Educate July 2016 On The Cover Special Section

The Fierce Awards


Written By: Yesi Sevilla

BUSINESS IN GREATER GAINESVILLE RECOGNIZES AND APPLAUDS TALENTED, TRANSFORMATIVE WOMEN IN OUR BUSINESS COMMUNITY.

SPECIAL SECTION Words FROM THE WINNERS

“My biggest goal, both professionally and personally, is to be a blessing to others. In fact, the opportunity to be of service to our community is what drives me to get up in the morning and be fierce!” – YVETTE CARTER

“My past makes me fierce. I have been through a lot and fought for many — most of all MY KIDS. Trying to make them see and know the LOVE I knew from my parents and to know that things don’t just come to you — you have to WORK for it and, most important, always have FAITH!” – JAMALEE MONTGOMERY

“My attitude is best summed up with a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, ‘With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.’” – MELISSA CURRY

Holly Bender

Holly Bender

Director of Sales and Marketing, Hilton University of Florida Conference Center

Holly is a hotel veteran with over 30 years of hotel sales, event planning, catering, and food and beverage experience with Hilton, Marriott, Dolce and Starwood. She is an active member in the Rotary Club of Gainesville, on the board of the Fisher House in Gainesville and on the advisory council for the Ronald McDonald House of North Central Florida. Exactech, where her husband is employed, brought Holly to Gainesville two years ago. She is the proud mother of a 24-year-old daughter who graduated from Denison University and was stationed in Botswana while serving in the Peace Corps.

Yvette Carter

Yvette Carter Community Relations Director

Gainesville Regional Utilities

Yvette Carter is the community relations director of Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU). She is responsible for the utility’s community outreach, community partnerships, and community investments, and she serves as ombudsman for the organization. Inside GRU, she is a vital voice on issues of diversity and inclusion, corporate citizenship and volunteerism. Yvette is the current president of the PACE Center for Girls Alachua board of directors, and she serves as a board member of several local nonprofit organizations and community advisory teams. Prior to joining GRU, Yvette worked for Nationwide Insurance for 14 years in various claims capacities. She was also instrumental in many community outreach and service initiatives for the organization. Yvette graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Science degree in family, youth and community sciences with a concentration in community development and minor in education. She is proud of her family, which includes husband, Wade; children LaKisha, Britney, Joe, John, and Jordan; and grandson, Landon.

Sandy Chance

Sandy Chance

Executive Director – Brechner Center for Freedom of Information, UF College of Journalism and Communications

Sandra Chance is a media law professor at the University of Florida. She is also the executive director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information and the McClatchy Professor in Freedom of Information in the College of Journalism and Communications. She teaches media law at both the undergraduate and graduate level. A faculty member since 1993, Chance has taught close to 6,500 students. In 2005, she was named the Scripps-Howard National Journalism Teacher of the Year. She’s also been recognized as the college’s Teacher of the Year. Chance is nationally recognized as a leading expert on the First Amendment and other media law issues. She lectures nationally and internationally and has written almost 50 scholarly, refereed articles and book chapters. Chance graduated with honors from the UF College of Law and was named to the Order of the Coif. She practiced media law with the law firm of Holland & Knight in Tampa, Florida. Chance also served as an assistant general counsel at UF. She received both her bachelor’s degree in journalism with high honors and a master’s degree in journalism and communications with distinction from UF. She’s a member of the U.S. Supreme Court Bar and the Florida Bar, and she is also admitted to practice before the federal courts in Florida. Chance has been married to her high school sweetheart for 42 years and has three children, who are all married and living in Gainesville, and two adorable grandchildren.

Melissa Curry

Melissa Curry

Director for Recruitment & Staffing, University of Florida

As the director of recruitment and staffing at the University of Florida, Melissa is responsible for the leadership, direction, administration, and strategic planning for talent acquisition and management, academic personnel, processing and records, immigration services, and institutional equity and diversity for the largest employer in North Central Florida. A University of Iowa graduate, Melissa is certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and a Society for Human Resource Management Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP). Since moving to Gainesville in 1999, she has served in a number of service and leadership roles, including the NCF CareerSource board of directors, Innovation Gainesville Task Force chair and the School Advisory Committee. Melissa led UF’s recent partnership with the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce to develop and implement the Gainesville Dual Career Partner and Relocation Support Network. This partnership supports making Gainesville the global hub of talent, innovation, and opportunity and is key to UF’s path to preeminence. Melissa and her team have won many awards for innovation over the past few years, including the 2012 national CUPA-HR Innovation Award and the 2012 Florida Davis Productivity award for online onboarding. Melissa and her husband, Ron, have two active children, Meghan, 13, and Connor, 10.

Susan Davenport

Susan Davenport

President/CEO, Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce/Council for Economic Outreach

Susan currently undertakes a dual role of president/CEO as well as vice president of economic development for the Gainesville Area Chamber, a five-star accredited chamber of commerce with approximately 1,400 members. In her dual role, Susan is responsible for the day-to-day chamber operations as well as developing and managing a comprehensive economic development program for the greater Gainesville area with a specific focus on marketing, new business attraction, business retention and expansion and capital formation for early stage companies. Susan came to Gainesville in 2013 after spending 13 years with the Austin Chamber of Commerce, most recently as senior vice president of global technology strategies. While there, she served as a key team member for the Opportunity Austin strategy, which created over 174,000 new jobs and enhanced regional payrolls by $8.7 billion over an eight-year period from 2004 to 2012. During her tenure in Austin, she developed and executed Austin’s regional business retention and expansion program, Portfolio Austin, where over 4,800 regional retention visits were undertaken with 520 regional expansions tracked. She also developed and managed the Central Texas Regional Center of Innovation and Commercialization, which assisted 34 companies with accessing $60 million in funding with an additional $30 million for local research and university projects. Susan also developed the Greater Austin Technology Partnership and Austin TechLive, which engaged over 100 regional technology executives in various economic development activities and supported entrepreneurism through a downtown co-working technology hub partner. Susan received a master of public affairs degree from the University of Texas at Austin and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from the University of Texas Medical Branch. She is also a graduate of the Economic Development Institute at the University of Oklahoma and is associated with the International Economic Development Council.

Debby Kinman Ford

Debby Kinman-Ford

Director, B’nai Israel Community Day School

Debby serves as the director of B’nai Israel Community Day School, a private day school at Congregation B’nai Israel. Originally from Miami, Debby has lived in Gainesville since 1992 and has built her career around education. For over 15 years, Debby worked with children who suffered from severe emotional and behavioral issues in Dade and Alachua counties as a teacher and a consultant. She earned her bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Florida International University and a master’s of education degree from Nova Southeastern University. She also recently participated in a two-year Jewish leadership program through RAVSAK in New York. Debby is passionate about philanthropy and serves on the board of associates for Meridian Behavioral Healthcare and the Ronald McDonald House of North Central Florida. She is devoted to helping the next generation of children and families get involved in repairing the world, both locally and globally, and she actively pursues partnerships within the community where the day school can assist. Debby has two daughters, Alisha and Rebekah, and is adding a son-in-law this winter.

Debbie Lee

Debbie Lee

Director of Marketing, Gainesville Health and Fitness

Debbie Lee is the director of marketing at Gainesville Health and Fitness. Prior to this position, she served as the undergraduate program coordinator in the Department of Health Education & Behavior at the University of Florida and as a middle school health education teacher in Pinellas County, Florida. She works extensively in company branding via culture, differentiation and community involvement to make GHF a place for everyone who wants to be their best. She is credited with creating and implementing the Well City Initiative that led to the first and only “Gold Well City” award recognizing Gainesville as the healthiest community in America. Working with the chamber on Innovation Gainesville and the membership task force committee drives her community involvement in the business sector. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Florida in health science education. She has been recognized as the Health Educator of the Year, National Club Manager of the Year, and Teacher of the Year (UF) and has also been inducted into the Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame for the College of Health and Human Performance at UF.

