New corporate, civic leaders: Young, restless and in charge
At 34, Autumn Ames is in her fifth year as executive director of the Arts & Cultural Alliance of Central Florida, which serves more than 360 arts and cultural organizations in Orange, Seminole, Osceola and four other Central Florida counties. (Joe Burbank, Orlando Sentinel) (July 3, 2012)
"They'll say, 'Are you the credit analyst?' I love that," Burden laughed. "Because I'm pretty good at it."
As top man at Old Florida National Bank, Burden does less credit analysis than he used to. Now he's the one who hires the credit analysts and carries ultimate responsibility for the fate of $625 million in assets, 9,000 customers and 146 employees.
If Burden's collegiate mien seems out of sync with the conventional image of bank presidents as old and stodgy, that's because convention is changing — inside and outside banking. He's one example of a generational shift in leadership under way across Orlando, from boardrooms to Amway Center where a 30-year-old general manager, Rob Hennigan, now makes the critical decisions about the future of the Orlando Magic.
Some changing of the guard has been high-profile, such as the Magic hiring Hennigan and Gov. Rick Scott appointing John Martinez, 31, son of former U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, to fill the seat on the Orange County Commission vacated by Mildred Fernandez.
But most passing of the torch happens outside the glare of klieg lights in the myriad institutions and businesses that form the heart of a community, such as Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando and the Arts & Cultural Alliance of Central Florida.
At 34, Autumn Ames is in her fifth year as executive director of the alliance, which serves over 360 arts and cultural organizations in Orange, Seminole, Osceola and four other Central Florida counties. She and a staff of five assist artists and administrators with marketing, sales, organizing community events, growing audiences — and above all, "making sure the arts are part of every conversation about the quality of life in the community."
Jenna Tosh, 28, is in her fourth month as president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, succeeding Sue Idtensohn, 66, who left the post after 14 years. Tosh directs an organization that provides vital services to 16,000 men and women in the region each year — cancer screenings, breast health, wellness exams, contraceptive services and sexually transmitted infection prevention, as well as abortion/pregnancy counseling.
Baby boomers, exit to the rear. Generation Y is quietly rearranging the furniture for the future.
What do the young movers — Burden, Martinez, Ames, Tosh — have in common aside from a daunting degree of responsibility at an early age? Formidable confidence and intelligence, reservoirs of energy and an optimism not jaded by time and experience, for starters.
"As the expression goes, 'They don't know what they don't know,'" said Linnda Durre, an Orlando psychotherapist and business consultant.
Martinez is the youngest member of a County Commission whose average age is around 45. At board of director meetings, Tosh and Ames are like the youngest members at a multigenerational family reunion. And Burden's world of banking retains vestiges of its musty, button-down past.
How does a young leader navigate these tricky generational waters and succeed?
"You have to love what you do and feel like you're making a positive contribution to the planet, and treat people and employees and colleagues with respect," Durre said.
This seems to describe the entire quartet of Orlando young guns. All began raising their hands early for leadership positions in student government, school bands and community organizations. All were endowed with ambition and passion, wedded to fierce work ethics.
Tosh has a 3-year-old son and is working on a Ph.D. in public affairs. She's former president of the Orlando Chapter of the National Organization for Women, and was a state social worker and education director at Planned Parenthood before being named CEO after a nationwide search. All before 30. Tosh has earned a good measure of self-confidence.
The Long Island transplant readily admits that "I'm younger than a lot of people expect" a CEO to be, but notes that her age is a plus for this job. "Over two-thirds of our patient base is my age or younger."
Ames, an aspiring band director, ended up in arts administration and says, "I was kind of scared, in a healthy way" when named executive director of the Alliance at 30. "I didn't let it scare me. I let my passion for what I do carry me though. My job is my fun time."
She spent her Wonder Years in Daytona Beach, playing flute in the high-school marching band and making road trips with friends to Orlando to explore the wider array of arts and culture, high and low, in the "big city." Little did she know one day she would be helping shape that world.
With years of experience as an attorney and investment banker, and a thick résumé in community organizations, Martinez did not arrive at the County Commission without credentials. Still, his sudden elevation to public official at 31 felt surreal and left him abashed. It was odd hearing requests from attorneys at his old firm.
"To be honest, at first it felt very weird to be called Commissioner," Martinez said, who's not running for election and will leave the commission in January.
"The day of the swearing in, my family was with me — cousins, parents, brother and sister. We were in the conference room waiting for the swearing-in, and a staff person came in called me Commissioner. I could hear my brother and sister giggling. I gave them a stern face: 'Show me a little respect!'"
Burden, an athletic and academic standout at Boone High School who played football at Northwestern University, was part of the investment group, led by his father, that started Old Florida National Bank from the shell of Orlando National Bank in 2009.
When asked about his relative youth, Burden recalled the advice offered by "a really neat older lady" he met recently.
"She said, 'Remember, John, there are a lot of old, dumb people. Forget about age. The most important thing is to know who you are.'"
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