Board of Advisors
The 25-member, nonpartisan Institute Board of Advisors is a diverse cross section of some of Florida's most respected and successful business, civic, and community leaders. It includes 15 CEOs from private, public, or non-profit organizations; the Chairman of the State Board of Education; a former Ambassador and member of the Board of Governors for the State University System; past presidents of the Jacksonville Bar Association; a former President of the American Medical Association; the Chairman of St. Vincent's HealthCare system; the first Chairman of the Jacksonville Children's Commission; leaders of several multi- billion dollar companies; a former Jacksonville Mayor; and industry and public leaders in education, finance, banking, public infrastructure, healthcare, transportation, and other areas.
- Fernando J. Acosta-Rua
- The Honorable Jason Altmire
- Ronald R. Austin, Esquire
- Giselle Carson, Esquire
- Gary Chartrand
- Robert M. Clements
- Yank Coble, MD
- The Honorable Ander Crenshaw
- Daniel J. Davis
- Joseph N. Debs, P.E.
- J.C. "Jay" Demetree, Jr.
- G. Ray Driver, Jr., Esquire
- Brenda B. Ezell, Esquire
- Steve T. Halverson
- Mark Lamping
- Jane R. Lanier
- Douglas C. Miller, P.E.
- Willard Payne, Jr.
- The Honorable John Peyton
- C. Daniel Rice
- Robert T. Shircliff
- Richard L. Sisisky
- David Strickland
- William H. Walton, III
- Nina Waters
Fernando Acosta-Rua is President and CEO of Pet Paradise. His involvement with Pet Paradise began in 2004 when he led an investment group to invest in the company. He joined the Board of Directors in 2005 and, in 2007, he joined the team as Chief Operating Officer. Mr. Acosta-Rua has played a key role in accelerating the growth of Pet Paradise from three pet resorts with 45 employees in northeast Florida to more than 700 employees across seven states and 27 resorts. Prior to joining Pet Paradise, Mr. Acosta-Rua spent seven years in Private Equity working with FondElec Group and L&L Capital Partners, two CT based Private Equity firms. Previously he ran several family-owned businesses in Costa Rica, then worked for BellSouth International in Atlanta. Mr. Acosta-Rua serves on several Boards including as Chairman of Community Hospice of Northeast Florida, Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees of The Bolles School, the Board of Advisors at the Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute, and President of The Acosta-Rua Family Foundation. Mr. Acosta-Rua received his Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications, and his Master in Business Administration from Northwestern University.
Jason Altmire is author of the book 'Dead Center: How Political Polarization Divided America and What We Can Do About It'. He is also a former Senior Vice President of Public Policy, Government, and Community Affairs for Florida Blue. He was a key spokesperson for the company's health care policy efforts and corporate social responsibility programs. Prior to joining Florida Blue, Altmire served three terms as a United States Congressman in Washington, D.C. A nationally recognized leader on health care policy, Altmire is highly regarded throughout the political and health care community. Before being elected to Congress, he led the Department of Government Relations and Community Health at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Earlier in his career, he helped lead the legislative effort for the Federation of American Hospitals in Washington, D.C. and served as an Adjunct Professor at George Washington University, focusing on politics and policy. Jason Altmire holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Political Science from Florida State University and a Master's Degree in Health Services Administration from George Washington University.
Ronald R. Austin, Attorney at Law is engaged in the private practice of law as a principal with Austin Law Firm in Jacksonville, Florida. The firm concentrates in representing governmental entities and in eminent domain, land use, mass transportation and bond/corporate matters. Mr. Austin is "AV" rated by Martindale-Hubbell. He is also listed in Martindale-Hubbell's Register of Preeminent Lawyers in America. Mr. Austin formerly served as Deputy General Counsel for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in Tallahassee, Florida and as an attorney representing the Florida Public Service Commission. Mr. Austin earned a bachelor's degree from Alabama A&M University and a law degree from the University of Florida.
Giselle Carson is a shareholder with Marks Gray, P.A. practicing primarily in the area of immigration law representing employers and individuals. She is a former President of the Jacksonville Bar Association. Ms. Carson served as General Counsel of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce and is a member of its Board of Directors. She serves on the Jacksonville Aviation Authority Board and is a graduate of Leadership Florida and Leadership Jacksonville. She has received many distinguished recognitions including an AV peer review rating from Martindale-Hubble, Jacksonville Lawyer of the Year (2013) and Top Rated Immigration Attorney by ALM and Martindale-Hubbell. She was born in Cuba and is fluent in Spanish and French. She is a marathoner and two time Ironman triathlon finisher. In 2015 she will have completed all six World Marathon Majors. She is married to Jeff, a physical therapist, marathoner, and triathlete. She received her bachelor's degree in Physical Therapy from McGill University, Montreal, Canada and a J.D. with high honors, from Florida Coastal School of Law, Jacksonville, Florida.
Gary Chartrand is the Executive Chairman of Acosta, Inc. Acosta is a leading full-service sales and marketing agency. The company employs over 21,000 associates and operates 64 offices in the U.S. and Canada. Mr. Chartrand received the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for the State of Florida in May 2001. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation, St. Vincent's Healthcare System, The Jacksonville Public Education Fund, State Board of Education, and the KIPP schools in Jacksonville. Mr. Chartrand earned his bachelor's degree from the University of New Hampshire.
Robert Clements is currently the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of LenderLive. He has previously served as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of EverBank Financial Corp and its predecessor companies since 1997. Mr. Clements was previously a Vice President at Merrill Lynch & Co., where he was a member of the firm's leveraged buyout group, Merrill Lynch Capital Partners, Inc. Mr. Clements earned his bachelor's degree in economics from Dartmouth College and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
Dr. Yank Coble is Distinguished Professor and Director of the Center for Global Health and Medical Diplomacy, University of North Florida, and Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of Florida. From 2002 to 2007, Dr. Coble served on the USA and WMA Delegations to the World Health Organization and Assembly. An endocrinologist in Jacksonville, FL for over 35 years, Dr. Coble is also active in his community. He served on the founding boards of the Jacksonville Community Council, Inc. and Leadership Jacksonville and as President of Jacksonville Community Council, Inc. Coble has medical degrees from Duke University School of Medicine and the London School of Medicine.
Former Congressman Ander Crenshaw represented Florida’s 4th Congressional District for 16 years. During his tenure, Crenshaw established himself as a respected voice on defense issues and a champion for our military. He fought for key priorities for Northeast Florida and led the way to bring the Jacksonville National Cemetery to the area and to make Naval Station Mayport the East Coast homeport for all Littoral Combat Ships and Naval Air Station Jacksonville the East Coast home for all P-8 aircraft. Crenshaw, a member of the Appropriations Committee, chaired the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee. He served both on the prestigious Defense Appropriations and the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations subcommittees. Prior to Congress, Crenshaw worked in the private sector as an investment banker and served as Florida’s first Republican Senate President. Job creation and economic prosperity for all have been the driving forces behind Crenshaw’s public service. He and his wife, Kitty, live in Jacksonville. They have two grown daughters and two granddaughters. Crenshaw graduated from the University of Georgia and received his law degree from the University of Florida.
Daniel Davis assumed his role as the JAX Chamber's president and CEO on July 1, 2013. Mr. Davis is committed to small business and innovative leadership. He has in-depth knowledge of a wide range of business issues, and he is dedicated to further growing our local economy. He is the former executive director of the Northeast Florida Builder's Association (NEFBA), Florida's largest local membership trade association representing the building and construction industry in Duval, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns Counties. Mr. Davis previously served on the Jacksonville City Council and was elected President of the Council in 2007 - the youngest person to serve in this capacity. In addition to leading the JAX Chamber, he served in the State House of Representatives representing District 15 which encompasses parts of Duval County. Mr. Davis is married to his wife of 17 years, Rebekah Davis, and they have four children. He also serves on numerous non-profit organization boards throughout Jacksonville.
Joseph Debs is a member of the Board of Directors of RS&H and serves as Executive Vice President/Chief Marketing Officer. Prior to moving into the CMO position, Mr. Debs served as Senior Vice President and Director of RS&H's national transportation and infrastructure practice, a practice that spans 14 states and the District of Columbia. Mr. Debs has been active in the planning and design of transportations system for 35 years with responsibilities for many nationally recognized and innovative highway, bridge, transit, rail and port projects. Mr. Debs earned his bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Florida and an MBA from the University of North Florida.
Jay Demetree is the President and CEO of Demetree Brothers, Inc., a Florida based real estate service company. He serves as Managing Member and President of Pentagon Properties, LLC, a limited liability company with investments in real estate, banking, chemical, bio tech, and communications. Mr. Demetree currently serves as a Director on the boards of both growing and established companies and serves on numerous charitable boards. He is a graduate of Georgia Institute of Technology with a B.S. degree.
G. Ray Driver, Jr. practices in the areas of mergers and acquisitions, venture capital finance, securities law and general corporate law and is a partner in the law firm of Driver, McAfee, Peek & Hawthorne Mr. Driver has experience in representing publicly owned and privately held businesses in a wide range of corporate transactions. Mr. Driver is a member of The Florida Bar, the American Bar Association and the Jacksonville Bar Association. Mr. Driver earned a bachelor's degree in Business Administration and Accounting from the University of Montevallo, and a Master's degree in accounting and a law degree from the University of Florida.
