex-officio member of the LeRoy Collins Institute Board. He received his Ph.D. from Washington University, St. Louis in 1969 and his B.A. from Earlham College in 1964. He and his wife, Joanne Rasmussen, have three children, Sarah, Kathryn and James.
Don Slesnick is the Managing Partner of the Law Offices of Slesnick & Casey. LLP in Coral Gables. He currently serves as the Honorary Consul of Australia for the State of Florida, and is on the Board of Chancellors of the Consular Corps College in Washington, D.C.
Don served as Mayor of Coral Gables, Florida, 2001-2011. He also served as the 2009-10 President of the Florida League of Mayors. Don received a B.A. (Foreign Affairs) from the University of Virginia, a J.D. from the University of Florida and a M.P.A. from Florida International University. He was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court in 1985; is a Florida Bar Board Certified Specialist in Labor & Employment Relations and a Florida Supreme Court Certified Mediator. He is a Fellow of the College of Labor & Employment Lawyers, currently serving as its President. Martindale-Hubbell has awarded Don a rating of “AV Preeminent.” He was included in the Best Lawyers In America”, has been designated as a Florida “Super Lawyer” (2006-2014) and named as one of South Florida’s “Top Lawyers” (2005-2014). Active for many years in his profession, Don has been Chairman of the Florida Bar Labor & Employment Law Section, Co-Chairman of the American Bar Association (ABA) State and Local Government Bargaining and Employment Law Committee. He is presently serving as a member of the ABA’s House of Delegates and is Vice-Chair of the ABA Section of Labor & Employment Law.
Don is a Vietnam veteran and a former U.S. Army advisor to NATO forces in Germany. He retired from the Army at the rank of Lt. Colonel, and now serves the Chief of the Army Reserve as one of his “Ambassadors” (protocol equivalent to Major General). He has been active in numerous civic and business organizations which include the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Executive Committee (Former Chairman of the award winning program for Ethics in Business & Government) and served two terms as Chairman of the Coral Gables Community Foundation. He was Founding Chairman of “Team Miami” which led the efforts to relocate U.S. Southern Command to Miami and to save Homestead Air Reserve Base after its destruction by Hurricane Andrew. He is currently Vice Chair of the Orange Bowl Committee. Included among his awards he has received: the Bill Colson Community Leadership Award from Leadership Miami; the Distinguished Service Award - American Bar Association; the Miami-Dade County Medal of Merit for Leadership, in 2007 was included in the SunPost’s list of the “50 Most Influential Persons in South Florida'', was chosen in 2004 by South Florida CEO magazine as one of the “Top 101 Global Leaders of South Florida”, was the first Floridian awarded the Friend of Foreign Service Medal by the Republic of China (Taiwan) in 2011 and was named “Citizen of the Year” by the Kiwanis Clubs of South Florida. In 2014, Don was a Distinguished Honoree in the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce's George Merrick Award of Excellence program.
Katy Sorenson currently serves as a consultant on governance issues, women’s rights and citizen activism. She was the founder, president and CEO of the Good Government Initiative at the University of Miami, an organization founded in 2010 to cultivate leaders of excellence in South Florida through the development and training of elected officials, as well as those aspiring to run for office, and to engage the community in its governance through outreach and education. Sorenson’s commitment to civic activism and social justice began in 1965 after attending a civil rights demonstration with her cousins, it continued throughout her career as an elected official, and it informs her work today. In 1994, Sorenson was first elected to represent District 8 on the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners after defeating the incumbent in a grassroots campaign. Her southern district included more than 170,000 residents of diverse backgrounds, and it encompassed three cities and a significant portion of the agricultural lands of the County. As a commissioner, she was an outspoken advocate for human rights and equality for all residents, for the environment and managed growth, regional cooperation, child welfare issues and support for the arts. Her proudest achievements were defeating plans for an ill-conceived airport at Homestead Air Reserve Base, a site located between Everglades and Biscayne National Parks, and sponsoring and passing an amendment to the Human Rights Ordinance which guaranteed civil rights to gay and lesbian citizens. Sorenson was often recognized for her excellence in office, receiving the first ever Marjory Stoneman Douglas Environmental Award from the Friends of the Everglades, the “Elected Official of the Year” award from the Dade Cultural Alliance, the “Public Official of the Year” from the Florida Chapter of the American Planning Association, the Champion for Children Award, the Women of Impact Award, and the Herbert Hoover award as Conservationist of the Year, among many others.
She served as vice chair of the Commission from 2002-2004, was on the executive committee of the South Florida Regional Planning Council, and was chair of the South Florida Regional Transportation Organization. She also served on the board of directors of the Florida Association of Counties. In 2004, she was selected to attend Harvard University’s Senior Executive Program in State and Local Government at the Kennedy School of Government, which provided her with the inspiration to start the Good Government Initiative.
Active in the community, Sorenson currently chairs the Citizens Advisory Committee for Miami-Dade County’s General Obligation Bond program; co-chairs the Dean’s Advisory Committee for the Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work at Florida International University; and serves as president-elect of the Florida chapter of the International Women’s Forum. She is a member of the advisory board of the CLEO Institute, an environmental organization dedicated to educating the public about climate change. She also serves on the board of the Leroy Collins Institute, a nonpartisan statewide policy organization which studies and promotes creative solutions to key private and public issues facing the people of Florida and the nation. Finally, Sorenson serves on the advisory board of the Tropical Audubon Society and ReServe Miami, and she is a mentor to a number of young professionals.
Sorenson is a weekly contributor to the Sun Sentinel’s South Florida 100, and is featured regularly on WPLG Local 10’s This Week in South Florida as a roundtable commentator.
