Our Boards

Governance Board

Alfred “Al” Lawson

U.S. Representative for Florida’s 5th congressional district

Alfred “Al” Lawson is currently serving as the U.S. Representative for Florida’s 5th congressional district. Prior to his election to the House of Representatives, Al served in the Florida Legislature for nearly three decades, including as Democratic Leader of the Senate. He is a strong educational voice for helping disadvantaged and minority students and, during his tenure in the Florida Legislature, was recognized by a wide spectrum of interest groups, including Associated Industries of Florida, the Florida Sheriffs’ Association, the Florida Student Association and the Nature Conservancy. He was a basketball star at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University and had a brief professional career before later earning his master’s in public administration from Florida State University.

Alfred “Al” Lawson

U.S. Representative for Florida’s 5th congressional district

Curtis Stokes

Business Intermediary for the Lower Middle Markets

Curtis Stokes is a business intermediary for the lower middle markets. Previously he held the position of Vice President of Community Affairs for Fifth Third Bank. In addition, he held management positions at Norwest Financial and later became Vice President Business Client Manager at Bank of America. His broad community involvement includes serving as a member of the Tampa City Council, as former president of the Hillsborough Branch of the NAACP, past chairman of the Board of the American Cancer Society, on the University Area Community Development Corporation and as area chairman for the United Negro College Fund. In 2002,Tampa Bay Business Journal named him one of the “Top 40 under 40” business leaders in the region.

Curtis Stokes

Business Intermediary for the Lower Middle Markets

Denisha Merriweather

Director of Public Relations and Content Marketing at the American Federation for Children and Founder of Black Minds Matter

Denisha Merriweather is the Director of Public Relations and Content Marketing at the American Federation for Children and Founder of Black Minds Matter. Denisha previously served as School Choice and Youth Liaison to the Secretary of Education at the U.S. Department of Education.

Denisha is a Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program graduate. She received her Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of South Florida and bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary social science from the University of West Florida. Along the way, Denisha has become a national symbol for school choice, headlining events with Florida governors and other advocates for school choice. Denisha has shared her story across the country and has been featured in the Wall Street JournalPragerU, the Washington ExaminerEducationWeek, and Fox News among other outlets. She has also appeared in public service announcements promoting school choice.

Denisha Merriweather

Director of Public Relations and Content Marketing at the American Federation for Children and Founder of Black Minds Matter

John Kirtley

Co-Founder at KLH Capital

John is co-founder of KLH Capital, a Tampa-based private equity firm that invests in management buyouts of smaller middle-market companies. He created the Children’s Scholarship Fund of Tampa Bay in 1998 to privately fund scholarships for low-income children in grades K-8, and the reaction was so overwhelming he persuaded the Florida Legislature in 2001 to create a statewide Tax Credit Scholarship for all low-income students. He is currently vice chairman of the Alliance For School Choice and the American Federation for Children and serves on the board of The James Madison Institute. He was most recently appointed to serve on the Education Transition Team of Gov. Rick Scott.

John Kirtley

Co-Founder at KLH Capital

John Legg

John Legg is a Florida native. John was first elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2004, serving four two-year terms. John was the Chairman of the House Education Pre-K – 12 Committee and during his final term, served as Speaker Pro-Tempore.

In 2012, John Legg was elected to the Florida Senate in District 17. From 2012-2014, Senator Legg served as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Education. From 2014-2016 he served as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Education Pre-K – 12. During his time in the Legislature, Legg served as Chairman of the Tampa Bay Area Delegation, Hillsborough County Delegation, and Pasco County Delegation. John serves on the executive committee of the Southern Regional Education Board, and previously served on the Board of Trustees of Lowery Park Zoo, Bayonet Point Medical Center, Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, and the Education Commission of the States.

John is a frequent guest speaker at national educational conferences on acceleration options for students, technology in the classroom, educational choice, and school accountability.

In both the House and Senate, John has led with a focus on improving student performance and opportunities for success. He is a champion of initiatives that drive teaching performance in the classroom, streamline accountability in schools, and maximize flexibility for parents and students. Dayspring Academy–an A+ rated, innovative charter school that targets low-income learners–was founded 18 years ago by John and his wife Suzanne and is a product of these values.

During his time as a legislator, John has stood up for consumer issues, seniors, and our veterans. In his day job, John has more than 18 years of experience in the classroom. Senator Legg earned his AA degree from Pasco-Hernando Community College and both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of South Florida. He and Suzanne have five children.

