‘Tis the Season to Shop Local

Well, frankly, it’s always the season to Shop Local, but it’s coming upon the most wonderful time of the year! The time when we open our hearts, homes and wallets to celebrate the holiday season. This year, we want to encourage you to focus on reinvesting in our very own community with your gift shopping list. To help aid you in that endeavor we have asked our chamber members to put together a few special deals. Check out the over 30 deals below or view and print the PDF of the specials to keep with you.

Thank you to all of those businesses that submitted specials!

For a list of more shopping, dining, attractions and other local companies you can patronize visit our website. Think before you buy! I bet you can find most of the items on your list in our very own community . . . you just might not know it! Here’s a special gift idea – an entire I Shopped Local basket!

Happy Holidays!

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Posted in Chamber Events, Chamber News, Dining, Member News, Shopping, Small Business Opportunity | Leave a comment

Chamber Board passes Resolution of Support for the Central Polk Parkway

At their October board meeting, the Chamber’s Board of Directors passed the following resolution on the Central Polk Parkway.


October 27, 2014

The Board of Directors of the Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce supports the expeditious funding for the completed design and construction of the Central Polk Parkway.

The development of this road is integral to our community’s capacity to handle the increased traffic created by the CSX Central Florida Intermodal Logistics Center (CFILC) as well as a gateway to our area for increased visitation to LEGOLAND® Florida and other area attractions.

            The supply chain and logistics industry in East Polk County is projected to grow substantially over the next ten years and it is of the utmost importance to plan and build the needed infrastructure to support such growth.  Seamless connectivity between the CFILC and Interstate 4 will provide efficient intermodal freight service to Orlando and Tampa, which will strengthen Florida’s position as a global trade hub and further promote economic development along the I-4 corridor.     

            Our Board of Directors believes this should be Florida’s top transportation priority and that advanced funding should be made for right-of-way acquisition and construction through the Florida Strategic Intermodal System (SIS) as well as other applicable transportation funding sources.  Furthermore, we recommend construction of the Central Polk Parkway begin first at the I-4 interchange and progress south and then west.  This sequence of construction will expedite the connection between Winter Haven and Orlando and provide traffic relief to US 27.

Initial proposal of the Central Polk Parkway

Initial proposal of the Central Polk Parkway

For those of you who may not yet be familiar with the Central Polk Parkway, it is a proposed extension of the current Polk Parkway that would loop through the Eastern parts of Polk County with proposed connections at the Winter Lake Road exit of the existing Polk Parkway and connect to I-4 near the Polk County and Osceola County line. This road will provide more direct access from the Orlando market to east Polk County as well as provide relief on US HWY 27 as the main entry point to northeast Polk County to both tourists, locals and the increased levels of logistics and distribution traffic due to the success of the CSX Central Florida ILC. While it is currently on the Florida Department of Transportation project list the design is only partially funded. The Chamber Board of Directors believe that it is vitally important that this project move forward as a top priority. For more information on the proposed development visit centralpolkparkway.com. 

Posted in Chamber News, CSX - Winter Haven, Economic Development, Transportation | 2 Comments

Barfield Insurance celebrates 10 Years!

While you often see ribbon cutting ceremonies happen at the start of one’s entrepreneurial career, it’s also important to celebrate the milestones. Recently, Chamber member James Barfield and his team celebrated 10 years in business as Barfield Insurance. This family owned and operated company has grown tremendously over the last 10 years and now has 6 locations including Winter Haven, Lakeland, Orlando and Ocoee. 

Long committed to helping customers get the best value for their insurance dollars, founder and CEO James Barfield and his staff offer many different types of insurance: auto, home, manufactured home, landlord insurance, flood, life insurance, etc.  Barfield Insurance also represents more than 30 different insurance companies.

Barfield says of the anniversary, “We are thankful to reach this anniversary milestone earned by the hard work and dedication of our staff, and the loyalty of our customers. We have truly been blessed over the last ten years.”

Congratulations to the Barfield team for having a successful 10 years and here is to many more in our community!
The team at Barfield Insurance as well as City Mayor Birdsong, Mayor Pro-tem Hunnicutt and the chamber ambassadors

The team at Barfield Insurance as well as City Mayor Birdsong, Mayor Pro-tem Hunnicutt and the chamber ambassadors

For more information about Barfield Insurance and Financial Services, Inc. please contact James Barfield at (863) 293-5400 or info@insurewithbarfield.com.
Posted in Member News | Leave a comment

Envisors – Same Name, Same Faces, Expanded Network

Screenshot 2014-10-28 11.26.55Envisors is still Envisors but with an expanded network!

