Executive Committee

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Jim Shirley

Chairman of the Board

Chef Jim Shirley Enterprises, Santa Rosa Beach

Jim Shirley

Chairman of the Board

Chef Jim Shirley Enterprises, Santa Rosa Beach

Jim Shirley is a chef and restaurateur in South Walton, Florida, owning Great Southern Café, 45 Central Wine and Sushi Bar, and b.f.f. in Seaside, Florida, as well as The Bay Restaurant and Farm & Fire Southern Pizzeria in South Walton. He is also co-owner of Meltdown on 30A in Seaside. Jim was previously the president of the Northwest Florida FRLA chapter and president of the Escambia County chapter. He is currently the treasurer of FRLA’s Educational Foundation. Jim sits on the board of the Children’s Home Society and was formerly on the Seaside Neighborhood School board for three years. Jim represented Florida in the 2015 Great American Seafood Cook-Off. In addition, Jim has been invited to cook at the James Beard House in New York City four times. He is the author of the cookbook, “Good Grits! Southern Boy Cooks,” a compilation of his best recipes along with entertaining stories. Jim is the 2020 Van Ness Butler Jr. Award recipient. In 2020, Jim was appointed as Chairman of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA).

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Olivia Hoblit

Vice Chair

Regional Manager for Innisfree Hotels, Amelia Island

Olivia Hoblit

Vice Chair

Regional Manager for Innisfree Hotels, Amelia Island

Olivia Hoblit has more than 22 years of experience in the hospitality industry and is a Regional Manager with Innisfree Hotels, where she oversees Seaside Amelia Inn and the new dual-Marriott brand Courtyard/Springhill Suites in Amelia Island. She rejoined Innisfree Hotels in April 2020 after spending a year as Assistant Rooms Executive at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, a 446-room, AAA Five-Diamond luxury resort. While at The Ritz-Carlton, Hoblit served as a member of the team that successfully reopened The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas in 2019. She was nominated as “Marriott Ops Star” for going above and beyond operational expectations. During her previous tenure with Innisfree Hotels, she served for five years was the general manager of the Seaside Amelia Inn.

Prior to her position at Seaside Amelia Inn, Olivia spent seven years as the general manager of the highly acclaimed Elizabeth Pointe Lodge. Under her leadership and management with owners David and Susan Caples, she received numerous awards for the property, including Travel+Leisure’s 2013 World’s Best Awards where it ranked No. 25 on its list of Top 100 World’s Best Hotel, No. 3 Top Resort in Florida in 2012, and No. 2 Best Hotel in the Continental U.S. in 2008 Conde Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Award. She also received a “Sharky Award from TravelShark in 2012 for Best Guest- Service General Manager.

Since January 2017, Olivia has served on the Executive Committee of FRLA. She also serves as a board member on the Amelia Island Tourist Development Council, Nassau County Chamber of Commerce, and is an Advisory Council member for the University of West Florida Global Hospitality and Tourism Management program. In 2018, she was named one of Florida’s leading women in lodging by Florida Restaurant & Lodging Magazine.

In 2016, Olivia and her husband Phil founded the Trinity Love Hoblit Foundation in honor of their daughter, Trinity, who passed away in 2015 from a brain aneurysm. Olivia serves as President of the foundation, which supports and funds neurological research, training, and treatment for brain aneurysms, strokes, and other cerebrovascular conditions.

Olivia is an active members of the Amelia Island community. Her son Joshua is at  FSU majoring in economics and son Philip Jr., PJ, is a high school student at Bishop Kenny High School.

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John Horne

Secretary/Treasurer and Restaurant Director 2021-2022

Owner of Anna Maria Oyster Bars, Bradenton

John Horne

Secretary/Treasurer and Restaurant Director 2021-2022

Owner of Anna Maria Oyster Bars, Bradenton

A 40-year veteran of the hospitality industry, Horne began his career as a busboy on Anna Maria Island working for a small chain of restaurants. In 1995, he opened the first of his four restaurants. At the Anna Maria Oyster Bars, you will find a fun, friendly place with great staff serving the freshest food at a great value in a family-friendly atmosphere. Horne and his 325 co-workers have received many accolades over the years, including Small Business of the Year awards from the Manatee, Sarasota, and Longboat Key Chambers, over 85 People’s Choice Favorites, as well as community, volunteer, and tourism awards – many related to their Grade-Level Reading program “Dive Into Reading,” which was recognized as the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation’s 2018 National Restaurant Neighbor Award and the US Senate’s Small Business Committee’s Small Business of the Week. Horne has testified before the US House of Representative Ways & Means Committee on the tax effects on small businesses. He and his wife Amanda are passionate about education and travel…and each other!

