On August 30th, over 200 people, from every corner of Polk County, gathered to honor young professionals who are making a difference in our community. This award program was established eight years ago by the Winter Haven Chamber Foundation to honor young professionals who excelled not only within their professional careers but have also taken time to use their exceptional talents, skills and passions to better Polk County. The event has now evolved into a collaborative event between three young professionals groups in the county - Endeavor Winter Haven, EMERGE Lakeland and Engage Bartow. Read more below to learn about the individuals who won!
As one of our presenting sponsors, Jeff Cox of GiveWell Community Foundation, said during his introduction, he feels that we are in good hands with the generation being honored with these awards. This year 33 outstanding nominees were honored and five new award recipients were named. The winners for the 2018 Polk Emerging Leaders Awards are MJ Carnevale with the City of Winter Haven, Suzanne Halverson of Polk State College, Jillian T. Spangler with Peterson & Myers, P.A., Ashley Troutman with Northwestern Mutual and Chrissanne Long, owner of Maximize Digital Media. Learn more about the recipients below.
MJ Carnevale graduated from the University of Florida with a Master’s Degree in Soil and Water Science in 2015. During his time at UF, he became a Research Assistant for the university’s Forest Hydrology lab, conducting diversified research on wetland ecosystems and designing new projects. He was also a Research Assistant for their Fire Ecology Lab. In 2011, he was hired as the Natural Resources Manager for the City of Winter Haven and has since been promoted to the Public Works Director, overseeing streets and drainage, natural resources, solid waste and fleet maintenance – all at the young age of 31.
In this position, he has transformed Winter Haven’s data into actionable strategies for improving natural resources. These actionable strategies have helped inform the community on the state of our lakes, as well as develop new and improved ways to protect and sustain the city’s natural resources with our continued growth. With the Chain of Lakes being Winter Haven’s “crown jewel,” this emerging leader is making a difference in Winter Haven that will leave a lasting legacy.
Although he has accomplished much, he isn’t short on humility. He urges, in his PELA application, that this was not a one-man show. The team that he developed at the City has worked extremely hard to coordinate resource managers, facilitate interagency learning, share the tools and data that’s been collected and push the envelope for the entire area. These individuals have been instrumental in developing a sustainable future for the Winter Haven environment. .
His legacy and leadership doesn’t stop in his daily profession. He applied these attributes to programs like Boy Scouts, where he sits on the Eagle Board as Chair. Helping young men become active members of society is vitally important to him. By being involved in programs like Boy Scouts, Leadership Winter Haven, Polk Leadership Alumni and Polk County Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee, he is able to impact growing young professionals in an incredible way.
MJ is known for, “getting things done.” One colleague believes that Winter Haven is on the cutting edge of a smarter approach to water resources, critical to Florida’s future, because of this young professional’s hard work and dedication.
In 2009, Suzanne earned her Doctor of Health Science from Nova Southeastern University. She went on to the University of Saint Joseph to pursue her Masters of Biology & Certificate in Emerging Disease. While pursuing her personal education goals, she was also educating others at Polk State College & Chain of Lakes Collegiate High School as a Professor of Health Science. She was a Health Occupations Students of America Coordinator & STEM Research Coordinator and an Adjunct Professor of Biology. During her time at Polk State College, she participated in various community events such as health fairs on campus, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and developed the HOSA volunteer program partnered with Charters Health System, Good Shepherd Hospice.
Another aspect of her innovative leadership is consistently improving her teaching and learning methods through advanced technology and professional development. This recipient has traveled across the nation to present her insights at many professional conferences. Through these conferences she informs audiences about the unique enhancement programs offered to scholars preparing for medical careers, STEM careers and collegiate success. She further cultivates these skills by reading and practicing the competencies that are relevant to her career as a healthcare professional and educator.
Her students are not the only ones benefiting from her hard work. This year she received the 2018 National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development Excellence Award. One of her mentors expressed that she has the qualities of a transformational leader. Her leadership style is always evolving to meet her future career path in higher education and community involvement.
Outside of her profession, her leadership skills have been utilized by All Saints Academy Lower School, Florida Hospital Sports Medicine Team and Girls Scouts of West Central Florida. She is an active parent in the Brownies Troop for ASA Girls Scouts, developing activities for earning badges and creating teamwork. She also was dedicated as the Robotics Coach for ASA Junior Robotics and developed the first Lego League Junior challenge. For the past 13 years, she has been working as a certified athletic trainer for the Florida Hospital Sports Medicine Team. She organized and collaborated with healthcare professionals to provide medical care to the runners.
Jillian T. Spangler
Jillian received her Bachelor’s degree in international business from Rollins College and a Master’s degree in international business, management and marketing from Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College. She also attended Stetson University College of Law where she received a Juris Doctor. During her time at Stetson Law, this recipient was an active member in Phi Alpha Delta and the Labor and Employment Law Association. She also served as the President of the Business Law Society and served as the secretary of the Food Law Society.