Virginia Mackoul

Virginia MacKoul

Director of Marketing, Front Street Commercial Real Estate Group

“Ginny” joined Front Street Commercial Real Estate Group in 2011 and now serves as the director of marketing, overseeing all marketing and branding activity. She also manages the firm’s team of interns. Ginny shares Front Street’s passion for giving back to the community. She led the registration committee for Taste of Gainesville in 2015, and she has served on planning committees for Tyler’s Hope and the Child Advocacy Center. Ginny also volunteers her time to several organizations such as United Way, Children’s Miracle Network, the Ronald McDonald House and the American Heart Association. Ginny is a graduate of Leadership Gainesville Class 41 (Go Blue!). In 2016, Ginny co-founded a networking group called Talking Heads GNV. The group’s mission is to create a thriving local network of forward-thinking business development and marketing professionals whose goal is to share ideas and build relationships. Ginny was born in Boston and moved to Florida in 1997. She started college at the University of Florida with a focus on architecture, immediately fell in love with Gainesville and has been here ever since. Ginny’s hobbies include photography, cooking, football, designing, creating, enjoying the beach, and spending time with friends, family and her dog, Brinkley.

Carlee Marhefka

Carlee Marhefka

Co-owner, Eat the 80

Carlee Marhefka is co-owner of a healthy meal delivery company called Eat the 80 and is also a certified personal trainer at B3 gym. Although she was born with an innate desire to help people, it wasn’t until college that Carlee really started to focus on her own wellness journey. She realized that being sedentary and unhealthy was not for her. Once she cleaned up her own eating habits and started attending a boot camp on a regular basis, she saw an instant transformation in her body and overall health. It was then that she realized her life’s purpose is to help others achieve this same result. She has been in the health industry since 2010, after graduating from the University of Florida with a master’s degree in education. With a strong entrepreneurial spirit, she decided to give up teaching to pursue her dreams of being a business owner focused on her greatest professional passion. She recently married Chris, and together, they share two businesses that focus on the health and welfare of members of the community. Carlee is also involved in other organizations including United Way of North Central Florida and the Junior League of Gainesville.

Brenda McDowell

Brenda McDowell

Business Account Manager, Florida Credit Union

Brenda has over 30 years of banking experience in administrative, retail and commercial banking services. Her business development activities include being associated with various business networking groups, and she has developed many long-term financial relationships with the Gainesville business community. Brenda serves on the board of directors for Stop Children’s Cancer as well as the Fantasy Event planning committee, is a member of the Gainesville Area Women’s Network, Builder’s Association of North Central Florida, and the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce. She holds a Foundations of Banking diploma from the American Institute of Banking as well as numerous certificates and licenses within the banking industry. When not in the office, Brenda enjoys event planning, exercising, reading and traveling.

Susan McQuillan

Susan McQuillan

Vice President and Regional Manager of Central Florida, Watson Realty Corp.

Susan began her career in the real estate industry by obtaining her real estate license in the early 1990s in Orlando. In 1996, her family (husband, Art, son, AJ, and daughter, Alyson) all made the move to Gainesville to help out in the family business of land development and sales. Susan obtained her broker license and opened her own real estate company, McQuillan Real Estate. Beginning in 2004, she spent two years studying and pursuing her certification in residential appraising with Mary Jackson, a long-time local appraiser, and then moved into sales and rental with a local real estate firm when Mary retired. In 2011, she became the broker/manager at Watson Realty Corp. for the property management division. In January 2014, Susan was promoted to vice president and regional director of the Central Florida area, where she oversees nine offices. While her children were younger, Susan was very involved with St. Patrick and St. Francis schools. She is also very involved in the community — she currently serves on the Alachua County Planning Commission board and the Catholic Charities board and is an active member of the Queen of Peace parish, Women’s Council of Realtors Gainesville Chapter (served as president for 2015 and district vice president for 2016), Florida Realtors and the National Association of Residential Property Managers. Susan is vice president of the Gainesville/Alachua County Association of Realtors (slated to president by 2018). She was selected as the 2014 Entrepreneur of the Year for the Women’s Council of Realtors Gainesville Chapter.

