When Jennifer Yeagley was going through the interview process to become CEO of the St. Petersburg Free Clinic, she made a commitment to the organization's board of directors: if she was selected for the role, she would move to St. Pete. When she learned she'd been chosen in February, she reiterated that commitment and planned to make a move in six or eight months. But taking it slow was never Yeagley's way, and she and her family arrived in St. Pete one week before her March 1 start date. Nine months later, she couldn't be happier to be a part of the community she's grown to love. She's looking forward to taking advantage of all the wonderful things St. Pete has to offer, and is excited to explore the city as a resident once the threat of the pandemic has passed.
Years in St. Pete
In Tampa Bay since 2013; moved to St. Pete in 2020
Organizations involved in
In addition to the Free Clinic, I’m also on the board for the Plus Projec+ which is a foundation founded in 2016 that funds organizations serving LGBTQ individuals and populations within the LGBTQ community. I’m also involved in alumni activities with Leadership Tampa, from which I graduated before I moved across the bay to St. Pete. Hopefully one day I’ll get to do Leadership St. Pete.
What gets you out of bed every day?
Quite literally, my almost 3-year-old without fail every day, and quite a bit earlier than when I’d hoped to get up. More broadly, I’m really inspired by the work of the Free Clinic and I’m very humbled that I was selected to lead the organization. Every day I’m excited to get to work to support our team’s capability to deliver critical services, especially during this time, and working toward a future for the organization that expands on all the great work we already do.
Why St. Pete?
Even though I worked in Pinellas County for seven years, I had a house in Tampa and spent a lot of time over here, and I would drive across the bridge every night. When I was exploring the CEO role, I discussed with my husband the possibility of moving our family to St. Pete. I really felt like the CEO of the St. Pete Free Clinic should live in and be a part of the St. Pete community.
What is one habit that you keep?
I try to stay focused on my physical health. Sometimes that looks like a regular running practice, sometimes more of a focus on nutrition and other times more gentle exercise and focus on quality sleep. I was an athlete when I was younger and in the fitness industry when I was in my twenties so I’ve learned you have to adjust your health habits to the season of life you’re in. For me, my physical health has been so important and has impacted all the other areas of my life so I just try hard to stay physically healthy, so that my mental and emotional health and family life and work life can all benefit from that core focus.
Who are some people that influence you?
In terms of someone I don’t know personally, Toni Morrison’s lyrical literature and lifelong commitment to telling unvarnished stories about the experience of African American people through her work and teaching has been very influential for me. I learned a lot of the real story of our country’s history that you don’t necessarily learn through our traditional education system, through her works. She has inspired my personal commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion that I try to bring to everything I do. For someone I know personally, I strongly value the insight and opinions of my father-in-law. He has an incredible life story and unshakable faith. He’s an absolute rock and I’m really grateful for him.
What is one piece of insight - a book, methodology, practice - that you would share with our readers?
To be brave and to know that being brave isn’t the absence of fear, it’s acknowledging fear – fear of change, fear of new experiences, of an unexpected opportunity – and deciding to step through it and take a thoughtful risk that you believe in your soul will spark more joy, more meaning and more alignment with your core values.
What is one thing you wish you knew about your work 3 years ago?
I wish I had a stronger reminder in my head that everything has its season. Whether three years or 10 years or 20 years ago, when I’ve been itching to grow in certain areas and expand and have been frustrated by whatever limitations may have been there to not allow for it at that time – to know that was just a “right now” thing and not a “forever” thing, and that if I stayed focused the season for that growth, that opportunity would come.
More of what I’m doing right now. I’m continuing to learn and lean into this amazing role and opportunity I’ve been given here at the Free Clinic. We are envisioning an exciting future of even greater service to our St. Pete and Pinellas community. I’ll continue to focus on my family and my husband and I raising our spirited little toddler to be an inclusive, kind and happy bigger kid and ultimately an adult. And in 2021, when it’s safe, some road trips to reconnect in person with our family and friends throughout the country.