Prior to attending law school, she held international jobs in both Spain and Costa Rica. While working for the Marketing Department for a language institute in a suburb of San Jose, she experienced the most satisfying moment in her career. She and a group of volunteers traveled to La Carpio, an unofficial refugee camp, where they were tasked with the mission to make beds for the people in this community. As she was volunteering she met a young girl, who was already a mother of two, living in one room with her two brothers, mother and small children. This moment taught her a valuable lesson of never taking things for granted and always striving to lend a helping hand to those in need. This moment, even more so, instilled in her a heart of service to others.
One of the many ways she is lending a helping hand in her community is through her leadership of the Rotary Club of Winter Haven. In this position, she has been able to create 3 new initiatives. The first initiative is a partnership with the Polk County School Board to address literacy and kindergarten readiness of Pre-K age children. The second initiative is a partnership with the Winter Haven Public Education Partnership. Through this partnership, the Rotary Club will be providing mentoring, supplies and anything the school may be in need of. The last initiative is in collaboration with Polk Vision. They will be supporting this organization with their attendance initiative to better touch retired rotary members who are looking for meaningful ways to spend their time. Because of her selfless service she received the Rotarian of the Year Award for exhibiting, “Service Above Self” in 2017.
Jillian is living out her definition of leadership by motivating and supporting the people around her. Currently, she serves on the Endeavor Young Professionals Board and is actively being an asset of support and vision. Any chance she gets, she is listening and contributing her thoughts and ideas for the betterment of the group, while encouraging others to continue their hard work.
In 2001, Ashley graduated from Polk State College with an Associate’s Degree in Business Administration. He then attended the University of South Florida where he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing in 2004. Before landing his current job at Northwestern Mutual as a Financial Planner, he was a part of the Senior Team at Fields Insurance and Financial Group and worked as a representative at WoodmenLife. In his position at Northwestern Mutual, he experiences the most satisfying moments of his career on a daily basis. He thoroughly enjoys being a listening ear to those around him so that he can help them accomplish their goals. He feels that his leadership can only come through listening and being aware of the needs that others have.
Outside of his career, his leadership skills are evident in his family and his service to the community. He has been married to his wife, Kia, for almost 3 years and feels that this is the most important leadership role that he plays. Through his willingness to listen and be supportive, he has cultivated leadership skills within his marriage that flow out into the community. He has served on a number of boards and committees including: Lighthouse Ministries, Polk County School Board’s Half Cent Tax Oversight Committee and the City of Lakeland’s Code Enforcement Board. Throughout his participation with these organizations, he has learned that, in order to be an effective leader, he must not be the loudest but rather, the quietest. In this way, he can be attentive to those around him and lead diverse groups of people.
This recipient’s leadership skills didn’t come overnight. Through reading books, listening to the wisdom of his mother and his studies of faith and Jesus he learned the key ingredients to humble leadership. Through Jesus’ example, he learned that, even as a leader, you must take the low position in order to serve others.
In his free time, he enjoys visiting the Polk County History museum and other historical places throughout the state. In order to lead, he feels that it’s important to know where you have been. Through that reflection you receive new insight and perspective on life. He also enjoys playing basketball because it teaches will, determination, communication and collaboration.
Winning this award is a proud moment for his entire family who have worked hard to be a strong part of the Polk County community for three generations.
Chrissanne graduated from Florida State University with a Bachelor of Arts in English & Latin American Studies. Later, in 2009, she graduated from Full Sail University with a Master’s Degree in Internet Marketing. Upon graduation, she founded her very own company called Marketing System Blueprints. This business specialized in social media platforms, search engine optimization, marketing and so much more. In 2017, she decided to merge this company with Maximize Social Media to create a new business called Maximize Digital Media.
Her leadership skills go beyond the walls of her thriving business. She is the founder of the Lakeland Business Leaders, a program started as a test to see what would happen if the people in Polk County could connect and help each other to find solutions within their businesses. What started as a Facebook group has now grown into an online community of business owners, professionals and community members with over 7,500 members. Every day this Facebook group sees over 40 posts a day regarding city opportunities for employment, special events and promotions going on within the community. This tool serves as a gateway to the connections that people need in their personal and professional lives.
She also brought the Leadercast program to Lakeland. Leadercast is a seminar broadcast throughout the country with leadership and inspirational speakers sharing their stories. At the, 2017 event she was able to to share her thoughts and the concepts of being powered by purpose. This event opened up her eyes to the realization that our stories help us change the world for the better and she is doing just that.
This Lakeland leader takes every opportunity to invest in her community. She currently serves on the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, the Lakeland Vision Board, the Leadership Lakeland Alumni Association Board and is also the past Advisory Board member for the Learning Resource Center of Polk County. Her and her fiancé both believe in supporting their community, as it is vital to any leadership position.
Chrissanne has done a phenomenal job of adapting to an ever-changing world with new ideas and fresh concepts about intentional forward motion in our communities. As a business owner, community cheerleader and an encouraging voice for Polk County, she is a deserving recipient of this award.
Thank you to our sponsors for this event: