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Meet Leadership St. Pete’s Class of 2024

Ashley Morales



The Leadership St. Pete Class of 2024 at its Orientation Dinner Dec. 7. Photo provided.

Now in its 55th year, one of the nation’s oldest leadership programs is welcoming 37 new members to its Class of 2024.

Leadership St. Pete (LSP), a division of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce and its nonprofit foundation, consists of a dynamic and intensive six-month experience that promotes and enhances community stewardship. Program officials seek to identify, recruit and develop leaders who encompass the city’s diversity.

Like the classes before them, the new members will participate in a curriculum that challenges participants to view local issues as opportunities and stimulates creative thinking through class interaction and guidance from current community leaders. Class Chair Dr. Leslie Hafer, Provost at St. Petersburg College, will guide their growth and development throughout the six-month experience.

“I am a graduate of the 2020 class, and even with COVID, I had such an amazing experience,” said Hafer. “ I was able to come back and join the planning committee each year, and each year my understanding of how we can impact our community through this program has grown, so when the opportunity came up to move into a chair role, I took advantage of that.

The class will formally commence with an Opening Retreat at Saddlebrook Golf Resort Jan. 12-13 followed by eight educational seminars and two additional leadership retreats. In addition to the networking opportunities LSP provides, Hafer says the leadership development aspect of the program helps professionals of all backgrounds level-up.

“We give them the opportunity to move outside of their comfort zone and challenge themselves in ways they maybe don’t get to do currently in their professional roles,” Hafer said. “As we go through the educational seminars, we also expose them to the different things that are available within our community, whether it be boards or ways to be of service in the community, we make those connections with other leaders. So it exposes them to things they might not even realize they wanted to get involved in or get connected with after they finish the program.”

The class will also take part in a civic engagement project that includes a civic engagement, community service project, a key part of the Leadership St. Pete program since its inception in 1970. Each year, the Planning Committee identifies three nonprofit organizations that could benefit from a community service project and the LSP class votes on which organization’s facility they would most like to improve through creating awareness, fundraising and sweat equity.

“We want them to be able to, in the years to come, go back with their family and their friends and say, “Look, I was a part of this. This is what we built.’” Hafer said. “It creates an impact on this organization in our community for the years to come.”

The Class of 2023 focused on the Allendale Equity & Justice Center, creating offices for nonprofit leaders to work, collaborate and provide services to the community. More than 30 local nonprofit organizations already used outdated former preschool classrooms to host meetings, workshops and events. After LSP 2023’s renovations, the rooms were transformed into flexible, technology-supported collaborative spaces for nonprofits to exchange ideas, build partnerships, coordinate rapid responses to emerging or immediate community needs, and plan actions that solve social issues.

Leadership St. Pete is transformed former preschool classrooms into nonprofit coworking office space. Photo: Allendale Equity & Justice Center.

This year’s class includes people in academia, healthcare, finance, real estate and philanthropy, among other industries.

“I think it’s a well-balanced class with different levels of leadership experience already within the class,” said Hafer. “Every class comes with their own unique set of skills and abilities, but I think the thing they can always count on happening every single year is that they’re going to learn more about our community, they’re going to find ways to get involved in our community and they’re going to leave an impact in our community.”

Introducing the Class of 2024:

  • Alex Lustig, Observe.AI
  • Amar Nathwani, Barkett Realty
  • Amelia James, Sabal Trust Company
  • Andre’ Taylor, Guaranteed Rate Affinity
  • Andrew DeLong, The Poynter Institute
  • Carlea Jordan, Mount Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church
  • Caroline Boyer, Clifton Larson Allen LLP
  • Chevonne Cottle-King, St. Petersburg Fire Rescue
  • Dawn Dodge, Kimley-Horn and Associates
  • Dianna Grimm, HCA FL Brandon Hospital
  • Emily Bernhart, SPCA Tampa Bay
  • Erica Sutherlin, The Studio@620
  • Gabriel Alves, Smith & Associates
  • Jamie Anderson, Weapon Brand
  • Jeni La Paglia, The Bank of Tampa
  • Jesse Turtle, St. Petersburg College
  • Jessica Icerman, Stearns Weaver Miller, P.A.
  • Julia Fanning, Smith & Associates Real Estate
  • Juli Permuy, Power Design
  • Kenya Allen, The House of Grace Nonprofit
  • Lauren Colson, Colson Strategies
  • Leonne Danso-Odei, Ground Game Health
  • Lokesh Vale, Twisted Indian
  • Matthew Mitchell, Project MAVS
  • Megan Freedman, Raymond James
  • Michael MacKay, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital
  • Mustafa Lakadawala, Clarke Realty
  • Nicola Saner, Raymond James
  • Paul Dontenville, Florida Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution
  • Rita Zwiefel, University of South Florida St. Petersburg
  • Samantha Fernandez, Frey Masterson Investment Advisors
  • Sarah Heibein, Shorecrest Preparatory School
  • Tamika Mitchem, Mitchem Services LLC
  • Terri Harris, Pinellas County Housing Authority
  • Tonya Ruble-Richter, Arts Conservatory for Teens
  • Veronica Hickey, Zinober, Diana & Monteverde P.A.
  • Zack Gates, JE Dunn Construction

For more information on Leadership St. Pete, visit the website here.

RELATED: Leadership class creates ‘conscious collaboration’ incubator

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