Last night, Endeavor Winter Haven, Engage Bartow & Emerge Lakeland gathered to present the 12th Annual Polk Emerging Leaders Awards! Over 200 people from all over Polk County gathered at the Bartow Civic Center to celebrate the incredible things that young professionals are doing in their communities. This year, 19 young professionals were nominated for this prestigious award coming from every corner of the county, representing a wide variety of professions and volunteer service to numerous non-profit or civic organizations.
The 2023 Polk Emerging Leaders Awards winners are Dr. Aimee Franklin, Jon Lane, Alexander Cam, Tayler Baldick and John Helms. Read more about our award winners below!
Dr. Aimee Franklin, Southeastern University
The first recipient of the 2023 Polk Emerging Leaders Awards is Dr. Aimee Franklin. Dr. Aimee Franklin is known for her unwavering commitment to her community, as well as her exceptional dedication and selflessness as a leader. Whether in her profession or volunteering pursuits, she always strives to serve people and meet needs.
Dr. Aimee Franklin graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Biology in 2007 from Southeastern University where she fell in love with Lakeland and Polk County. In her application, she shares how emotional she was when she left Lakeland to pursue her Doctor of Philosophy in Neuroscience from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Lucky for Polk County, she returned to SEU and has remained ever since.
As the Dean of the College of Natural & Health Sciences at Southeastern University, she approaches leadership with a different perspective. She believes strategies for leading are just as unique as the individuals being served. Meeting people right where they are is a key component of leading well, as well as listening and seeking mentorship for herself.
In 2019, she had the honor of guiding students through the application process for graduate programs. That year, 5 SEU alums were accepted into medical schools, making it the largest cohort of science graduate school acceptances at SEU up to that point. That opportunity gave her an overwhelming sense of gratitude and taught her the importance of providing guidance, encouragement and accountability in leadership.
Outside the office, she has invested much time and care to local organizations and non-profits. She currently serves as a board member of the YMCA of Central Florida and a community member for the Lakeland Regional Health Institutional Review Board.
In her personal time, she enjoys running. She has completed three full marathons and over 15 half-marathons. When sharing what this hobby has taught her about leadership, she expresses that, just like in running, leadership will sometimes be difficult with harsh conditions, some seasons will be tedious and some will be transformative. But no matter what, all conditions culminate to make a great leader!
One colleague shared that she “firmly believes that Dr. Aimee Franklin will continue to make life-changing impacts on the people who live and work in Polk County."
Jon Lane, Haven Coffee Roasters
Our next recipient was Jon Lane. Jon Lane is an entrepreneur, risk taker and go-getter. Someone who isn’t afraid to take the plunge and try something new! All characteristics that make the perfect blend of leadership.
Jon graduated from Johnson & Wales University focusing on Culinary Arts. From there, he went on to pursue his love of coffee in a variety of different roles such as working directly with producers and managing a coffee roastery. He also spent a lot of his time traveling the world to learn all he could about coffee and brought that experience back to Winter Haven, FL.
His style of leadership is all about inspiring his team towards a shared vision and common goals. But before you can inspire a team, you have to accomplish a few things as a leader first. He believes that leadership starts with making informed decisions, taking calculated risks and being responsible for success and failure. He feels that openness to being teachable is a key ingredient in brewing great leadership qualities.
The most satisfying moment of his career was when he and his wife took the plunge to start their own business in the height of the pandemic. To watch something grow so successfully in a really hard time was a highlight for him. His business, Haven Coffee Roasters, has given him the invaluable opportunity of building relationships in the community and finding areas where he can serve.
Jon serves on the Ambassador team and the Foundation Board for the Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce. He also serves on the promotions committee of Main Street Winter Haven and Winter Haven Rotary Club and works with young athletes as varsity soccer coach at St. Paul Lutheran School, in addition to teaching kids in their children’s ministry at church.
In a letter of recommendation, one friend says Jon is “a new generation of leader, providing innovative solutions to social and business challenges, while improving quality of life in our community.”
Alexander Cam, Cams Catering Company
Our next emerging leader of the evening was Alexander Cam. Alex has made a great impression on Polk County through his authentic integrity and willingness to serve. While it is said that he is highly visible in the community, he is also humbly serving behind the scenes to make Polk County the best place to work and live.
Alex graduated in 2012 from Polk State College and went on to work in the family business. 30 years ago, his father came to the United States from Turkey to pursue the American dream. For 26 years, Alex has watched and been an integral part in the success of Cams Catering Company.