Pennoni Associates, an ENR (Engineering News- Record)* Top 100 engineering, science, and design consulting firm, is pleased to announce the acquisition of the assets of 25-person firm Envisors of Winter Haven, FL. The firm, which specializes in civil and environmental engineering and related services, will now do business as Envisors, a Pennoni Company.

“We are excited that Envisors has joined our firm,” said Pennoni’s Director of Strategic Growth, Joe Viscuso, PE. “Envisors’ services match our core services and they bring a wealth of experience in a new geographic region for Pennoni. They have a solid reputation with close to 40 years of serving the Florida community and their mission to “provide value and results through experienced and innovative professionals” reflects our values as well. Both firms are focused on the needs of our clients by providing creative, value-added solutions.”

Founded in 1975, Envisors has a strong reputation for providing engineering land development & planning, transportation, water/wastewater, water resources, land surveying/mapping and construction engineering inspection services.

The four partners of Envisors, Steve Shealey, Beth Evans, Steve Elias and Kriss Kaye will all remain active in the firm. The addition of Envisors expands Pennoni’s presence from the Mid-Atlantic and New England to the Southeast region of the US.

Front Left: Joe Viscuso, Director of Strategic Growth with Pennoni Associates, and the Envisors team and spouses at a recent celebratory dinner.

Front Left: Joe Viscuso, Director of Strategic Growth with Pennoni Associates, and the Envisors team and spouses at a recent celebratory dinner.

“Pennoni’s nearly 50 year reputation for excellent client service and recognition as a great place to work mirrors our approach to providing engineering services to our clients as well as mentoring/developing our staff. Pennoni is a US-based firm, which we believe is important to maintaining our culture and to keeping as many of our clients’ dollars in our community,” said Mr. Shealey. “We look forward to continuing relationships with existing clients, as well as developing new ones. Having the additional capacity and several new services offered by Pennoni enables us to provide even more value as well as gives us a more competitive edge in the market. ” (Check out Pennoni’s portfolio of projects here.)


*ENR attempts to bring structure to an otherwise huge construction industry by performing annual surveys of its key segments, and ranking companies engaged in general contracting, specialty contracting, engineering, architecture and environmental services, among other specialties. The rankings, based on annual revenue at home and abroad, are further divided into specific market categories.
Posted in Member News | 2 Comments

Funding our city’s future

The City of Winter Haven commission has not committed to large-scale capital improvements for over 12 years. You may recall that around 2002 facelift and infrastructure changes took place at the police station, in our downtown (streetscaping and Central Park) and the new public library. (If you need a reminder, check out this blog post from a few months back). Today, we are faced with many facilities used by numerous families and citizens that are decades old and beyond capacity.  We are also facing the anticipated growth of our community brought to us by economic development opportunities such as CSX as well general projections that Central Florida will be one of the highest growth areas in the country through the coming decades.

Today during a lunchtime workshop, all five of the commissioners agreed that it is time to invest in our community again. Based on a list of projects and cost estimates of those projects, the commissioners came to a consensus that pending finalized information on costs, and further discussions regarding mechanisms of funding, they would move the process forward on a $25 million bond (this was a workshop, so not a formal vote, but you can anticipate conversations at future commission meetings). The bond would commit the city to approximately $1.5 million per year in debt service over 25 years. There are several mechanisms to fund the bond which include but aren’t limited to raising the ad valorem by 1 mil or accessing a fire availability fee. To put it in the simplest of terms, if they decided to go with the ad valorem increase (property assessment) it would cost the Winter Haven resident who owns a home valued at $100,000, $80 per year to support these projects and improve our community’s resources.

The list of proposed projects include: (Click Long Range Facility Needs 2014 to view a PDF with more details regarding these projects)

  • Winter Haven Recreational and Cultural Center Fitness Center Renovation
  • Sertoma Park Renovation
  • MLK Park Renovation
  • Trailhead Park Splash Pad
  • Skate Park
  • South Central Park
  • Lake Maude Recreation Area
  • Winter Haven Tennis Courts
  • Chain o’ Lakes Park and Complex (pending outcome of current litigation)
Posted in City of Winter Haven | 1 Comment

Bok Tower Gardens embarks on largest expansion in its history

The Board of Directors and executive staff of Bok Tower Gardens is hosting a groundbreaking ceremony on Friday, October 24 at 11 a.m., representing the start of the largest garden expansion in the 85-year history of the National Historic Landmark.