John Legg

Richard Outram

EVP and CFO of Signature Consultants LLC

Richard Outram is the EVP and CFO of Signature Consultants LLC, a mid-sized, fast growth private IT staffing company. Prior to his work at Signature Consultants LLC, he held the EVP and CFO position at Heritage Brands Inc, a division of Stocks Spirits Group, a $400M global alcohol distribution company. A Certified Public Accountant in the United States and the United Kingdom as well as a Certified Fraud Examiner, Outr

Richard Outram

EVP and CFO of Signature Consultants LLC

Paul Sherman

Co-Founder and Managing Director at ShermanSamuels

Paul Sherman is Co-Founder and Managing Director at ShermanSamuels, a boutique advisory firm which serves strong management teams at growing companies in various industries. Paul is a dynamic C-suite leader with finance, strategy, operations excellence, customer success, and business development experience in healthcare services and technology, commercial real estate and multi-unit restaurants. He operated in PE-owned, public and entrepreneur-founded companies. He has a passion for developing talent and ability to enhance culture, professionalize and transform highly motivated teams to exceed expectations. Paul previously served as Chief Development Officer and Chief Financial Officer at ABB Optical Group, Chief Financial Officer at LNR Property Corporation and in various finance roles and operations at Burger King Corporation. Paul is Co-Founder and Board Member of South Florida Business Forum.

Paul Sherman

Co-Founder and Managing Director at ShermanSamuels

Terry Jove

Charitable Giving Director at Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits

Terry Jove is the Charitable Giving Director for Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, North America’s largest wine and spirits distributor, and the preeminent data insights company for alcoholic beverages. In this role, Mrs. Jove is responsible for providing oversight of Southern Glazer’s charitable giving activities. This includes reviewing and coordinating product and financial donation requests, supporting festival-related fundraising, as well as managing and tracking the Company’s multi-year grant programs. Mrs. Jove is an active member of the local community, serving on the Board of Miami Country Day School and as a Board of Trustee for Temple Beth Sholom.

Southern Glazer’s gives millions of dollars annually to charities that focus on responsible consumption, education, health and welfare, disaster relief, cultural development, social services, and environmental sustainability. In particular, the Company supports the world-renowned South Beach and New York City Wine & Food Festivals that have raised a combined $32 million for hospitality education and hunger prevention respectively since their inception. For seven consecutive years, Southern Glazer’s has contributed a record-breaking $315 million to Step Up for Students through the organization’s Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program.

Terry Jove

Charitable Giving Director at Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits

Advisory Board

Benjamin Bright

Director – Sales & Use Taxes at Hospital Corporation of America (HCA)

Benjamin Bright is Director – Sales & Use Taxes at Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), which is a leading healthcare services company that owns and operates hospitals and surgery centers. This is Benjamin’s second time at HCA. Before having the opportunity to return to HCA, Mr. Bright was Senior Director – State Taxes at VF Corporation, which is a leader in branded apparel, including Leeâ, Wranglerâ, Nauticaâ, JanSportâ, The North Faceâ, Vansâ, and Timberlandâ, among other leading brands. Mr. Bright has also worked with a regional accounting firm and Service Merchandise Company, Inc.

Mr. Bright has spoken at the Georgetown Advanced State and Local Tax Institute, IPT (Institute for Professionals in Taxation) conferences, has participated as a panelist at several COST (Council on State Taxation) conferences and facilitated at COST’s State & Local Tax Basics School. He has served at the request of the North Carolina Department of Revenue on its Business Tax Advisory Committee. He is on the Board of Directors for COST, and he is on the Advisory Board for Step Up for Students, a Florida Tax Credit program. Mr. Bright is a licensed CPA and member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Tennessee Society of Certified Public Accountants. He received his degree in accounting from Tennessee Technological University.

Benjamin Bright

Director – Sales & Use Taxes at Hospital Corporation of America (HCA)

Brian Lukasik

Partner and Southeast Market Tax Leader with PwC

Brian, a Partner and Southeast Market Tax Leader with PwC, has over 30 years of experience as a tax professional. He has and continues to serve a wide variety of public and privately held clients in the manufacturing, retail, and distribution sectors. Brian’s client base is comprised of both public and private companies. Brian focuses in the federal tax area, serving clients’ needs for tax compliance and consulting, income tax accounting, acquisitions and divestitures, accounting methods, and IRS examinations. Brian is also responsible for coordinating the work of our specialty tax practices for his clients, such as international tax services, state and local tax, and transfer pricing.

Brian graduated from Wayne State University (Detroit, Michigan) with a BA in Accounting. Prior to relocating to Tampa, Brian practiced in Detroit and Milwaukee. He has active CPA licenses in Michigan, Wisconsin and Florida. He is a member of the AICPA, FICPA, WICPA, and MACPA and is a former board member of the WICPA Educational Foundation.

