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Seven women, five men: half of them Republicans, five of them Democrats and one a Libertarian. That’s the profile of a group of local residents who came together for a program that bills itself as “building the bench of aspiring business-minded public leaders.”

The training program for potential political candidates is called the Public Leadership Institute, and it’s overseen by BusinessVoice, the political arm of the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce.

The group that graduated last month is the second class to go through the program. It was started after several current office holders — including state Reps. Colleen Burton and Ben Albritton and County Commissioner Melody Bell — went through similar programs in other counties, according to Matt Mucci, chair of BusinessVoice.

While the first two programs took place in the fall, Mucci said there have been discussions of holding a 2017 session earlier in the year to accommodate people considering a run for the Lakeland City Commission or mayor. Four seats are up for election this fall.

Here’s a look at the 2016 class. Political party affiliations were taken from Polk Supervisor of Election records as compiled by

From left: Koehler, Pobjecky, Pfeiffer, Huffman, Lewman, Totten, Sjoblom, Mahoney, Worthington

James Clements, Republican: Bartow vice mayor and owner of Clements Real Estate

Anne Huffman, Democrat: a retiree from Haines City.

Alice Koehler, Democrat: chief development officer for Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine and board chair of Pace Center for Girls

Ryan Lewman, Libertarian: owner of Lewman Electric LLC

Will Link, Republican: an attorney with Reed, Mawhinney & Link who has been active with Explorations V and Emerge Lakeland

Maria Mahoney, Republican: president of The Mahoney Group, a commercial real estate firm

Trish Pfeiffer, Democrat: mayor of Bartow and businesswoman

Renee Pobjecky, Republican: Winter Haven-based immigration attorney and board member of Girls Inc. of Winter Haven

Scott Sjoblom, Republican: web marketing consultant, Florida Department of Health web manager and divinity student

Alyssia Totten, Democrat: risk consultant at Lanier Upshaw and past president of Rotary Club of Lakeland South

Kelley Treon,  Republican: president of Polk County Young Republican Club

Terry Worthington, Democrat: executive vice president of United Way of Florida and former 18-year president of United Way of Central Florida

Classes, held at Southeastern University, are facilitated by Mark Mills of Mills Strategic Communications Inc. (bio) and are free to participants from communities throughout Polk County. Financial sponsors include AT&T; Publix; Mosaic; Wards Air Conditioning; Kyra Solutions; Hamic, Jones Hamic & Sturwold; A-C-T; Hunt Berryman and the Bank of Central Florida.

“There is a selection committee and we have a few requirements that being you are not currently filed to run for office, you possess a pro-business mentality and you are considering a run for office in the future,” Mucci said.  “This is not a course for those wanting to be a campaign manager or consultant.”

Selection for the program does not guarantee endorsement by BusinessVoice or program sponsors, Mucci said.

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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