In February of this year, the Gardens announced the public phase of a $12 million capital campaign, Preserve the Legacy, Steward the Future to keep the Gardens relevant and sustainable.

To date, the Gardens has raised nearly $10.5 million, which is enabling construction to begin on the major new garden spaces, including a new:

  • Children’s Garden
  • Outdoor Kitchen and Edible Garden
  • Wild Garden
  • Oval Lawn and Pollinator Garden

“It’s an exciting time in the history of Bok Tower Gardens as we are starting to realize our vision for the future,” says Gardens’ president David Price. “We’re making big changes as part of this first phase of our 25-year master plan, and everything begins October 24 as we break ground on exciting new gardens.”

“The community is invited to come out for free and join our Board and staff for a ceremony at 11 a.m.,” Price said. “We’ll have a few guest speakers, followed by visits to the sites of the outdoor kitchen, children’s garden, pollinator garden, and wild garden.” Three undeveloped acres of land north of the Visitor Center is being transformed into two of these distinctive and engaging garden spaces—the children’s garden and outdoor kitchen.

Bok Tower Gardens Rendering

Children’s Garden

Keeping children in touch with nature is important to building their confidence, independent spirit, critical thinking, and ultimately their capacity for environmental stewardship. The new 2.7-acre children’s garden will be a place of hands-on fun, natural beauty, learning, and creative play.

Reflecting the unique spirit of Bok Tower Gardens, this garden will teach conservation and the vital connection between animals, plants, and people. There will be beautiful art, cooling water features, vibrant plantings, a boardwalk, performance stage, and music area. Children will have things to climb on, under and through, as well as places to build, dig and create.

“We need to have refuges like this that can be maintained for future generations,” said Board Chair Michael Aloian. “If this place were to go away, I feel that the State of Florida would turn into a big parking lot. We have too many places where we have immediate need for gratification, and I think the Gardens offer the complete opposite of that.”

Outdoor Kitchen and Edible Garden

Adjacent to the children’s garden will be a new kitchen garden that connects farm to table. Lake Flato Architects of San Antonio has designed an inviting outdoor open kitchen space in harmony with the landscape. A gift from Danielle Fence & Outdoor Living is helping make possible a pizza oven, fire pit, grills, cooktops, and other appliances.

Edible display gardens surrounding the kitchen will be a welcoming destination for daytime or nighttime educational programs and events showcasing lifestyle gardening and the culinary arts. Cooking demonstrations, receptions, school group programs, and private rentals will make this area a hub of horticultural and culinary activity.

The nearby discovery center, also designed by Lake Flato, will offer space for scheduled programs, small classroom learning, and staging for field trips or groups.

Wild Garden

Campaign funds are also transforming seven acres of the northern garden into a haven for wildlife and native plants. The expanded wild garden, encompassing the existing Window by the Pond and Endangered Plant Garden, will showcase a variety of Florida native plants and landscapes including an oak hammock, wet prairie, sandhill preserve, wetland and bog.

The new bog will serve as a natural filtration system for the exiting pond. Water-loving plants will absorb excess nutrients that otherwise contribute to algae growth. The pond itself will be made deeper, repaired, and replanted with a rich variety of Florida natives to attract birds and wildlife. A 170-foot boardwalk through the new wetland and bog area will provide visitors with an immersive experience into the new landscape.

Oval Lawn and Pollinator Garden

A gentle grade to a spectacular new oval walkway and special event lawn is being constructed behind the Visitor Center to help guests more easily find their way to Pinewood Estate, the Singing Tower, and the new expansion gardens to the north.

Because increasing numbers of visitors with limited mobility utilize wheelchairs and families with young children require the use of strollers, the primary path is being re-graded and paved to meet ADA compliance, using a material and color that blends with the garden setting.

“A ribbon of pathway was paved through the historic core gardens this summer,” explains Price. “We used a reddish-brown aggregate that will give the surface a warm brown tone as it wears. This treatment is already making the walk smoother for visitors with strollers and wheelchairs.”

The Blue Palmetto Café will offer expanded outdoor seating next to a colorful pollinator garden which will attract birds and butterflies, while a new dedicated shuttle route through the core garden will offer a convenient pick-up point adjacent to the Visitor Center, enabling guests with limited mobility to enjoy more of an immersive garden experience.

