Nadine Smith is the Executive Director of Equality Florida, the state's largest organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In 2022, she was named to the Time100, TIME's annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world
An award-winning journalist turned organizer, Nadine was one of four national co-chairs of the 1993 March on Washington. She was part of the historic meeting between then - President Clinton - the first Oval Office meeting between a sitting President and LGBTQ community leaders. She served on the founding board of the International Gay and Lesbian Youth Organization.
She is a Florida Chamber Foundation Trustee and served on President Obama's National Finance Committee.
Nadine has been named one of the state's "Most Powerful and Influential Women" by the Florida Diversity Council. She has received the League of Women Voters' Woman of Distinction Award, in 2018 was named one of the 100 Most Influential Floridians by Influence Magazine. She currently serves as chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Florida Advisory Committee.
She lives in St. Petersburg with her wife Andrea and son Logan.
Stratton co-founded EQFL in 1997 and serves as the Deputy Director overseeing all Field and Development programs. A Political Science graduate of Emory University, Stratton has spearheaded numerous community based campaigns both responding to far right political attacks and building support for anti-discrimination ordinances, safe schools policies, and domestic partnership laws at the local level and at our state capital. As a key spokesperson on LGBT issues, Stratton is a regular contributor to major television, print, and radio outlets throughout the state and has had opinion columns published in the Miami Herald, Broward Sun-Sentinel, Saint Petersburg Times, Tampa Tribune, Daytona Beach News Journal and Orlando Sentinel. Stratton served on the board of directors and as Vice-Chair of the Equality Federation, the national network of statewide LGBT advocacy groups, from 2004-2006. He has raised over ten million dollars for LGBT Organizations and political campaigns. Stratton lives in Miami with his husband of 19 years, Christopher Boykin and is the father of 16 year old twins, Ben and Sarah.
Dan Benoit joined the Equality Florida team as a volunteer in 2005, helping out in the Tampa Bay area with anything that was needed. After two years of volunteer service, he joined the team as our Administrative Assistant. He quickly organized our general office procedures and handled all incoming corporate calls, emails, direct mail and corporate deposits. Shortly after taking over those administrative functions, he added on the responsibility of coordinating many of the final gala logistical pieces across the state and attending in-person the Tampa Bay events to oversee those gala logistics. He also handled many of the large mailers across the state and continues to coordinate all of our event insurance contracts.
In 2012, Dan was promoted to Executive Assistant. In addition to his existing administrative duties, he added on the responsibility of managing our CEO's travel itinerary, work calendar, meeting schedule and any other needed logistical items. He also works closely with accounting to manage her expense reimbursements and our corporate credit cards.
Prior to joining the Equality Florida team, Dan managed his own pet store in New Hampshire for several years, then eventually become the owner. Prior to that enterprise, he obtained over 20 years of experience in the retail management industry. Dan's varied experiences and entrepreneurial personality has made him a valuable member of our core operations.
David Costa has been a part of Equality Florida since 2003, starting as a full time contractor and then moving into a full time staff position. Over the years he has worked closely with every department and is currently our Director of Operations. He directly manages our Database Team and our Communications Department. He also oversees the project management aspects of our annual plan, core goals and special projects.
David came to Equality Florida with over 20 years of experience in the private sector, mainly focused in Human Resources. His work with several professional employer organizations gave him exposure to thousands of corporations and their infrastructure models. These experiences have made him an invaluable resource as Equality Florida continually adapts and changes its technology tools and organizational structure to meet current trends and rapid growth.
David graduated with top honors from Florida State University College of Law in 1995, with course work completed oversees at Oxford University. While in law school, he focused on corporate and employment law. He also served simultaneously as Editor in Chief of the Journal of Transnational Law & Policy, Managing Editor of the Journal of Land Use & Environmental Law and Writing & Research Editor of the Florida State University Law Review.
A longtime Tallahassee steering committee member, Lauren Kelly-Manders is a native Floridian who is excited to continue her path of service to the LGBTQ+ community as Grants Manager.