Jamalee Montgomery

Jamalee Montgomery

Owner, NUMA Speed LLC

Jamalee Montgomery grew up in Danville, Indiana, and relocated to Gainesville about eight years ago. She’s married to Timothy Montgomery, and they have a total of seven children, four of which currently live at home. The last one blessed their family this past June, when Jamalee was 40. She thought, “Wow, how am I going to handle this? But, having our new baby is amazing.” She is the owner of NUMA Speed LLC, and she also works full-time at Endodontic Associates. Jamalee started NUMA almost four years ago when her husband, a former Olympic gold medalist, needed to create a career with purpose through something he loved — he had the idea, and together, they made it happen. NUMA trains clients of all ages, doing everything from fitness and weight loss to speed and agility training for athletes in every sport. Jamalee loves seeing their clients meet their goals or earn scholarships for college because of their help and dedication — it’s an amazing feeling. If it wasn’t for their dedicated clients and their excellent coaches, the business would not be where it is or where it’s headed. Jamalee personally wouldn’t be who she is without God in her life and her kids’ love for their mom.

Dana Nemenyi

Dana Nemenyi

Director of Business Development, UF Health

Dana Nemenyi serves as the director of business development for UF Health, a department she established in 2009 to drive business to the Health Science Center of the University of Florida and Shands Teaching Hospitals and Clinics. Originally from West Virginia, Dana was raised in Columbus, Ohio, and received her bachelor of science in business administration from Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University with a special area minor in telecommunications. After graduating from university, Dana has served in many roles that utilized her entrepreneurial spirit to grow and support startups as well as help businesses transition their corporate environments. Dedicated to making an impact and driven by her passion for business and education, she has been dedicated to serving her community through involvement in Rotary International, Junior Achievement and many other community organizations over the years. Her latest involvement includes mentoring a group of women through the Empowering Women in Technology Startups (EWITS) program at UF’s Innovation Hub. When she’s not working, Dana is spending time with friends and family, traveling, cooking, and enjoying active adventures such as scuba diving or skiing. Dana has two children, John, 22, and Marcia, 17.

Arpita Oselimo

Arpita Oselimo

Serial Restaurateur

Arpita Oselimo came to Gainesville, Florida, in 2005 for a yearlong post-baccalaureate program in ceramics at the University of Florida. A lifelong vegetarian, she was drawn to Reggae Shack Café soon after arriving to Gainesville, leading her to meet her future husband, Omar, and begin a career as a restaurateur. In 2012, they opened Southern Charm Kitchen, and in 2016, The Twisted Peacock, an Indian concept, opened on Southwest 13th Street. Arpita was born in Flushing, NYC, as the youngest of three. Her parents had emigrated from India in the early 1970s. She spent part of her childhood in Queens, NYC, and the other half in the suburbs of New Jersey. Arpita attended Swarthmore College, a small liberal arts college outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she majored in studio art and minored in education. Now, Arpita oversees many aspects of the restaurants including hiring, finances, catering and community outreach. She loves two things most: 1) the ability to make small transformations through daily interactions, whether through nourishing a person or helping an employee; 2) the opportunity the restaurants have in creating inclusiveness for the diverse Gainesville community. She is mother to four marvelous children, ages 8, 6, 4 and 6 months.

Bobbie Robinson

Bobbie Robinson

Vice President, R.E. Robinson Remodeling and Custom Builder

Bobbie grew up in Gainesville and has contributed to the construction industry since 1980. Working along with her husband, Randy, a fourth-generation native of Gainesville, she brings a high level of experience in interior design and decoration, construction office supervision and field management. She provides a liaison to the homeowner, vendor, and subcontractor in choosing the best materials for renovation and construction projects. With a passion for the Gainesville community, she is actively involved as a board member to the Child Advocacy Center, serves on the advisory board to the Ronald McDonald House and is a mentor for The Education Foundation of Alachua County. She is a member of the Women’s Giving Circle and Gainesville Women’s Forum. She has also served as a community board member to the UF Collegiate Veteran Society. She and Randy met in 1975 and have one son, Jay, who is a graduate of the University of Florida and Liberty University; he currently serves as a Major in the U.S. Army. Jay and his wife, Sandi, have blessed Bobbie and Randy with three grandchildren: Luke, Jake and Isaac. “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. When iron blades are rubbed together, each becomes sharper and thus more effective.” [Proverbs 27:17]