“Accessibility for everyone has been a really important piece of our planning process, so that young and old can together enjoy the entire Gardens,” said Cindy Alexander, co-chair of the campaign.

Restoration work on the Tower begins next summer and will focus on removing rust, sealing, and painting the iconic tile grilles surrounding the bell chamber at the top of the Tower.

“Most designated construction areas won’t disrupt our current visitation, and we’re staging things in a way that least impacts the visitor experience,” Price said. “This will be about an 18-month-long project and is expected to be completed in late spring of 2016.”

Supporting the Campaign

To date, the Gardens’ Preserve the Legacy, Steward the Futurecampaign has generated nearly $10.5 million of the $12 million needed to complete all the projects. Publix Super Markets Charities are bringing the Florida water story to life in the new children’s garden with the lead gift for River Run. The Mosaic Company stepped forward with both a financial gift and 492 tons of rock to surface secondary walks in the pollinator garden, kitchen garden, and along the Pine Ridge Trail.

Last month, an anonymous donor within the GiveWell Community Foundation issued a challenge gift of $250k to support the new children’s garden because they were inspired by the Gardens’ vision for the future.

Dozens more unique donor stories are surfacing with this campaign. Jeanne Jahna, also known as “Granny Greenthumbs,” will forever be remembered with a gift made by her children through the Jahna Foundation to establish the Fairy House Trail in the children’s garden. Long-time supporters Frank and Carol Drake considerBok Tower Gardens one of their favorite places in the world, and with five grandchildren decided to invest in helping make the children’s garden a reality.

“We enjoy how peaceful the Gardens are and appreciate just how hard the staff works to preserve its natural beauty,” says Frank and Carol Drake. “We’re excited about the Gardens’ plans for the future, and we love the idea of a children’s garden to connect young people with nature.”

Options are now available to honor someone with a commemorative bench, chair, or table and chair set. Gifts of cash or securities may be made outright or pledged up to a maximum of five years. Specific gift provisions through one’s estate, for donors over age 70, will qualify for campaign recognition.

According to Joan Thomas, director of development at the Gardens, there are a variety of creative naming and recognition opportunities in this campaign. “You can make a gift in honor or memory of someone close to the Gardens, associate your name with a major feature in our new garden areas, or consider an endowed fund opportunity,” Thomas said.

For more information visit boklegacy.org.

Information provided by Brian Ososky, Director of Marketing & Public Relations via a press release 

Posted in Member News, Parks and Green Space, Tourism | Leave a comment

A hometown firm just got a little bigger…

Straughn & Turner, P.A. is pleased to announce the addition of a new partner and two new associates to their expanding practice in Winter Haven. Prominent local attorney Douglas A. Lockwood III will join the firm as a partner, while Richard Straughn’s daughter, Marie Straughn Prisco, and her husband, Matthew W. Prisco, will become associates.

Doug Lockwood brings more than 30 years of experience to the firm. The Winter Haven native has primarily handled civil litigation and dispute resolution matters throughout Florida. He is board certified in both civil law and business litigation, an honor held by only two percent of the members of The Florida Bar. He will join the firm on October 20.

Straughn & Turner, P.A. has been a strong supporter of the Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce for decades and now they are home to three Past Board Chairman, Richard Straughn (1993-1994), Mark Turner (2001-2002) and Doug Lockwood (2005-2006). 

The addition of Marie Straughn Prisco marks the third generation of Straughns to practice law with the firm. Born and raised in Winter Haven, Marie Straughn Prisco graduated from Stetson University College of Law in May 2014. While she hopes to develop a working knowledge of several areas of law, her current interests are real estate, contracts and business law.

Florida native Matthew Prisco also graduated from Stetson University College of Law earlier this year. He looks forward to concentrating on business transactions, estates, trusts and commercial litigation.

From Left: Doug Lockwood, Marie Straughn Prisco, Richard Straughn,  Matthew W. Prisco and Mark Turner

From Left: Doug Lockwood, Marie Straughn Prisco, Richard Straughn, Matthew W. Prisco and Mark Turner

Founded by Jack Straughn in 1950, Straughn & Turner, P.A. has been serving clients with exceptional legal services for more than 64 years. With core values of integrity and trust, the firm’s comprehensive practice provides counsel in a number of areas, including business law, real estate, estate planning, trusts and general litigation.

