Meet the participants

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This is the second group of participants in the annual four-month program that immerses potential community leaders in all aspects of Marco Island — its history, infrastructure, government, hospitality, education, media, tourism, parks & recreation, law enforcement, culture, real estate, healthcare, fire-rescue, agriculture, the environment and transportation. Program segments are every other Wednesday.

Melissa Scott

Scott, the principal of the Marco Island Academy high school, was born in Olean, NY; raised in Lancaster, NY (a suburb of Buffalo), and then spent 15 years in Northern Virginia (outside of DC) until she moved here.

She has been principal since April, 2014, and lists responsibilities that include “pursuing the vision” of the school; administering class scheduling, enrollment, curriculum offerings, and student counseling; developing collaborative relationships with parents, community leaders, and administrators from other public charter high schools in Florida; teacher recruitment and training; budget preparation and overseeing accounting practices; implementing classroom technology, and supporting, overseeing and promoting student extracurricular activities – to name just some.

Scott served as assistant principal from Aug. 2013 to April 2014, and before that spent a decade at Robert E. Lee High School in Springfield, VA, primarily as an English teacher, but involving herself as well in directing student activities, leadership instruction, conference presentation, English curriculum restructuring, advanced academic training for teachers.

Before that, Scott worked in the congressional offices of Tom Reynolds, managing budgets, schedules and travel plans; and Bill Paxon as a legislative assistant.

“I moved to the island to be as close as possible to my parents, Michael and Vicki Hook,” Scott says. “They are two of my favorite people in the world. I also have two intelligent and amazingly, awesome twin sisters, Mindy and Mandi. Dr. Mindy Scott is a research scientist in Bethesda, MD, and Mandi is a partner in her law firm in Pittsburgh, PA. I am a very proud older sister.”

Scott says she happiest when knuckling down to her job, which takes most of her time, but she also loves to read.

“I'm a self-appointed reading machine,” she says. “Long walks on the beach are a plus. This makes me sound pretty boring, but I'm actually pretty comfortable with that...”

Scott’s reasons for participating in Leadership Marco: “Being a ‘newbie’ on the island can be a bit isolating at times. As a female in a leadership position, I am excited to be given a platform to share my experiences and learn from others. I want to truly invest in and become a vital member of my new home and community.”

As for any issues facing the city (government) or island in general, Scott does not mince her words.

“I'm not entirely sure that the residents' voices are truly being heard,” she says. “Yes, there are formal forums with pomp and circumstance at which statements can be made, recorded, and placed on an official record, but when individuals speak from the heart, they should be respected and acknowledged. The island is changing, growing, and evolving, and its leaders need to be at the forefront of this evolution, not attempting to keep it in the past.”

Scott is optimistic for a Marco 15 years down the line.

“I hope that after our amazing young people leave the island to educate themselves and explore our country and world, they return to us to act as role models for the next generation of leaders on Marco Island,” she says. “They are our future innovators who will revitalize our amazing community with new skills and talents, and transform it into the modern Marco Island of 2030.

Laura Schneider

Born and bred in Akron, Ohio but raised in a small town named Hartville, Ohio. Schneider has seven siblings who live in Ohio, Florida, Nevada, and Virginia.

“I married the boy next door whom I met when I was eight years old,” she says.

Schneider started in banking when she and her family moved to Florida in 2005. Her career started with Bank of America as a teller, and she was promoted to personal banker within eight months. She then joined Fifth Third Bank on Marco and spent seven years with them, having last held the branch manager position at the Marco south branch.

In November 2013 she joined IberiaBank and was promoted to assistant vice president, branch manager, Marco Island in November 2014. Prior to moving to Florida she spent a number of years in the retail and restaurant business, including more than 14 years with McDonald’s.

“I have been married for 24 years to Steve Schneider, who works for the Kellogg Company. We have one son, Steven, who works for Publix and Keep in Touch on Marco,” says Schneider.

She lists one of her main interests as humanitarian.

“I’m very passionate about giving back. I have volunteered with The Harry Chapin Food Bank and Habitat for Humanity, and I have served as a panelist for The United Way of Collier County,” she says. “I enjoy watching sports, including the Marco Island Academy football team, where Steve is a volunteer assistant coach. And I am a voracious reader when I have time to devote to that hobby. I appreciate most genres, but find myself drawn more to mysteries or modern history.”

Enlightenment is her motivation for joining the Leadership Marco program.

“As a Marco Island resident for 10 years, I am certain I still have a lot to learn about this great city,” Schneider says. “I view this as my opportunity to see ‘behind the curtain’ and form an understanding about what makes Marco Island such a great place to live and work.”

On issues facing the City of island in general: “At any given time Marco is faced with issues. What I appreciate is the length that the city council and the city manager go to in order to ensure a fair outcome for those affected by those issues.”

Schneider’s future view of Marco is that it will continue to be the place to live, work, and vacation.

Marisa Cleveland

Born in South Korea, and adopted and raised in New Hampshire, Cleveland joined The Seymour (literary) Agency in 2011 after ending an eight-year career teaching students language arts, grades 6-12.

“As a teacher at Palmetto Ridge High School, I also coached the cheerleading team and was the dance instructor. Previous to teaching, I worked as an assistant director for a graduate school in Washington, D.C. before settling in Southwest Florida,” Cleveland says.

She recently became a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author for a boxed set romance anthology, a managing partner for Simeris Alliance, and a research and development director for The Seymour Agency.

Her weekday job is as an operations analyst for Collier County’s Growth Management Department.

A personal detail she willingly shared: “My husband is the most amazing, well-read, intelligent man I know, and everything about him fascinates me. I’m not sure how I got so lucky, but since 1994 he’s been more than my best friend and adventurous partner in this life.”

Cleveland’s interests, besides writing are reading and connecting with other readers and writers through social media, “as I’m a pretty awkward conversationalist in real life.”

Her reasons for joining the program: “I want to be part of something beautiful, and by listening and learning and participating in Leadership Marco, I hope to gain the requisite knowledge needed to be an intelligent part of the solution to the future of this community, whatever issues may be deemed significant.”

Issues she sees revolve around growth and redevelopment.

I’m interested in the current recruiting and retaining of an educationally diverse workforce, as well as the creation of a solidified identity beyond tourism,” she says. “We have an amazing ecosystem, and I’m hopeful the necessary attention will continue to be paid to coastal erosion, seawalls, wildlife, and water quality.”

Cleveland is optimistic about Marco 15 years down the line.

“By 2030 I hope to see more of the positive leadership we’re experiencing now, including support for the schools, the library, the museums, and the local entrepreneurs,” she says.

Leadership Marco

In upcoming issues, the Sun Times will profile all participants in the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce Leadership Marco program. For more information, call the chamber, 394-7549.

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