Connect Florida welcomes its latest statewide class


They are professors and attorneys. They run companies as chief executives and executive directors. They work in both the public and private sectors.

Connect Florida announced Class VII of its Statewide Leadership Institute on Tuesday. Created in 2007, it is considered one of the premier statewide institutes for Florida professionals between 25 and 40 years old.

“Connect Florida will provide these young leaders with incredible opportunities in the year ahead, and we look forward to seeing members develop as individuals, professionals, community servants, and Florida leaders,” said Chester Spellman, chairman of the Connect Florida Board of Governors and a Class IV graduate.

The Statewide Leadership Institute is patterned after the Leadership Florida annual program, and is designed to enhance leadership skills, provide practical experience in community service, and give participants a chance to interact with statewide leaders.

“For 35 years, Leadership Florida has brought together leaders who represent the rich and diverse fabric of our state,” said Wendy Walker, president of Leadership Florida. “They learn together from experts and from one another, and build the bonds of respect, trust and understanding that is needed to lead in today’s world.”

The Connect Florida Statewide Leadership Institute Class VII is:

— Crystal Agnew, deputy director of the Trinity Church Peacemakers Family Center in Miami Gardens

— Matt Anderson, senior associate at Foundry Commercial in Miami

— Chris Benvenuto, shareholder and attorney at Gunster in West Palm Beach

— Glen Bishop, CEO of Glen Bishop Enterprises, LLC in Monticello


— Freddy Branham, executive director of ECHO in Tallahassee

— Matt Brockelman, a partner at Southern Strategy Group in Jacksonville

— French Brown, an attorney at Hopping Green & Sams PA in Tallahassee

— Beth Bryant, director of development at HANDY in Fort Lauderdale

— Laura Cantwell, associate director of advocacy at AARP Florida in St. Petersburg

— Liz Castro DeWitt, executive director of the Florida Beverage Association in St. Augustine

— James Chan of Apopka

— Gretchen Clarke, strategic partnerships executive at AppRiver in Gulf Breeze

— Ian Cotner, regional director of legislative and external affairs at AT&T in North Palm Beach

— Anna Eskamani, senior director of public affairs and field operations for Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida in Orlando

— Kyle Evans, president and CEO of REDCON Solutions Group in Orlando

— Sandra Fine, senior vice president of rbb Communications in Coral Gables

— Ben Gibson, deputy general counsel for the Executive Office of the Governor in Tallahassee

— Francisco Gonzalez, vice president of advancement at the James Madison Institute in Orlando

— Jessica Goodwin Costello, assistant state prosecutor for the Office of the Attorney General in Tampa

— Matt Grosack, senior associate at DLA Piper LLP (US) in Miami

— Phillip Hamilton, program director for outreach and development at Florida International University in Miami

— Evelyn Hernandez, marketing and public relations specialist for the Florida Hospice & Palliative Care Association in Tallahassee

— Nelson Hernandez, wealth advisor and investment associate with the Coral Gables Trust in Coral Gables

— Kelly Jordan, professor and chair at the University of Florida in Gainesville

— Faequa Khan, associate attorney at the Law Office of Daryl L. Jones, P.A in Miami

— Ryan King, revenue management analyst I for Herz Corp. in Estero

— Tony Lee III, director of major gifts at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers

— Matt Leopold, attorney with Carlton Fields in Tallahassee

— Frederick Longmire, assistant state attorney in the Office of the State Attorney in Pensacola

— Cee Cee Marinelli, director of commercial real estate for Barron Collier Cos. in Naples

— Merritt Martin, state legislative affairs director for the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa

— Santosh Mathew, program manager at Nielsen in Oldsmar

— Kyle Matthews, executive director at Because of Ezra in Tampa

— Jack Melincoff, enterprise sales executive at Granicus, Inc. in Fort Lauderdale

— Francesca Menes, director of policy and advocacy at the Florida Immigration Coalition, Inc. in Miami

— Adriana Moreno Kostencki, partner at Berger Singerman, LLP in Miami

— G.C. Murray, deputy general counsel at the Florida Justice Association in Tallahassee

— Cara Perry, assistant vice president of communication, northern campuses at Florida Atlantic University in Jupiter

— Alisha Pieraccini, assistant general counsel at Florida Blue in Jacksonville

— Yasodha Ratnasekera, manager of substation engineering at Tampa Electric Company in Tampa

— Meredith Rollo, community engagement project manager at Florida Power & Light Co./NexEra Energy in Juno Beach

— Jonathan Schwartz, associate vice president for operations planning and real estate at Broward College in Fort Lauderdale

— Beth Smith, community relations manager at Orlando Health in Orlando

— Mikhaile Solomon, founding director of Prizm Art Fair, LLC in Miami Gardens

Justin Thames, government affairs manager at the Florida Institute of CPAs in Tallahassee

Nicole Washington, education consultant in Miami Beach

Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster


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