The firm has long been active in civic affairs and community service. In addition to performing countless leadership roles in local community organizations, all three partners have served as president of the Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce.

This expansion of the firm will allow Straughn & Turner, P.A. to continue to meet the business and litigation demands of its growing client base.


Posted in Member News | 1 Comment

Groover Exterminating, Inc. Turns 50!

Recently, Amanda Jo and I got the chance to visit with the entire team at Groover Exterminating, Inc. “Team” is probably too corporate of a word as it truly seemed like we were visiting a family.

John A.and James Groover featured in the paper for starting their business.

John A.and James Groover featured in the paper Feb. 2, 1964, for starting their business.

Over 50 years ago, Groover Exterminating was started by John A. Groover and his wife Annette, along John’s father, James Groover (pictured left). They opened up shop on Dundee Road, where the business still stands today, albeit in a newer building.

Original Groover Exterminating office, located in the same location on Dundee Road that the current office sits today.

Original Groover Exterminating office, located in the same location on Dundee Road that the current office sits today.

While John A. and Annette are still involved in the business today, the reins have been passed to their son John “Desi” Groover, Certified Pest Control Officer, and his wife Debbie, the Chief Financial Officer, who now own the business. Other team members include Sal Marchese, Service Manager, Tony Self and Dorsey Branch, service technicians and Mark Jone, Office Manager. Help us congratulate them on 50 years of service to this community!

The team at Groover Exterminating

The team at Groover Exterminating

Debbie, Desi, John and Annette Groover

Debbie, Desi, John and Annette Groover

With a slogan of “The Bug Stops Here” they offer pest management with the integrity that has been passed down through three generations.

Services include:

  • General household pest control
  • In the wall pest control
  • Boracore termite prevention
  • Termite bait stations installed and monitored
  • Dry wood terminate prevention/control
  • Rodent control
  • Flea & tick control
  • Spider prevention
  • Bed bug treatment
  • Automist mosquito control
  • Commercial pest control
  • Restaurant pest control
  • Lawn and ornamental pest control
  • Lawn and ornamental fertilization
  • Soil testing
Posted in Member News, Success Stories | 2 Comments

Past President and Banker’s Cup Winner Judy Cleaves Retires

Published: Sunday, October 12, 2014 at 9:42 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, October 12, 2014 at 9:42 p.m.

WINTER HAVEN | In the business of selling houses, Judy Cleaves has long been a household name.

The owner of Winter Haven-based Judy B. Cleaves Properties officially retired this month, bringing an end to a 35-year career in real estate.

“I’ve been saying I want to stop while I’m ahead and I feel good and can enjoy life,” said Cleaves, 74. “I don’t want someone tapping me on the shoulder saying, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t be doing that anymore.’ “

There is still a full itinerary ahead: time with grandchildren, games of bridge and trips to Sarasota, where Cleaves has been a devoted admirer of the local arts scene.

And this isn’t the last you’ll hear of her name. An associate, Carol Sheil, has purchased the real estate business and will continue to operate it as Judy B. Cleaves Properties. Cleaves herself will remain among the six agents on the firm’s roster — “just in case,” she says with a laugh.

“I’m not going anywhere, I’m just not going to be working so hard.”

Looking back, Cleaves said her career began as a way to prove something to herself.

A native of Savannah, Ga., and valedictorian of her high school, she moved to Winter Haven with her parents in 1957.

Going off to college was not an expectation of the young women of Cleaves’ generation, she said. She spent a year at the University of Florida anyway, before getting married and starting a family with three children.

In the late 1970s Cleaves found herself in need of a job, and she got into home sales when a local agent suggested she would be good at it.

She spent nine years with a company in Winter Haven before establishing her own firm in 1989. At the time, Cleaves knew of only a small handful of female Realtors in the area who had done the same.

“I think one of the reasons I worked so hard was to prove to myself that I could succeed even though I didn’t have the opportunity to finish college,” she said. “I did self-educate. I took classes for the management of the company. I owe a lot of my success to that.”

Longtime friend Bonnie Parker said she admires Cleaves for her acumen and drive.

“She has a way of having that Savannah charm that makes her seem understated, but I can assure you she is highly intelligent. She’s well-traveled, cultured, and well-read,” said Parker, a senior vice president with Citizens Bank and Trust in Winter Haven. “She’s been a good role model for me as a businesswoman.”