Brian Lukasik

Partner and Southeast Market Tax Leader with PwC

Cole Peacock

Emeritus

Cole Peacock Is President of RC Peacock Consulting that credits Storm Smart Corporation, N2N Global, Blackstone Capital, Exeter Finance, VeraData, Arthrex, Hope Hospice, Florida Retail Federation, Retail Companies, Harley Davidson, Harry Chapin Food Bank, and Political candidates on all levels as some of his clients. He is Founder / Partner, Seed And Bean Market, Co-Founder of Pure Native Premium Hemp, and Co-Founder of C3 Investments Group US . He was appointed by the Commissioner of Agriculture and Governor’s Office as Vice- Chairman of the First Hemp/Cannabis Statewide Advisory Board He is a past retail executive at Chico’s FAS, a Fortune 500 corporation, and has also managed political campaigns on the state and local level, served as President of the Lee County YMCA’s, Co-Founded Game Nation Theme Parks.

Peacock is a member of the 2013 Florida Gulf Coast University’s Lutgert School of Business Board of Directors, 2011/2012 Leadership Florida Regional Advisory Board, 2008/2009 Leadership Florida Class, past Community Advisor for News-Press Editorial Board, Board Member with the Florida Chamber and Executive Board for the Florida Retail Federation. In addition, he serves on a number of non-profit boards including Chair of the Children’s Advocacy Council, Edison Ford Winter Estates, Vice Chair, Uncommon Friends Foundation and the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools.

Cole Peacock

Emeritus

Curt Cunkle

President of Florida Banking at TIAA Bank

Curt is the President of Florida Banking at TIAA Bank, a position he has held since 2005. In addition to his service on the Step Up Advisory Board, Curt also serves on the boards of the Economic Roundtable of Jacksonville, Take Stock in Children Leadership Council and the University of North Florida Foundation. He previously served as Founding Director and President of the Carey Bishop Foundation, a foundation that supported families who suffered the death of a child and brought awareness of children’s safety issues. He also served as President of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Jacksonville. Curt is an active member of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce and Florida Bankers Association.

Curt is a native of Jacksonville where he attended the Bolles School. He received a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Alabama. Curt and his wife, Julie, and have three children; Austin, Will and Lindsey.

Curt Cunkle

President of Florida Banking at TIAA Bank

Deb Cone

Emeritus

Deb Cone is the Community Affairs Director of Cone Distributing in Ocala, Florida. She is a sixth-generation Floridian raised in Tampa and a graduate of Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

She lives in Ocala with her husband, Douglas Cone, Jr. with whom she shares three adult children and two grandchildren. She is active in the Junior League of Ocala and a Leadership Ocala/Marion graduate.

Deb Cone

Emeritus

Ejola Cook

Executive Director of the FIADA

Ejola Cook, is the Executive Director of the FIADA. Prior to joining FIADA Ms. Cook had been the Senior Vice President, and Chief Legal Officer, for Off Lease Only LLC, one of the largest privately-owned independent dealerships in the United States, having sold over 47,000 vehicles out of its four stores in 2019. Prior to joining Off Lease Only, Ejola was a junior partner at The Ticktin Law Group, overseeing the complex commercial litigation, consumer, and intellectual property cases. During her time at Off Lease Only Ms. Cook implemented streamlined legal and compliance process within the company and established strong working relationships with state and local regulators. As the Senior Vice President oversaw many of the aspects of the dealerships including the development of new dealerships.

Born in a small coastal town in The Netherlands, to a Dutch Mother and a British Father, Ms. Cook spent much of her youth living and traveling around the world. By the time she was fourteen she had lived in Nigeria, England, Holland, Virgin Islands, Guatemala and the U.S. and could speak fluent English and Dutch. Ms. Cook and her husband, Paul Cook, an active reservist in the Air Force, have four children ages 15, 13, 10, and 8, and own also own a thriving equestrian farm in Coconut Creek, Florida.

Ejola Cook

Executive Director of the FIADA

Gary Andresen

Florida Market Manager at US Bank’s Commercial Banking Division

Gary is Senior Vice President, Florida Commercial Banking at US Bank.
US Bank is the 5th largest Commercial Bank in the U.S., has the strongest third-party credit rating, and is the only bank named amongst Ethisphere’s World’s Most Ethical companies the past 4 years. Gary joined US Bank in 2017 to assist its expansion into Florida and has over 20 years of experience in helping corporate customers access a wide variety credit, treasury, and capital markets products and services. In addition to helping companies, Gary is a strong advocate for both school choice and STEM education. He received a B.S. in Civil & Environmental Engineering from the University of Wisconsin, and an M.B.A. from Emory University.