Maureen Tartaglione

Maureen Tartaglione

Manager for Government Relations & Public Affairs, Cox Communications

Maureen Tartaglione has spent more than 20 years working in government relations, public relations and media. Currently, she is the manager for government relations and public affairs for Cox Communications. In this role, she serves as the liaison between Cox and federal, state, and local government officials in Florida and Georgia. Recently, the Florida Cable Telecommunications Association named Maureen as its 2015 Don Reed Award recipient, its highest award for industry service in government relations. She has also received top honors for strategic communications, scholarship and teaching. Maureen also serves as the Gainesville community relations liaison, managing Cox’s philanthropic portfolio of support for local nonprofits. She periodically serves as an adjunct instructor at the University of Florida, as well. Maureen earned a bachelor of science (highest honors) and a master’s degree from UF. She then entered the UF political science doctoral program as a Grinter Fellow and spent three years studying American government. She has co-authored chapters on Florida politics in three books published by the academic press. Maureen is a Leadership Gainesville graduate and serves on the boards of directors of the Rotary Club of Gainesville, Junior Achievement and The Education Foundation of Alachua County. She has served on the chamber Public Policy Committee and currently serves on Innovation Gainesville 2.0 (iG.2). She has two children, Jacquelyn and Robert, a dog, Chewy, and a turtle, Herbie.

Jonelle Toothman

Jonelle Toothman

Co-Founder & CEO, NeXtGen Biologics Inc

Jonelle Toothman is a founding partner and chief executive officer of NeXtGen Biologics Inc., a medical device company that focuses on regenerative medicine. Since its incorporation in April 2014, she has led the company from proof of concept to an accelerated path toward commercialization. As CEO, she has successfully raised $2.575 million in seed capital and has assembled a world-class team to commercialize a platform technology that combines unique scientific properties with applications across multiple disciplines. In addition to her leadership roles in sales and marketing, Jonelle has started new ventures including Half Cork’d and Scout. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism, focusing on mass communications and public relations, at Marshall University. To Jonelle, success is more than just accomplishing goals — it’s about the journey and the “how.” Throughout her 12-year career in the medical device industry, she has learned that collaboration, perseverance, humility and execution are essential components to achieving a powerful vision.

JoAnne Wilkes

JoAnn Wilkes

Program Coordinator at Focus on the Future, Santa Fe College

JoAnn is passionate and fierce about empowering women in our community, and committed to helping women tap into their own power. The Focus on the Future program at Santa Fe College is designed to provide tools such as skills in life management, computers and employability to displaced homemakers. The program is intended to offer tools for independence, both financial and emotional, and other services that affect all areas of life. In 1996, JoAnn became a displaced homemaker and benefitted from all that the program could provide, and she was fortunate enough to return as the instructor. She loves what she does. JoAnn works with an amazing team, and they all appreciate the incredible community support that the program receives from individuals, community and business groups and Santa Fe College. SF gives them space and support, and they, in return, help fulfill the college’s mission of enriching the community. Local groups help with expertise, funds and conducting workshops. As coordinator, JoAnn meets with each participant, learns her story, and tries to find and help her achieve the correct path for her. She appreciates being among the Fierce Women of Greater Gainesville.

“There are various motives that make me get up every morning with the fierceness of a warrior. I wake up with gratitude for having such a blessed life. My daily devotion and prayer give me hope, strength, and courage to start the day happy and energized.” – BRENDA MCDOWELL

“How can I impact the operation? As the liaison between the hotel and the guest/client, I strive to accommodate both. Every day is a new opportunity, always exciting, always different. I enjoy the clients I work with, and many have become friends.” – HOLLY-ANDERSON BENDER

“I have had a deep desire to help others become the happiest and healthiest version of themselves. I set a goal with my husband to help 1,000,000 people get healthier, and we won’t stop until that has been accomplished!” – CARLEE MARHEFKA

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