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Amanda Taylor (Class VIII) is the President-Elect for the Alumni Association of the Wedgworth Leadership Institute!
Amanda’s term will begin at the 2018 Annual WLI Alumni Meeting, to be held on July 26-28th at the Waldorf Astoria in Orlando, FL.

Amanda is currently a partner at Houston Taylor PLLC in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area.  Amanda earned her B.S. in Animal Science from the University of Florida, then attended the University of Florida’s Frederic G. Levin College of Law. 

Amanda has graciously agreed to be interviewed for our first WLI ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT of 2018!

In a few words, describe your story into Florida agriculture:

 I grew up in my family’s ag business—cattle and citrus.  I didn’t really think about going to law school until I started working on an agricultural law minor while at UF.  I realized I enjoyed those classes way more than the organic chemistry and biology classes I was taking for my animal science degree.  While in law school I focused on property and environmental law.  I am a firm believer in private property rights with the understanding we all have to coexist with limited resources.  Our industry’s ability to feed the world depends on us finding the right balance between many competing needs and Florida agriculture is so vital to our national food system. I am proud to be a part of this industry and to have the opportunity to promote and protect it.

 Tell us about starting your new firm: HOUSTON TAYLOR—What was that like?

I had worked for over a decade in big law firms when I realized that I could offer the same services to my clients without the overhead of being on the top floor of a high rise in a downtown and the administrative cost of a large firm.  Our specialties of real estate, construction and agriculture, for most day to day legal issues, do not require the support of a large firm. Our motto is, “Partnering with our clients to build and grow Florida” and that is our goal—to be a strategic partner with our clients. I also actually enjoy the other aspects of running a business that we were largely insulated from—being able to choose our own marketing and branding strategies, the IT and service providers we want to use.  The last six months have been quite the adventure! To go from long established firms to a startup is challenging; a lot of learning as you go, but I was at a point in my career that I needed to give this a try.

Why did you choose to go through the Wedgworth Leadership Institute?

Mr. Shane Platt had nominated me to apply for the program.  I thought it would be a way to connect with others in the ag community, to have unique opportunities to learn and to explore.  I had no idea how dynamic of a program it is.  It is, by far, the best leadership program I have ever been involved in. My classmates are family and I just couldn’t imagine having missed this adventure.

What is your favorite memory from your experiences with Class VIII?

Too many to pick a favorite! Our class seemed to attract, shall we say, rather eccentric bus drivers and tour guides for our national and international trips.  We may have been involved in a hit and run accident (property damage only) in a foreign country but I shall say no more. And I think one of the tour guides was still fighting World War II—and not for the winning side. Male table top dancing during a reflection session—shy group we had obviously, the world’s largest suitcase, and a certain T-shirt that bears the image of our 44th President that still makes appearances among our class. Some of the agriculture related experiences I personally enjoyed the most were harvesting oysters on Apalachicola Bay, visiting the Rungis Market outside of Paris and the Aalsmeer Flower Auction, the world’s largest flower market.

 What has been your most challenging/rewarding leadership opportunity since going through WLI?

I served as the chair of a board of a non-profit organization that constantly struggled with finances.  The mission of the organization is vital, but it has always had issues with stabilizing its finances and finding a steady flow of funding while trying to serve some of the community’s most at-risk children. It is a challenge to lead in those circumstances when you have board members that differ wildly in their viewpoints of how to fundraise and how to run the day to day operations of the organization.  We were able to get the organization on a solid track for funding and daily operations that stabilized it and allowed the next set of board members and officers to put the organization on a growth track.

How do you feel about being the President-Elect for the Alumni Association of the Wedgworth Leadership Institute?

I am so honored to have the opportunity to lead this group and to build upon the progress that has been made by past presidents, officers, directors and members that have built and grown the Alumni Association to what it is today.  I look forward to working with the current officers, directors and members to continue to advance the association and provide additional educational and fellowship opportunities for everyone.

What do you hope to see happen during your time as President of AAWLI?

I would really like for the alumni group to have the opportunity for annual domestic and international trips.  I know this is something that has been discussed for many years and many individuals have worked to see that come to fruition.  I hope that we accomplish that along with supporting the absolutely outstanding fundraising efforts undertaken by a group of alumni for the WLI endowment fund. Mainly, I want to ensure that the alumni association continues to support the current class of Wedgworth and to be a valuable asset and resource for alumni.