Through his father’s legacy, he has learned the essentials of good leadership. To him, leadership is all about commitment to your dream, practicing radical empathy, being exceptionally reliable and always listening. His father’s commitment to excellent leadership laid the ground work for Alex to be a leader in and out of the kitchen.
Alex currently serves alongside organizations like the Greater Auburndale Chamber of Commerce, the Auburndale Rotary Club, City of Auburndale’s Police Officer’s Pension Board, City of Winter Haven’s Smart City Advisory Committee, the City of Winter Haven’s Grant and Aid Review Committee and is a mentor for the Florida Polytechnic Rotaract Club Mentorship Program. Before these positions, he served on the Polk County Efficient Commission and the Endeavor Winter Haven young professionals committee.
Most of us would think that with a resume like that, he must not have much time for hobbies. Alex spends his free time enjoying soccer, tae kwon do and history. All of these hobbies further his leadership qualities, teaching him the importance of teamwork, selflessness and achieving greatness through a collective effort.
One friend described this recipient to be a rare and outstanding leader. With great compassion and support for Polk County, he truly leads from the front.
Tayler Baldick, Stuart's Plumbing
Our next emerging leader of the night was Tayler Baldick. Tayler's humility and unwavering commitment to her community make her the perfect person to be awarded this evening. As a dynamic entrepreneur and servant leader, she has left an immeasurable impact on Lakeland and Polk County.
In 2011, Tayler graduated from Polk State College and shortly after went on to start her own business with her husband. Their business, Stuart’s Plumbing, was built to encourage volunteerism and service. They often do pro-bono plumbing work for several charitable organizations in Lakeland and also offer their employees an opportunity to volunteer. One way they do this is by allowing them to go on a paid mission trips to use their plumbing and construction skills to help people around the world! They have sponsored over 15 employees to have this experience.
John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership is a tool she uses often to sharpen her leadership skills, as well as her staff’s. One of those laws being that leadership isn’t how far we advance ourselves, but how far we advance others. And Tayler does that beyond the four walls of her business! She is heavily involved in the United Way of Central Florida, the Junior League of Greater Lakeland, the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce and EMERGE. One particular initiative through U.W.C.F allowed her to help in bundling hundreds of books for Success by 6 and Reading Pals and distributing them to local Title 1 schools. And that’s just one example of the volunteer work she does in Lakeland!
Outside of work and volunteerism, Tayler really enjoys being outdoors. She expresses that going boating, hiking or camping takes a lot of hard work. This has taught her so much about the “boots on the ground” mentality that she always desires to carry in her leadership qualities.
In a letter of recommendation, one friend described tonight’s recipient with a quote from Colleen Hoover: Don’t make your presence known. Make your absence felt. Her absence would surely be felt!
John Helms, Bartow Municipal Airport Development Authority
Our final recipient of the evening was John Helms. John believes that leadership centers around the willingness to accomplish a goal or task no matter how small. His passionate attitude and enthusiastic leadership approach make him an emerging leader like no other.
John studied at Excelsior College. From 2002 to 2007 he worked in the United States Navy, where he was an equipment expert in the operation and maintenance of high and low pressure air systems, high pressure hydraulic systems, emergency diesel generators and many others that most of us wouldn’t understand.
Following his time in the Navy, he continued to pursue his interest in aviation which ultimately landed him where he is now, the Executive Director of the Bartow Municipal Airport Development Authority.
With a resume like his, he has had many satisfying moments in his career. But one stands out above the rest. While serving as a submarine maintenance instructor at Trident Training Facility, he agreed to work as a military mentor to a high school JROTC program. The satisfying moment didn’t happen overnight. Two or three years later, several students from the program began to reach out to him, thanking him for the time he spent teaching them.
John continues to give of his time and talents to the community around him. He has served many organizations like Keep Bartow Beautiful, Bartow Economic Development Board of Directors and the Bartow Chamber of Commerce. He has also spent 14 years on the Continuing Florida Aviation Statewide Steering and Planning Committee, been a 17-year member of AMVETS and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.
You can’t keep this emerging leader out of the clouds. Outside of his work and volunteering, he enjoys flying. Aviation has taught him so much about leadership. According to his application, there is little time for disagreement and finger pointing when it comes to flying. Aviation requires collaborative problem solving, practice and accountability which are all values of his leadership style.
John has set a high standard of what it means to lead in and out of the field. His dedication to his work and service are second to none.
Congratulations to all of our winners and nominees! Polk County is a better place because of your leadership.