Lauren has eight years of combined experience in higher education program management at the FSU College of Law and in grants administration in FSU’s Office of Research during two years of record-breaking research funding. Before joining Equality Florida, Lauren served as the Director of Institutional Giving for the Florida State Parks Foundation, the non-profit organization supporting Florida’s nationally recognized, award-winning state parks system.
She is a founding member and the immediate past chair of Mayor John Dailey’s LGBTQ+ Advisory Council and is deeply committed to racial and social equity. She sits on the board of Tallahassee Pride and co-chairs the United Partners for Human Services' LGBTQ+ Task Force.
Outside of volunteering, Lauren takes advantage of local bike paths and running trails and loves to spend time reading, gardening, learning about native plants, and photographing landscapes and wildlife. Lauren is a two-time alumna of Florida State University with degrees in Criminology and Education Policy. She resides in Tallahassee with her wife, Rebecca.
As Equality Florida’s Senior Political Director, Joe leads the policy and political programs for the country’s largest state-based LGBTQ rights organization.
An award-winning progressive leader, Joe’s skills live at the intersection of strategic communications, policy, elections and movement building.
A student of the movement for LGBTQ rights, Joe began his career in progressive politics as an activist at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. Since then he has led ballot measure campaigns to preserve LGBTQ protections, won local policy campaigns protecting millions of Floridians from discrimination, and held senior roles in the fight to win marriage equality in FL. In 2012, Joe was elected to the Florida House of Representatives becoming the first LGBTQ state lawmaker in Florida to take the oath of office. As a state representative, Joe served as the lead sponsor of the “Competitive Workforce Act”, legislation that would finally ban discrimination against LGBTQ Floridians.
Following his tenure in the Florida House, Saunders joined the staff of the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest LGBTQ advocacy organization. In this role he managed legislative and election programs in fourteen states, holding leadership positions in civil rights campaigns across the Southern U.S. In 2016, Joe served on the leadership team for the Turn Out North Carolina coalition, the successful effort in North Carolina to defeat anti-LGBTQ incumbent Gov. Pat McCrory - a champion of the notoriously anti-LGBTQ HB 2. In 2017, Joe worked across the pond as the Director of GOTV Programs for U.K. Parliament candidate Simon Hughes - a former United Kingdom Minister of Justice and openly LGBT candidate.
A nationally recognized progressive leader and strategist, in 2016 Joe was honored by Out Magazine as part of the “Out 100” list of national LGBTQ leaders and is a regular commentator in national and state press outlets.
Brittany is Equality Florida's Director of Communications.
She first joined Equality Florida in June 2012 as a communications intern. In February 2013, she was hired in a part-time capacity as our New Media Associate working out of our Gainesville office. Brittany is responsible for managing the communications interns, social media sites, and email marketing.
Brittany is a graduate of the University of Florida and holds a Master's Degree in Political Science with a concentration in Political Campaigning. She is also a graduate of Kennesaw State University and holds a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science with a concentration in Government and Professional Politics. Currently, she is a member of both the national and D.C. chapter of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR).
A nationally-recognized advocate for LGBTQ issues and gun violence prevention, Brandon found his passion for social change following the shooting at Pulse Nightclub. He is a frequent contributor on state and national media outlets, having published opinion columns in USA Today, CNN digital and Newsweek Magazine. He has been a featured voice on the issues in Teen Vogue, New York Magazine, The Washington Post, and on television outlets such as MSNBC, CNN, and more. Brandon was named one of Huffington Post's 30 LGBTQ Influencers under 30 and Business Equality Magazine's 40 LGBTQ Leaders under 40.
Brandon attended the University of Oregon for Political Science and relocated to Central Florida in 2008. In his free time, he serves on the Boards of Directors for The Dru Project, an organization he founded following the shooting at Pulse Nightclub that sponsors LGBTQ student groups and provides college funding to future leaders, and the One Orlando Alliance, a coalition of LGBTQ-serving organizations in Central Florida. He currently serves on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Florida Advisory Committee.
Brandon lives in Orlando.
Cielo Sunsarae has flourished with us, starting as an Equality Florida volunteer, advancing to an Equality Captain, and committing to three fellowship positions with the Field and Advocacy Department. He consistently provides an intersectional lens to advocacy work with their passion for the LGBTQ community, people of color, and people with disabilities.