Brenda Ezell is a board certified real estate attorney and the sole shareholder of the Ezell Law Firm, where she practices primarily in the area of commercial real estate and business law transactions. A graduate of Jacksonville University with honors in 1997 and the University of Florida, Levin College of Law summa cum laude in 2000, Ms. Ezell began her legal career in 2000 at Rogers Towers where she practiced commercial real estate law. In 2004 Ms. Ezell joined the City of Jacksonville’s Office of General Counsel where she practiced real estate and land use and zoning law, serving as legal counsel to several City departments, boards and commissions and to the City Council and Mayor’s Office. In 2007, Ms. Ezell returned to private practice with Edwards Cohen, where she continued to practice in the areas of commercial real estate and land use and zoning law until 2009, when she opened the Ezell Law Firm. Ms. Ezell is active in a variety of professional and community activities. She is currently a member of the Executive Council of the Florida Bar Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section, where she currently serves as vice chair of the Real Estate Leasing Committee and co-chair of the Membership and Inclusion Committee. Locally, Ms. Ezell serves as a member of the Board of Governors for the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, a Board member for Clearly Jacksonville and as a member of the Board of Advisors for the Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute. Additionally, she is currently a member of the Jacksonville Bar Association, American Bar Association, Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Jacksonville, National Association of Bond Lawyers and the Bold City Chapter of the Links, Inc. Ms. Ezell is a graduate of the Florida Bar Leadership Academy (Class I) and Leadership Jacksonville (Class of 2012).
Steve Halverson is President and Chief Executive Officer of The Haskell Company, one of the nation's largest integrated design-build organizations, with operations throughout the United States and Latin America and headquarters in Jacksonville, Florida. Mr. Halverson is Chairman of the Florida Council of 100, Past Chairman of the Florida Chamber of Commerce and is Vice-Chairman for St. John's University. Mr. Halverson earned his bachelor's degree from St. Johns University, law degree from American University and completed executive business education at Dartmouth College and the University of Pennsylvania.
Mark Lamping, President of the Jacksonville Jaguars, is a veteran of more than 25 years in professional sports including six as president of the Jaguars, thirteen with Anheuser-Busch, fourteen as present of Major league Baseball's St. Louis Cardinals and four as CEO of New Meadowlands Stadium Company. As president and CEO of the New Meadowlands Stadium Company he was responsible for managing the construction and operations of MetLife Stadium. From 1994 to 2008 Lamping was the president of the St. Louis Cardinals, who earned the 10th World Championship in 2006. From 1981 to 1994 Lamping served in a variety of positions with Anheuser-Busch. Lamping serves on the boards of directors of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, Jacksonville Civic Council, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Jacksonville, Inc., and the American Heart Association. He hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from Rockhurst University, and a Master's Degree in Business Administration from Saint Louis University.
Jane R. Lanier, CFRE, is President and System Chief Development Officer of St. Vincent’s HealthCare Foundation in Jacksonville, Florida. Ms. Lanier is responsible for establishing, directing and implementing the fundraising program; in addition to distribution, investment and management of Foundation assets. She has 30 years of experience in fundraising, business, and education fields. Ms. Lanier has served as President of the Ascension Health Council on Philanthropy, Director of the YWCA Children’s programs in Jacksonville, and CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities in Jacksonville. She has served as President of the First Coast Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and as a volunteer with civic organizations in the Jacksonville community. She is a recipient of the national award from the Catholic Health Association of the United States for creativity and breakthrough thinking, the Sister Mary Concilia Moran Award; the St. Augustine Diocese Catholic Business Women’s Award and the Jacksonville Business Journal’s Women of Influence Award. She and her husband, Randy, have two married daughters and five grandchildren. She is a graduate of Georgia State University and holds a B.S. degree in Education.
Douglas Miller's 35-year public works and engineering career has incorporated both private consulting and municipal engineering. For the past 30 years, he has been a managing principal of England, Thims & Miller, Inc. Mr. Miller has directed construction management and contract administration services on construction projects valued in excess of one billion dollars. Mr. Miller serves as District Engineer for multiple Community Development Districts in Florida. Mr. Miller earned his bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Florida.
Willard Payne is the President/Treasurer of Northern Florida Recruiting & Consulting Services, Inc. (NFRCS) and directs professional recruiting, consulting and lobbying client services. An educator by training, Mr. Payne spent 14 years with the Chicago Public School System as a teacher and district administrator. In 1975, he left Chicago when he was awarded several McDonald's Corporation franchises in Jacksonville, Florida. He was the first African American franchise operator in the city and built four stores, hiring more than 500 employees. The Mayor of Jacksonville appointed Mr. Payne as the first African American to serve on the Jacksonville Port Authority Board and he also served as the first President of the The100 Black Men of Jacksonville and the Downtown Rotary Club. Mr. Payne received his Bachelor's Degree in Education from Xavier University in New Orleans, LA and holds a Master of Science Degree in Education Administration and Supervision from Loyola University in Chicago.