 

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Carlos Gazitua

Restaurant Director 2020-2021

President & CEO of Sergio's Family Restaurants, Miami

Carlos Gazitua

Restaurant Director 2020-2021

President & CEO of Sergio's Family Restaurants, Miami

Carlos Gazitua is CEO of Sergio’s Restaurants and creator of Sergio’s Cuban in South Florida. Gazitua has been a leader in the hospitality for 13 years and is third generation running his family-owned business. Mr. Gazitua was included in Florida’s 500 most influential Business and Hospitality Leaders by Florida Trend Magazine. As CEO of Sergio’s, Gazitua has shared his small business insight as a guest on FOX Business’ “After the Bell,” NPR, WLRN, and the Mike Gallagher Show. His opinion articles have been featured in The Washington Times, The Hill, Miami Herald, and the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Under his leadership, Sergio’s was awarded “best sit-down restaurant” by South Florida Independent Retailer awards and South Florida’s Tourism Professional Restaurant of the Year Award. In addition, Sergio’s was featured on the Cooking Channel’s “Cheap Eats” and Emeril’s Florida, where Gazitua prepared empanadas with host Ali Khan and showcased Sergio’s authentic Cuban cuisine to famed chef Emeril Lagasse. Recently, Gazitua lead Sergio’s to become the first Cuban Restaurant to sell their homemade Cuban food on QVC.

During the Covid-19 crisis, The New York Times featured Sergio’s in its “24 Hours in Pandemic Nation” article. Mr. Gazitua served on the Dade County Mayor’s Task force to assist in creating the rules to open the county safely. Senator Marco Rubio named Sergio’s Restaurants as the Senate Small Business of the Week in recognition of supporting their community and donating thousands of meals to first responders and health care workers. In addition, Sergio’s initiated a grassroot effort with the Florida Restaurant Lodging Association to provide over 1 million free masks to Florida’s hospitality industry. In 2021, Job Creators Network announced Carlos Gazitua as the Small Business Owner of the Year for advocating on behalf of Main Street and his actions to help his community during the pandemic.

Carlos earned his undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and his MBA and Law Degree from Stetson College of Law. He resides in Miami with his wife, Liana Gazitua, and their two young boys.

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Barbara Bowden

Lodging Director 2021-2022

Area Managing Director for Loews Hotels at Universal Orlando

Barbara Bowden

Lodging Director 2021-2022

Area Managing Director for Loews Hotels at Universal Orlando

Barbara Bowden is the Area Managing Director for Loews Hotels at Universal Orlando, overseeing the operation of the destination’s premier and preferred hotels, including Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort, and Loews Sapphire Falls Resort.

Previously, she served as the Complex Managing Director for Loews Sapphire Falls Resort and Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando, overseeing the operation of these two resort hotels, comprising 2,000 guest rooms and 250,000 square feet of meeting space.

Prior to joining Loews Hotels, Bowden served as general manager of the Orange County Convention Center. Before that, she spent 27 years with The Peabody Orlando, working her way through the ranks to become Vice President/General Manager.

In addition to her role on the FRLA Board, she also serves on the Visit Orlando Board of Directors, the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association Board of Directors and Governmental Affairs Committee, the Rosen College Dean’s Advisory Board, and the HSMAI Foundation Board. Previously, Bowden served as Chair of the HSMAI Americas Board and was a member of the AHLA Women in Lodging Executive Board.

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Roger Amidon

Lodging Director 2020-2021

General Manager of Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa

Roger Amidon

Lodging Director 2020-2021

General Manager of Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa

Roger Amidon, FRLA Lodging Director 2020-21, has been the General Manager of Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa since 2012. Amidon is responsible for the operation of Palm Beach County’s only AAA Four-Diamond all-suite beachfront hotel. Under Amidon’s expert leadership, in 2015 Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island was named one of Marriott International’s “Full-Service Hotels of the Year” in the Eastern, and he was named “Franchised General Manager of the Year” for its Eastern Region Full-Service Hotels/Resorts.