An award-winning organizer, Cielo is heavily involved with his local LGBTQ+ community and has become a leader in the community. Cielo is the founder and executive director of The Queer-Trans Project, an organization that provides gender-empowering resources to LGBTQ+ minorities.
Cielo has been named one of eighteen “influential LGBTQIA+ people of the Black diaspora” by the University of North Florida LGBTQ Center. He has received the Youth Voice For Equality Award in 2021, and is among the UNF Top 50 LGBTQ+ Leaders.
Cielo is a graduate of the University of North Florida and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology with a minor in Leadership. They are also an internationally recognized ACS Certified Sexuality Educator. He is a member of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) and the American College of Sexologists (ACS).
Cielo currently resides in Jacksonville, Florida with his partner and their kittens.
Nikole Parker is an Orlando native of Black, Puerto Rican & Italian descent. At the age of 19 she left her job and childhood home to begin her journey to living authentically. After 3 years of black-market hormones and unsafe lifestyle practices, she came back to Orlando to begin her next chapter. Nikole’s passion is advocating for human rights, protections for all and the importance of everyone having a seat at the table.
Nikole is the Director of Transgender Equality at Equality Florida. Nikole is also the Co-Founder and Director of Operations for the Gender Advancement Project (GAP) and sits on the board of The Center Orlando.
She sat on various non-profit board of directors &/or advisory councils including the onePULSE Foundation Memorial Task Force, Orlando United Assistance Center, Contigo Fund, Spektrum Health, Peer Support Space, Orlando Trans Collective and the Central Florida LGBTQ+ Relief Fund. Nikole was also recognized as one of Watermark's Most Remarkable People of 2018. Nikole was honored with the Humanitarian of the Year award that same year. In 2019, Nikole was nationally recognized by Congressman Darren Soto in honor of LGBTQ+ Pride Month and her biography was read into the Congressional Record.
Through advocacy Nikole hopes to encourage open dialogue on gender issues, state and federal protections for all and linkage to proper transitioning resources. Her hope is to teach people that the black-market way of transitioning isn’t the only way.
Strategically positioned in downtown Tallahassee, Jon Harris Maurer literally keeps an eye on the Florida Capitol as Equality Florida's Public Policy Director. He previously served as Equality Florida's Government Affairs Manager and in nearly every volunteer role from petition signature gatherer to Statewide Board Co-Chair.
A Fort Lauderdale native, Jon Harris moved to Texas to attend Rice University. He later served as a legislative aide in the Texas House of Representatives and then worked on the Annise Parker for Mayor campaign in Houston, which successfully elected the first openly lesbian mayor of a major American city. While in law school at Florida State University, he worked as a policy intern for the Florida House of Representatives State Affairs Committee and served as Editor-in-Chief of the Law Review. He then spent more than five years in private practice at a boutique environmental and administrative law firm, honing his skills in legislative analysis, compliance counseling, and advocacy.
Outside of Equality Florida, Jon Harris devotes time to various professional organizations and recently participated in Leadership Florida – Connect Class VIII. He volunteers with Children’s Home Society and can be found playing volleyball with the Tallahassee Gay Athletic Association or watching Golden Girls reruns with his spouse Nate and their dog Pascal.
Rindala “Rin” Alajaji (she/her/hers) is Equality Florida’s Public Policy Associate, working to advance and defend LGBTQ policy in the state. She is a graduate of Columbia University’s Human Rights Studies MA program, where much of her work focused on women’s rights in the Middle East and international LGBTQ+ advocacy. Rindala also holds a B.S. in Applied Psychology and Global Public Health from New York University. Rindala became involved with Equality Florida as a volunteer, where she advocated for pro-LGBTQ+ policy federally and against anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in the state. Prior to joining Equality Florida, Rindala worked as an Advocate at a juvenile justice advocacy program for girls, as well as various research teams studying adolescent gender and sexuality development. A Brooklyn transplant, Rindala now lives in Orlando with her wife, Annie, and their dog, Billie.
