• 01/20/2021 8:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Throughout the beginning of 2021, we will be introducing you to the leadership of EMERGE. This month, we are spotlighting the chair and vice chair of EMERGE’s Steering Committee.

    Meet Sarah Betzer, Emerge Steering Committee Chair

    Name:  Sarah Betzer          

    Years with EMERGE: 4

    Current role in EMERGE: EMERGE Steering Committee Chair

    1.      How and why did you get involved with EMERGE Lakeland?

    I wanted to join for years but finally joined 4 years ago. I wanted to meet other young professionals, attend professional development events and I wanted to volunteer more in the community.

    2.      Are you originally from this area? If so, why have you stayed in Lakeland? If not, what brought you to Lakeland?

    I moved to Lakeland to attend college at Southeastern University. I stayed in Lakeland because it became home to me. I love the community and all the local gems like Lake Hollingsworth and other small businesses that provide excellent customer service.

    3.      What is your current occupation? Employer?

    I am the VP/HR Director at Bank of Central Florida.

    4.      Are you part of any other organizations in the community?

    Mid-Florida Society of Human Resource Management, Polk Wellness Professionals, Big Brothers and Big Sisters and Lakeland Runners Club.

    5.      Do you have any hobbies or interests?

    Running, going to the beach, traveling, photography and reading.

    6.      If someone sees you at an EMERGE event, what are some topics they should ask you about to get the conversation going?

    Ask me about running.

    7.      What’s the best professional advice you have ever been given?

    “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.” Paul Noris. Sometimes you need to slow down and look at other perspectives.

    8.      Do you have any favorite podcasts or periodicals that you go to for professional development?

    Audible to read more books.

    9.      What would be your superpower and why?

    Fly, I could travel the world easily and visit family more often.

    10.      What did you want to be when you grew up?


    11.      What is your most unusual talent?

    I can make balloon animals and do magic tricks.

    Meet Megan Ruscello, Emerge Steering Committee Vice Chair.

    Name: Megan Ruscello     

    Years with EMERGE:  3 years

    Current role in EMERGE:  Vice Chair

    1.      How and why did you get involved with EMERGE Lakeland?

    When I moved to Lakeland in early 2018, I only knew my boss and one other person. It was a big career move, but rather daunting to start over in a new town. At my boss’s suggestion, I started attending EMERGE events. Through continued involvement, I met some of my now closest friends in town, found a network of like-minded professionals, and got to know this strange place I get to call home.

    2.      Are you originally from this area? If so, why have you stayed in Lakeland? If not, what brought you to Lakeland?

    Although I’m originally from Minnesota, I called Winter Garden and Clermont area home (so not too far!). I moved to Lakeland after starting with Saddle Creek, and I can’t believe I lived so close and knew so little about such a fun place!

    3.      What is your current occupation? Employer?

    I am an attorney, the Manager of Legal Services for Saddle Creek Logistics Services based here in Lakeland. Saddle Creek is a national third-party logistics company, and, alongside our Sr. Director of Legal, Jim Sidou, we handle most of the contracts and internal legal questions for the company.

    4.      Are you part of any other organizations in the community?

    Yes! I am an alumnus of the YMCA Youth in Government program, a high school program which has a chapter here in Lakeland I love to volunteer with when I can. And since having the pleasure of serving as an Ambassador with United Way, I am lucky to continually find ways to stay involved, whether through the Young Leaders Society, continued work as an Ambassador, or most recently, through involvement with their Community Investment Team.

    5.      Do you have any hobbies or interests?

    I love travelling (when it is safe to do so again), and travelling to see family especially. I am also an avid reader, tv-watcher, and movie fanatic. On warmer days, I love taking my dog, Lilo, for Starbucks trips and walks around downtown.

    6.      If someone sees you at an EMERGE event, what are some topics they should ask you about to get the conversation going?

    Anyone who knows me knows I could talk forever about TV, their pets, or cool travel locations. Bring on all the puppy pictures and cool travel stories!

    7.      What’s the best professional advice you have ever been given?

    I’ve been lucky to have a number of incredible professional mentors already, but the best advice still probably comes from my sister: “Work hard, keep as many doors open for opportunities as possible, and when the time is right, walk through the best one for you.”

