Bigger Hall Of Power

ROBERT BOWDEN cultivated Orlando’s love of all things botanical in his 29 years as director of Harry P. Leu Gardens. But it’s time, he says, to travel, read and relax.

PHIL BROWN retired in March as CEO of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority after guiding one of the nation’s busiest airports through the pandemic as well as a decade of astounding growth.

GENE COLUMBUS calls himself a “retirement failure.” He first retired after 38 years with The Walt Disney Company, then after 11 years with Orlando Repertory Theatre. The “freelance storyteller” just can’t sit still and recently launched career coaching site The Gene Columbus Group.

BILL DAVIS is a legend in the theme-park industry, so his retirement after 15 years as president of Universal Orlando Resort came as a surprise. Davis oversaw major park openings such as The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

BARBARA JENKINS ushered in the new school year in August as superintendent of Orange County Public Schools, before retiring next month after 10 years. Jenkins’ legacy will live on through a teacher scholarship established in her honor.

DAVE KREPCHO devoted 17 years to filling the pantries, stomachs and hearts of Central Florida’s hungry as president and CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. He retired at the end of 2021 with a firm plan to slow down.

GENE LEE guided Orlando-headquartered Darden Restaurants through the pandemic into a new period of growth. He retired from his seven-year tenure as CEO in May, staying on as executive chairman.

JIM PUGH had tears in his eyes as the delayed Steinmetz Hall opened in January, the final jewel in Orlando’s performing arts crown. Now Chairman Emeritus, Pugh retired in July as chairman of the board of Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

ORLANDO ROLÓN, the city’s first Hispanic police chief, announced his retirement in May, staying on long enough to assist in the city’s transition to Chief Eric Smith, a 27-year department veteran.


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Phil Brown

What has the pandemic taught you? The pandemic has taught me the importance of focusing on fundamentals—making sure the planes are landing and taking off and that passengers and employees are safe and secure.

What are the greatest rewards of your career? I’ve been fortunate to work with dedicated people. 

Bill Davis

Bill Davis

What do you most look forward to as Universal grows? We have a special culture and sense of family at Universal Orlando, and I look forward to preserving that and sharing it with new team members.

What is surprising about you? I was the second photographer hired at SeaWorld San Diego. And I was the first photographer set to be laid off during a difficult time we were going through. But instead, I was offered a job in sales—and that is when my career in theme parks really began.

Who’s the most influential person in your life? Becky, who has been our family’s anchor throughout our 56 years of marriage—for me, our children and grandchildren.

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Dave Krepcho

Why did ending food insecurity become your life’s work? No one should go hungry, especially in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. So much food is wasted while so many go in need. 

Who has been the most influential person in your life? One of my older brothers, Marty. His understanding, wisdom and spirituality continue to inspire me.

Name something surprising about you. Thirty-some years ago I had the chance to sit down with Bruce Springsteen in his dressing room after his concert and enjoy a glass of vodka and conversation.

What is the best advice you’ve ever been given? There are no black-and-white answers to big questions. There’s always an alternative as a solution, and it involves deep listening to the other.

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Jim Pugh

What was the biggest lesson you learned as a child? Learn to care for others. My mother passed away when I was a child, and I was raised by numerous aunts and uncles who were very kind to me. 

What is your favorite cause? Building a performing arts center [the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, home of the Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater]. The arts allow you to express yourself.

What quality best ensures success? Diligence.

If you could be any historical character, who would you be? Teddy Roosevelt. He was adventurous, and he was quite a determined person. Also, he founded the first national park [Yellowstone], so we all owe him a debt of gratitude.

How do you want to be remembered? I want to be remembered as someone who added value to my community and my family.


Barbara Jenkins

The wisest advice you ever received? Keep God first in all that you do, and you will find success.

What don’t most people know about you? I am a humble loser but a sore winner. I tend to be less than gracious when I win a bet.

Your message to students? Brain research tells us students who work hard can actually grow smarter. I want children to pursue their dreams with intense determination and hard work. I also encourage them to appreciate the adults who are invested in their success.

Your encouragement for educators? I want to thank all of our educators and support staff for helping to lead 209,000 students to success. Last year was like no other in recent history, and this year promises to be equally challenging. We remain committed to providing the resources and safe environment to cultivate success for our students and employees.

How do you stay grounded? Prayer and Bible devotions, along with the love and support of my incredible family.

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Orlando Rolon

Your draw to Orlando? I’m fortunate to live in a city that has become very diverse. To serve in my role in a desirable major U.S. city is a true privilege. 

Your favorite movie/TV depiction of someone in your role? I don’t have a favorite. But I enjoyed “Courageous” [2011], which centers on four police officers and the importance of fatherhood.

Your favorite way to wind down? Spending time with my wife, Giorgina, going on cruises and doing home improvement projects.

The greatest reward in your role? To serve the citizens of the community where I grew up and to work under the leadership of a visionary mayor and city council. 

What makes a good cop? To always remember we are … entrusted to keeping everyone safe. [Defusing] difficult situations while protecting everyone’s safety is more difficult than many people can imagine.

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Gene Columbus

Gene began with a ten-year performing career working in motion pictures, television and live stage productions, but as a natural leader, he moved into management and was quickly recruited by the Disney organization.

Over the years, Gene has served in many leadership roles with the Disney Company, managing various departments and taking part in the production of shows, ceremonies and events for Walt Disney World. Gene spent nearly four decades in leadership roles focusing on Live Show Production, Special Events, interviewing, evaluating, coaching, casting and mentoring thousands of entertainment professionals.

Gene Columbus

Gene Lee

Lee grew up in Massachusetts, and his first job was as a busser at York Steakhouse when he was 16. With an MBA from Suffolk University, he’s never held a job outside the restaurant industry and has been with Darden for over 13 years, with the last six as president and CEO. In 2018, Lee received the Gold Plate Award for industry excellence from the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association, which is widely regarded as the foodservice industry’s top honor.

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Robert Bowden

Bowden took on the role in 1994 and led Leu Gardens, which is overseen by the city of Orlando, through nearly three decades of growth.

The 50-acre botanical garden in the downtown Orlando area at 1920 N. Forest Ave. was donated to the city in 1961 by Harry P. Leu and his wife, Mary Jane Leu.

Bowden will spend more time with family and working in the community.