Wesley Davis is Equality Florida’s Field Director, responsible for helping to lead Equality Florida’s Pride and outreach programs and supporting Equality Florida’s member mobilization and voter engagement programs in priority legislative and electoral campaigns.
Wesley brings a diverse perspective to the Equality Florida team, having managed Democratic and Republican campaign programs throughout the country. He brings extensive experience as a Grassroots Coordinator and a Regional Director to the Equality Florida field team. As a former aide in the Florida House of Representatives he oversaw priority policy topics and putting constituents' needs first.
Wesley has devoted his career to developing winning strategies, boosting community awareness, and positively impacting communities. He is based in Orlando.
Yordanos Molla (she/her/hers) is the Deputy Field Director at Equality Florida. She is responsible for mobilizing volunteers, building relationships with coalition partners, and managing electoral programs. Yordanos brings diverse work and volunteer experience from organizations such as World Relief, the Human Rights Campaign, Advocates for Youth, and Black Youth Project 100. She is passionate about grassroots activism and uses an intersectional framework in her social justice work.
Yordanos first became involved with Equality Florida as a field and public policy intern. Here she was instrumental in the execution of Lobby Days and electoral campaigns. She then moved to D.C. to pursue graduate school and led organizing efforts for reproductive justice, LGBTQ+ rights, and racial justice during her time there.
Yordanos is a graduate of American University with a Master's in Ethics, Peace, and Human Rights. She also holds a Bachelor's degree in International Studies and Women's and Gender Studies from the University of South Florida.
In her free time, she enjoys reading radical books, painting, learning to play the keyboard, and travelling. She is committed to political education, community organizing and care, transformative justice, and liberation for all marginalized communities.
Salvatore Vieira (he/him/his) is the Central Florida Field Organizer at Equality Florida. He is responsible for volunteer engagement through the field electoral programs, legislative session, and pride programs, as well as developing and maintaining our volunteer leadership program - the Equality Captains. Salvatore is very passionate about grassroots organizing, and believes whole-hertedly in amplifying and uplifting marginalized voices.
Salvatore got his break into political activism as a volunteer turned field organizer for Senator Elizabeth Warren's campaign for President during the primary. He went on to work with Organizing Together 2020 before making his move into the nonprofit world with Equality Florida.
Prior to finding his voice as an advocate, he received his B.F.A in Musical Theatre at the University of Central Florida, and performed in theatres along the east coast! He is so proud to be a part of the Equality Florida mission!
Bio: Coming Soon
Mary Eakins (she/her/ella) is a first generation US-born Cuban American. Her passions, and professional focuses, are in the areas of reproductive health and justice, criminal justice reform, and building LGBTQIA+ political power in the state. As a Cuban American raised in Hialeah, FL being a progressive, queer, pro-choice, woman was not something that was visible or acceptable in the Cuban community. Her strong desire to breakdown the stigma, and the rampant misinformation in Hispanic communities surrounding reproductive rights, queerness, the patriarchy and racial inequity motivated her to get involved, uplift, educate and advocate around these issues. She is an active member of the political community in Broward County. She currently serves as a Director for the Dolphin Democrats, the state's largest LBGTQIA+ caucus, a member of the Floridians for Reproductive Freedom coalition, a Steering Committee member for the Human Rights Campaign, and has previously served on the boards of Ruth's List Broward County, and Women's March Broward County. She is an activist and advocate with experience serving as a Field Organizer for a state House of Representatives campaign, a Deputy Campaign Manager for a State Attorney race in the largest judicial district in Florida, a volunteer and organizer for Planned Parenthood and in various volunteer/contracting roles on municipal campaigns contributing marketing assistance/materials, social media presence, and facilitation of both low and high dollar fundraisers. Outside of work, Mary enjoys spending time with her partner Zachary, and her Goldendoodle Baxter. She believes music is medicine (especially when it's live and loud), coffee should be black, and women should be in charge.
Jose Rodriguez has over a decade of experience in non-profit work and activism. Working for one of the largest animal rights organizations in the world, Jose has attended and organized countless rallies, events, protests and demonstrations. They also have experience with working on pressure campaigns through direct actions, phone calls, letter writing and petitioning.