    8.      Do you have any favorite podcasts or periodicals that you go to for professional development?

    I’ll admit I’m more of a fan of audiobooks than podcasts. I’m a huge fan of Brene Brown’s work, and she has a number of books (along with a podcast) that are transformational. I’ve also loved Grit by Angela Duckworth, and the Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin, both of which have helped me understand people in a new way that has helped in all environments, not just work.

    9.     If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title would be?

    “World’s Best Sidekick.” It sounds silly, but I’m the youngest of five children; I come from a big family. I was always the little sister, or the young one, and providing comic relief or support to my siblings, always along for the ride. Now, as a “grown-up,” I still really enjoy supporting the people around me and finding ways to leverage other people’s superpowers and strengths from behind the scenes to get done whatever we’re working on. I think the role of back-up quarterback, sidekick, second in command, etc., are all wildly undervalued, and they are some of the role types I most enjoy filling.

    10.  How would you explain what you do to a five-year-old?

    How do you explain contracts so easily? It would probably go something like this: “I make changes to all the tiny print and words people use to record the pinky promises we make to each other. And I try to keep my team out of trouble when the come close to breaking a promise.”

  • 01/04/2021 8:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Happy New Year!

    My name is Sarah Betzer and I am the chair of EMERGE Lakeland’s Steering committee for 2021. 

    I have been involved with EMERGE for the past four years, serving as the Volunteer committee chair for two years and most recently as the Steering committee vice chair. I joined EMERGE because I wanted to meet other young professionals, volunteer in the community, and attend professional development courses. I didn’t plan to serve on the board, but I accepted the position when the opportunity was presented to me. I am thankful that I accepted a leadership role as it has taught me many valuable lessons—and I have made many new friendships along the way. 

    In 2020, we took some time to reflect and reorganize—and now we are re-energized and ready to re-engage with our members! We love  hearing from you, and took the feedback we received from last year’s survey to shape our events for 2021 Be on the lookout, as we will continue to have surveys after events, and annually, to make EMERGE even better for its members.

    We are looking forward to CONNECTING with our current—and potential—members this year. If you are new to EMERGE or have been a long-time member, we are thankful that you hung in there with us in 2020. If you are new or interested in joining, we hope you will be interested in attending our safe and socially distanced events. (One of my favorite EMERGE events is a six-week program called EMERGE Serves. This program teaches one how to become an effective board member. Stay tuned for more details on this one.)

    One of our goals this year is to develop deeper relationships with our members. We want to create a COMMUNITY of young professionals and provide our members networking opportunities with each other and the Lakeland Chamber. We also have planned social events, professional development events, and philanthropic activities. Our partner, the United Way of Central Florida, and their partner agencies, provide us with a great deal of volunteer opportunities.  

    EMERGE is a great resource to young professionals in Lakeland. We hope our members find value through meeting new people, training for board service, learning from local experts at professional development events, meeting community leaders, and making meaningful friendships and connections with others. If you recently joined EMERGE or have been a member for years, we want to encourage you to consider joining a committee. Serving on a committee gives you the opportunity to make stronger connections with other EMERGE members while also giving input in planning our events. We have five committees to choose from. You can learn more about serving on a committee, committee chairs, meeting dates, and locations on our website. Please reach out to the committee chair if you are interested in joining a committee. 

    We hope that you enjoy the events we have planned this year and we look forward to connecting and serving with you. 

    Best wishes,

    Sarah Betzer

  • 03/05/2020 2:30 PM | Anonymous

    Hello EMERGErs! Meet Adel (there's NO "E" on the end! LOL).


