April 2016 Articulate

Public Leadership Matters

Written By: Dean Cheshire and Kamal I. Latham

Business growth, economic development and quality of life are important.

If you have paid taxes, used roads or enjoyed parks, your experience was likely shaped by decisions made by public leaders. It is rare to find an aspect of your life not impacted by the views and votes of local, state or federal government officials.

Elected officials determine how hundreds, thousands, millions or billions of taxpayer dollars are spent. Appointed advisory board and commission members often influence policies through recommendations or affect outcomes through quasi-judicial rulings. Whether serving in Greater Gainesville, Tallahassee or Washington, DC, public leaders matter.

Professionals interested in public service should be inspired and equipped. Identifying and educating professionals from the Gainesville region interested in exploring public leadership (elected or appointed) at some point in the future is the purpose of the Business Community Coalition’s Public Leadership Institute (PLI).

The Business Community Coalition is a partnership between the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, the Builders Association of North Central Florida and the Gainesville-Alachua County Association of Realtors. The PLI program was launched in 2010, and its themes are leadership, candidacy and public policy.

PLI has educated 31 people through its program, which is held every two years. Over 36 percent of participants from PLI-1 and PLI-2 are present or past public leaders. PLI-3 was held in fall 2015, and the participants were Scott Arvin, Frank Avery, Jason Gonos, Summer Griggs, Ron Lieberman, Ryan Loftus, Chanda McCann, Trisha Roy and Julie Waldman.

Over a four-month period, PLI-3 featured 15 different guest speakers between two full-day leadership seminars, six leader luncheons and a reception. They shared insight and understanding on topics ranging from leading change, crafting policy, getting on a ballot, running for office, engaging the media and polling voters.

Retired U.S. Senator Alan K. Simpson (R-Wyoming), who served three terms in the U.S. Senate, provided his straightforward perspective on executive leadership and fixing the national debt. Sen. Simpson was appointed by President Obama to co-chair the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which produced policy recommendations on reducing America’s multi-trillion dollar debt burden.

Former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives Larry Cretul (R-Florida District 22) discussed leadership transition, and State Representative Keith Perry (R-Florida District 21) offered views on working legislation through Tallahassee.

Alachua County Commissioner Charles “Chuck” Chestnut IV provided a primer on serving the public interest through local government, and County Supervisor of Elections Pam Carpenter explained how to get your name on a ballot.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn delved into the essence of bipartisan leadership. Gainesville Mayor Ed Braddy addressed candidacy, and former Gainesville Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan discussed polling.

Former Alachua County Commissioner Susan Baird and Gainesville City Commissioner Craig Carter described how they became elected officials. Campaign, media, and policy professionals examined strategies, costs and consequences often associated with seeking — and holding — public office.

Do you want to effectuate positive change in your community and promote the public interest? Do you feel like you should be doing more to make a difference?

If you answered yes to those questions, then you may be an aspiring public leader.



Dean Cheshire is the 2016/2017 chair of the Business Community Coalition (BCC). Kamal I. Latham is vice president for public policy at the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce and directs the Public Leadership Institute as liaison to the BCC.

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