Published in the Tallahassee Democrat
By Dave Hodges, Business Matters editor
Leadership is learned, so there must be teachers, honoree Martha W. Barnett said Thursday night in urging more mentors to step forward. “Leadership in and of itself is one of those elusive concepts, and it’s different for everybody,” she told the audience in the Civic Center during the 17th annual Distinguished Leadership Awards. “Everybody approaches it differently, and it takes different skills. Some people are born leaders. Others have to learn it, but leadership is a learned skill.”
It was an array of mentors who worked with a young attorney from Dade City who needed guidance on her career path, she recalled. Barnett credited their influence and help in her acceptance of the Lifetime Leadership Award, the evening’s top honor.
“I had the benefit of great mentors who allowed me to be a leader,” said Barnett, an attorney at law firm Holland & Knight and a past president of the American Bar Association. “All of you, I hope, will take your opportunities and mentor the next generation, because that’s what is important in the future of our country.”
The Lifetime Leadership Award recognizes an individual who has made significant contributions to the Tallahassee community for more than 25 years. The annual honors are given by Leadership Tallahassee, a division of the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce.
Local businessman and Leadership Tallahassee graduate Lawton Langford introduced Barnett and called her “one of my personal heroes.”
“To me, she is the perfect combination of Southern charm and corporate tenacity,” he said, referring to her friendly nature but tireless work ethic in causes she believes in.
Also presented at the banquet was the Godfrey Smith Past Chairmen’s Award. It honors an individual who has contributed significantly to the business community before, during and after their tenure as chairman of the chamber. This year’s winner was Elliott Messer, an attorney and founder of the local firm Messer, Caparello and Self.
Messer was chairman of the chamber from 1976 to 1978 and is best known for leading the effort to build the civic center downtown, and the establishment of Innovation Park, following the concept of Research Triangle Park near his alma mater, Duke University.
Past chamber chairman Matt Brown thanked Messer for his “leadership, vision and investment in this community.”
The annual dinner is Leadership Tallahassee’s major community fundraiser, with proceeds supporting the Youth Leadership Tallahassee program.
Three other leadership awards were presented.
The Leadership Pacesetter was presented to Sha’Ron James of the Florida Department of Financial Services. She founded the United Voices Youth Enrichment Council, an innovative performing arts program for youth that is centered on life skills, enrichment and music. She is a founding member of the Oasis Center for Women and Girls and is a former member of the LT Board of Governors.
The Leadership Pacesetter award goes to an individual who is blazing a trail for others to follow by quickly engaging in community leadership activities as a relative newcomer to Tallahassee or at a relatively young age.
The Leader of the Year award is given to an individual whose efforts have achieved significant benefits for the community the past year. Cheryl Phoenix, executive director of America’s Second Harvest of the Big Bend, was the winner. She is president of the Florida Association of Food Banks and is presidentelect of United Partners for Human Services, an association of area nonprofits.
Jerry Osteryoung, director of outreach for FSU’s Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship, received the Servant Leadership award, which honors an individual who has demonstrated consistent community leadership and begun to achieve results beyond a single field of endeavor, combining efforts in business and nonprofits.
Osteryoung was recognized for successfully combining his business skills and knowledge with a passion for helping community service organizations. He is chairman of the board of Goodwill Industries and Florida Commerce Credit Union, and is a founding director of Vision 2020, the business development organization. Osteryoung also has held similar leadership positions with 211 Big Bend and the American Red Cross.