Press Release

Central Florida Political Leadership Institute Announces 2021-2022 Class

The nonpartisan program will prepare 20 business-minded leaders to explore how they can make a difference in elected or appointed office.

Orlando, Fla. – The Central Florida Political Leadership Institute (PLI) has announced the selection of 20 participants for its upcoming 2021-2022 class. The unique, nonpartisan program managed by the Orlando Economic Partnership (the Partnership) prepares business-minded leaders who have an interest in exploring future leadership opportunities – either as a political candidate or appointee to a government board or commission – and discovering how their experience, skills and talent could address critical policy issues. Since its inception in 2008, 30 PLI graduates have served in public office in the Central Florida region.

A selection committee reviewed the strength of applications, conducted interviews and selected the participants, ensuring representation from a wide range of business, civic and community organizations across the Orlando region.

The 2021-2022 PLI class includes:

Bethanie BarberLegal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar Association, Inc.
Emily BrownVeracity Strategies
Kelly Flaherty ClarkSeaWorld Orlando
Anthony DePinaNew Level Digital
Trey DyerOrlando Economic Partnership
Christina HollerbachHollerbach’s German Restaurant
Daniel Jesus LopezKissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce
Sean McDermottWindward Consulting Group, Inc.
LaVell D. MongerRTW Photography
Sarah NemesEmbrace Families
Elijah NoelOrange Avenue Concepts
Giorgina Pinedo-RolónGio Communications
Donovan PyleHealth Compass Consulting
Raman P. RamaPremier Management Services
Pamela L. SaffranPamela L. Saffran, Mental Health Counselor
Ralph Seegobin, Jr.Office of the State Attorney, Ninth Judicial Circuit
Kevin SuttonTrue Change Staffing
Ilia TorresOrange County Government
Anthony D. Watts, Sr.Orange County Government
Cortez WhatleyOrange County Government

“This new, post-pandemic reality requires public leaders who truly understand the issues that communities, businesses and families face on a daily basis, and work collaboratively to solve shared challenges and take advantage of new opportunities as they come,” said Sharon Smoley, Partnership vice president of advocacy and public policy.

“PLI prepares these new leaders within our Orlando region to rise to the occasion by teaching them new skills, providing important resources and helping them make the connections they need to launch successful political careers.” 

Sharon Smoley, Partnership vice president of advocacy and public policy

PLI meets from October through March and includes monthly meetings, which consist of half-day and full day sessions. A final all-day gathering will be highlighted by team presentations before concluding with a graduation. Sessions feature local, state and national faculty who share their invaluable expertise on strategies to transition from private to public life, campaign for office, land an appointment and address important public-policy issues.

“PLI’s curriculum is intentionally strategic by equipping and empowering future public leaders to step to the starting line of the process already prepared and positioned to succeed and use their experience, skills and talent to make a difference for our region,” said Mark R. Mills, PLI consultant and president of Mills Strategic Communications, Inc. “The curriculum is engagement-based and practical. Everything we do is intended for class members to emerge encouraged and educated with a strategic plan for clearing the personal, professional and political obstacles for engaging in the process and stepping to the starting line prepared and positioned to succeed and lead.”

PLI was developed by business leaders in Central Florida and is geared toward applicants who are not declared candidates but are considering a run for local office or who want to serve on a local government board.

There is no cost to apply or attend the program. PLI is made possible by the support of its sponsors including AdventHealth, Charter Communications, CNL, Florida Blue, Full Sail University, Lockheed Martin, Massey Services, Inc., Orlando Health, Orlando Magic, Orlando Regional Realtor Association, OUC – The Reliable One, Tavistock Group, TECO People Gas, Travel & Leisure Co. (formerly known as Wyndham), TRUIST, Universal Orlando Resort, University of Central Florida and The Walt Disney Company.

For additional information, or to be notified when applications are available for the 2022 class, please email us at