50 Most Powerful: 15 to Watch

These leaders are also making a mark in our community.

Carlos Carbonell, Leticia Diaz, Suneera Madhani

Roberto Gonzalez

Government & Politics
Tourism & Transportation
Entertainment & The Arts
Philanthropy & Community Voices
15 to Watch

Carlos Carbonell: The CEO of mobile app developer Echo Interaction Group is also president of the Orlando Tech Association and a prominent voice in the LGBT community. He was a finalist for the Orlando Sentinel's Central Floridian of
the Year in 2015. 

Grant Cornwell: Rollins College’s 15th president is a breath of fresh air after the tenure of Lewis Duncan, who clashed repeatedly with faculty. One of Cornwell’s first moves: Bringing back U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins, whose Rollins contract had been scuttled.

Leticia Diaz: The dean of Barry University School of Law in Orlando since 2007, Diaz puts a priority on diversity. U.S. News & World Report ranked Barry 8th in the U.S. among law schools for diversity, and Diaz is the first Cuban American dean of an ABA-accredited law school in the country.

Joe Kilsheimer: Apopka’s mayor since 2014, Kilsheimer continues to stand the old-guard mentality on its head. His vision for Orange County’s second-largest city includes developing a vibrant city center and making the area an eco-tourism destination.

Suneera Madhani: Her startup company, Fattmerchant, is making a splash, with a subscription service that saves merchants a bundle in
payment processing costs incurred when customers use credit cards. Madhani was the subject of a recent story in Forbes.

Albert Manero: The UCF engineering graduate student is leader of the Limbitless Solutions nonprofit team of students and alumni that provides free 3-D-printed bionic hands and arms to disabled children. Manero received the governor’s top state volunteer award in December.

Cole NeSmith: He’s an arts dynamo, the force behind the annual Creative City Project, which showcases myriad performances and art displays on downtown streets. NeSmith also is the pastor of the nondenominational City Beautiful Church.

John Rivers: The founder of 4 Rivers Smokehouse is the undisputed King of Barbecue around these parts—and beyond. 4 Rivers now boasts 13 Florida locations, with upcoming expansion into UCF’s Bright House Stadium. Rivers also plans restaurants in Atlanta.

Ken Robinson: The president of Dr. Phillips Charities oversees an organization that has given more than $175 million to various causes, most of it during the past dozen years. That includes a $35 million chunk to build the performing arts center and $3 million for the UCF downtown campus.

Thad Seymour: The former Tavistock executive who helped lead the development of Lake Nona and Medical City was chosen in May as vice provost of UCF’s future downtown campus. Seymour had already been involved in the university’s strategic planning.

David Strong: Strong has been CEO for 15 months at Orlando Health, which earlier this year announced the opening of a highly anticipated proton therapy center to better target cancer treatments. Strong also was appointed to the Florida Chamber of Commerce's board of directors last year. 

Daryl Tol: Last fall, Tol took over as CEO of Florida Hospital’s Orlando region, assuming the reins from Lars Houmann, who is now overseeing the health system’s statewide operation. A recent major local addition: the Florida Hospital for Women, which opened in January. 

Joshua Vickery: His Central Florida Community Arts is a growing grassroots group welcoming young and old seeking opportunities in choral singing, theater and more. CFCA also offers classes and camps.

Joshua Wallack: The developer is about to transform the northern side of International Drive with his Skyplex, which will include the world’s tallest roller coaster and a 350-room hotel. Wallack’s project won approval from Orange County despite objections from Universal Studios. 

Carol Wick: Since her surprising and mysterious departure in February as head of Harbor House, Orange County's domestic violence shelter, Wick has been busy as a consultant. What won’t be surprising: if a local or national organization picks her as its leader. 

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