A longtime Palm Beach resident, Amidon has worked in the hospitality sector since 1983. Joining Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island marked his return to the Marriott brand after serving three years as Executive Director of the Tourist Development Council of Palm Beach County. Prior to leading the Tourist Development Council, Amidon served Marriott in roles including Area General Manager for Marriott Palm Beach Gardens, Boca Raton Renaissance and Fort Lauderdale Marriott North. His regional tenure included General Manager positions for the Delray Beach Marriott and Sheraton at CityPlace.

Amidon provides leadership in a variety of industry and community organizations. Current and past positions include: Chairman of Discover the Palm Beaches; President of the Palm Beach County Hotel & Lodging Association; President of FRLA’s Palm Beach Chapter and board memberships with FRLA State Board, Singer Island Civic Association and Loggerhead Marine Life Center, Riviera Beach Business Council, Coalitions to Senior Leaders and Interns, SunFest, South Florida Fair and Palm Beach Gardens High School Five Star Magnet Advisory Council.

When not working or volunteering, Amidon enjoys golf, fishing, travel with his family and indulging in his passion for classic cars. Amidon and his wife, Tina, have two children and reside in Stuart.

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Sheldon Suga

Immediate Past Chairman of the Board

Vice President & Managing Director of Hawks Cay Resort, Duck Key

Sheldon Suga

Immediate Past Chairman of the Board

Vice President & Managing Director of Hawks Cay Resort, Duck Key

Sheldon Suga is the VP and Managing Director of Hawks Cay Resort located in the Florida Keys. He is a seasoned hospitality executive with more than 35 years of industry experience. He started his career as a room clerk in Niagara Falls Canada for summer employment which led him to pursue a degree in Hospitality Management at Ryerson University in Toronto. Upon graduation, Sheldon was accepted into ITT Sheraton’s General Management Training program. During his time with ITT Sheraton, he attained the ITT Ring of Quality Worldwide Team Award and served as general manager at properties in West Hartford, New York City, Halifax, LaJolla, and Los Angeles. He also worked in Tokyo and was country manager for ITT Sheraton. He has also worked for Wyndham hotels and resorts as an area director in Atlanta and Puerto Rico. He worked in Orlando at the Gaylord Palms as the VP Hotel Manager and was the opening Senior VP and general manager of the Gaylord National Resort.

Sheldon has served as Chapter President of the FRLA Monroe County Chapter, a member and past chair of the District III Advisory Committee of the Monroe County Tourist Development Council. He has also served on the board of Tourism Halifax, the Maryland Hotel and Motel Association and as a member of the Maryland Tourism Development Council.

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Senior Staff

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Carol Dover

President & CEO

Carol Dover

President & CEO

Carol B. Dover has served as President/CEO of the more than 10,000 member Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) since July of 1995. Dover is a professional association manager, a lobbyist, a former government insider, and a Florida State University Dedman School of Hospitality graduate with a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management.

After graduating from Florida State University in 1978, Dover accepted the position of Assistant Director of the Beer Industry of Florida. This position familiarized her with the rules, regulations and tax laws associated with the beverage industry – information which has been beneficial in her role with FRLA.

In 1989, Dover moved inside the halls of the Florida Capitol and was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff, Executive Office of the Governor, serving under the Martinez administration. As Bob Martinez’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Dover was responsible for the Governor’s appointments, served as his spokesperson, and represented his administration before the Florida Legislature.

Dover’s other professional accomplishments include positions at the Department of Business and Professional Regulation Director of the Division of Hotels and Restaurants, the first woman to serve as Chief of the Bureau of Fire Prevention, State Fire Marshall’s Office, and President/CEO of the Florida Outdoor Advertising Association

As the FRLA’s President/CEO, Dover works to protect, educate, and promote the diverse interests of Florida’s hospitality industry before the Florida Legislature and lobbying against unfair government regulation. The industry represents a $108.8 billion industry, $11.3 billion in local and state tax revenue, and nearly 1.4 million employees, making it the state’s number one industry.

She also serves as a member of the Board of Directors for the National Restaurant Association, Council of State Restaurant Associations, International Society of Hotel Association Executives, VISIT FLORIDA, Florida State University College of Business Board of Governors, Florida TaxWatch and the Florida Agriculture Center and Horse Park.