In a momentous step during the business’ early days, Cleaves hired Chris Nikdel — now the CEO and art director of Winter Haven’s Clark/Nikdel/Powell — to design a logo.

She developed with a little orange house surrounded by two green trees, which is still in use today.

Cleaves had the logo emblazoned on contact paper and used it to adorn the mailboxes of her homes for sale.

“People loved them, they loved them. They were cute, they looked friendly,” she said. “That helped get me going. It was good promotion.”

She also raised her profile by getting involved in the community.

Cleaves has served as president of Winter Haven’s Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce, and has been involved with organizations including Girls Inc. and the Polk Museum of Art.

“Winter Haven is a very special community,” she said. “If you support them, they’ll support you, and I’ve had huge support from the community.”

She also has served in multiple leadership roles with the East Polk County Association of Realtors, and was named Realtor of the Year in 1994.

When Cleaves announced her

retirement to her firm’s associates in June, Sheil scrambled to obtain her broker’s license and purchase the business.

“Judy has such a spectacular reputation throughout the community, and has been so involved that it just made sense to keep the name,” said Sheil, who has worked in real estate for about 15 years after a previous career in nursing and health care. “It’s carrying on a tradition of integrity and good service.”

The business has relocated from Central Avenue to an office at 131 Fifth Street NW, facing the park in downtown Winter Haven.

There are no other changes to the business planned for the near future.

“I can still do referrals and consult. I can be around if they need me,” Cleaves said. “I love people and I enjoy the real estate business; I totally invested myself in it … it’s been a wonderful life for me.”

[ Kyle Kennedy can be reached at kyle.kennedy@theledger.com or 863-802-7584. ]

Posted in Real Estate | 3 Comments

Celebration of Winter Haven 2013-2014

Feeling Good

This past Tuesday the Chamber held the 2014 Annual Meeting and the theme was It’s a New Dawn… It’s a New Day… It’s a New Life… And We’re Feeling Good! And after taking a look back at everything that has happened in the last year, we certainly have reasons to feel good!

It was a night of celebration as outgoing Chairman of the Board, Mr. Steve Crisman with Cross, Fernandez & Riley, LLP, reflected upon his tenure as chairman. He remarked that “I don’t think that anyone can argue that there is a new energy to Winter Haven. Over the last year we have had some major milestones to celebrate.” He went on to describe the opening of the CSX Central Florida ILC, the “launch” of Florida Polytechnic University, the opening of Polk State’s Advanced Technology Center and the groundbreaking of their college of Public Safety, the sale of the land adjacent to the ILC for development, the opening of the Winter Haven Public Education Partnerships Education Center and the expansions at LEGOLAND Florida including the Florida Pool and Oriental Gardens, Duplo Valley and the groundbreaking and construction of the LEGOLAND Hotel, opening in Summer 2015. And while large-scale additions are important to our economy, there were many small businesses who also made their mark on the year. From dozens of ribbon cuttings, capital investments and new building construction, to those entrepreneurs who have taken the risks and opened their own business – this year was a year of growth.

All in all there were many things to celebrate. A few honors were bestowed as well.

IMG_3062 - Version 2

Ruth Hooper & Steve Crisman

The Chamber inducted a new Presidential Ambassador, Mrs. Ruth Hooper with All About Time Clock Shop. Our Chamber Ambassadors are a dedicated team who work tirelessly to help our members feel WELCOME and VALUED. We currently have 17 Ambassadors that give a great deal of their personal time for the good of the Chamber. Five  years ago our Ambassadors helped to create a program to recognize exceptional dedication and commitment to the role. The ones who meet these criteria are our Presidential Ambassadors. This year Ruth was added to the 7 other Presidential Ambassadors.

Mike Potthast

Katie Worthington, Mike Potthast & Steve Crisman

The Leadership Winter Haven Distinguished Alumnus Award recognizes an individual who has carried through the lessons learned and knowledge gained throughout their time in Leadership Winter Haven into their career and community life. This year’s winner has done that – most notably in this case how one individual can impact the portrait of our community. Mike Potthast began working in his father’s studio at the age of 5, learning how to process film in the darkroom. Since that time, he has loved the art of photography and has spent his adult life documenting the beauty and authenticity of Winter Haven and beyond through his small business, Potthast Studios. Over the years the business has grown and Mike has certainly captured some memorable moments – from Sheriff Grady Judd and his deputies dressed like the Wild West, to local citizens staged for recreation of favorite movie posters, to an annual nativity photo layout that adorns his studio windows on Central Avenue each year, to the most intimate of family moments – a new born or a blushing bride. His business has grown over the years, and besides personal portraits, he has become a go-to photographer for many corporations seeking business photography, headshots and videography.

