Press Release

2021 Central Florida Political Leadership Institute Class Graduates

The 20 graduates represent diverse communities and professions and a total of 30 graduates have been elected or appointed to serve in public office since the program’s inception in 2008.

PLI Graduation Group Shot 3
PLI Class of 2021 graduates with commencement speakers Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings, Partnership President and CEO Tim Giuliani and PLI consultant Mark R. Mills.

Orlando, Fla. – A diverse group of professionals from the Orlando region are now prepared to run for public office after completing the Orlando Economic Partnership’s (the Partnership’s) Central Florida Political Leadership Institute (PLI). The 20 graduates represent diverse communities and professions.

PLI is a unique and nonpartisan regional program developed to prepare and strengthen the next generation of elected leaders before they formally choose to run for a specific public office or commit to serving on a local government board. The program is free but requires an application and approval of admission.

“Given the events of 2020 and our government’s response to keep our communities safe and economies running, it is more important than ever that our region’s elected leaders be ready and able to respond to the needs of our citizens and accountable to their constituents,” said Sharon Smoley, Partnership vice president of advocacy and public policy.

“PLI is the perfect resource for those looking to make a difference in public office by teaching effective governing skills and educating participants on the critical public policy issues that affect our region.”

Sharon Smoley, Partnership vice president of advocacy and public policy

PLI Class of 2021 graduates include:

  • Jennifer Adams, Florida Community Partnership
  • Stephanie Arguello, AdventHealth
  • Barry A.N. Bloom, Xenia Hotels & Resorts, Inc.
  • Christopher Dawson, GrayRobinson, P.A.
  • Lynn Moira Dictor, Former Radio Host iHeart Radio
  • Dr. Melody Duckins, Beacon College
  • Jim Forrester, Jr., SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment
  • Curtis Gibson, Geico Insurance
  • Amanda White, Florida Apartment Association
  • Pairris Jones, Florida Polytechnic University
  • Meranda Landes, Dan Newlin Injury Attorneys
  • Justin Kinsey, REEF
  • Nita Martin, Orlando Regional REALTOR Association
  • Melissa Myers, Just Write, Inc.
  • Brent Tallman, Fairway Independent Mortgage Corp
  • Sergio Urbina, Citigroup
  • Raul A. Vargas, Gallagher
  • Tim Veigle, Watson Realty Corp
  • Margie Viera, Be Global Marketing
  • Robert Wilson, Burges Property Company

“I’m confident that the hard work and dedication all our graduates put into the process has prepared them to successfully run a campaign or land an appointment to a local government board or commission and be an effective public servant,” said PLI consultant Mark R. Mills, president of Mills Strategic Communications, Inc.

“PLI is one of most unique and successful public leadership programs of its kind anywhere in the nation. Its graduates have emerged to serve in elected office as state legislators, mayors, city council members and county officials. Other graduates are contributing through service on government boards and commissions or impacting public policy and politics.”

Mark R. Mills, PLI consultant and president of Mills Strategic Communications, Inc.

Since its inception in 2008, PLI has had 30 graduates elected or appointed to serve in public office. Two of our current graduates will be running in the 2022 elections.

PLI students explore topics relating to campaigning, appointments, public issues and leadership strategies as they learn from local, state and national speakers who share their invaluable expertise on how to lead once elected. The 2021 graduation ceremony featured words of encouragement from Partnership President and CEO Tim Giuliani, Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings and PLI consultant Mark R. Mills.

The Partnership is currently seeking potential participants for the fall 2021-2022 Political Leadership Institute. Anyone interested can find more information here. There is no cost to apply or attend. 

PLI is made possible by the support of its sponsors including AdventHealth, Charter Communications, CNL, Florida Blue, Full Sail University, Lockheed Martin, Massey Services, Orlando Health, Orlando Magic, Orlando Regional Realtor Association (ORRA), OUC – The Reliable One, Tavistock Group, Travel + Leasure Co., Truist Financial Corp., Universal Orlando Resort, University of Central Florida and Walt Disney World Resort.

For more information on any of these announcements or Partnership programs, please contact or at 407-242-3982.