Watermark’s Most Remarkable People of 2017

By : Watermark Staff
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In a year filled with many setbacks and obstacles, the LGBTQ communities in Central Florida and Tampa Bay have met those challenges with amazing resilience and resisted all forms of discrimination.

The individuals selected as Watermark’s Most Remarkable People of 2017 come from many walks of life but all share one thing in common, they all were truly exceptional this year.

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Watermark’s Most Remarkable People 2017: James Rode, Orlando Gay Chorus’ artistic director

By : Jeremy Williams
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It’s difficult to take an organization that’s celebrating 25 years and change the way the community sees it, but Orlando Gay Chorus artistic director James Rode doesn’t make decisions based on what’s the easiest thing to do.

OGC celebrated their 25th anniversary in 2015, the same year Rode became the organization’s new artistic director.

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Watermark’s Most Remarkable People 2017: Barry Miller, Orlando attorney and founder of The 49 Fund

By : David Lee, writer/director of O-Town: Voices from Orlando
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David Lee

In the wake of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, local attorney, entrepreneur and CEO of The Closing Agent, Barry Miller wondered “What about the kids?” He was concerned about the future of the children of the victims of the attack.

We sat outside of his apartment at Lake Eola in the summer of 2016 and he said to me, “So many of the victims of the Pulse incident were parents of small children. Some of the survivors are barely out of high school. Who is going to take care of them? Their future? Their education?” Thus began the idea that became my friend Mr. Miller’s very own brainchild, The 49 Fund, an endowed scholarship administered by The Central Florida Foundation (CFF). This scholarship is offered to LGBTQ students in Central Florida with special consideration to be provided to survivors of the Pulse tragedy or to immediate family members of those whose lives were lost in the tragedy.

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Watermark’s Most Remarkable People 2017: Kellie Parkin, MBA Orlando’s Executive director

By : Lu Muller-Kaul, MBA Orlando President
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Lu Muller-Kaul

Kellie Parkin is a friend, supporter and the best employee I could have hoped for. In title and job description, she is responsible for running MBA’s operations, but she adds volunteer time for the One Orlando Alliance and other projects.

Kellie has also been working with founding MBA members, most importantly Debbie Simmons and Michael Thomas, to connect MBA’s past of now 25 years to a successful future, always ensuring equality through economics for our business members and the whole LGBTQ community of Central Florida.

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Watermark’s Most Remarkable People 2017: Pamela Schwartz, Orange County Regional History Center’s Chief Curator

By : Teresa Jacobs, Orange County Mayor
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Teresa Jacobs

It’s an honor and privilege to celebrate Pamela Schwartz as a 2017 “Remarkable Person.”

In the early hours after the Pulse Nightclub massacre, when we were reeling with anguish and disbelief from the brutal attack on our LGBTQ, Latinx and Hispanic communities and the unimaginable loss of 49 innocent souls, one person was already thinking about how we could help memorialize the staggering loss and remember the innocent victims. That was Pam Schwartz, who by the next day, had already outlined a plan for the collection and preservation of the tribute items that she knew would come.

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Watermark’s Most Remarkable People 2017: Jennifer Foster, Owner of Foster Productions, Inc.

By : Robin Maynard, Founder of Libby’s Legacy
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Robin Maynard

It’s interesting that the very definition of remarkable is “worthy of attention” because it’s the one thing Jennifer Foster doesn’t seek. She simply puts her head down and focuses on the important work to be done and she does so with compassion and true leadership.

Allow me to back up: I’ve been friends with Jennifer for more than a decade. Jennifer owns Foster Productions; however, she has volunteered with Florida little dog rescue, Big Brother/Big Sisters, HRC, Libby’s Legacy Breast Cancer Foundation and more over the years. We hung out in friendship while our nonprofit work would occasionally meet (our two rescue dogs were brought to us by Jennifer and her wife to ‘foster’ and Jennifer would rally with a team to fundraiser for Libby’s Legacy once a year as well). Other than that, it was porch talks and football , birthday gatherings and the occasional dinner.

