Press Release

Central Florida Political Leadership Institute Announces 2021 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 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, 29 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 PLI class includes:

Jennifer AdamsFlorida Community Partnership
Stephanie ArguelloAdventHealth
Barry A.N. BloomXenia Hotels & Resorts, Inc.
Christopher DawsonGrayRobinson, P.A.
Lynn Moira DictorFormer Radio Host iHeart Radio
Dr. Melody DuckinsBeacon College
Jim Forrester, Jr.SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment
Curtis GibsonGeico Insurance
Amanda GillFlorida Apartment Association
Pairris JonesFlorida Polytechnic University
Meranda LandesDan Newlin Injury Attorneys
Justin KinseyREEF
Nita MartinOrlando Regional REALTOR Association
Melissa MyersJust Write, Inc.
Brent TallmanBankers Closing Services
Sergio UrbinaCitigroup
Raul A. VargasGallagher
Tim VeigleWatson Realty Corp
Margie VieraBe Global Marketing
Robert WilsonBurges Property Company

“Electing candidates who truly understand what it takes to lead in today’s environment is more important than ever,” said Sharon Smoley, Partnership vice president of advocacy and public policy.

“The PLI class encourages new leaders within our Orlando region and teaches them new skills, provides important resources and helps them make the connections they need to launch their political careers.” 

Sharon Smoley, Partnership vice president of advocacy and public policy

PLI meets from February through July 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 is one of most unique and successful public leadership programs of its kind anywhere in the nation,” 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.

“Through PLI, I was able to meet folks that I need to know both to successfully do my job now and run my campaign for re-election.”

Chris Anderson, Seminole County supervisor of elections and PLI graduate

“During the class, I never felt anyone was trying to push a certain opinion or agenda. The focus was entirely on the strategy of campaigning and the process of campaigning or becoming appointed to office,” says Chris Anderson, Seminole County supervisor of elections and PLI graduate.

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, Travel & Leisure Co. (formerly known as Wyndham), TRUIST, Tavistock Group, 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 contact Christine Aponte at