Leadership Hollywood: Leading Our City Into the Future

If you live in Hollywood, you have probably heard of the Leadership Hollywood program, and maybe even know of someone who’s been in it.  And chances are, if you do know someone, you noticed that, after the nine months that they were in the program, something was a little different about them.  What, you may have wondered, is this Leadership Hollywood?

This season, I have the honor and the privilege to be a member of Leadership Hollywood 42, that is, the 42nd group taking part in this world-class, nine-month voluntary program which promises to change our city, our thinking and really, our lives.  Here, I would like to share with you not only the nuts and bolts of the series but something about the people who give their time and energy to the community service to make it happen, and the projects we’re working on right now that make Hollywood the wonderful city that it is.

Each year, the Greater Hollywood Chamber of Commerce coordinates Leadership Hollywood, an interactive program where participants can view our community up close, work together and achieve a unique knowledge of resources and services available in Hollywood, Broward County and the State of Florida.  Many local elected officials, business owners, non-profit leaders, educators, and city employees are Leadership Hollywood graduates.

According to Marie Suarez, Chief Operating Officer of the Greater Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, and a graduate of Leadership 26, who works tirelessly and smilingly to coordinate the program, Leadership Hollywood is similar to although not officially related to other Leadership programs held throughout the county, the state and across the country.

“Leadership Hollywood consists of nine unique program days, each providing an interactive forum through interface and communication with the current leaders in our community,” she explained.  “All activities include maximum class member involvement, participation, and role-playing. Class members experience the process that guides them to better comprehend the challenges facing our community.

“And,” she added proudly, “Hollywood is, in fact, one of the state’s longest-running leadership programs, with 42 consecutive classes.”

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Team Building Exercises on Orientation Day.

Our nine-month commitment started out with an Orientation/Kick Off/Team Building day when we meet and get to know the rest of the team with whom we’ll soon become “best friends”, quickly followed by a Leadership Skills day where we learn more about ourselves, how we operate and, maybe more importantly, the “blind spots” that hinder our effectiveness.   Our group this year is comprised of 37 people from all walks of life and livelihoods — education, non-profit, media, beauty, business, banking, real estate, healthcare, tourism, coaching, food and beverage, law, government and more.  We have a Broward County elected official and an (acting) chief of police.  Our youngest classmate is a 16-year-old high school student and our oldest is a 70-year-old retired professor from NSU.  And we’re all learning and growing with every class we attend.

Each LH day opens our eyes to new information about how Hollywood works.  It feels like we’ve experienced so much in this program already that it’s hard to believe that we’re only up to our third field day out of eight!  So far, we’ve had our Health and Human Services day, where we visited a hospital, a homeless shelter, a senior center and a major food distribution center for feeding the hungry right in our area, followed by our Public Safety day, when we got to see the inner workings of the Hollywood Fire Rescue, Beach Safety and Police Departments, including the SWAT and Canine teams.  Wow, I have always respected our first responders, but now, I am truly in awe of how they put their lives on the line for us every day.

By the time you read this, we will have experienced our day on Education, Art & Culture.  The rest of the curriculum features days focusing on Environmental Issues, Criminal Justice & Broward County Government, Media, City Government & Business Development and Tourism and, at the end, a Graduation celebration.

All of our classes and activities requires all of us to take part. No sitting out shyly allowed here!  As class members, we really get to experience things that make us understand how our neighbors live and sometimes struggle in their everyday lives.



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Acting Chief of Police Chris O’Brien with Lotsy the clown at Memorial Regional.

“Leadership Hollywood changed my life, my beliefs about myself and the way I see my community,” said Shannon Stough, president of Benchmark Contracting and this year’s program co-chair, along with Adam Geller of Geller Legal.  “It changed the things that I thought about homeless people, police, the health industry, some things by 180 degrees.  By seeing these things first hand, I learned that I can change the way I feel; and that by changing the way I feel, I can shift the things that I think need to be changed.

“Leadership Hollywood has given me tools and made me a leader,” he continued.  “ More than that, though, it creates community leaders.  Commissioners, Mayors, people in the community making changes.  As the people,  we’re in charge of our community.  We have to be in charge.”

Shannon is a graduate of Leadership Hollywood 35.  He has been active as a chair and vice chair for the past seven years.  Many graduates return to the program year after year as day chairs and program chairs.

“I take the time every year; it’s so important to me.  And not just to me.  We’re changing Hollywood, the county, the state and the world.  I would do the same anywhere because once you learn how it works, you know it.  You can’t go back.  I’ll never be the guy I was before.”

As co-chairs, Shannon and Adam organize the days and make sure they go smoothly.

“It’s so fulfilling,” he said of his time with the program. “ We create the opportunity and then Oh My God — It’s really really satisfying to see people POP!  We watch and we say,’Oh, THIS is how it works!”

Leadership Hollywood has indeed been an incubator for many who have risen to high positions in the city.  Just a few of the more notable alumni of the program are Mayor Josh Levy, Commissioners Debra Case, Peter Hernandez, Dick Blattner, Kevin Biederman and Linda Sherwood, and far too many local business leaders to mention.



One of the major components of Leadership Hollywood is the Community Project.   Each year the group takes on four or five diverse activities designed to benefit some part of our city.

