Jessica Muroff, 42, took over as chief executive officer of the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida 3 1/2 years ago. Before that, she was the CEO of Frameworks (previously known as the Ophelia Project) and worked for Raymond James Financial.
The eight-county council serves more than 19,000 girls and has 8,000 adult volunteers. Its annual budget is $8 million.
"It's (a) complex, innovative non-profit and I am able to use my business experience to take it to the next level," Muroff said.
In January she was named Woman of the Year by the Tampa Bay Business and Professional Women organization. Last year she was a Tampa Bay Business Journal Woman of the Year honoree. She also is an Outstanding Alumni of the Zimmerman School of Advertising and Mass Communications at the University of South Florida.
A Town 'N Country resident, Muroff recently sat down with the Tampa Bay Times to talk about her position, accomplishments and future plans.
Tell me about yourself.
I grew up in Plant City where my family had a farm and horses. I'm the first person in my family to go to college. I got married in July, a second marriage. His name is Owen LaFave and he is with the Bank of Tampa. I have two daughters, ages 10 and 13, and two stepsons, 11 and 12.
Are your daughters Girl Scouts?
Yes, they are.
What made you go to USF?
It was the local university, and I am so glad I did. That was the best decision I ever made.
I know you were the USF student body president in 1998. What made you run for that? And how did it shape your career?
I've always been one who wants to create positive change. I want to serve others. I wanted to get more students involved and with Betty Castor as (USF) president, I saw a lot of opportunity.
It definitely shaped my career as it was my first real management job with 150 student and staff employees... I was the last female student body president and I am working to help support young women who are running for the office.
You helped start Emerge Tampa Bay for the Greater Tampa Bay area of Commerce. What has it accomplished?
It was launched 15 years ago with Mike Griffin. We felt there was a need to engage young professionals in the community. We wanted them to network with each other and with other business leaders. There were a lot of things happening in Tampa and it's incredible to see that it is still going strong. It is called Emerging Leaders now.
Did you apply for the CEO of Girl Scouts or were you recruited? Were you a Girl Scout?
I saw an ad for it and said to myself, 'My dream job just became available.' I was a little intimidated but I've always been one to tackle something. They did an extensive national search and it came back to me.
And yes, I was a Girl Scout myself in the council.
What is your favorite part of the job? And how does seeing the top girls earn their Gold Award affect you?
The thing that makes it so exciting is that it supports the leadership development of girls. It's awe-inspiring what they do for their projects. I've seen them create nonprofits; produce pre-K mentoring programs; persuade and advocate for road-widening projects in front of their schools.
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These girls are changing the world. They are strong, fearless and going to be leaders of tomorrow.
Do you see Girl Scouts doing anything differently now that the Boy Scout organization is accepting girls and young women in more of its programs?
When you are facing challenges with any organization, the worst decision is to be all things to all people. The best is to double down on what you do best. And we will make sure we do it.
We are even more fiercely dedicated to girls and showing that we are the best organization for developing their leadership potential in the country.
A number of the long-time organizations are having trouble recruiting younger members — especially young women — and having them take over leadership roles. Some have even closed. What do organizations need to do attract future leaders?
Embrace change and innovation, make your programs relevant. Be an organization embracing technology. Members need to understand why the organization is important. Also older members should be mentoring people and thinking of a line of succession.
Of all the things you have done, of what are you most proud?
Our Girl Scout Camp CEO is in its second year and having its fifth Camp CEO. It is a weekend leadership retreat to connect high school girls with female executives.
The girls apply and we have 30 girls and 30 executives for the weekend. We are the only one in the state.
There is something special about going to camp, letting your guard down and developing relationships.
The conversation has been edited for clarity and length.