The Winter Haven Chamber Foundation honored five young professionals from throughout Polk County at the Third Annual Polk Emerging Leaders Banquet held August 26 at the Polk State College Lakeland Campus. The five were selected by a committee of judges from throughout Polk. Here is a brief overview of each 2013 honoree.
Timothy Darby, Darby Law Group, Lakeland
Tim attended the University of Florida with a double major in political science and criminology. Upon graduation he attended Florida Coastal School of Law receiving his Juris Doctor in 2008. He was admitted to the Florida Bar in 2009.
He cited two achievements of his firm’s law practice that mean the most to him. One involves his work with Tom Phillips of the Polk Transit Authority to create a Universal Access Program for students and businesses in Polk County. The general premise is that schools or businesses pay a monthly fee based on the number of students/employees and potential ridership in order for students or employees to ride all fixed route transit systems within Polk. Currently this program is serving the “model citizens” of LEGOLAND Florida, as well as such organizations as Polk State College, Southeastern University, Pace Center for Girls, the Learning Resource Center, Explorations V Children’s Museum and more.
He also takes pride in his work in Elder Law practice where he is able to meet with clients and use his knowledge and experience from many areas of practice to advocate for and assist them in their time of need. Helping others and seeing their reaction of relief when they realize that his firm is there to help, has allowed him to grow as a professional.
His strengths include persistence, work ethic and the ability to address and handle adversity.
One of his greatest accomplishments outside of his profession is serving on the Steering Committee of EMERGE Lakeland. This opportunity allowed him to network and become more involved in the community. After leaving to pursue his education, once he returned, he realized the importance of the development and retention of young professionals in Polk County and dedicated his time to serving that purpose.
Of those who have made an impact in his life as a young professional he credits Carolyn Jackson with the Lakeland Chamber. She has worked to cultivate and support so many young professionals in the Polk County community. It has been very positive for his professional and non-profit development to work with and learn from her through his leadership positions in EMERGE LAKELAND as well as his participation in the Leadership Lakeland program.
Jeff Donalson, Reiss Engineering, Winter Haven
Jeff received his Bachelor of Science degree in environmental engineering from the University of Florida and graduated Cum Laude. After completing his bachelor studies, he pursed his masters in Environmental Engineering from the University of Florida and graduated with a 3.9 GPA.
Directly after college, he began working as a full-time employee at Reiss Engineering, Inc. There he works on various projects throughout Central Florida including Polk County Utilities, Orange County Utilities, City of Winter Haven, City of Clearwater, City of Haines City, City of Davenport, City of Venice, Lake Conway Estates, Lehigh Acres, City of Tavares and FDEM Mitigation. He currently serves as a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers.
To date, he believes that obtaining his master’s degree in engineering while also obtaining his undergraduate engineering degree is one of his greatest accomplishments. This allowed him to get a jump start on his professional apprenticeship clock and gave him the opportunity to sit for the professional engineering practical exam two years earlier than anyone else who graduated in his class.
His strengths include engaging city and community officials, leaders and decision makers in an effective manner. He is proud of his ability to network and open job opportunities for his company.
His greatest accomplishment outside of his profession is co-founding the Winter Haven Flight Club. He has always been interested in aviation. Within the last six months, he’s learned more about aviation than he could ever have dreamed. Starting the club has allowed him to practice his entrepreneurial skills and ambitions in a non-traditional, real world situation.
His other community involvement include Urban Advisory Board, Airport Advisory Committee, Leadership Winter Haven graduate, Leadership Winter Haven Class 32 and Leadership Winter Haven Alumni Board Member, Winter Haven Main Street Board member, Winter Haven Flight Club and the Winter Haven Young Professionals Group.
Jeff noted that as a young professional in the Winter Haven community he has been mentored by many who sincerely want him to succeed professionally and he has found this very gratifying.