    1. Why did you join EMERGE Lakeland? I joined EMERGE Lakeland to get involved with the Marketing Committee and meet other professionals that enjoy marketing. My degree is in Marketing but an actual marketing-based position is new to me so I am excited to learn from those who have been in a marketing position for a long time!
    2. Are you originally from this area? If not, where from? I am not from this this area. I grew up in Massachusetts and moved down to Florida in 2007. I do NOT like the cold but I miss how pretty the snow is and how much fun it can be to play in. 
    3. What do you like most about Lakeland? My husband and I moved to Tavares for a couple years then moved back to Lakeland a couple years ago. I can tell you one thing I certainly did not miss is the traffic! Also, we lived right near Lake Harris so the area was just beautiful with the woods & lakes but we certainly missed all of our friends & family in Lakeland - Tavares might only be 1.5 hours away but it feels like MUCH farther! 
    4. What do you do? I am the Marketing Manager at Image Depot Express, however, we are a small company so I am involved with many other aspects of the business as well. I started 7 years ago as an outside marketing rep where I went around to customers outside of the office then transitioned to an inside customer service rep. From there I was promoted to Store Manager and functioned as such in a couple different locations before I was promoted to our Retail Operations Manager and in charge of the Store Managers for each location. After that, my role changed to Marketing Manager where I am helping to transform our brand into the future. I have my Bachelor's degree in Marketing so I am very excited to have the opportunity to be involved with Marketing functions in the company that I love!
    5. What do you like most about your job/profession? What I love most about my job and company is my boss! You will never find someone more passionate about what he does or the people that work for him.
    6. What are some of your hobbies? I have ridden horses my entire life and compete in something called Eventing, which is like a triathlon on horseback. If you have ever seen one of the equestrian portions of the summer Olympics, you have seen Eventing. The first phase involves performing a memorized series of movements in an arena with letters around the outside to signal when to perform each movement. You get scored on each movement and carry your score through the second two jumping phases where you can acquire penalties that raise your original score. The person with the lowest final score at the end of the three phases wins their division. 
    7. If someone sees you at an EMERGE event, what are some topics they should ask you about to get the conversation going? I can be a little shy and starting conversations at events is not one of my strengths. I'm happy to talk about anything, just not the best at starting the conversation!
    8. Anything else you want to add? I also have 2 dogs, a black lab & a dachshund and love animals! My husband and I love to vacation in Blue Ridge, in the North Georgia mountains and have been married for 5 years. We don't have kids yet but want them one day and would love to hear about yours! 
  • 02/21/2020 10:35 AM | Anonymous

    It's Friday! Not only is this the best day of the week, it also leads to the highest open and click through rate for emails! Which is exactly why we're posting this super important message today :)

    Our membership drive is NEXT THURSDAY! This event was a blast last year, with over 120 members and non-members in attendance. 

    Have you ever been to our membership drive? It's completely free and super fun. Please register and invite a friend to this free event. Check out more information and register below:

    See you then!

    EMERGE Lakeland 

  • 02/17/2020 9:29 AM | Anonymous

    EMERGErs meet Nick Le, Recreation Supervisor, Senior for the City of Lakeland.

    1. Why did you join EMERGE Lakeland? To get to know the city of Lakeland and make social connections.
    2. Are you originally from this area? I was born in Long Beach, CA but I grew up in the DMV (D.C., Maryland, Virginia area).
    3. What do you like most about Lakeland? How personable people are.
    4. What do you do? Recreational Supervisor, Senior in the Parks & Recreation department of the City of Lakeland.
    5. What do you like most about your job/profession? Being an energetic, positive influence on my recreation staff.
    6. What are some of your hobbies? Crossfit, working out, soccer, swimming, rock climbing, sports, grilling, trying new restaurants and bars, watching movies, traveling, FSU football.
    7. What’s your involvement in the community? Creating a safe and friendly aquatic environment at Gandy and Simpson pool so that community can live an active and healthy lifestyle through aquatic recreation and fitness.
    8. If someone sees you at an EMERGE event, what are some topics they should ask you about to get the conversation going? Florida State, Harry Potter, Crossfit, traveling, recreation and fitness, food and drinks, current podcasts or books I'm reading.
  • 02/14/2020 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    Everyone, meet Jovan Hemenez, Administrative Assistant for City of Lakeland

    1. Why did you join EMERGE Lakeland? My boss, Nicole Travis, told me about EMERGE. I joined to network and meet other young professionals in Lakeland, as I am new to the city.
    2. Are you originally from this area? If not, where from? I am not originally from Lakeland, FL. I was born and raised in Orlando, and spent the most recent 5 years of my life living in Gainesville, FL (sorry, I am not a Gator!). I moved to Lakeland in May 2019.
    3. What do you like most about Lakeland? I really enjoy the peace over this city. There’s just such a beautiful atmosphere about Lakeland. All the lakes, swans, the landscape, the murals downtown… it all creates a tranquil and serene atmosphere and environment.
    4. What do you do? I am currently an Administrative Assistant to Nicole Travis, who is the Director of the Community & Economic Development Department for the City of Lakeland. I am also a full-time student at SEU, getting my masters in Marriage & Family Therapy.
    5. What do you like most about your job/profession? I personally feel like my boss is somewhat of a celebrity, so I really enjoy the opportunities that I have been given in meeting many professionals in the City and surrounding community.
    6. What are some of your hobbies? Well, I am very big on my Christian faith. So, some of my hobbies include studying the Bible, mentoring youth, and I absolutely love singing (& yes, I can actually sing). I also enjoy spending as much time as I can with my beautiful wife. You’ll typically catch us at the movie theaters, at a restaurant (we love trying new places, especially "hole in the wall" places), and just exploring and traveling.  
    7. What’s your involvement in the community? Right now the most involvement that I have with the community is being a part of EMERGE, and I am actively involved with serving at Family Worship Center (mostly with the youth ministry).
    8. If someone sees you at an EMERGE event, what are some topics they should ask you about to get the conversation going? I like talking about God, my wife, Apple products, Marvel Movies… just to name a few things. Please DO NOT ask me about work, LOL, Just kidding…
    9. Anything else you want to add? I love vlogging. I haven't posted a vlog, in over 3 years (LIFE happened).
  • 02/07/2020 10:06 AM | Anonymous

