Last night at the Bartow Civic Center nearly 200 people from all over the county gathered to recognize the contributions and commitments of numerous young professionals to the Polk County community. This was the 5th Annual Polk Emerging Leaders Awards and was once again a collaborative event between the 3 established young professional groups in Polk County – Emerge Lakeland, Engage Bartow and the Endeavor Winter Haven.
There were 26 outstanding young professionals recognized during the ceremony and five Polk Emerging Leaders Awards were bestowed. (Click through to post to see nominees and winners).
Thank you to our sponsors for the evening's event – showing their dedication to developing a strong "next" generation of community leaders.
Learn more about the Award Recipients below:
Jason Rodda, Rodda Construction
A Polk County born leader, Jason used a mix of generosity, charisma, and ingenuity to build a solid reputation in both his industry and our community.
Born and raised in Lakeland, he is a graduate of George Jenkins High School, Florida Southern College and the University of Florida, where he earned his MBA. Upon graduation he returned to Lakeland and immediately began making a positive impact in our county. He is a graduate of Leadership Lakeland Class XXVIII, Leadership Polk Class V and Connect Florida Class III. He is also a founding member of the executive board of Ignite Lakeland Downtown Visioning and Planning Committee, President of Explorations V Children’s Museum’s board of directors, and a member of the Lakeland Economic Development Council.
Jason says his biggest community achievement, however, is contributing to the growth of the young adult ministry at First Presbyterian Church. He was involved in the development of a new Sunday morning modern worship gathering, known as the Vine Service, which blends ancient Christianity and today’s technology. The service strives to be a place of acceptance and growth for people on a spiritual journey. It is a testament to this recipient’s natural leadership capabilities that so many organizations trust his direction and vision.
But trust is just one of the things our next recipient builds well.
As President and Project Manager of Rodda Construction Company he’s played an essential role in hundreds of construction projects totaling more than Two Hundred Million Dollars. Yes, that is a “two” followed by “eight” zeros. Notably, he was the Project Manager on the first building to be LEED certified green in Polk County and the first building to be LEED certified green in Lakeland. His professional reputation led him to being named one of Engineering News Record’s Top 20 Under 40 in the Southeast’s construction industry.
Jason is also proud of being an active participant in the planning, development, and construction of the Masterplan at Florida Southern College. Florida Southern’s implementation of this masterplan transformed the campus and helped it be named the “Most Beautiful” campus in the nation for the last two years and designated as a National Historic Landmark District by the National Park Service.
In addition to his impressive community and professional accomplishments, Jason is also a dedicated husband and father of four, three girls and one boy.
As one of his nominators said, “honoring this recipient with a Polk Emerging Leaders Award is not necessary to encourage his continued dedication to our community - he will do that without public credit or praise - and that is the very reason he is so worthy of this recognition.”
Allison Beeman, Tucker Construction/MYEVENTQUE
Our next award recipient was born in Winter Haven and has dedicated her adult life to the development and improvement of every corner of Polk County.
After graduating with her bachelor’s degree in communication from Florida Southern College Allison started her career in economic development as a marketing representative for the Central Florida Development Council. She continued with her career recruiting new business and encouraging business expansion in the Northeast corner of the county as deputy-director and eventual President of the Haines City Economic Development Council. She currently serves as the Director of Business Development for Tucker Construction – a Winter Haven based Design/Build, General Contracting and Construction Management firm.
While she has been building her career, Allison has volunteered numerous hours laying the foundation for a stronger Polk County community. Of her non-profit volunteer board experience she has served on the Early Learning Coalition of Polk County, Polk Arts Alliance, Polk Vision, Northeast Polk Arts Alliance and the United Way of Central Florida Board of Directors and campaign chair for East Polk County for the last two years. She also was the founding co-chair of the Winter Haven Young Professionals Group in 2008, now known as Endeavor Winter Haven. She is also a graduate of Leadership Haines City, Leadership Polk and Leadership Orlando.
Reflecting upon her career to this point, she finds lessons in both the successes and the failures, but the one rule that holds strong regardless is that life is entirely about the relationships you develop and success comes through the partnerships and teamwork cultivated through those relationships.
Her experience working with these and many other civil and municipal organizations led to her own entrepreneurial endeavor to change the perception that “there isn’t anything to do in Polk County.” Earlier this year she launched a new website called MYEVENTQUE.COM. This website serves several purposes – first, to answer the need for a singular “community calendar” for all events – whether for a private business or non-profits. The hope is that all Polk County entities that organize events – from cities, to chambers, to non-profits etc. share their events on the site, but also use the site to research dates when planning their event. She also hopes that as this site grows as residents and visitors use it was a primary source to find out about the MANY things happening in Polk County.
Allison lives in Winter Haven with her husband Matt and her beautiful daughter Ava.
Jarvis Kendrick, MIDFLORIDA Credit Union
The next award recipient was described by his nominator as a selfless leader. Another stated, “While he presents a very caring and compassionate disposition, his presentation doesn’t even begin to tell the story of his magnanimous heart.”
A long-time resident of Polk County, Jarvis takes an immense amount of pride in helping shape the future of at-risk children in our area. Through his influence at work and his numerous volunteer activities he wants to ensure every student has a chance to succeed and parents get the support they need to be present in their children’s lives. His conviction to be present in his own daughter’s life is clearly seen when at the top of his list of hobbies are things such as ballet and tap dance recitals!