Born in Chicago and raised in Milwaukee, Sorenson received her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee and her Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She served as a legislative aide to Illinois State Senator Dawn Clark Netsch, as a political consultant, and as the executive director of California Women Lawyers bar association. She has been married to Janis Dzelzkalns, M.D. since 1978 and they have a growing family of two adult children and their spouses, and two award-winning grandchildren. Sorenson resides in Pinecrest, Florida.
Hansel Tookes II
Hansel E. Tookes II, retired from Raytheon Company in December 2002. He joined Raytheon in September 1999 as President and Chief Operating Officer of its Raytheon Aircraft Company subsidiary, a commercial, military and regional aircraft manufacturing company. He was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Raytheon Aircraft Company in January 2000 and Chairman in August 2000. He became President of Raytheon International in May 2001. Prior to joining Raytheon in 1999, he served United Technologies Corporation as President of its Pratt & Whitney Large Military Engines Group since 1996. He joined United Technologies Corporation in 1980 and held a variety of senior leadership positions. Mr. Tookes is a former Naval Aviator and pilot for United Airlines. Hansel is a director of Corning Inc., Ryder System, Inc., Nextera Energy, Inc., and the Harris Corporation, and is a former member of the National Academies Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board. He is also a former member of the boards of BBA Aviation, plc, the Florida State University Foundation and the Florida Education Fund.
Hansel is married to Paula Wyche Tookes and they have two children, Heather and Hansel III and one grandson, Ryann. Hansel graduated from FSU in 1969 where he majored in physics and was a member of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity. He has a MS in aeronautical systems from the University of West Florida, studied quantitative methods of business at Louisiana State University and completed the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School.
Nicole Washington is an education consultant that specializes in higher education policy, education equity issues and the legislative process in Florida. Nicole has almost fifteen years of experience in the education sector including teaching, research, and advocacy. Ms. Washington has served as associate director of Governmental Affairs at the State University System of Florida Board of Governors, and as a higher education analyst and interim budget chief in the Governor’s Office. She received a master’s degree in education policy from Teachers College at Columbia University and a bachelor’s from Princeton University.
Former State Representative Alan Williams’ roots run deep in the Big Bend area of Florida. He is recognized as one of the nation’s rising political leaders and consistently uses that platform to be a voice for the voiceless. Rep. Williams has been successful in striking a balance for fighting for civil rights and a proponent for job creation and economic development. Alan B. Williams is a fifth generation Floridian, an unabashed servant of the people, a proud family man, small business owner and a trailblazer in his own right. He has been featured in publications such as the Washington Post, The New York Times, USA Today, Huffington Post, Politico and Ebony Magazine. In February 2003, he was featured in Ebony Magazine as a Young Leader of the Future. He has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, FOX and other Florida news outlets speaking on various political issues impacting the State of Florida and the nation as a whole. In 2013, Rep. Williams was invited to the White House by President Barack Obama to meet with him and other civil rights leaders and elected officials to discuss the reauthorization of the voting rights act. He has served on several statewide and national policy panel sessions on education, voting rights, stand your ground laws, and affordable healthcare. Currently, Alan Williams is a Governmental Affairs Consultant with the Meenan Law Firm, based in Tallahassee, Florida. Meenan P.A. provides legal, regulatory and legislative services to a broad range of businesses, from Fortune 500 companies to small businesses; and provides insurance, extended warranty, service contract, warranty and other regulatory law services to its clients in all 50 states. A
While in college, he found his passion for public service. After college, Alan worked in the private sector until Tallahassee Mayor John Marks recruited him as an Aide serving as liaison between the community and the Office of the Mayor. In 2006, he founded MW Land & Investments, a Florida based property management and business development firm.
Never forgetting the monumental impact that service and leadership made on the lives of those around him, Alan ran for the Florida House of Representatives to represent District 8 (Leon and Gadsden) and was elected in November 2008. He has a record of championing legislation relating to green jobs, economic development, and ethics and elections.
A leader amongst his colleagues, Williams also served as Democratic Whip (2012-2014), and Chairman of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus (2014-2015). His tireless efforts resulted in Alan successfully passing legislation creating the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame that recognizes and honors those persons who have made significant contributions to the ever expanding struggle for civil rights in the State of Florida.
Over the years, Alan has been recognized for his legislative contributions. Alan is a citizen legislator. He has served on the Florida Public Service Commission Nominating Council, the Florida Council on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys, the National Conference of Black State Legislators Executive Board, the Board of Directors for Second Harvest of the Big Bend, Gadsden Arts Center and Guardian Ad Litem. Alan is a third generation FAMUAN and is the youngest in a family of three children. Rep. Williams is a recipient of both a B.S. and M.B.A. from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, prestigious School of Business and Industry. Just as family was a great influence in the beginning of his life, it continues to impact him now with his own family. Alan is married to Attorney Opal McKinney-Williams and they work together to instill those same characteristics in their two children, Adrianna and Alan-Louis. Alan is committed to the people he serves and his life affirms Dr. Martin Luther King’s powerful conviction that, “Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.”
Carol S. Weissert, Ph.D.
Carol was the LeRoy Collins Eminent Scholar and Professor of Political Science at Florida State University from 2003-2021. She also served as director of the LeRoy Collins Institute, a statewide policy organization located at FSU. She has published over in political science, public administration and public policy journals and is the author or co-author of four books. Prior to coming to Tallahassee, she was professor of political science and director of the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State University. Carol served as editor of: Publius: The Journal of Federalism for ten years. She is a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) and was the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in American Political Science in Australia in 2016. She received the Daniel J. Elazar award for Distinguished Scholarship of the American Political Science Association and the Donald Stone Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Intergovernmental Relations of the American Society of Public Administration. She served as president of the Southern Political Science Association and on the executive council of the American Political Science Association. Her doctorate in political science is from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.