    It’s a question not unfamiliar to those of us who have been in EMERGE for a while, because we ourselves asked the question at the beginning. Whether we had found out about EMERGE by word of mouth, social media, or by some event we just happened to stumble on, our interest was piqued just enough to find out more.

    So, we went online, trying to find the answer on EMERGE’s website—but, the answer wasn’t quite there. It took some effort, but eventually, we found our way. Later, however, we realized that it’s a question on a lot of your minds when you first join EMERGE: I’m here and I want to get involved—so now what do I do?

    We’re so glad you asked
    If you are newly registered or are trying to decide if EMERGE is for you, we have added some new content on our site to help you find our way. Check out the How to Get Involved page under the Join Us section of our website.

    Everyone’s journey with EMERGE is unique, and there is no right or wrong way to go about figuring out where you belong. EMERGE is growing alongside you, and if there is anything we can do to help you along, please don’t hesitate to ask!

  • 01/21/2020 8:08 AM | Anonymous

    We’re a few weeks in to 2020 and this new year has come with a chance to stop and think about where you are and what you want to change.

    With every new year comes new resolutions and goals. We’ve heard and seen them all. We’ve even had some of them ourselves. You know… lose weight, get fit, make new friends, get out more, drink water and the list goes on. With everyone working on personal resolutions and goals for the year, now is also the perfect time for us young professionals to step back and take a look at our professional and career goals.

    With that being said, we want to let you know that a new committee has “EMERGEed” in 2020. We’re introducing the Professional Development Committee, chaired by our very own Kurtis Pelto.

    Kurtis has been with EMERGE since July of 2018, and has been a very active member. He is a Professional Engineer at Kimley-Horn & Associates and he also sits on the steering committee of EMERGE. I had the opportunity to ask Kurtis, and the rest of the current committee members, a few questions about the newly added committee.

    • What exactly is the purpose of the Professional Development Committee?
      • Our main goal with the new committee is to get back to one of our original purposes of helping develop the young talent here in Lakeland. Not only do we have a large amount of young professionals, but with the higher education institutions here, we want to do our part in retaining them to continue to grow our community.
    • What do you hope EMERGE members will get out of this committee?
      • Members will get information and opportunities to grow as a professional in the business world for real life application.
    • Why should an EMERGE member join this committee?
      • Like with all of our committees, this is a way to get more involved and help to grow our group. We are always looking for new ideas and people.

    Well, there you have it folks! Speaking for myself, this is definitely a committee to be a part of. Now, I will say this, you don’t have to be a part of the committee to develop professionally, so be sure to attend ALL of the Professional Development events held this year. You DO NOT want to miss out.

  • 01/02/2020 11:22 AM | Anonymous

    Happy New Years EMERGERs! We hope and expect that 2020 treats you well!

