All posts by Cory Skeates


Leadership Lakeland Alumni, Friends Welcome Class XXXV

LL35 - without chairs






With more than 180 alumni and friends in attendance at Thursday’s Opening Reception at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium, Class XXXV Chair, Timothy B. Darby (Class XXIX, Darby Law Group, P.A.) introduced the 30 members of Leadership Lakeland Class XXXV. Click here to view the class directory.

Congratulations to the following members:

  • Margarita Alfaro, Marketing Director, NuJak Companies
  • Teresa Fay Aman, RN/Clinical Director, Watson Clinic LLP
  • Daniel Jay Berman, Director of Development and Marketing, Alliance for Independence
  • Lisa K. Birket, Practice Manager, CME, Partner, True MD
  • Jessica Brown, Promotions Director, Hall Communications, Inc.
  • Joshua Keith Brown, Shareholder, Peterson & Myers, P.A.
  • Anthony C. Camarillo, Executive Director, RP Funding Center/City of Lakeland
  • Ashley Cheek, Business Development Director, Lakeland Economic Development Council
  • Julie A. Davis, Audit Director, Baylis & Company PA
  • Danielle Fogel, Technical Coordinator, Customer Service Retail Business Unit, Publix Super Markets, Inc.
  • Alison Marie Foley-Rothrock, Esq., Owner / Attorney, Foley Immigration Law
  • Caroline Gay, Associate Vice President of Analytics, Lakeland Regional Health
  • Louis Santo Giampavolo, Major, Polk County Sheriff’s Office
  • Mary Catherine Green, County Court Judge, Group 4, Polk County, Tenth Judicial Circuit, Polk County Courthouse
  • Paul “Sean” Harper, Owner, Harper Construction Mgmt/WebPro Realty, LLC
  • Marshall Hurley, Manufacturing Manager, Createch Machine and Design
  • Eunice Martinez Hutto, Chief Advancement Officer, Southeastern University
  • Billy Clifton Langston II, Dean of Student Development, Florida Southern College
  • Kristen Lowers, Sr. Director of IS, Saddle Creek Logistics Services
  • Lucas Dean Martin, Vice President, Floralawn
  • Kevin M. McWilliams, Financial Advisor, Ameriprise Financial
  • Brandt William Merritt, Ruling Elder, First Presbyterian Church of Lakeland
  • LaTrice Moore, D.B.A., Entrepreneurship Program Coordinator & Professor of Business Administration, Polk State College
  • Scott Reed, Attorney, Pilka & Associates, P.A.
  • William E. Roll, Jr., Senior Project Manager, Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc.
  • Amy Hammack Royal, Chief Financial Officer, GiveWell Community Foundation
  • Kimberly Schell, Chief Operating Officer, Parker Street Ministries, Inc.
  • Shukethia C. Troutman, Realtor, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Properties Group
  • Darren Vogel, P.E., Project Manager, Vogel Bros. Building Co.
  • Julie Howes Ward, Principal, Polk County Public Schools, Rochelle School of the Arts

Together, these class members will complete a rigorous schedule of monthly day sessions from October through May. Each session features hands-on experiences that engage class members in all aspects of Lakeland and Polk County.

Leadership Lakeland is an annual program designed to identify leadership and enhance existing leadership in our community. The program unites leaders from diverse backgrounds and perspectives to improve their ability to lead effectively, offering its members a broad range of experiences and insights about the community, its people, its needs, and its services.



Mulling Insurance Agency, a leading provider of consumer and commercial insurance in Polk County, today announced the recognition of the firm’s 60th Anniversary as a central Florida insurer.

Located in the Downtown Auburndale Historic District, Mulling Insurance was founded in 1957 by J. Foister “Moon” Mulling when Foister began selling insurance from his downtown men’s clothing store.  The firm has now grown to be among the largest and longest-tenured insurance agencies in Polk county and is recognized as one of the largest family-owned insurance firms in the state of Florida.

“Our growth over 60 years mirrors the support and growth of our community,” said Kevin Mulling, vice president and grandson of the founder.  “My grandfather set the tone for how our business was to be run, with a focus on community and serving others first.  He knew that if we stayed focused on others and not ourselves, we would never struggle to find success.  This remains a core value of our organization and I’m far prouder of our status in our community than I will ever be with the profitability or size of our organization.  That being said, I’m hopeful that our fantastic family of clients, which includes tens of thousands of local families, businesses, schools, churches, and non-profit organizations, will forever see us as their local trusted advisor, protector, and partner…….and never feel as though we are acting in a way that is not in their best interest.”

“We’re not just a business serving a community. We’re long-time members of that community, with a deep passion and commitment to support our neighbors, local businesses, and institutions,” said Jim Mulling, president.  “We take enormous pride in the service our company provides to numerous local charities throughout the community and our team thrives on seeking out local needs and coming together to help meet them.”