John Peyton was named President of GATE Petroleum Company, one of the largest privately-held companies in Florida, in January 2012 after serving two consecutive terms as Mayor of Jacksonville, Florida. He has been actively involved in the community serving as chairman of the Jacksonville Transportation Agency, Jacksonville Symphony Association and Greenscape of Jacksonville. In 2006, President George W. Bush appointed Mr. Peyton to the board of trustees of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation. Mr. Peyton earned his bachelor's degree from Mercer University and completed the Harvard Executive Education Program.
C. Daniel Rice has served as President and CEO of Mayport Venture Partners, LLC since its founding in 2000. Mr. Rice currently serves on the Board of Directors of American Pet Resort, Inc. and has been an adviser to other portfolio companies on issues such as strategic partnerships, fundraising, business plan development, operational issues and restructuring. He currently serves as Chairman of the Board for Saint Vincent's Healthcare System. Mr. Rice received his bachelor's degree from Clemson University and an MBA and law degree from the University of Florida.
Robert T. Shircliff has distinguished himself as a successful leader in business, civic, volunteer, philanthropic, and religious organizations. He had a successful business career with the Pepsi-Cola bottling companies. He founded a consulting group specializing in equity enhancement and retired in 1988. He served at various times as president of the National Pepsi-Cola Bottlers Association and as a director of General Cinema Corporation, Atlantic National Bank of Jacksonville, EverBank Financial Corporation, and others. He served as Chair of the Jacksonville University Board of Trustees and JU's Campaign 2000. Mr. Shircliff earned his bachelor's degree in Marketing from Indiana University.
Richard L. Sisisky is President of The Shircliff & Sisisky Company, a management-consulting firm based in Jacksonville, FL. His company has had consulting agreements with more than 200 clients, primarily franchised bottlers of Pepsi-Cola products in the United States, Mexico, Canada and Middle East. Mr. Sisisky currently serves as Lead Director of Stein Mart, Inc. and has held leadership positions in many not-for-profit organizations including Baptist Health System, Jacksonville Children's Commission, The Bolles School, Jewish Federation of Northeast Florida and United Way. Mr. Sisisky earned his bachelor's degree from The College of William and Mary and a law degree from the University of Richmond.
David Strickland, former Vice Chairman Community Affairs for EverBank is a native of Daytona Beach, Florida, Mr. Strickland has over 40 years of experience in financial services, having held senior leadership positions at Trust Company of GA (SunTrust) in Atlanta, Barnett Banks of Florida, and since 1998 at EverBank in Jacksonville, FL, where he was the founding President and CEO of EverBank of Florida. He has been a long time member of the Florida Bankers Association and lectured for the American Institute of Banking. His non-bank activities have involved education, community service, and conservation. He has served on boards of various educational institutions including Stetson University, University of North Florida Coggin School of Business, and the Whitney Laboratory of the University of Florida. Other boards on which he has served include the Youth Crisis Center Foundation, North Florida Land Trust, Timucuan Trail Parks Foundation, and Equinox Documentaries. Current board responsibilities include the Cummer Museum, Jacksonville Symphony, World Affairs Council and HabiJax. He is a graduate of Emory University, the Stonier School of Banking at Rutgers University and the PMD Program of the Harvard Business School.
Bill Walton is co-founder and managing member of Rockpoint Group, L.L.C., a global real estate private equity firm headquartered in Boston, with additional primary offices in Dallas and San Francisco. Prior to Rockpoint, Mr. Walton co-founded a similar firm, Westbrook Real Estate Partners, L.L.C. Since 1994, the Rockpoint founding managing members have invested over $12 billion of equity capital in approximately $46 billion of real estate around the world. Prior to co-founding Westbrook, Mr. Walton was a managing director in the real estate group of Morgan Stanley & Co. Inc., which he joined in 1979. Mr. Walton has served as a Director or Trustee on the Boards of several public companies, as well as private and non-profit organizations, including the American Enterprise Institute, KIPP Jacksonville, Princeton University and Princeton University Investment Company. Mr. Walton received an A.B. in 1974 from Princeton University and an MBA in 1979 from Harvard Business School.
Nina Waters is President of The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida, a position she has held since 2005. Her primary responsibilities include the leadership and management of donor services, grantmaking and administration of the Foundation. Prior to joining the staff of the Foundation in 2001, Ms. Waters served as Executive Director of the PACE Center for Girls Jacksonville program for twelve years. Ms. Waters is the recipient of the JU Distinguished Alumni Award, the 2013 Florida Times-Union EVE Award for Employment, the 2014 President’s Citation from OneJax Institute and the Girl Scouts’ Women of Distinction Award. She was inducted into the 2014 First Coast Business Hall of Fame. She is the past chairman of the Southeastern Council of Foundations. Ms. Waters earned her bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Jacksonville University.