    On another note, everyone meet Matt Wagner, Owner of Red Leg Dev, LLC

    1. Why did you join EMERGE Lakeland? I joined EMERGE to meet and connect with other highly motivated professionals in our area -- the chance to talk about common interests and be a part of the professional conversation.
    2. Are you originally from this area? If not, where from? I grew up in Lakeland, spending almost the entirety of my childhood here before going to the University of South Florida in Tampa. When my wife and I were expecting our first son, we moved back to be closer to family.
    3. What do you like most about Lakeland? I really enjoy the atmosphere of Lakeland -- we're nestled between two larger cities, but we have our own distinct personality. The community is very friendly and welcoming, and also constantly growing and renewing!
    4. What do you do? I currently have a few jobs! I own and operate a custom software consultancy called Red Leg Dev, LLC, and I love working with small and medium businesses to help provide technical expertise and organizational leadership insight. I also am an actively serving United States Army Officer with the Florida National Guard, which has been an incredible experience, training with and leading the finest Citizen Soldiers in the country.
    5. What do you like most about your job/profession? I get an opportunity to help people, whether it's the hard-working small business owner in my "civilian" job or a community struck by natural disaster as a member of the Florida National Guard. Sometimes it feels like being tech-savvy is like a super-power, where you can see and provide issues to solutions that people didn't realize were hindering them. Being in the Guard has given me a unique insight into leadership and the sacred privilege it is to lead others.
    6. What are some of your hobbies? I am a voracious reader -- my Kindle comes with me almost anywhere. I try to spread my reading across the spectrum, from technical articles to leadership lessons to fiction. I credit my reading habit to being able to analyze issues from different perspectives, and I make gratuitous use of the highlight feature! My wife and I are also big runners, having done many half-marathons and the most recent Red Ribbon 15k.
    7. What’s your involvement in the community? Besides my National Guard service, I have also been active with the Gator Redlegs, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that aims to serve veterans and their families through scholarships and community outreach. I have also taken the time to speak at events like the Great American Teach-In and Code Lakeland to share some of the lessons that I've been blessed to have learned over the years.
    8. If someone sees you at an EMERGE event, what are some topics they should ask you about to get the conversation going? I like talking technology -- but more than that, I love talking about how we can use technology and software specifically to improve business outcomes and quality of life. I like hearing about the issues business owners are facing and seeing where we can help them achieve their mission.
    9. Anything else you want to add? I'm really looking forward to meeting and contributing to the conversation. Check out my website at https://red-leg-dev.com for more information on what I do for a living! 

    *If you are a New Emerge Member and would like to be highlighted in our New Member Spotlight, please contact Jovan at jovan.hemenez@lakelandgov.net
  • 11/18/2019 2:05 PM | Taher Hamid (Administrator)

    EMERGERs, let us introduce you to Ashley Miller, Account Executive at MADE.


    1.         Why did you join EMERGE Lakeland?

    • As an active member of the Lakeland community, and a native of this wonderful city, I am familiar with the good work that the Lakeland Chamber and EMERGE does in our community. After 12 years in a non-profit career at Volunteers in Service to the Elderly (VISTE), I recently made a career change. From my experience working with EMERGE members through various volunteer activities at VISTE, and my knowledge of EMERGE Serves, I felt it appropriate to join this wonderful group of young professionals to learn more beyond what I already know, and meet new professionals who are focused on community, networking, learning from others, cultivating friendships, and developing their careers.


    1. Are you originally from this area? If not, where from?
      • Born and raised in Lakeland, FL!


    3.         What do you like most about Lakeland?

    • Lakeland is home. As Lakeland grows, more opportunities for community involvement become available. We have great leadership in Lakeland, who invest in making this an even more diverse and beautiful place to live, work, and play.


    4.         What do you do?

    • I am an Account Executive at MADE, a boutique marketing and branding agency in Lakeland.


    5.         What do you like most about your job/profession?

    • I love interacting with our clients, and helping them share their businesses’ voice. Each one is different, and bringing their visions to life is extremely rewarding. We also have an amazing team, each with our individual talents that come together to become an extension of our clients’ teams. My team is like a second family and I love coming to work every day!


    6.         What are some of your hobbies?

    • Singing, playing the piano (not on a stage LOL), and spending time at the beach (particularly Anna Maria Island) and in nature.


    7.         What’s your involvement in the community?

    • I am a graduate of Leadership Lakeland Class XXXVI, and recently finding myself with more time to volunteer with some local non-profits.


    8.         If someone sees you at an EMERGE event, what are some topics they should ask you about to get the conversation going?

    • A tried and true conversation starter with me is asking about my 4-year old son, Jack. I’ll also talk music, bands, Florida wildlife, restaurants, marketing, volunteerism, you name it. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m a “talker.”


    9.         Anything else you want to add?  

    • Thanks for the opportunity to share, join the conversation, and all the great things that EMERGE is doing in Lakeland!


    If you are a fairly new member, within the last three months, and would like to be highlighted in our EMERGE blog, please feel free to contact Jovan Hemenez at jovan.hemenez@lakelandgov.net.

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