February 2023 eNews Guest Editor, Tiffany Baker (LT 33 & LT Board Of Governors)

When I arrived in Tallahassee in 2005, I had a simple plan: get through my Master’s program…and get the heck back out of town. Then, something happened to me that I think happens to a lot of us: every time I started to go, something (maybe it’s the weather-changing magic of the Mag Lab??) held me here.

The community quickly made me more than just a student. Folks started to pull me in, bit by bit, organization by organization, person by person. Two months after moving here, I started an internship at a local preservation non-profit, which turned into a job. Soon after that, I met the cute guy in the history department, who turned into my husband. I was drawn into community affairs through my work and personal interests. In 2006, we rented a small historic house in Frenchtown, which became our home.

But what I didn’t know until much later, was that an outside force seems to have been there in the early days, quietly pulling the atoms of my life in the same direction. The internship? Susan Baldino (LT 18) called and encouraged them to hire me as we drove to Sarasota on a field trip…just two months after I met her. She would write my LT recommendation letter 10 years later.

Then, Althemese Barnes (LT 19) introduced me to my first community service, drawing me into Riley House and the Florida African American Heritage Preservation Network activities. She would be one of my reference contacts on my application. The little house? Belonged to Will Guzman (LT 24), reference #2. The City of Tallahassee attorney who advised on preservation planning issues and made me a better public servant? She was Hetal Desai (LT 20), my friend who served as Justice Day Chair this year.

I was lucky—I AM lucky—that those moments continued to happen over the years. And since I became a part of Class 33, the force at work has undeniably been Leadership Tallahassee. It has pulled countless friends and opportunities into my life.

The most surprising thing for me? The impact of the post-class experience. I absolutely loved (LOVED!) my program year, but the true “stickiness” of my time in LT has been in the years that followed. My magnetic field just keeps getting bigger.

I strengthened my connection to LT through the opportunity to serve the organization as an alum. Immediately following graduation, I wrote to the staff: “If you need a set of hands, I am happy to help.” Thankfully, they kept allowing me to be a part of the team. First, it was LT 34’s opening retreat, then LT 2.0, Opportunity Tallahassee, YLT Arts and Culture Day, Grow Business Day, on and on—you name the program, I wanted to be there. This year, I get to have a whole year as Class 40’s Curriculum Chair. I am helped by some powerful forces of nature, acting as Program Day Chairs: Josh DeSha (LT 33), Lester Hutt (LT 35), Rachel Porter (LT 38), Vicki Bradley (LT 39), Hetal, Brice Google (LT 39), Jeanne’ Freeman (LT 39), Neil Fleckenstein (LT 37), and Jay Terry (LT 38).

My year of amazing opportunities has now turned into eight and counting. I have been especially grateful to spend time working with BB, the dynamic center of it all.

As we reflect on the successes of the first forty years, we must also look forward to the connections we can make in the next forty. When LT reaches out, let it pull you in. Then, look around and see who else you might attract to be a part of this special organization. Let’s make Tallahassee more magnetic together.

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