After 10+ years in the animal rights movement, Jose is very excited for his new role in Equality Florida to create positive change for the LGBTQ community. Their hope is to use all of the previous experience and skills to this new role and continue to make Florida an inclusive and safe place for all.
Jose Rodriguez was born in Puerto Rico and moved to Central Florida over 15 years ago. They currently call Orlando home.
De Palazzo brings a passionate spirit and a solid depth and breadth of school-based knowledge to her role as Equality Florida’s new statewide Safe School Director, serving for over 25 years as a classroom teacher, Broward School District LGBTQ Coordinator, national LGBTQ consultant, and anti-bias trainer. De helped build exemplary programs and practices in Broward Schools that are considered a national model for school districts looking for guidance.
De has served as a member of the GLSEN National Board of Directors and founded GLSEN Fort Lauderdale. She has been a nationally certified anti-bias trainer for GLSEN and the Anti-Defamation League, as well as the Human Rights Campaign’s Welcoming Schools K-5 Project, a comprehensive approach to improving school climate in elementary school environments. De co-initiated “Courageous Conversations about Race,” a race and equity-based initiative in Broward County Public Schools, and is a national adjunct trainer for “Future Work Institute” diversity and inclusion workplace consulting organization. De holds dual masters degrees in education and conflict resolution. She is respected for her ability to connect easily with school officials and teachers and to create spaces that allow for open, safe dialogue among participants.
Ian Siljestrom is the Safe Schools Associate Director for Equality Florida. He is responsible for fighting the extensive risk factors, which disproportionately affect our LGBTQ youth in school including: bullying, homelessness, self-harm, and HIV transmission. He works directly with 20 school districts across Florida to assist in the implementation of professional development and comprehensive best practices to ensure the empowerment of all students’ identities. Ian has extensive speaking and professional development experience, including at local, state, and national conferences.
Previous to joining Equality Florida, Ian also taught for several years in a Title 1 elementary school in Jacksonville, Florida as a 5th grade science/health teacher. In his classroom, he was dedicated to creating an inclusive environment for all students, while practicing culturally responsive pedagogy.
Ian is a graduate of the University of Florida where he received a Bachelor’s of Science in Sustainability and the Built Environment and is currently pursuing his Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning.
Esmé (“Ez”) Rodríguez is the Statewide Safe & Healthy Schools Senior Manager and a transplant to Florida after 18 years in beautiful and snowy Minneapolis, MN. They are committed to working with administrators, teachers, parents, and school board members to ensure the creation of safe and healthy school environments in which LGBTQ+ and all students can thrive and strive to reach their full potential as whole, authentic individuals.
Esmé is a non-binary, Latinx educator, activist, and artist. Prior to working with Equality Florida, Esmé was the Statewide School Equity Director for OutFront Minnesota. Esmé also taught Gender Studies and Latin American Literature at the university level for 12 years and tours national colleges with their “Gender Show and Tell Program,” which engages in intersectional discussions surrounding the performance of diverse gender identities and gender expressions from non-binary cultural perspectives.
Esmé has a Master’s Degree from Boston College and studied their PhD at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. Much of their professional and creative work exhibits themes of transgender and gender diverse identities, the deconstructions of femininities and masculinities, and the creation of possibility spaces through engaging in work that promotes intersectional justice and community building. Esmé’s personal and professional goals are to form coalitions and relationships, which aid in the breakdown of systems which create and maintain oppression, violence, and inequality.
One of Esmé’s most exciting opportunities was being chosen to be a featured artist at The Walker Art Center (MN) in 2008 in conjunction with the International Touring FRIDA Kahlo Exhibit. Esmé also enjoys vegetarian sushi, downhill skiing, NFL, and college football.
Geanny Joseph Ruiz serves as the Statewide Safe and Healthy Schools Manager for Equality Florida. She is a South Florida native of Haitan descent. Geanny has worked extensively within education systems providing professional development and resources to advance the health, safety and well-being of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ youth. Prior to her time at Equality Florida, she managed the Office of LGBTQ+ Initiatives and Allyship at Florida Atlantic Universitys' Center for Inclusion, Diversity Education and Advocacy. She has implemented policies, procedures and programs to foster inclusive environments for all students. Geanny holds a Bachelor's Degree in Public Communications and a Masters Degree in Education.