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Watermark’s Most Remarkable People 2017: Robin Daily, Zebra Coalition Community Engagement Coordinator

By : Heather Wilke, Zebra Coalition Executive Director
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Heather Wilke

Robin Daily has been involved in work with Zebra Coalition since the organization opened a youth drop-in center in 2012. She was a dedicated volunteer for many years until April 2017 when she accepted a position as the Community Engagement Coordinator.

In this role, Robin is responsible for connecting with the community to raise awareness for the mission of Zebra Coalition, to inspire and support LGBTQ youth. Robin excels in this role through her passion for improving the lives of young people.

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Watermark’s Most Remarkable People 2017: Rebecca Storozuk, Orange County’s first transgender deputy

By : Grace Peek, Orlando Police Department’s LGBTQ Liaison
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Grace Peek

I have only had the pleasure of meeting Becca on one occasion (Gay Pride Parade). With me working for Orlando Police Department and her working for Orange County Sheriff’s Office our paths have not crossed too much as of yet but I expect that to change in the near future.

Her “coming out” as transgender in the law enforcement environment of Central Florida—that is huge!

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Watermark’s Most Remarkable People 2017: Marco Antonio Quiroga, Program Director at Our Fund Foundation

By : Carlos Carbonell, CEO and Founder Echo Interaction Group
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Carlos Carbonell

It’s times like today that call for leadership like Marco Quiroga.

Although kind and soft-spoken, he unapologetically and confidently speaks loudly for those who have less of a voice in our community. He collaborates with leadership who came before him in the struggle of both the Latinx and LGBTQ communities, while still challenging and educating the status quo on what is still left to do and for whom.

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Watermark’s Most Remarkable People 2017: Darden Rice, St. Petersburg City Council Chair

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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“When I first ran in 2005, I was openly, unapologetically attacked for being gay,” Darden Rice, the first out candidate for public office in Pinellas County recalls. “But today… more and more, the public sees our issues as everyday issues that any American faces.”

That’s in part because of candidates and public officials like Rice. In November of this year, after a successful term in which she served as St. Petersburg’s City Council Chair, she garnered 72.64 percent of the vote to win her bid for re-election. That’s an impressive 41,914 votes to her opponent’s 15,786.

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Watermark’s Most Remarkable People 2017: Nicolas Cardello, Tampa Bay photographer and bay-area Santa Claus

By : Steve Blanchard, Media Relations Coordinator at Moffitt Cancer Center
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Steve Blanchard

In 2017, Nick Cardello and his husband, Kurt, became the international faces of same-sex relationships when they recreated a photo of themselves kissing at the March on Washington. That photo, which positioned the couple in the exact same pose as 24 years earlier, went viral and got worldwide media coverage. But for the LGBTQ community of Tampa Bay, Nick was already synonymous with our community.

Several years ago, Nick became a photographer for Watermark. Soon he was appearing at LGBTQ events on both sides of the bay with his trusty camera in hand. He shot numerous covers for the newsmagazine and soon became the official photographer for other LGBTQ organizations. The Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival noticed Nick’s skills as did ASAP (which merged into EPIC). Nick also continues to shoot for Tampa’s Creative Loafing.

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Watermark’s Most Remarkable People 2017: Terri Lipsey-Scott, Chair of the Executive Board for the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African-American Museum

By : Samuel Johnson, Tampa Bay freelance reporter and Watermark contributor
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Samuel Johnson

Sometimes finding the balance between administration, civic engagement and social curator can seem like alchemy. Adding the right amounts of each will yield gold; one false step in the process and you’re left with a lump of coal. Terri Lipsey-Scott has discovered that magical equilibrium. Her title—chair of the executive board for the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African-American Museum—belies just what she embodies for the St. Petersburg community.

The museum is located in the neighborhood The Deuces; arguably the most famous of the city’s historic black neighborhoods. The building in which the museum is situated was the flashpoint for the civil rights movement in St. Petersburg in the late 1960s. Yet, when the St. Petersburg Housing Authority wanted to sell the property, Terri Lipsey-Scott sounded the alarm bell. Grassroots organizations and community leaders drummed up vocal opposition to the measure, eventually allowing this historic landmark to remain.

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