To celebrate the anniversary, the company will be having a luncheon at the Auburndale City Park (across the street from its Auburndale location) for its employees, clients and the community on Friday, October 20th from 11:30-1:30.

About Mulling Insurance Agency

Mulling Insurance is a full service independent agency that offers a complete portfolio of insurance services for individuals and businesses.  One of Florida’s largest providers of commercial insurance products, Mulling has been recognized nationally as a top agent by several companies including:  Liberty Mutual, Auto-Owners Insurance, and United Fire Group.  The firm’s employee benefits division has likewise been recognized as one of the top employee benefits providers in the area.  Mulling’s personal insurance team is recognized for its strong, family-oriented service in the community as they work with thousands of individuals to protect their homes, vehicles, and other assets.  Across all lines of insurance, Mulling promotes an environment free of high pressure sales, but instead offers its clients a consultative approach as advisor, protector and partner.

Learn more at:


Lakeland Investment Firm Makes Top 100 Best Companies List

2017 Best Companies to Work For CPS_InvestAdv_2cPri_tag (2)

CPS Investment Advisors has been named one of Florida’s Best Companies to Work For and will be featured in the August edition of Florida Trend Magazine. This is the fourth time the investment firm has made the list, now ranking 11th in its size category. In 2016, the firm ranked 27th.

“Here at CPS, we value our employees and encourage them. We strive to provide a work environment that is conducive to achieve high productivity, which adds to the overall success of our firm,” said Jim Luffman, CPA/PFS, CFO of CPS Investment Advisors.

The investment firm underwent an evaluation of its workplace policies, practices, philosophy, systems and demographics. The process also included a survey to measure employee satisfaction. The combined scores determined the top companies and the final ranking.

“The best companies obviously provide strong pay and benefits to their employees, but they also offer fun diversions such as ice cream socials, holiday parties and field days,” says Florida Trend Publisher Andy Corty, “And these top companies encourage employees to participate in the organization’s overall success with training and open communications.”

CPS Investment Advisors, located in downtown Lakeland, was started in 1975 by Chas P. Smith, as an independent financial advisory firm. The firm operates under a fiduciary standard and provides financial planning services, money management, 401(k) plan services and tax planning services.


Information Session for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy


LAKELAND, FLORIDA (July, 21, 2017) — My Office & More will host two Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) Information Sessions for students in grades 6-12, their families, and local business leaders about YEA!, a 30 week program that guides middle and high school students through launching and running their own real businesses or social movements!

Attendees will learn about the structure, curriculum, and student application process for the program, as well as how business leaders can get involved as a mentor, guest speaker, field trip host, or investor.

Kate Lake, Chief Connections Officer of My Office & More remarks, “In May, I had the chance to meet a number of YEA entrepreneurs at a Lakeland Chamber event. Their creativity and determination was inspiring. It’s clear this program creates possibilities for aspiring students and we welcome the opportunity to advocate for and encourage these future CEOs.”

WHEN:                       Tuesday, August 8, 2017 & Tuesday, August 22, 2017, 5:30 PM – 6:30 PM

WHERE:                     My Office & More, 122 E Main St, Lakeland, FL  33801

WHO:                    Students grades 6-12 and their families; Business leaders and interested community volunteers; This event is free and open to the public, space is limited, so registration is strongly encouraged

Call (863) 688-8551 ext. 229 or email to RSVP or register online at .

The Young Entrepreneurs Academy provides students in grades 6-12 with the knowledge and skills they need to start and run their own business. No business experience is needed – just creativity, enthusiasm, dedication and lots of effort.

The local chapter of the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce will accept up to 20 students; the application deadline is Friday, September 15. Classes will take place 4:30 – 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays at Southeastern University beginning in October. The tuition for the program is $495. There are some need-based scholarships available. The program offers the opportunity to participate in the YEA! Saunders Scholars Competition with the chance to win college scholarships. The application for the Polk County program is available at

YEA Info Session image







Lakeland Chamber of Commerce

The Lakeland Chamber of Commerce represents 1,400 member businesses in the Lakeland area and provides opportunities for networking, professional development and advocacy for companies of all sizes. Five-Star Accredited by the US Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber upholds the following vision and mission statements:  Vision Statement – The Lakeland Chamber of Commerce will be the premier catalyst for the advancement of Lakeland’s economic growth and enhancement of quality of life– creating Florida’s community of choice. Mission Statement – The Lakeland Chamber of Commerce is the leading organization dedicated to creating a climate where business can prosper.

