POLK COUNTY – When Jeff Cox went to the podium to announce an Emerging Leader award Thursday night he said he was going to off script.

“Something happened today with the tributes to a great patriot,” he said referring to Sen. John McCain whose body was flown from Arizona to Washington, D.C., that day. “I watched it and people talked about four of his attributes.”

Those attributes were his integrity, characteristics, sense of humor and his enthusiasm for the United States.

“Tonight this group of (nominees and award winners) have that same enthusiasm for the United States. We are in good hands.”

Five young rising leaders were awarded at the eighth annual Polk Emerging Leaders from the 33 nominated. MJ Carnevale from the city of Winter Haven, Suzanne Halverson from Polk State College, Jillian Spangler from Peterson & Myers PA, Ashley Troutman from Northwestern University and Chrissanne Long from Maximize Digital Media were the winners. The event is sponsored by Emerge Lakeland, Endeavor Winter Haven and Engage, youth committees with the Lakeland, Winter Haven and Bartow Chambers of Commerce, respectively.

Cox awarded Long who started her own business after earning a master's degree in 2009. Last year it merged with another company and re-named Maximize Digital Media. Cox said with Long's involvement in the community coupled with what her company does it is a “tool that serves as a gateway” for everyone's professional life.

Chad Tagtow from Citizens Bank & Trust and an Emerging Leader award winner in 2017, said Carnevale who is the Public Works Director in Winter Haven, will leave a lasting legacy in what he's already accomplished. He transferred Winter Haven's water data into actionable resources for continued growth.

Jillian Spangler, a practicing attorney with Peterson & Myers PA, was called a “community connector” by Alan Turner who presented her with her award. In Winter Haven as a member of the Rotary Club, the past president has created three initiatives with the public schools.

Halverson, James Fenton from Florida Southern University, said has a “passionate determination for every experience in life.”

She is well educated in disease control and has worked in health fairs, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation and Good Shepherd Hospice with innovative leadership. She is also involved with the Florida Hospital Sports Medicine, robotics, and she is an active parent in the Brownies.

Angela Falconetti, the president of Polk State College, was thrilled to award Ashley Troutman with the award as he is an alum of the school. “He has a humble attitude and he believes leadership is defined by your service to everyone,” she said.

With a marketing degree from the University of South Florida, Troutman said leadership comes through listening. He said he was inspired by his mother and his Christianity has taught him to value education and to value yourself. He is also proud and humbled to stand out in Polk County, as he is part of the third generation of his family in Polk.

Angela Shore, the emcee for the event summed up that feeling when she concluded the awards presentation: “It is great to call Polk County our home.”



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