On opening day of the 2003 Legislative Session, Dover was diagnosed with breast cancer and courageously fought to beat the cancer. Dover, a native of Orlando, is married and has three children and three grandchildren. In her spare time, she enjoys outdoor activities including dressage riding and running.

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Bob Dearden

Chief Financial Officer

Bob Dearden

Chief Financial Officer

Bob Dearden has served as Chief Financial officer of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) since 2002, with responsibility for the financial stewardship of the more than 10,000 member association, its educational foundation, its three political action committees, and its Regulatory Compliance Services.

Dearden has a 25 year career in accounting, with his first position as Controller for a regional, Florida based, HMO, HealthPlan Southeast. Subsequently, he entered state government and held numerous accounting and auditing posts, including the development and oversight of an audit unit for the State of Florida’s Comptroller’s Office. Dearden also served as the Director of Audit for the Florida Department of Chidren and Families.

Dearden serves on both Federal and State of Florida boards, councils and task forces including the Federal Reserve Advisory Council for travel and tourism, Florida Tax Watch Board of trustees, and Florida’s Department of State Business Identity theft task force.

Dearden lives in Tallahassee and is the father of three children. He is a Certified Public Accountant and a graduate of Florida State University, with degrees in accounting and finance. In his spare time, Dearden is an avid golfer and participated in the 2012 Men’s Championship Tournament through the Florida State Golf Association.

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Dan Murphy

Senior Vice President, Membership & Corporate Relations

Dan Murphy

Senior Vice President, Membership & Corporate Relations

Dan Murphy is Senior Vice President of Corporate Relations and Membership for the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association and has been involved in the hospitality industry for more than 20 years. He is a passionate sales and marketing professional and over his tenure with FRLA, he has continually increased membership and retention, developed various programs and events to serve the industry and created a sponsorship program that is top in the nation. 

Murphy’s work requires in-depth industry knowledge and constant contact with restaurant and hotel operators as well as industry suppliers like UnitedHealthcare, Heartland Payment Systems, Coca-Cola, American Express and many others. He is involved with national industry organizations including the National Restaurant Association, American Hotel and Lodging Association and the Council of State Restaurant Associations. Prior to working with the FRLA, Murphy was a hospitality education trainer for the state of Florida. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in business from Indiana University and currently lives in Tallahassee, Florida where he enjoys hunting and fishing with his family.

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Geoff Luebkemann

Senior Vice President, Education & Training

Geoff Luebkemann

Senior Vice President, Education & Training

Geoff Luebkemann’s career blends hospitality industry, public service, and trade association leadership experience. Starting with 15 years in food and beverage operations, Luebkemann worked up from local independents to opening restaurants across the southeast for a national full-service restaurant company.

In the public sector, Luebkemann served as Director of DBPR’s Division of Hotels & Restaurants, the statewide food and lodging regulator. While there, he oversaw 8 offices statewide responsible for over 85,000 licensees and hundreds of thousands of sanitation and safety inspections annually. The Division’s commitment to quality, that began on Luebkemann’s watch, continues today as the Division leads the nation in quality for programs of its kind.

Luebkemann currently serves as Senior Vice President of Education and Training for the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, where he has been since 2006. In this role, he guides the association’s statewide food safety training activity, oversees FRLA’s for-profit Regulatory Compliances Services subsidiary, and is active in numerous state and national industry stakeholder groups.

Luebkemann holds a degree in Economics from the Florida State University and lives in the Tallahassee neighborhood where he grew up.

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Richard Turner

Senior Vice President, Government Relations

Richard Turner

Senior Vice President, Government Relations

Richard Turner assumed the role of General Counsel and Senior Vice President of Government Relations for the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association in September of 2002.

He has been a member of the Florida Bar for more than 25 years and has more than 17 years’ experience in state government. His last position at the state was as Director of the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, Department of Business & Professional Regulations (DBPR).

Turner represents the industry before the Florida Legislature, and such varied organizations as the Florida Cabinet, Department of Revenue, Department of Agriculture, Department of Business and Professional Regulation, and on occasion in Washington, DC.

He thinks the greatest threat facing the hospitality industry is the continuing growth of rules and regulations into every aspect of business.

Turner’s three top career moments include: the repeal of the alcoholic beverage surcharge, preemption to the state of paid leave, and the clarification of the communication services tax.

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Samantha Padgett

General Counsel

Samantha Padgett

General Counsel

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