Our Staff

Nadine Smith, Executive Director

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.

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 gay community leaders. She served on the founding board of the International Gay and Lesbian Youth Organization.

She is s 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 Voter's Woman of Distinction Award and 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 Pollitzer, Deputy Director

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.


David Costa, Director of 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.

Joe Saunders, Senior Political Director

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 Link, Director of Communications

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). 


De Palazzo, Safe & Healthy Schools Director

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.

Gina Leigh Duncan, Director of Transgender Equality

Gina Duncan is Equality Florida's Director of Transgender Equality. She was in the Mortgage Banking business in Central Florida for 31 years. She has served on the Home Builders Association of Mid-Florida and Mortgage Bankers Association Boards of Directors. Gina was President of the Mortgage Bankers Association of Central Florida in 2005. She was with Wells Fargo Home Mortgage from1997 to 2011, and served as the Area Manager of Central Florida, and Regional Manager for East Florida.

Gina also served on the HRC Orlando Steering Committee, as Co-Chair of the Diversity Committee. She chaired the Transgender Day of Remembrance and Transgender Career and Wellness Fair events. Gina served two terms as President of the Metropolitan Business Association (MBA), the LGBT Chamber of Commerce in Orlando. She was also the President of MBA's Come Out With Pride event, which annually draws over 100,000 people to the Orlando area.

Gina was invited to attend the first ever Human Rights Campaign’s National Women’s Diversity Leadership Conference, and also served on the HRC National Business Council. Gina serves on the Steering Committee of Equality Florida and on the Orlando Anti-Discrimination Alliance, which has been instrumental in passing the Orange County Human Rights Ordinance as well as a Domestic Partnership Registry in both the City and County. Gina ran for County Commissioner in 2012 garnering 40% of the vote in an unsuccessful bid for county office.

Gina currently chairs TransAction Florida's Advisory Council, Equality Florida's Transgender Inclusion Initiative, dedicated to ensuring that Transgender Inclusion is woven into all we do at Equality Florida. Gina is recognized as a national and international spokesperson and educator on transgender rights, public policy and civic engagement. She was recently featured on the cover of Florida Trend Magazine, Florida's largest business magazine. Gina was also recently chosen in the Top 100 LGBT Movers and Shakers in Florida. 

Jon Harris Maurer, Public Policy Director

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.

Mark Puskarich, Development Director

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.

Carlos Guillermo Smith, Central Florida Outreach Coordinator

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.

Brandon Wolf, Central Florida Development Officer and Media Relations Manager

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 Orlando Weekly. He has brought awareness to the issues in HuffPost, Metro Weekly, and on television outlets such as MSNBC, CNN, and more. Brandon received the Voice for Equality Award at the 2018 Orlando Gala.

Brandon attended the University of Oregon for Political Science and relocated to Central Florida in 2008. After moving to Florida, he built a successful career in business management, overseeing large retail portfolios across the state. In his work, he sought to lead through the lens of humanity and ensure an inclusive work environment focused on personal growth and development.

In his free time, Brandon volunteers with 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. He lives in Orlando.

Rene Cantu, Business Outreach Manager

Originally from Corpus Christi, Texas, Rene Cantu, has resided in South Florida for 5 years.

He brings 20 years of non-profit management and marketing experience.  Most recently, 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 diligently 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 Latinos Salud (Wilton Manors, FL) and is a current member of Riverwalk Trust, The Pride Center’s Founders’ Circle, and is a graduate of Leadership Corpus Christi, Leadership Houston and Leadership Broward.  He has delivered the commencement address for Sanford Brown College (2011), Westwood College (2012), and his alma mater, West Oso High School (2016).

Wesley Davis, Field Director

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.

Ian Siljestrom, Safe Schools Associate Director

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, Pinellas Safe And Healthy Schools Coordinator

Esmé (“Ez”) Rodríguez is the Pinellas Safe And Healthy Schools Coordinator 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.