Gary Andresen

Florida Market Manager at US Bank’s Commercial Banking Division

Gordon Fales

Emeritus

Gordon Fales was born in New York City, graduated from Colgate University and served in the U.S. Coast Guard before beginning his business career with American Airlines. He and his family moved to Miami where he continued his aviation career with Eastern Airlines and Air Florida. In 2002 he was working as Community Redevelopment officer for Pointe Bank when he became involved with a school in the Overtown section of Miami. The school and the families were significantly supported by and benefitted from Step Up for Students scholarships. It was here that he became enthusiastically involved. Beyond gaining a significant contribution from his bank, he continues to be active introducing businesses, including banks and potential scholarship families to our programs. He also participates in local celebrations of our students accomplishments.

Gordon Fales

Emeritus

Jake Farmer

Regional Director of State and Local Government Relations Walgreens

Jake Farmer

Regional Director of State and Local Government Relations Walgreens

Jeff Beauchamp

Tax Manager and Functional Lead of State Income Taxes and Audits at SAP America, Inc.

Jeff is a Tax Manager and Functional Lead of State Income Taxes and Audits at SAP America, Inc. In this role he is responsible for overseeing the state income tax compliance & reporting function as well as supporting the federal income tax compliance & reporting function. Prior to SAP America, Inc., Jeff was Senior Manager, State Income Tax at URBN, the parent company of Urban Outfitters, Free People, and Anthropologie, where he was responsible for overseeing the state income tax compliance & reporting function in addition to credits and incentives. Jeff began his career in public accounting having worked for both Deloitte Tax LLP and Ernst and Young LLP which included working in a national practice focused on credits and incentives. He graduated from Miami University (Oxford, OH) with a B.S. in Accounting and a minor in Management Information Systems. Additionally, Jeff has an MBA from Wayne State University (Detroit, MI). He has an active CPA license in Pennsylvania. He currently resides in the Philadelphia suburbs with his wife and two children.

Jeff Beauchamp

Tax Manager and Functional Lead of State Income Taxes and Audits at SAP America, Inc.

Jeff Sabin

Government Affairs Manager at Waste Management

Jeff is the Government Affairs Manager at Waste Management and has been with the company since 1979. He is responsible for Public Sector Services, based in Hobe Sound, and for interfacing with Government Agencies in the surrounding six counties. Jeff’s role as Government Affairs Manager includes Statewide Strategic Initiative coordination and oversight of outreach activities for Waste Management. Jeff is a charter member of the Keep America Beautiful affiliates of Florida and former chairperson of the Palm Beach Gardens Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. He also serves on the Big Heart Brigade of the Treasure Coast, Keep Martin and Palm Beach Counties Beautiful, Okeechobee County Education Foundation, President of the Business Development Board and board member of the Economic Council of Martin County, Trustee on the Northern Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce, Presidents Council member of the Hobe Sound Chamber of Commerce and former Palm City Chamber of Commerce Board member.

Jeff Sabin

Government Affairs Manager at Waste Management

Kimberly Johnson

Founder and Executive Director of FL Institute of CFOs

Kimberly is Founder and Executive Director of FL Institute of CFOs (fiCFO). fiCFO is a protected, thought intelligence organization for CFOs of Florida’s leading companies. fiCFO provides a secure CFO community peer group that promotes the development of key professional relationships so that CFOs may learn and grow together, share best practices and experiences, and serve as a sounding board for technical and business matters. Kimberly oversees operations, planning, programming, membership and client relations.

Step Up For Students if fiCFO’s Choice Charity Partner. fiCFO is honored to promote opportunities to educate fiCFO members and partners about Step Up, and encourages them to support Step Up for Student’s extraordinary cause.

Prior to fiCFO, Kimberly served as an outsourced business development professional through her company, NextStep Strategies. She optimized opportunities for growth in a myriad of industries for companies ranging from start-up businesses to Fortune 500. As a business development professional, she has been responsible for leading growth and expansion plans, including strategic partnering, channel partnering, public relations, marketing, and sales initiatives. Kimberly designed, implemented and facilitated marketing and client service tactics that resulted in increased visibility, revenues, and enhanced customer service.

Kimberly Johnson

Founder and Executive Director of FL Institute of CFOs

Matthew Watts

Senior Vice President, Raymond James Financial, Inc.