The Young Entrepreneurs Academy

The Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) is a 501(C) 3 offering groundbreaking year-long classes that teach middle and high school students how to start and run their own businesses. Throughout the class, students develop business ideas, write business plans, conduct market research, pitch their plans to a panel of investors for startup funds, and launch and run their own, fully formed companies and social movements. The project-based program empowers students to take charge of their futures. Founded in 2004 at the University of Rochester with support from the Kauffman Foundation, YEA! today serves thousands of students nationwide. In 2011, the United States Chamber of Commerce Foundation became a national sponsor and partner of the Academy to help celebrate the spirit of enterprise among today’s youth and tomorrow’s future leaders. YEA! bridges the business and educational communities to fulfill its mission of teaching more students how to make a job, not just take a job. YEA! is made possible by The Kauffman Foundation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the E. Philip Saunders Foundation. For more information, visit

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation is dedicated to strengthening America’s long-term competitiveness and educating the public on how the free enterprise system improves society and the economy. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.





“Foodie” Level at the BIG Event


 LAKELAND, FLORIDA (July 20, 2017) — The BIG Event Lakeland announces new “foodie” features for this year’s event on Saturday, November 11, 2017 – a county-wide Restaurant Week prior to the BIG Event, the Tampa Bay Food Truck Rally and a “Little Bites” Challenge at the event, organized by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay – serving Polk since 1970.

The BIG Restaurant Week will begin October 29th for “East Polk” and run until November 4th. Restaurant Week for “West Polk” will run from November 4th to November 10th.

“We are seeking to partner with restaurants throughout the county to celebrate our local food scene and bring awareness to the impact BBBS has for youth and the community,” says J. Frinks, Polk County Regional Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay.

At the BIG Event, the Tampa Bay Food Truck Rally will complement the restaurants selling food at the BIG Event to provide a wider variety of menu options. The “Little Bites” Challenge will be an opportunity for the Food Trucks and participating restaurants to offer their best submission of a bite-sized sample of their food with the chance to win recognition in a variety of categories. Attendees will be able to purchase tickets for the “Little Bites” Challenge and to cast their votes!

Bill Roberts, Managing Partner of Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen and chair of the food committee for the BIG Event, explains, “We’re excited to bring this type of food competition to the BIG Event for so many reasons – it engages people, and allows them to sample different foods from food trucks and local restaurants. I can see the competition could get pretty aggressive.”

Awards for the Best “East Polk” and “West Polk” Restaurant Week, and for the “Little Bites” Challenge will be presented at the BIG Event Lakeland – Pirates on the Promenade. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay – serving Polk since 1970 – is supported by a partnership of Lakeland Chamber of Commerce, Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce, and the Tampa Bay Food Truck Rally.

Contact:  Frinks, Polk County Regional Director, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay, 1231 E Orange St, Lakeland, FL  33801, Cell: 863-514-7556, Office: 863-904-6560


 What is the BIG Event?

Saturday, November 11, 2017, 4:00 pm – 10:00 pm

The BIG Event Lakeland is a free music fest featuring local businesses, makers, and delicious food! The event kicks off with the Red Ribbon Run Corporate Award and the Watson Clinic Poster Contest Award, immediately followed by a special Salute to Veterans by Green Construction. Then enjoy nonstop entertainment! Celebrate the best of Lakeland at this FREE music fest! The Lakeland Chamber of Commerce in partnership with InnerAct Alliance and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay present the second annual BIG Event Lakeland – and theme Pirates on the Promenade for 2017! The iconic and historical Frances Ford Langford Promenade at Lake Mirror Amphitheatre is the perfect backdrop for local fun on Saturday, November 11, 2017, from 4:00 pm to 10:00 pm!

 What’s there to do?

 Experience live music, family fun + great tastes – Lakeland style!

Marketing Sponsor:

Tinsley Creative

Gold Sponsors:

Publix Super Markets, Inc.


“Foodie” Partner:

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay – serving Polk County since 1970

Silver Sponsor:

Watson Clinic LLP

Salute to Veterans Sponsor:

Green Construction

Bronze Sponsors:

Bank of Central Florida

CPS Investment Advisors

Heacock Insurance

Highland Homes

Lakeland Surgical & Diagnostic Center

Lanier Upshaw, Inc.

SERVPRO of Lakeland

Community Partners:

JBT Corporation

Saddle Creek Logistics Services

Print Media Sponsor:

Ledger Media Group

Radio Sponsor:


The Lakeland Chamber of Commerce

The Lakeland Chamber of Commerce represents 1,400 member businesses in the Lakeland area and provides opportunities for networking, professional development and advocacy for companies of all sizes. Five-Star Accredited by the US Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber upholds the following vision and mission statements: Vision Statement – The Lakeland Chamber of Commerce will be the premier catalyst for the advancement of Lakeland’s economic growth and enhancement of quality of life– creating Florida’s community of choice.  Mission Statement – The Lakeland Chamber of Commerce is the leading organization dedicated to creating a climate where business can prosper.