He is a graduate of Florida Southern College with a degree in Business and he received his MBA from Webster University. He also received his Certified Financial Planner designation from Florida State University in 2005. He is currently a Senior Vice President and West Polk Regional Manager for MidFlorida Credit Union where he has worked for fourteen years
When asked to reflect on his greatest career achievement, he said he is most proud of being the spark igniting a partnership between MidFlorida and the United Way of Central Florida which resulted in MidFlorida’s involvement in the Bank On! Central Florida program. Bank On programs are locally led coalitions of government agencies, financial institutions, and community organizations helping improve the financial futures of unbanked or underbanked individuals and families. Because of his experience teaching financial health seminars at local churches, it made sense for him to be a part of the leadership to create our area’s Bank On program.
His greatest achievement outside of his profession (and he makes sure to emphasize this is beside the obvious answer of his beautiful wife and daughter) is his personal involvement with the mentoring group name “The Gentlemen’s Institute.” This group was created in 2013 by Stacey Campbell-Dominick, President of CareerSource Polk. It is a week-long program designed to address the basic necessities every young man should practice. The curriculum is based on the book 50 Things Every Young Gentleman Should Know and aims to teach our young men about respect, integrity, manners, and work.
Jarvis is also a volunteer for the Lakeland Chamber having served as a Chamber Board Member and most recently as Chair of the Government Affairs Committee traveling with a regional delegation from the county to advocate for the business community to our state legislators. He also volunteers for the Polk Education Foundation, Lakeland Rotary Club and graduated from Leadership Lakeland Class 25.
John Bohde, Polk County BOCC Land Development Director
Sheriff Grady Judd describes John as an “outstanding individual” and he can think of “no one more worthy of this recognition.” A second nominator described him as exemplifying leadership locally in his community and throughout Polk. Yet another described this person as “ALWAYS volunteering his time to help make his community better.”
Born at Lakeland Regional Medical Center and raised in Bartow, he is self-admittedly a loyal Polk Countian and will always be. He received his education through Polk County Public Schools, Polk State College and Florida Southern College graduating with a degree in Political Science. He began to develop an affinity towards the inner-workings of local government at an early age when his uncle was the City Manager of Lakeland. After graduating from Florida Southern, tonight’s recipient continued his education at the University of South Florida receiving his Masters of Public Administration. As he said in his application, “we all have a role to play, and I think we are constantly being molded and shaped for that role our entire life.” And that is why many believe tonight’s recipient to have been perfectly molded to take on his role as Land Development Director for the Polk County Board of County Commissioners. In this role he is the second youngest of all the 23 directors at the County.
Many attribute his success to his hard work, charisma, integrity and sense of humor but most significantly to his dedication to Polk County outside of his job description. John is a leader in the Bartow Kiwanis Club, having held every position on the board as well as started the club’s first 5K and also the K-Kids Club at Spessard Holland Elementary School. He is a volunteer leader at the Bartow Chamber of Commerce, the Bartow Marketing Partnership and has served on several committees at Polk Vision. He coached youth soccer for four years and also serves as a broadcaster and announcer for Bartow Basketball Radio for the last five years. For the 2015-2016 United Way Campaign, tonight’s recipient will be the coordinator for the Polk County BOCC campaign (encompassing 2,000 employees).
He is a graduate of Leadership Bartow and Leadership Polk. There is no doubt that he is dedicated to the future of Polk County. He is proud to have grown up here and to raise his family here with his beautiful wife Lori and their two daughters. He writes that his true aspiration is to someday be County Manager. Decades from now when he reflects back upon his life he wants to be able to say that he took every opportunity to help his community and that Polk County is a better place because he lived here.
Amanda Fulton, United Way of Central Florida
According to their nominator, Amanda (or Mandy as she is known) is “the kind of person who can build you up personally or rally support for a cause, all while giving you a genuine, infectious smile.”
Born at 7:26 in the morning on 7/26 in Memphis, Tennessee it was no coincidence that she was born in the Volunteer state. She has spent much of her life - personal, professional, and spiritual - fighting on behalf of the underprivileged and vulnerable.
Mandy is currently a Resource Development Manager with the United Way of Central Florida with a special focus on the eastern portion of Polk County. Prior to this position, she also tirelessly worked in roles with Big Brother, Big Sisters of Tampa Bay, and several other religious and non-profit organizations in both Florida and Louisiana, home to her beloved LSU Tigers.
What makes Mandy so special is that she is as giving in her personal life as the organizations she serves through her day job. She’s painted houses with Paint Your Heart Out Lakeland, is a big sister to Nancy, a local elementary school student, and even traveled to Honduras to provide medical care, complete construction projects, and teach English to the local children.
She is also a member of EMERGE Lakeland’s steering committee and currently chairs its volunteer committee, is an ambassador for the Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce, is a chamber champion for the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce, and a steering committee member and the professional development chair for the United Way of Central Florida’s Young Leaders’ Society. As an active member of Resurrection Catholic Church she serves as a lector and a member of several ministries focused on prayer and social justice. If that isn’t enough she is also a graduate of Leadership Winter Haven, Class 34 and the EMERGE Serves board service training program.
With servant leadership roles spanning the entire county, Mandy is teaching, by example how easy and important it is to work towards a single, unified Polk County.
If you think keeping up with her community and professional achievements is exhausting, don’t try keeping up with her in your running shoes. She is a board member for the Lakeland Runners Club and has trained for and completed six half marathons and two full marathons. Would you be surprised if I told you that all eight of those races were completed to benefit a charity? I didn’t think so.
The other outstanding nominees: