Wedgworth Leadership Institute Selects Class XI

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The UF/IFAS Wedgworth Leadership Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources (WLI) recently selected 30 participants for Class XI of its two-year leadership development program. The first seminar of the program will take place in Gainesville in November.

Administered by University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) and housed in the department of agricultural education and communication, WLI hosted its inaugural class in 1992. With approximately 450 program alumni (inclusive of participants and their spouses), WLI has become a staple for developing agricultural leaders who will become increasingly involved in the policy formation process.  

Members of Class XI have committed to 11 seminars, totaling 55 days, which further develop their leadership capacity in representing the agricultural industry. With seminars ranging from the Florida panhandle to Miami, time spent in Washington D.C. and a three-week international learning experience, this program broadens the participants’ perspectives and builds a network within the industry and beyond. Program graduates are equipped to address challenges of local, state, national and global dimensions.

“The candidates selected for this program are already leaders in their respective industries,” said WLI Director Christy Chiarelli. “Our goal is not to teach leadership, but rather, to give existing leaders an introduction to public policy and to create a networking system for participants to develop professionally. It is our aim to further develop their skills to address issues affecting Florida’s agriculture industry and natural resources.”

Class members were selected through a rigorous nomination and application process. The group is representative of agriculture’s diversity through their employment in 22 different sub-sectors of the industry, from citrus to horticulture to sod production. Class members also bring geographic diversity, representing 22 different counties across the state, from Calhoun to St. Johns to Miami-Dade.  

Class XI members include:

  • Billy Barben, Avon Park
  • Heather Blake, Trenton
  • Aaron Bryson, Lake Placid
  • Michael Cashwell, Clermont
  • Juan David Castro-Anzola, Orlando
  • Courtney Davis, Okeechobee
  • Derek Hendrie, Venus
  • Michael Hill, Eustis
  • Phillip Hisey, Ocala
  • Perry Hollingsworth, Sarasota
  • Peter James, Pompano Beach
  • Carleton Johns, St. Augustine
  • Alan Jones, Parrish
  • Charles Lanfier, Avon Park
  • Marcella Lucio-Chinchilla, Miami
  • Stewart Mann, Wellington
  • Morgan McKenna, Fort Myers 
  • Cory Mikell, Gainesville
  • Heather Moehling, Homestead
  • Daisy Paez, Loxahatchee
  • Ryan Pavlik, Monticello
  • Daniel Rifa, Clewiston
  • J. Ryals, Arcadia
  • Sara Sebring, Sebring
  • Marshal Sewell, Dover
  • Casey Simmons Runkles, Plant City
  • Erin Vermillion, De Land
  • Philip Watts, Lee
  • Curt Williams, Webster
  • David Yoder, Altha

To learn more about WLI, visit


The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.

The Wedgworth Leadership Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources helps participants understand current and projected political, social, economic and cultural issues facing decision-makers at local, state, national and international levels. Participants gain an understanding of people from all segments of society; study the social, economic and political systems in which people function; and use the framework to analyze issues related to agriculture, natural resources and rural communities. For more information about the Wedgworth Leadership Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources, visit or call Program Director Christy Chiarelli at 352-392-1038.

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