What is Leadership Polk?

As the only countywide leadership development program in Polk County, LeadershipPolk is comprised of individuals who have demonstrated a high level of civic engagement in their local community.  Started in 2007, the program brings together accomplished leaders from across the county with the goal of developing a diverse network of resourceful, informed and proactive visionaries committed to building a more vibrant future for our county.

The nine-month program immerses participants in an inspiring and enlightening curriculum that examines critical issues that impact our region.  Leadership Polk is timely, topically relevant, dynamic, and exposes participants to a broad range of perspectives through site visits, facilitated conversations and experiential learning.  Most importantly, lasting relationships are forged with engaged leaders from across Polk County.


 323 participants have graduated program
 13 of the 17 municipalities have been represented
 31 business categories have been represented
 10% of participants represent a diverse group of minority population
 45% of program participants have been female

Leadership Polk Goals

  • To educate and engage demonstrated leaders from various geographic, occupational and economic segments of Polk County.

  • To familiarize the participants with a wide range of community issues facing Polk County and the municipalities within the county.

  • To build a collaborative network of community leaders who can make a difference in Polk County.

How can I apply?

The class selection process begins each spring with a call for nominations.  We will be accepting nominations for Class XIV beginning April 1, 2020 - April 30, 2020.   All those nominated will be invited to submit an application in May.  Applications are due May 31, 2020 by 5:00 pm.


How is the class selected?

Class members are selected based on their leadership abilities, career accomplishments, volunteer activities, contributions to the community, and commitment to work towards a collaborative and thriving Polk County. These items are covered in the application, and letters of reference are not required or accepted.

Applications are given to a confidential Selection Committee, which closely examines them and performs the difficult task of selecting a representative cross-section of leaders as members of the upcoming class. Leadership Polk does not discriminate because of age, sex, race, religion, or national origin. The composition of the Selection Committee is kept confidential to prevent outside influence.


Preference will be given to those applicants that have completed a local leadership program. If you are unsure about your eligibility, please contact Polk Vision prior to applying.

Typically there are more qualified applicants than positions available.  Because the program is limited in size, many qualified individuals must be deferred. Those not accepted in a given year may be considered again in subsequent years if they wish to reapply.

Spouses will not be accepted into the same class. Announced political candidates will not be accepted. Multiple applicants from the same business or organization are typically not selected into the same class, but rare exceptions may be made depending on the organizational structure.

What is my commitment?

Leadership Polk requires a serious commitment of time and energy. All dates are published in advance for planning purposes. If you work for a company or organization, their support is essential. If you are self-employed you will need to evaluate the requirements of the program as compared to your available time. Please review the calendar below for potential conflicts prior to applying.

Class XIII Calendar

To be eligible for graduation from the Leadership program, participants are required to attend the orientation, opening retreat, and closing retreat (click link above to view specific dates). In addition, participants may not miss more than one class day. Missing any portion of a class day will count as an absence. Class members who miss two class days will be required to make up one of their two missed class days the following year. Should a class member miss three class days, he/she will no longer be part of the program, and no refund of tuition will be given. Attendance requirements are strictly enforced in order to maintain the integrity of the program and respect the commitment made by other class members.

What topics will be covered?

Topics for the program will include Economic Development, Quality of Life, Infrastructure, Government, Education, and the History of Polk County.

We will also visit a variety of locations across Polk County including Auburndale, Bartow, Davenport, Dundee, Frostproof, Haines City,  Lake Wales,  Lakeland,  & Winter Haven.

What does tuition cover?

Tuition covers the opening retreat accommodations and meals, 6 day-long sessions, luncheons and refreshments, and Graduation luncheon for the participant and a guest.

Tuition for Leadership Polk is $1,900. There is limited scholarship money available. If you require financial assistance, please request a tuition assistance form call (863)800-3520. 

Qualifications for application

If you are applying for Leadership Polk and you live and/or work in the following communities: Bartow, Haines City, Fort Meade, Lakeland, Lake Wales or Winter Haven, it is preferred that you graduate from your local Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Program.  Individuals living and/or working in communities where the Chamber of Commerce does not offer a leadership program will be considered on an at-large basis. If you are unsure whether you must meet this requirement, please contact us in advance and we will direct you back to your local leadership program if necessary.


Contact information:

Talitha F. Bean

Leadership Polk Program Manager





Class XIII



Class XII 

Shawn Sherrouse- Class Chair and Leadership Polk Class IV Graduate 

Maryemma Bachelder- Lake Wales Medical Center/Heart of Florida Regional Medical Center

Ashley Bell Barnett- Community Volunteer

Dorothea Bogert-Florida Realty & City of Auburndale 

Sarah Breed- Lakeland Chamber of Commerce

Michael Brossart- City of Lakeland

Shantavia "Tavia" Conner- City of Haines City

Elizabeth Davis- Law Offices of Elizabeth P. Davis

Toby Edwards- Winter Haven Hospital

Michael Ehlenbeck- Core Wealth Advisors

Patrick Fagan- Citizens Bank and Trust

Autumn Fenton- Polk County Board of County Commissioners

Anne Gibson- Polk County Sheriff's Office

Matt Hinton- PalletOne

Joel Ivy-Lakeland Electric

Josh Lewis-  Morgan Stanley

Terrie Lobb- Terrie Lobb Catering

Jen Lay- Keller Williams Realty, Inc.

Sean Malott- Central Florida Development Council

Rusty Mouton-Center State Bank

Orathai Northern- Polk State College

Lauren Springfield- Lakeland Regional Health

James Ring- Ring Roofing

Cindy Rodriguez- Southwest Florida Water Management District

Troy Schulze- City of Lake Wales

Steven Senn- Peterson & Myers, P.A.

Ginny Sigle- Boring Business Systems

Erica Sirrine- Southeastern University

Jeff Tillman- City of Auburndale

Ashley Troutman- Northwestern Mutal

Roy Wilkinson- City of Lake Wales




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