“By working as a team on a Leadership Community Service project, participants get hands-on experience and make a difference for the Greater Hollywood community,” stated Beth A. Allen of the NSU Lifelong Learning Institute and vice chair of Community Service Projects.  “The excitement of working together to create something allows for emerging leaders to grow and develop new skills.”

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At Feeding South Florida on Health and Human Services day.

The projects are big, dynamic and often created by the Leadership Team; sometimes they become Legacy projects which last beyond the current class.  Always they make a lasting difference.

“I was in Leadership Hollywood 40,” recalled Brian Rademacher, the other Community Service Projects vice chair, who works for the city of Hollywood on the Economic Development Team.  “My project was the Feeding South Florida Summer Hunger campaign.  It was fun, but more than that, all the projects have a profound impact on the city, both socially, from the point of giving back, and also on the economic development of the city.  They demonstrate what the city has to offer.  And, it’s so great to see so many people from different walks of life putting in so much time, watching them embrace the projects and the value they’re adding to the community and mostly, seeing them when they have their ‘AHA moments’.”

Brian’s team at work is charged with creating business development and retention for the city.

“My passion, my motto, is Linking and Leverage,” he explained.  “Everyone has so many talents and skills, and they know others with more talents and more skills.  When we ask ‘What can we do together?’, that begins the implementation that brings transformation and change.  Leadership Hollywood creates groups of leaders asking those questions.  We see the synergy happening.  It creates a spark for bringing about change.”



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Coincidentally, SPARK is the name of one of the projects that Leadership Hollywood is working on this year.  A creation of LH40, this Shark Tank-like program is an event that promotes innovation and entrepreneurship for local inventors, entrepreneurs and small businesses. The event will feature a “quick pitch” competition where entrepreneurs and start-up business vie for cash and in-kind prizes.

May 17 at the new CIRC Hotel at Young Circle

Application deadline is April 17

For information please visit sparkhollywoodfl.com


2018 Hollywood Stars Postcard 5x7

The Exceptional Theater Company is a theatre school, serving over 200 Broward adults with special needs, which runs a series of weekly acting and music classes focusing on building verbal and movement skills, self-confidence and socialization while stimulating free thinking.   The Hollywood Stars event project was also a creation of a Leadership Hollywood class, LH 39.   The actors and volunteers usually pick the themes and write the scripts for their annual performances. The company believes in the adage, “Give the actor a leading role on stage, give the actor a leading role in life.”

June 2 at the Hollywood Central Performing Arts Center

Ad and Sponsorship Deadline is May 1

For information please email LeadershipETC@gmail.com


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Diamonds in the Rough is a 501c3 non-profit charity dedicated to providing a platform to introduce children ages 7 to 14 to the game of golf while fostering key life-enhancing values through the sport. The mission of Hollywood’s Diamonds in the Rough, Inc., this year celebrating its 20th anniversary, is to ensure that all youth in our local communities, regardless of social and economic backgrounds, have an equal opportunity to uncover their unique potential through the game of golf.  Its golf programs provide elementary and middle-school aged children in the greater Hollywood area with introductory golf instruction, play, and a setting and curriculum that enhances character traits needed for success.  Leadership 42 is working on a marketing plan to get the word out about Hollywood’s best-kept secret, to help ensure the longevity of the program.

April 14th at the Orangebrook Golf Course

Deadline for sponsorships is April 2

For more information please email WeShine@Diamonds-Golf.org or visit www.Diamonds-Golf.org


In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TED Talks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event.

Do you have an idea worth spreading? Talk to LH42, who is creating the First Annual TEDxYoungCirclePark event.  The theme for 2018 is Insights.

April 21 at the new Conference Center at Memorial Regional Hospital

February 9 Deadline Extension for Applications.

For information please visit tedxyoungcirclepark.org or email contact@tedxyoungcirclepark.org

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Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) has and continues to be recognized as a national model for expanding access to computer science in schools. Through the District’s #BrowardCodes initiative, in 2017/18 more than 50,000 students have been positively impacted by computer science offerings at 100 percent of BCPS K-12 schools.

This year, LH42 will be organizing and hosting the First Annual District-Wide Computer Science Fair, called #BrowardCODES, designed to continue the growth of The BCPS computer science initiative in its focus on expanding computer science opportunities for students and professional development for teachers.

May 19, location TBD

For information please contact Dr. Lisa Milenkovic at 754-321-2623 or lisa.milenkovic@browardschools.com.


Everything we learn in this nine-month journey increases our skills and gives us new tools to turn us into leaders in our community; help us contribute more to our organizations, our neighborhoods, our city as a whole — even our families and smaller groups. In the program, we meet and learn from people from many sectors; public, private and not-for-profit, and from what we’ve heard from prior participants, we make lifelong friends. Even I, who think I’ve heard it all before, have already learned so much about my city and myself through this process, and we’re only up to Day 3!

This experience, it was promised, will benefit participants both personally and professionally, and be a life-changing experience.  So far, Leadership Hollywood is delivering on its promise.

To learn more about Leadership Hollywood, please visit leadershiphollywood.com or contact Marie Suarez at programs@hollywoodchamber.org

Picture of Author: Amanda Jones
Author: Amanda Jones

Amanda Jones specializes in social media marketing. She holds a Master's degree in Social Media Management from the University of Florida and a Social Media Professional Certificate from the University of Miami.


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