Matt serves as Senior Vice President at Raymond James Financial, Inc. responsible for supervision of traditional and specialized products, investment advisory programs, ERISA solutions, banking and lending products, as well as leading fiduciary change initiatives corresponding to other federal (e.g. DOL) or state fiduciary rules or proposals. He also serves on the firm’s Private Client Group Operating Committee. Over the course of 20 years he has held a number of other product area, compliance and risk management roles at the firm. He holds the Series 7, 24, 55, 63, and 99 securities licenses, and is a SIFMA Securities Industry Institute at Wharton (SII), and Columbia Business School executive development program graduate. Matt began his career at Accenture where he focused primarily on restructuring business processes and organizational design in the context of enterprise resource planning software implementations. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1995 from Cornell University with Distinction in all Subjects, and received his M.B.A. from the University of South Florida in 2006. He was born and raised in Queens, New York, and currently resides in St. Petersburg, Florida with his wife and children. As a proponent of the idea that quality education for all is the biggest key to a healthy and productive society, Matt is honored to serve on the Step Up For Students Advisory Board.

Matthew Watts

Senior Vice President, Raymond James Financial, Inc.

Michael Maddaloni

Vice President-Tax and Shareholder Relations at Beall’s, Inc.

Michael is Vice President-Tax and Shareholder Relations at Beall’s, Inc., parent company of Bealls Stores, Inc., Beall’s Outlet Stores, Inc., and Burke’s Outlet Stores, LLC. Michael joined the company in 1996 and is responsible for the Tax and Treasury Departments. Previously, Michael spent 11 years in public accounting at a firm in Albany, New York. He earned his CPA license in New York and graduated from Siena College in 1985 with a B.B.A. in Accounting and a minor in Computer Science. Michael also sits on the Tax Committee of the National Retail Federation, the Board of Trustees for FL Tax Watch, and the Humane Society of Manatee County.

Michael Maddaloni

Vice President-Tax and Shareholder Relations at Beall’s, Inc.

Michele Cavallo

Director of Small and Medium Business Solutions at Duke Energy

Michele Cavallo holds a leadership role as the Director of Small and Medium Business Solutions at Duke Energy. Duke Energy is the nation’s largest utility serving approximately 7 million customers in the Midwest, Carolinas and Florida. Michele joined Duke Energy predecessor, Florida Power in 1989 and has extensive experience in external relations, customer service and economic development. She is a member of the Public Policy Council of the St. Petersburg Chamber. Michele received her B.S. in Management from Florida State University and an MBA from the University of South Florida.

Michele Cavallo

Director of Small and Medium Business Solutions at Duke Energy

Paul Shoukry

Emeritus, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer of Raymond James Financial, Inc.

Paul Shoukry is Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer of Raymond James Financial, Inc. (NYSE: RJF). He is responsible for the overall financial management of the company, including balance sheet management, financial reporting, investor relations, corporate tax, cash management, regulatory reporting and financial planning and analysis. He is a member of the firm’s Executive Committee.

Mr. Shoukry joined Raymond James in 2010 to participate in the firm's Assistant to the Chairman program. He earned an MBA with honors from Columbia University. Before business school, Mr. Shoukry worked for a strategy consulting firm that focused on serving clients in the financial services industry. He started his career as a commercial banker after graduating magna cum laude with a Bachelor and Master of Accounting from The University of Georgia. Mr. Shoukry also completed the Strategic CFO Program at The Wharton School. He is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), a Certified Treasury Professional, and a Series 7 and 27 holder.

Mr. Shoukry enjoys spending time with his wife and three children. He is passionate about childhood education and serves on the advisory board of Step Up for Students. He is the executive sponsor for the firm's multicultural network.

Paul Shoukry

Emeritus, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer of Raymond James Financial, Inc.

Troy Gross

Zone Finance Leader for the East Zone of Allstate Insurance Company

Troy Gross has lived in Florida since 2018 when he relocated to Saint Petersburg from Chicago. Troy is currently the Zone Finance Leader for the East Zone of Allstate Insurance Company where he has worked for the last five years, and prior to Allstate Troy worked in finance for several technology firms including 15 years at consulting firm Accenture. Troy has a bachelor’s degree from Lake Forest College, an MBA from the University of Illinois of Chicago, and he completed the Certified Financial Planner tm certification program at Northwestern University.

Troy served on the Lake Forest College alumni board for 8 years, and for several years was the Event Chair for the $1M American Cancer Society Walk & Roll Chicago annual event.

Troy Gross

Zone Finance Leader for the East Zone of Allstate Insurance Company

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