The idea began on a back of a napkin in 2007 over a lunch-time discussion with Central Florida business leaders about the need for future business-minded candidates and public leaders.

From that conversation, a nonpartisan training program was developed to teach the rigors of campaigning, how to transition from public to private life and how business experience, skills and talent could address public issues. 

We've worked with local leaders in Florida, San Diego and Virginia to train competitively-selected business leaders to take advantage of their opportunity to run for office or land an appointment.  The program can be conducted in any city or state.  

Learn more.

​​​​Congratulations to Florida Rep. Paul Renner (R-Palm Coast) who was elected by colleagues to serve as House Speaker in 2022.  Rep. Renner was a graduate of the Jacksonville program that has seen a total of 11 graduates enter public office, including his seat along with two mayors, five council members, two sheriffs and a municipal trustee, with others running in 2018 and preparing for municipal elections in 2019.  

Rick Belhumeur  was elected to the Flagler (FL) Beach Commission in 2016.  He spent a career as an automotive and truck mechanic and has a business managing rental properties.  “The day I become more concerned about the position I hold than the people I represent, is the day I become a politician and don’t deserve a seat on the Commission," he said. 

Jacksonville Beach Mayor Charlie Latham, a Jacksonville program graduate and business owner, was overwhelmingly re-elected in November 2016 with priorities to complete the Downtown Vision Plan and make the city debt-free.  

Edwin Narain,a 2012 Tampa Bay program graduate, and AT&T Florida executive, was elected to the Florida House in 2014. As a freshman Democrat legislator of a Republican-controlled House, Rep. Narain received the "Distinguished Advocate Award" from the Florida Chamber of Commercein 2015 for advancing legislation to extend R&D tax credits.  The award was unheard of for a first-year member of a minority party.  Rep. Narain ran unsuccessfully for the Florida Senate in 2016.  Other Tampa Bay graduates have been elected to the Florida House, local government on city and county commissions and school board.

Melissa Snively, a Tampa Bay program graduate,  was elected to the Hillsborough County School Board (District 4) in 2014. She is one of seven members responsible for making policy decisions and overseeing a total budget of $2.9 billion for the 8th largest school district in the nation, which is also the county’s largest employer with more than 26,000 employees.  Melissa is a local State Farm insurance agent. 

 © 2017 Political Leadership Innovation Institute, inc. All Rights Reserved.

"I knew a little about the political process but loved getting first-hand exposure from experts and making connections that I still maintain.   Most people have two reactions to the program:  `there's no way I'm ever going to do this' or, if you're like me, `Game On, I really want to do this.`  The program gave me confidence." 

Colleen Burton, Florida State Representative  of Lakeland (FL) is Vice-Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee for 2017.

"My attention to finances derives from a business background of understanding financing and evaluating the efficacy of a transaction. Translating that to City budgets, I can ascertain when something doesn’t seem to make financial sense and ask the questions necessary to reveal underlying issues." 

Lori Boyer, Jacksonville (FL)City Council President 2016, was a real estate executive and Jacksonville (FL) 2010 program member, elected in 2011 and re-elected in 2015. As Council president,she succeeded another program graduate and her successor is also a graduate. 

Alvin Brown  served as Jacksonville (FL) Mayor from 2011 - 2015 and was the first African-American in the city's history to be elected to the office.  He was a 2009 Jacksonville program graduate.  Mayor Brown worked across party lines to support a business-friendly climate, revitalize downtown and improve the Port.  Prior to running for office he was Executive in Residence at Jacksonville University’s Davis School of Business, Executive Director of the Bush/Clinton Katrina Interfaith Fund and Chairman of the Board of the National Black MBA Association. In 2016, he was a visiting fellow at Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service. 

Donald O'Brien, a graduate of the Flagler (FL) Public Leadership Institute and insurance executive, was elected to the Flagler County Commission in 2016 and said his priorities include accountability and supporting jobs creators. 

Kathryn E. Starkey is a Pasco County (FL) Commissioner who is a graduate of the Tampa Bay program.  A businesswoman, she has dedicated herself to working for improvements in education, the environment and economic development.  She was elected in 2012, re-elected in 2016 and served as Commission Chair from November 2015 to November 2016. Prior to her Commission election, Kathryn was an elected member of the Pasco County School Board.

Whitney BenzianExecutive Director, California Apartment Association-San Diego, a San Diego program graduate, won a seat on the Coronado (CA) City Council in 2016, joining fellow program alum Bill Sandke.  

"(They) aren't just waiting for (the) next generation of political leaders to appear — they're actively recruiting and training them." 

Florida Trend, Business Newsmaker of the Year, 2011



Our success does not lie in the number of programs we've launched or led but by the difference our business-minded

graduates-turned-public leaders have made.  

 © 2017 Political Leadership Innovation Institute, inc.,a nonpartisan, nonprofit public leadership educational program. All Rights Reserved.​

Florida State Rep. Ben Albritton, a citrus company owner from Wauchula, said the program gave him the confidence to organize his campaign, prepare his business and family for the election process and develop important networking contacts.   Albritton was first elected in 2010 and serves as Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee Chair in the 2017 legislative session.  During his legislative tenure, Ben has received numerous accolades from business, agriculture and civic organizations for fiscal responsibility and government accountability. He is a former Florida Citrus Commission Chairman. 

​​​​​​​“We could not have done this without you. We could have given (this idea) a lot of lip service, but to actually pull it off would have been practically unthinkable."  ​San Diego business leader...103 business-minded leaders have been trained for public leadership.

 Learn how San Diego business leaders saw our model as a way to expand their voice in public affairs




San Diego program graduates Rafael Castellanos(left) and Gil Cabrera (lower left) will chair two powerful economic drivers for San Diego in 2018. 


Castellanos will serve as Chair of the Port of San Diego Board of Commissioners and Cabrera will lead the Board of Directors of the San Diego Convention Center.  


Both leaders now hold the title of Vice-Chair. 




“As a small business owner, I developed sound financial management principles that now provide the cornerstone of my service as an elected official.  PLI made a tremendous difference in my transition.”
Bill Sandke, City of Coronado (CA) Councilmember,is a small-business owner who was elected in 2014 after completing the the San Diego Public Leadership Institute program. In this photo, Councilmember Sandke participated in PLI-sponsored seminar on cross-border cooperation in the San Diego - Tijuana region.  Another PLI graduate, Whitney Benzian, was elected to the Coronado Council in November 2016.

The San Diego Public Leadership institutegraduated 28 select business leaders from its 2016 program, bringing the total of participants to 103 over four years. 

Jacksonville (FL) City Councilmember Anna Lopez Brosche, a Jacksonville program graduate, became the third graduate in a row to be elected by colleagues to serve as City Council President. She was sworn into the position in July 2017.  Councilmember Brosche is an accountant and was elected in 2015.  In her first term, she impressed colleagues and the community with her leadership as Finance Committee chair. 

Read this editorial.

"The (San Diego Public Leadership Institute) is a fantastic program. I appreciated hearing first hand from people who were involved in politics and policy and learning what it’s like to go through a campaign and be prepared for a leadership position.   The class teaches you the skills to make a contribution.”
Chris Cate, San Diego City Councilmember elected in 2014, was a member of the 2013 San Diego Public Leadership Institute.

In December 2016, Cate was named San Diego's fifth most powerful personby Our City San Diego magazine.  Learn more about the San Diego story.