2014 Winner, Nikki Smith, ASAP and 2013 Winner Dr. Mitsie Vargas with Orchid Springs Animal Hospital.

2014 Winner, Nikki Smith, ASAP and 2013 Winner Dr. Mitsie Vargas with Orchid Springs Animal Hospital.

The Industry Award for a company with less than 100 employees went to ASAP Advertising Solutions and Printing. For over 13 years, ASAP has been making companies look good. From designing unique printed materials to coming up with creative marketing solutions, ASAP Advertising Solutions and Printing, strives to establish tightly knit relationships built on trust, innovative ideas and helping their clients reach a maximum audience for the best price.

A company of only 8 employees, ASAP operates under the philosophy that being strategic and consistent quality and service is what allows them to have grown over the years. During the last 5 years, they have invested over a half million dollars in equipment and facilities to ensure they are staying at the cutting edge of their industry. Just recently they acquired a printer that allows them to print on many different kinds of materials including PVC, magnets, window clings, bad stuffers, signs, posters and so much more, all at lightening speeds, allowing for faster turn around for their clients. They also believe in giving back and allow each employee to take up to a week, fully compensated, for community outreach, mission trips or other charitable acts of service.

2014 Winner Oliver Pietri, The Results Companies and 2013 Winner Peter DeVito with Brown International

2014 Winner Oliver Pietri, The Results Companies and 2013 Winner Peter DeVito with Brown International

The Industry Award for a company with more than 100 employees went to The Results Companies. Located at 5300 Recker Highway, The Results Companies moved into Winter Haven in 2010 and began running their facility with 250 employees offering a premier global customer experience through their uniquely designed, built, operated and award-winning call centers. Their services range from customer service, acquisition, enrollment, retention, member support services, transaction processing and outbound sales.

Over the last four years, The Results Companies have invested in both their facility and their workforce. They recently held a ribbon cutting to celebrate the renovation of their building and received a visit from Florida Governor Rick Scott who recognized them for their investment in creating jobs for our community. Now at 350 employees and looking to add another 100 employees by the end of October, The Results Company is quickly expanding and offering quality jobs to the people of Polk County. They anticipate gaining 3 to 4 additional lines of business over the coming years and project a final employee count of about 600 people. The majority of the staff at the Winter Haven facility is bilingual. Just a brief walk through their call centers gives you a feel to their work environment: Collaborative, energetic and positive. At The Results Companies they don’t just believe in keeping their employees happy. They believe it is their duty to foster employees’ growth. Just over the last 9 months, 30 front line employees have been promoted. They believe their job is to prepare their employees to become leaders both within their organization and within the community.


Past Presidents Pass the Gavel

As is tradition, past presidents from the 80′s to today gathered for the passing of the gavel that ended with outgoing Chairman Steve Crisman passing the gavel to Greg Littleton, President of Citizens Bank & Trust, the 2014 – 2015 Chairman of the Board.

Outgoing Chairman Steve Crisman passes the gavel to incoming Chairman Greg Littleton.

Incoming Chairman Greg Littleton accepts the gavel from outgoing Chairman Steve Crisman.

Greg looked forward, outlining the three year strategic plan that the Board of Directors put into place during their summer board retreat.

The following installations were approved:

Nominated to a first three-year term:

  • Jennifer Fasking, State Farm Insurance
  • Angel Neubrand, Winter Haven Hospital
  • Bob O’Malley, CSX
  • Claire Orologas, Polk Museum of Art
  • Martha Santiago, Polk State College

Reappointed to a second-three year term:

  • Mike Mahalak, Chrysler Dodge Jeep of Winter Haven
  • Ingram Leedy, Protected Trust
  • Amy Sumerlin, Bright House Networks

Officers for 2014 – 2015:

  • Chairman                                      Greg Littleton
  • Chairwoman-elect                       Debbie Harsh
  • First Vice Chair                            Hap Hazelwood
  • Treasurer                                      Adrian Jones
  • Immediate Past Chairman        Steve Crisman


Check out the video below created to kick off the program and view photos from the event on our Facebook page.

Screenshot 2014-09-26 10.23.32

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