Nikole Parker, TransAction Florida Project Coordinator

Nikole Parker is the TransAction Florida Project Coordinator, assisting with Equality Florida's statewide Transgender Inclusion Initiative. She also currently works for the onePULSE Foundation as the Stakeholder & Community Relations Manager. Nikole has sat on various non-profit boards within the community, including the LGBT+ Center Board of Directors, the Orlando United Assistance Center Advisory Board, TransAction Advisory Council, Spektrum Health Board of Directors and Peer Support Space Board of Directors. In addition to her work with the onePULSE Foundation, Nikole co-leads the work of the Orlando Trans Collective, a collaborative group of transgender and gender non-conforming leaders of color who focus on community building and advocacy efforts for the Central Florida transgender community. In 2018, Nikole was honored with the Humanitarian of the Year award by the Miss Glamorous Pageant. Nikole was also was recognized as one of Watermark's Most Remarkable People of 2018 for her work with the onePULSE Foundation and her ongoing advocacy and empowerment of the transgender community. In 2019, Nikole was recognized by Congressman Darren Soto for LGBT+ Pride Month and her biography was read into the Congressional Record. She hopes to encourage open dialogue on transgender issues and educate individuals from the community on healthy and safe ways to undergo a transition, finding self-care practices and providing resources so black market hormones and unsafe lifestyles can be avoided.


Michael Womack, Communications Manager

Michael Womack is Equality Florida’s Communications Manager. He is tasked with leading social media strategy, creating digital advocacy campaigns, writing original content for company platforms, and contributing to media relations goals.

Michael graduated The University of Tampa in May of 2017 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Advertising and Public Relations and a minor in Graphic Design. Prior to joining the Equality Florida team, Michael contributed to several Tampa Bay area political campaigns and worked in marketing with a focus on social media strategy.

Michael is committed to advancing LGBTQ+ issues and progressive causes in the state and on the national level. He continues to fight for these issues in and around Tampa Bay through advocacy and involvement with the Democratic Party.

Daniel Benoit, Executive Assistant

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.

Paul Wierbonics, Staff Accountant


Paul is Equality Florida's Staff Accountant. 

Paul 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.


Todd Richardson, St Petersburg Development Officer

Todd Richardson is the Pinellas County Development officer 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, and Esquire Magazine. As an exhibiting artist, Todd has raised thousands of 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. Most recently, his photography has appeared in the Huffington Post. He volunteers and supports, Equality Florida, Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Tampa AIDS network “Art for Life,” Metro Wellness and Community Centers, ASAP/Empath, and Hands Across The Bay. Originally from Salem, New Hampshire, he now calls St. Petersburg home.

Nicholas Machuca, Donor Engagement Coordinator

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.

Robin Schwartz, Miami Development Officer

Robin Schwartz is one of the founders of Aqua Foundation for Women. From 2010 to 2014 she served as the Executive Director and then Managing Director from April 2018- Aug 2019. Currently, Robin is a Mortgage Loan Originator for Caliber Home Loans and the Chair of the LGBTQ Advisory Committee for the City of Miami Beach. She lives in Wynwood with her dog Stella.

Aimee Coley, Grants Manager

Aimee joined the Equality Florida staff in 2019 as Grants Manager, after working with the organization as a contract Grant Writer since 2015. Aimee began her career writing grants at Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast in 2011. Since then, she has helped to raise approximately $4.5 million in grant funding for nonprofit organizations. She also worked as Director of Collective Impact for United Way of Charlotte County, where she was responsible for implementing and overseeing a collaborative grants program for local nonprofit agencies. Prior to her work with nonprofits, she taught writing in the First-Year Composition Program and Writing Center at University of South Florida.

Aimee holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from New College of Florida, a Master’s degree in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College, and a Master’s degree in English Literature from University of South Florida. She lives in Punta Gorda with her husband Joe and her cat Ernie.

Hal Trejo, Grant Writer and Southwest Florida Development Associate

Hal Trejo (they, them, theirs), is a Grant Writer and Southwest Florida Development Associate with Equality Florida. Hal is a graduate of New College of Florida, where they focused on anthropology and completed their senior thesis on the history of gender and sexuality diversity in Florida. They are committed to the liberation of all people who face oppression through mutual aid, activism, and arm-in-arm collaboration. They are an activist who has attended and organized numerous marches, vigils, and actions calling out Islamophobia, racism, homophobia, transphobia, anti-science fundamentalism, Nazism, fascism, farmworker rights abuses, infringement on native land, and imperialism.

Hal is the president and co-founder of All Rainbow and Allied Youth Inc. (ARAY) in their hometown of Charlotte County, Florida. ARAY is a nonprofit that helps LGBTQ+ youth connect with the resources, support, and love that they need to survive and thrive.

They hate melted cheese almost as much as push-ups, and in their free time, Hal enjoys reading YA and JF novels, traveling, and watching Star Trek.

Mark Barr, Tallahassee Development Associate

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.