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Tampa Bay Times Community Reader Panel

The Tampa Bay Times created a Community Reader Panel in 2021 so that our journalists could experience another way to engage with readers. More than three dozen members were chosen to meet quarterly. Those serving on the panel include nurses, teachers, librarians, retired military, former police, lawyers, veterinarians, accountants, business owners and executives. The panelists are:

 
 

Bonnie Agan

I grew up reading a daily newspaper. My first job after college was in the Classifieds at a daily paper. Like many transplanted Floridians, my first few homes were on the beach, but I've happily lived in St. Petersburg for 20 years. Daily papers have remained a necessity.

 

Neil John Armstrong

I retired after a 38-year career in information technology and currently serve as president/CEO of Goals For a Cause Inc., a nonprofit that supports other Tampa Bay area nonprofit groups. My wife and I love children and dogs. I’m a former Tampa Bay Big Brother of the Year.

 

Rachel Comellas Arocha

I am a second-generation Tampa native and social science graduate from USF. I’m married, have two boys, and work as the data analyst for Idlewild Church. When not spending time with my family and cats, I enjoy reading, knitting, practicing yoga, and playing the ukulele.

 

Ruth Barrens

I’ve lived in the Tampa Bay area on and off since 1970 and permanently since 1991 and taught English at Lakewood High School and dance at Perkins Elementary. I’ve also worked as a Federal legislative advocate on education issues and am an active member of the League of Women Voters of the St. Petersburg Area.

 

Mitchell Baylis

Our family moved to Florida when I started high school. I worked overseas for branches of the military and later joined the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. I’m an avid reader of nonfiction and news. I hope to bring a strong objective look at the news and recognize bias in reporting.

 

Jeffrey Bristol

I practice law, serve as an officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve and hold a PhD in Anthropology (I work as an independent scholar). I am married with two young sons and enjoy rowing, boxing, squash (when I can play), tennis and golf.

 

Michael Buehner

I was born and raised in Louisville, Ky., before graduating with a bachelor’s in history from the University of Louisville. I earned a master’s degree from Indiana University and moved to Florida in 2000. I’m currently the global director of sales for Solver Inc. and live in Wesley Chapel.

 

Stacy Clark

When I moved to Florida, my first job was with the St. Petersburg Times. I went on to work as an award-winning copywriter and creative director, earn an MFA, and co-create the Adoptionly Yours line of greeting cards. A mom, runner and avid reader, I live in Tampa.

 

Rebecca Davis

I am a classical music publicist, soprano, wife, mother and evangelist for good journalism who has lived in St. Petersburg since 2009. I was introduced to a career in classical music through my background as an opera singer and still proudly perform with the St. Petersburg Opera

 

Arlia Delphonse

I work as an assistant at a public library in Pinellas. As a kid, I wrote for the (then St. Petersburg Times) X-Team and tb-two*. I love languages and studied Japanese at Notre Dame before going on to library school at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

 

Tammy Demps

I am a lifelong resident of Florida, residing in Lake County. I grew up in St. Petersburg, faithfully reading the St. Petersburg Times and the Evening Independent. I am a graduate of Eckerd College and Barry University and have spent 30 years in education as a teacher, program specialist, school administrator and PD specialist.

 

Kenneth DuLac

I’m from California. My education is in accounting and computer science. I worked for a large insurance company for 35 years, mostly in information technology management. My wife Marti and two sons Dan and Tim moved many times for my job. Now we are retired and living in St. Petersburg.

 

Thomas H. Eleazer

I’m a South Carolina native who has lived in the Tampa Bay area since 1981. I have a degree in journalism and an MBA. For the past 20 years, I’ve been a partner in FLC Companies, a real estate development firm that has built more than 4,500 homes in Central Florida.

 

Alicia Ellison

I’m a librarian with Hillsborough Community College. I was born in Cuba and grew up in Miami. My master’s degree is from what is today USF’s School of Information. My husband Allen and I have lived in Tampa since 1994.

 

Dyllan Furness

I’m a born-and-bred Floridian who works full time in health-care communications and sometimes as a freelance writer. I’ve written about conservation and the climate crisis for the Guardian, Outside Magazine, PBS, and others. I serve on a local nonprofit board and various advisory committees. And I have a dog: Pollywog.

 

Sharon Gaskin

I earned my masters from USF and worked in the field of communication sciences and disorders for over 45 years, both as an adjunct instructor at USF and as an administrator in the Hillsborough County Public Schools. Since retirement, I have been involved with a number of nonprofit groups.

 

Howard F. Harris Jr.

I’m a retired contracts administrator for Lockheed Martin. Before that I was the first Black male employed by Honeywell in Pinellas County. I graduated from USF in 1972. I also serve as a volunteer math and science tutor.

 

Antonio L. Hernandez

I’m a 64-year-old father of three adult children. I believe all people are connected somehow, especially through technology. I’d like my four grandkids to understand that they’re connected to the world, too, and that access to factual information. Local, national and international news is important to me.

 

Eric Hill

I’m a New Jersey native and 31-year resident of Tampa, who has been working in the transportation industry since 1984. I’ve held positions with a transit agency, planning authority and transportation research center. I’m active with several local and national transportation committees and associations.

 

Dan Kempka

I’m a real estate broker and avid reader of the Times, along with at least a dozen other newspapers. Moving to Tampa from Los Angeles eight years ago was a life-affirming decision, as I enjoy biking on Bayshore and the Riverwalk, dining at our exceptional restaurants and relishing in our beautiful rivers, bays and waterways.

