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Florida Together launches political arm, expands staff and board read to fight for LGBT equality

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Florida Together today announced an expansion of its staff and board of directors as it readies for the 2010 fall elections and the 2011 legislative session.

Florida Together has hired Michael Kenny as its new executive director and has contracted with Ted Howard to provide services as program director.  Florida Together is also proud to announce the continuing expansion of its board of directors.  The board of the political and lobbying arm of the organization now includes Joseph Falk, Dianne Hankerson, Diana Iwanski, Georg Ketelhohn, Heddy Pena, John Ruffier, Steven Stockmeyer, Jim Stork and Chuck Wolfe.  The board of the educational and networking arm of the organization now includes Brock Fazzini, Diana Iwanski, Georg Ketelhohn, John Ruffier and Todd Ruopp.

“Florida Together has been an instrumental organizing and training resource for Florida’s equality community,” said Florida Together Chairman Georg Ketelhohn.  “By adding Michael Kenny and the broad range of experience encompassed by our new board I truly believe we can make historic progress in the quest for equality in Florida.”

Among Michael’s many accomplishments, he has served on the United Way campaign cabinet, as director of cultural tourism for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau, director of human resources for the Broward County Property Appraiser, as a board member for the Haitian Community Center and Dolphin Democratic Club and as an elected member of the Broward County Democratic Executive Committee.  He has also worked on many political campaigns, including the campaign against Amendment 2 in 2008.

“Michael’s proven leadership, political experience and fundraising and administrative expertise will help Florida Together increase its political and lobbying effectiveness on local, state and federal issues, as it works with its partner organizations to achieve greater successes,” said Ketelhohn.

“We are also pleased that Ted Howard will continue doing the organization’s critical work of connecting and empowering its member organizations by organizing statewide and regional conferences, providing capacity building trainings and web resources, and training individuals and organizations to conduct effective public education,” said Ketelhohn.

“Adding political power to the organizing efforts already underway across the state we can make a real difference in the fight for equality and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Floridians,” said new Florida Together Executive Director Michael Kenny.  “Our new board includes community leaders, business leaders and heavy hitters from across the political spectrum.”

Dianne Hankerson, for example, is the founder of a firm specializing in the development of organizations from Fortune 500 to family-owned companies and nonprofits.  Her expertise is specifically focused on groups like Florida Together who stand at the crossroads.  “Her leadership will be invaluable to helping us realize our full potential,” Kenny said.

Chuck Wolfe, another new board member, has a long history in Florida politics going back to his days as a senior staffer for Gov. Lawton Chiles.  Today he serves as the president and CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and Leadership Institute, the nation’s leading organization that identifies, trains and supports LGBT candidates.  During his tenure, hundreds of openly LGBT candidates have been elected to public office nationwide, and the list of states with no out elected officials has dropped from 13 to just five.  For example, here in Florida, Gainesville voters this year stood up to bigoted attacks and elected Craig Lowe, the first openly gay mayor in north Florida.

Jim Stork, another Florida Together board member, was elected Mayor of the City of Wilton Manors in 2002 in Broward County.  “One critical way to move toward policies of equality is to get advocates for equality elected to office,” Stork said.

Florida Together board member Joseph Falk is also a national board member of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.  Steven Stockmeyer was the chief aide to the Republicans in the Michigan Legislature, head of staff for a U.S. Representative, executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee and helped establish what later became the Log Cabin Republicans.

“Our vision is a Florida free of prejudice and discrimination, where all persons have full legal, political and social equality,” said Ketelhohn.  “Our commitment is not to rest until that vision is realized.  Living in the only state in the nation that doesn’t allow gay parents to adopt, we have a long way to go.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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