Noelle is a Licensed and Nationally Certified School Psychologist and Certified Child & Adolescent Trauma Professional. She began social justice work as early as high school where she received peer educator training through the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and used anti-bias curriculum to teach fellow students about the importance of inclusion and acceptance. During college, Noelle followed her passion in the social sciences through the study of Psychology and Sociology and later went on to earn a Master’s degree in School Psychology from the State University of New York University at Buffalo and Doctor of Psychology degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey.
Noelle was an Associate Instructor for the Crisis Prevention Institute and has been a practicing School Psychologist for the past 15 years in both New York and Florida. In 2017, Noelle initiated and co-chaired the Student Services LGBTQ+ Committee in her school district, and through this work, became connected to Equality Florida. As fate would have it, she is now a member of the Safe and Healthy Schools team where she provides structural and collaborative support to districts across the state to ensure that LGBTQ+ youth can thrive in safe and welcoming school environments.
In her free time, Noelle enjoys travelling and spending time with her husband and their two dogs, Jazzy and Ollie. She runs her private practice through The Thinking Center in Sarasota, Florida and is the Producer and Co-Host of “The Unpacked Project – A Social Justice Podcast”.
Mark is proud to be part of Equality Florida, raising support and awareness for the organization's important work throughout Florida. No stranger to the organization before joining full time, Mark served on Equality Florida's Tampa Gala Steering Committee in 2012, and as vice chair and chair of the committees for the 2014 and 2015 galas, respectively. As Development Director, Mark manages Equality Florida’s major fundraising programs including membership, annual galas, corporate gifts, and legacy giving.
Prior to joining Equality Florida, Mark held positions in marketing and communication roles in universities and corporations located in the Tampa Bay area.
In his spare time, Mark volunteers as a TrevorChat counselor for The Trevor Project, the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth.
Mark graduated from the University of Miami with a bachelor's degree in communication with majors in public relations and political science. He lives with his partner, JT, in Tampa.
Gina Duncan was a corporate leader in the Mortgage Banking industry in Florida for over 30 years. She was with Wells Fargo Home Mortgage from 1997 to 2011, and served as their Area Manager of Central Florida, and then promoted to Regional Manager for East Florida, overseeing 26 branches, over 250 employees and a multimillion-dollar budget. Gina has also served in leadership roles with the Human Rights Campaign and the LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce in Central Florida, the PRIDE Chamber. Gina was the first elected transgender President of a major Chamber of Commerce in the United States. Gina Duncan served as the state Director of Equality Florida’s Transgender Inclusion Initiative, TransAction Florida, from 2014 to 2021. She oversaw a statewide movement comprised of a 1,200+ person advocacy network and led by the TransAction Florida Advisory Council, advocating for transgender rights and protections through public policy, advocacy and educational efforts statewide.
Gina was chosen as one of the 100 LGBT Movers and Shakers in Florida (2015), has received the Equality Florida Lifetime Achievement Award (2021), Orlando LGBT Center’s Trail Blazer Award (2017), the Diversity Champion’s Award by the Florida Diversity Council (2016), the Debbie Simmons Community Excellence Award at Come Out with Pride in 2018, and the Pride Chamber’s prestigious Community Champion of the Year, 2019. She has been featured on the cover of Orlando Weekly, Watermark and Florida Trend magazines.
A longtime volunteer with Equality Florida, Nick joins the staff as its Donor Engagement Coordinator, serving a number of communities across the state. Nick is a graduate of the University of South Florida and the University of Oregon, and his passions include exploring the natural world, expanding access to education, and fighting for human and LGBTQ+ rights. Prior to joining Equality Florida, Nick had committed himself to improving the world through higher education—teaching about topics ranging from ecological stewardship, climate change mitigation, U.S. immigration, imperialism, racial justice, and environmental justice.
Nick has helped direct an Oregon statewide environmental organization, and he currently helps direct the Florida Futures Project, a nonprofit organization that awards scholarships to college-bound high school graduates who exhibit bold ideas for Florida’s progressive future.
A proud Tampeño, Nick lives in the city with his partner and their two rescue dogs. In his free time, Nick enjoys going to the gym, reading, writing, registering new voters, travelling internationally, doing DIY home improvement projects, and hanging out with his partner and dogs.
Todd Richardson is the Pinellas County Development Director for Equality Florida. He is a graduate of the University of South Florida College of Fine Arts, and a veteran of the United States Air Force. His life as an activist started with photographing the March on Washington in 1993. As a commercial photographer, Todd’s work has been seen in advertisements for companies such as Dillard’s, The Home Shopping Network, Esquire Magazine, The Huffington Post, Tampa Bay Times, Watermark, and Creative Loafing. As an exhibiting artist, Todd has raised almost 2 million dollars through art performance pieces and activism. His photograph, “The Lost Pages of The Bard,” was accepted into the personal collection of Sir Elton John. He volunteers and supports, Equality Florida, Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Tampa AIDS network “Art for Life,” Metro Inclusive Health, ASAP/Empath, and Hands Across The Bay. Originally from Salem, New Hampshire, he now calls St. Petersburg home.
Mark is a graduate of Bowling Green State University in Telecommunications with a concentration in Radio/TV & Film. He also holds Master’s Degrees from the New School in Media Studies and the University of Utah in Social Work.
Mark is also the founder of the Salt Lake City Gay Athletic Association and the Tallahassee Gay Athletic Association both of which are dedicated to bringing the LGBTQ+ community together through athletics and social events. Mark was inducted into the National Gay Flag Football League’s Hall of Fame in 2013.
Mark and his husband have been involved in numerous Equality Utah, HRC and Equality Florida Galas, providing pro-bono video work, fundraising and leadership.
Based in Tallahassee, Stephanie Schwartz is the Tallahassee & Panama City Development Leader for Equality Florida – creating support and raising awareness of LGBTQ issues in the Big Bend.
Previously, Stephanie worked in development for a local HIV/AIDS advocacy nonprofit. Chosen as the agency’s first front-line fundraiser, Stephanie worked to identify and cultivate relationships with existing and prospective donors, community stakeholders, volunteers, and corporate partners. Stephanie also worked for many years in local media sales and was a top producer in account sales and retention.
A UF Gator by degree (Bachelor of Science in Public Relations), today Stephanie loudly cheers for the FSU Seminoles in all sports, Go ‘Noles! She is the President of the Big Bend Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and a member of the Sunrise Rotary. Stephanie and her partner, Laura, live with their four-legged children, Eli and Simone.
Mason Manion is a native of Jacksonville and leads all development efforts for Northeast Florida. He has always had a passion for this community, and strives to see Jacksonville become a more inclusive and fair place for everyone. Mason serves on the Advisory Board for the AIDS Memorial Project of Northeast Florida, as well as Assistant Music Director for Avondale United Methodist Church (an LGBTQ inclusive church).
Though there are challenges ahead, he is ready to meet those challenges and work in conjunction with the community to create a more loving and inclusive place for all!
Robert leads our Legacy of Equality Society. In his role, he’s responsible for managing all estate planning gifts and the statewide membership of the Legacy of Equality Society. Robert has a long history of activism in the LGBTQ+ and HIV movements. He has served in multiple volunteer leadership roles at GMHC, GLAAD, and as a Board member of Lambda Legal. Robert served as Chair/Co-Chair of Lambda Legal’s Broward County annual fundraiser for six years, and built strong relationships with individuals and organizations throughout the area. Professionally, Robert most recently served as Community Educator and Outreach Coordinator for a regional domestic violence agency in Connecticut (where he and his husband lived for three years until moving back to Florida in October 2020). Prior to that, Robert has been an independent management consultant, a manufacturing company CEO, and a corporate attorney.
Robert earned his B.A., cum laude, from Wesleyan University and his J.D. from Georgetown University. He graduated from The Hotchkiss School, where he now serves on the alumni association Board of Governors and its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. Robert and his husband live in Fort Lauderdale with their two Irish Terriers.