 

Melinda Lebowitz

I was raised in St. Petersburg, graduated from the University of Florida and earned a master’s at USF. In addition to a 33-year-career in education, I am an active volunteer in many organizations and devoted to community involvement. I enjoy traveling, arts and culture. One of my greatest joys is being a mother and grandmother.

 

Judy Ludin

A resident of downtown St. Pete, I spent the majority of my professional life overseeing fundraising and communications for a nonprofit nursing center. I am currently a freelance writer and enjoy sailing, yoga, reading and playing the ukulele.

 

James Robert Mock

I have lived in the Tampa Bay area for 40 years and am currently retired, after eight years as a Coast Guardsman and many years as a dietary manager in Healthcare. I start each day with a cup of coffee and the Tampa Bay Times, it's what wakes up this old brain of mine and motivates me for what lies ahead.

 

Robert Monroe

I grew up in Mt. Vernon, New York and enlisted in the Marine Corps after I graduated from high school. After graduating from Hofstra University, I joined the Joseph E. Seagram company and held a variety of sales and marketing positions during a 31-year career. I was transferred to Tampa in 1987 and retired in 1997.

 

Paresh Patel

I’m the founder of HCI Group Inc. and serve as chairman of the board, and CEO for both HCI Group and TypTap Insurance Group. I’m also serving on the board of Cambridge in America. I earned my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electronic engineering from the University of Cambridge.

 

Noelle Ponce

I’m a St. Pete native, who earned a bachelor’s in communications from Loyola University New Orleans. While I lived away, I frequently missed the quality of reporting we get here. I work in financial compliance and enjoy long distance swimming, biking and paddling. I have one daughter who is a future 2021 Eckerd graduate!

 

Shephali J. Rele

I graduated with degrees in political science and journalism from the University of Missouri. I’ve lived in Tampa for 30 years and worked in broadcast journalism, investment banking, telecommunications and marketing. I’m a proud mom of two sons and co-editor and publisher of KhaasBaat, a monthly newspaper for Indian Americans in Florida since 2004.

 

Mario Rodriguez

I am an Army veteran and a business development manager for CareerSource Tampa Bay. I am married and have three sons and one daughter. I have lived in St Petersburg since 2008. I like living here and see so much potential for this city.

 

Roland Rodriguez

I was born and raised in Ybor City and graduated from USF. I live in Tampa and worked at Bank of America and its predecessor companies for 34 years. I then worked as an auditor at Grow Financial FCU. I am president of Centro Asturiano Memorial Park; treasurer of Friends of U.S. Military Families and also serve on the Finance Committee at my church.

 

Tony Schwalm

Originally from Georgia, I spent much of my adult life as an Army officer. Since 2004, I have worked as a consultant to the Department of Defense and Veterans Administration. I wrote The Guerrilla Factory: the Making of Special Force Officers, the Green Berets

 

Robert Siwik

I graduated from Jesuit, then USF after serving in the 82nd Airborne Division and Vietnam. I earned undergrad and graduate degrees in criminal justice and public administration and spent 33 years working in both large and small police agencies. I later attended the FBI Executive Development Program. I’m also a licensed pilot and boat captain.

 

Elithia V. Stanfield

Newspapers and books have been part of my life since I was a young girl. I also love traveling with my husband of 45 years, Terry Huffman. My career started with nonprofits and ended after over 30 years of government service in 2010 as an assistant county administrator for Pinellas County.

 

Susan Stern

I’m a community volunteer and former vice president of the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center Foundation. I serve on the Henry Plant Museum Board of Directors and am a member of the Athena Society, Junior League of Tampa Sustainers, League of Women Voters and other organizations. I graduated from the University of Florida.

 

Jennifer Triana

I am a third generation Tampeño (or Tampan or Tampanian — did any of these terms ever become official)? I have an anthropology degree from USF, but have worked in insurance almost my entire career with the same company. I love the outdoors and enjoy hiking, kayaking and running. I am a proud military mom.

 

Stephen Wehrmann

I have spent 41 years living and operating a veterinary hospital in St Pete. I am a graduate of the University of Hawaii and University of Missouri Veterinary Medicine College. I’m a former instructor at St. Pete College and speak at veterinary conferences. I’ve also authored veterinary journal articles and a book about dogs.

 

Justin Weller

I am a father, husband and sales manager for Workiva, an enterprise software company. I live in Lutz and enjoy sports, boating and am an avid reader. I grew up in the Washington, D.C., area and interned on Capitol Hill while studying economics at Villanova University.

 

Susan Whitehead

Originally from the coast of North Carolina, I have lived in Oldsmar and Dunedin for the past 21 years. I have a background in accounting and finance primarily in the pharmaceutical industry. My husband and I have 3 sons in their 20s whom we hope will be the next generation TBT readers!

 

Shane Whitlatch

I’m the chief revenue officer for a software company and have an MBA in entrepreneurship from USF. I’m an active member of St. Paul’s Catholic Church and past president of my neighborhood association. I’ve been married for 26 years and have a son attending University of West Florida and a daughter attending USF.

 

Nina Wolfson

I’ve lived in the Bay area since 1978. My career was spent in accounting related functions, primarily in financial systems software and in fundraising for a nonprofit. In between, I was the primary caregiver for my Mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. I’ve lived in Temple Terrace since 1983.

 

Will Young

I’m a 36-year-old Clearwater resident. I’ve been reading the Times since I was in sixth grade, thanks to Newspapers In Education. I, thanks in part to features published in The Times work in civil service. Real journalism will always be important, which is why I support the Times.

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