Janis Davis Jones, Southern Dunes Storage (Haines City) and Keep Winter Haven Clean and Beautiful
Janet Davis Jones is a Polk County native and proud of it! She began her education at the Polk Community College in the First Responder and Emergency Technician Program. After completing the program, she attended Polk State College where she received her Associates of Arts in Elementary Education and graduated Phi Theta Kappa. Most recently, she received her Bachelors of Applied Science in Public Administration from Polk State College.
Janis has always taken pride in serving those in her community and is dedicated to making a living by doing so. She served as a paraprofessional and parent involvement coordinator at Dundee Elementary School. One of her best qualities is her passion for working in the community and building lifelong relationships that are essential to her professional advancements. She has successfully formed partnerships with local government, law enforcement, media groups and community-based organizations for the betterment of the citizens of our county.
Her accomplishment of which she is most proud is receiving the Tampa Bay Business Journal Education Business of the Year Award. She received that recognition when she was the Executive Director of Keep Polk County Beautiful Inc. Other awards and honors include being the President of Polk State College Green Club, President of Polk State College Golden Key International Honor Society, Polk County School Board Service Learning Advisory Board member and Polk County Retired Senior Volunteer Program Chair.
She is currently employed at Southern Dunes Storage in Haines City and is the Executive Director for Keep Winter Haven Clean and Beautiful. As an Emerging Leader, her goal is to inspire and motivate others to become involved in community service projects at any level!
Jennifer Jonnson, A-C-T Enviromental, Bartow
Jennifer Jonnson began her professional journey as a student at the University of Florida where she studied Health Science Education. After completing her bachelor’s degree, she decided to continue her education at the University of Florida and received her master’s degree in Public Health. After her education, she became a member of Society of Human Resource Management and has completed various professional development seminars related to HR that has qualified her as an experienced Health and Safety professional.
As an emerging leader, she feels her greatest accomplishment outside of her profession is her involvement with United Way of Central Florida where she currently sits on the Board of Directors. Other officer positions she has held with United Way of Central Florida are: Pacesetter Chair, Young Leader’s Society Chair, Campaign Chair, Women’s Leadership Council, and Community Investment Team.
Her other community involvement includes LRMC Women in Philanthropy, Achievement Academy, Lakeland Vision, Polk Efficiency Commission, Community Foundation of Greater Lakeland, EMERGE Lakeland, Society of Human Resource Management, SPCA, St. Paul Lutheran Church & School volunteer and South McKeel Academy volunteer.
Her strengths are taking ownership of problems and learning to deal with them head-on, identifying the problem and implementing a solution. Others find her to be honest, trustworthy and motivating.
She is currently employed at A-C-T Environmental as the Director of Human Resources. Among her proudest accomplishments is “being involved in helping A-C-T receive recognition four years in a row as one of Florida’s Best Companies to Work For (top 100).
Joshua Lewis, Morgan Stanley, Winter Haven
Josh Lewis started his professional quest at Polk State College where he received an Associate of Arts in Business Administration degree. He later attended Florida State University where he majored in Finance and Marketing.
After college, he began working for American Express as a Financial Advisor. During his time there he advised clients through comprehensive financial planning. He continues today as a financial planner for Morgan Stanley. He is now an important part of a successful financial advisory team managing more than $300 million.
As an emerging leader his greatest achievement outside of his profession is co-founding the Lewis Family Cancer Foundation with his brother Geoff. The Lewis Family Cancer Foundation is a donor-advised fund through the Community Foundation of Greater Winter Haven and was established to promote public awareness and assist in funding and research development to cure cancer.
His community service work includes serving on the Board of Trustees for Our Children’s Rehab Center, Winter Haven Young Professionals Group and Lewis Family Cancer Advisory Board. He was also recognized by the President of Publix Supermarkets for excellent work in customer relations.
He prides himself on family involvement. He believes that his family provided the foundation for him to grow and learn and that is why he is successful today.
Congratulations to the five honorees and all young professionals who were nominated.