Originally from Corpus Christi, Texas, Rene Cantu, has resided in South Florida for 8 years. He is entering his fourth year with Equality Florida as the business outreach manager in which he works to cultivate relationships with the business community throughout the state.
He brings 20 years of non-profit management and marketing experience. He served as the Director of Membership, Communications and Resource Development with Leadership Broward Foundation, and as Director of Membership and Business Development at the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce. While in these positions, he worked to build his network of business and community leaders, and strategic partners in order to further the mission of both organizations.
Prior to moving to Fort Lauderdale, he lived in Houston, TX where he served as Executive Director of Leadership Houston, and as the Vice President for Programs and Services with the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. He has held management positions with the LULAC National Educational Service Center (Executive Director), the Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce (Vice President) and the Greater Corpus Christi Business Alliance (Director of Education Programs).
Rene holds his Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University. His community involvement has included serving on the board of Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce where he chairs the Gay and Lesbian Business Exchange. He is an active cyclist participant in SMARTRide (fundraising ride from Miami to Key West), and is a graduate of Leadership Corpus Christi, Leadership Houston and Leadership Broward.
Andrew Lent is Equality Florida’s Healthcare Equity Trainer. In this role, Andrew builds partnerships with healthcare organizations to increase LGBTQ+ cultural competence and inclusion in healthcare systems through training programs.
Most recently, Andrew was an Advocacy Intern at AARP Florida, assisting during the Florida legislative session and conducting outreach to help create a more age-friendly Florida. Before that, he did street outreach with those experiencing homelessness in the Tampa Bay area, providing resources, health referrals, and support for those in need.
Andrew holds a Master of Public Health degree, with a concentration in health policies and programs, and a Bachelor of Science in Public Health from the University of South Florida.
Andrew aims to utilize his public health background and advocacy experience to help lessen health disparities among LGBTQ+ Floridians. In his free time, he enjoys reading, spending time with friends and family, and going to the park with his dog Mando.
A graduate of the University of Central Florida, Carlos Guillermo Smith first joined Equality Florida in 2011 as a public policy fellow and returned in early 2015 as government affairs manager. Carlos previously served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2011-2012 as the chief of staff to former Democratic Representative Scott Randolph as well as one of Florida’s first openly gay state representatives Joe Saunders from 2012-2014. A twice-elected former chairman of the Orange County Democratic Party himself and longtime LGBT progressive activist, Carlos made history in November 2016 when he was elected to the Florida House as our state’s first openly LGBT Latino lawmaker.
Don Walker joined the Equality Florida team in June, 2014. Licensed by the State of Florida’s Department of Business & Professional Regulation as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), he is a member of the Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants (FICPA) and serves on the FICPA's LGBTQ Task Force.
Don has over 13 years experience in the public and private accounting sectors, and specializes in Not-For-Profit accounting. He graduated magna cum laude in 2011 from University of South Florida - St Petersburg with a B.S. in Accounting.
In 2013, at the request of then - FICPA chairman Ken Strauss, Don joined seven other Florida CPAs including the first openly gay Florida State Representative David Richardson to form the FICPA LGBTQ Task Force, ensuring Florida's LGBTQ community has a voice statewide within the accounting profession and preparing Florida CPAs to better serve their LGBTQ clients as the political and legal landscape shifted and evolved over the last decade.
Prior to entering the accounting profession, Don traveled extensively under the world's oceans, serving honorably as a U.S. Navy Chief onboard nuclear-powered fast attack submarines, managing a team of nuclear reactor operators and overseeing the maintenance of all reactor instrumentation, control and alarm systems.
Don married his late husband, Mike, in Maryland in July 2013, following a 17-year engagement, and lives in St Petersburg.
Paul is Equality Florida's Staff Accountant. He joined the staff at Equality Florida in August, 2016. He graduated from Brenau University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration.
In his prior career, Paul served as a U.S. Navy Master Chief (Chief of the Boat) onboard two nuclear-powered fast attack submarines. He served on six different submarines during his 23-year career. Immediately following his Naval retirement, he spent the next 10 years in the manufacturing and retail industries.
Paul and his wife Sue married in June 1985. They are the proud parents of two grown children. After living in seven states they now reside in Apollo Beach.