Chamber Staff

From visitors, convention & tourism support to small business resources, your Chamber of Commerce professional team is here to serve you.
chevonbaccus2016_copy1Chevon T. Baccus, APR
Polk Business Consultant & Growth Acceleration Specialist
Florida SBDC at University of South Florida
(863) 688-8551 Ext. 237 chevonb@usf.edu

Chevon T. Baccus, APR, has been a marketing and business development consultant for more than 20 years. A nationally accredited public relations professional, Baccus has significant expertise in advertising and in gaining brand awareness and exposure through earned (free) media, community relations, promotions and special events. Drawing on her personal experience taking her own small business from startup to debt-free profitability in less than six months, she enjoys helping business clients incorporate creative marketing strategies into a strong business plan. Baccus earned her bachelor’s degree in human resources management and her master’s in human resources development, with a focus on training, change management and teambuilding. She has been active in local chambers of commerce, economic development groups, Rotary clubs and other community, civic and professional organizations. She is a graduate of three community leadership programs and is a past president of state and national professional associations for public relations professionals.

BarbBarbara Bennett, Executive Assistant to the President
(863) 688-8551 Ext. 233  bbennett@lakelandchamber.com

In her role as Executive Assistant, Barbara provides administrative and general support for the executive office of the Chamber and works directly with the Board of Directors, Executive Committee, and the Lakeland Area Chamber Foundation, Inc. and assists in coordinating events that fall under the executive office.  Barbara was born and raised in Lakeland and is a 4th generation Polk Countian and Lakelander.  She attended Lakeland Christian School and Florida Southern College where she graduated cum laude with a B.A. degree in Communications.  Barbara began her Chamber career in 1988, the same year she married her husband Robert.  Both must have been a match made in Heaven as she is still with each of them after 27 years!  Barbara and Robert have two sons and one grandson.  Barbara loves baseball (especially the Detroit Tigers!), reading, and traveling/cruising.
DSC_8597Sarah Breed, Director of Initiatives
(863) 688-8551 Ext. 230 sbreed@lakelandchamber.com

Sarah is a Florida native (which explains why she loves the heat and humidity so much). She grew up in Fort Meade, not too far from Lakeland. Sarah attended Southeastern University where she graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. While at Southeastern, Sarah worked as a freelance reporter at The Ledger newspaper. She also occasionally freelances for Lake Mary-based Charisma magazine. In 2011, Sarah moved to Jerusalem, Israel, to become a high school literature teacher. It was there she met her husband, Josh (a California native), who was already working there as a government teacher. They married in 2012 and moved to Lakeland. Sarah immediately began working for the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce as an Administrative Assistant for the Member Relations and Public Policy divisions. In 2014, Sarah and Josh returned to Jerusalem for one year. They moved back to Florida in the summer of 2015. Sarah is now Director of Chamber Initiatives, which includes serving as the Program Coordinator for Leadership Lakeland. She is a member of The Lakeland Rotary Club and serves on the Polk Vision Talent Pipeline Team/CFDC Education Committee.

Sally 02Sally Chapman, Vice President, Finance & Administration
(863) 688-8551 Ext. 240  schapman@lakelandchamber.com

Sally was born and raised in Columbus, GA, attended Columbus State University, and in 1971, moved to Lakeland where she met and married husband Steve.  They were immediately transferred out west for three years, where they became proud parents of son Brannon.  Sally always felt that Lakeland was the ideal place to raise a family, so they relocated back to Lakeland and soon welcomed daughter Ashley.  Sally’s field of expertise is accounting and finance and when local division of Battle Ridge Companies closed its Florida operations in 1999, the position of Controller came open at the Chamber.  Sally has been a fixture at the Chamber ever since!  She loves traveling with friends and family, Buccaneer football and her little dog, Georgia!

RF headshotRebecca Fortier, Director of Programs & Events
(863) 688-8551 Ext. 229  rfortier@lakelandchamber.com

Rebecca has been a resident of Lakeland since 1999. Born in Chicago, Rebecca grew up in New Orleans and is a graduate of  Loyola University, New Orleans with a double major Mass Communications and Drama.  Her previous experience includes working for great hospitality brands such as The Fairmont, Four Seasons, IHG, and Hilton Worldwide.  Locally, Rebecca has worked with both public and private entities planning events at Four Points Sheraton, Fantasy of Flight, The Lakeland Center, and Hilton Garden Inn - Lakeland.  She also served as President of the Lakeland Hotel & Motel Association.  Rebecca is a proud mom of 2 boys – one at University of Florida Engineering and the other studies piano at Harrison School of the Arts.  She looks forward to the energy the Young Entrepreneurs Academy will bring to our area and strengthening her existing community relationships through the support and organization of Chamber events.

JackieJacqueline “Jackie” Johnson, Senior Vice President, Lakeland Convention & Visitors Bureau
(863) 688-8551 Ext. 223  jackiej@lakelandchamber.com 

Jackie is a tourism industry executive with more than thirty (30) years of Florida public/private sector tourism marketing experience.  She began her career as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Hilton Corporation but found her love of the tourism industry at the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce.  Her responsibilities include developing on-going partnerships with Visit Florida, Polk County Tourism & Sports Marketing, the City of Lakeland, The Detroit/Lakeland Flying Tigers, business members of the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce, and local industry related organizations to promote Lakeland and Polk County as an ideal tourism destination at state, national and international levels.  Her youngest son, Brian, was an All-American baseball player—and the 2012 John Olerud Award winner for the University of Florida—drafted in the first round in 2012 with the Boston Red Sox.  Her daughter, Brooke, earned a full softball scholarship at the University of Florida and is currently in Physician’s Assistant School.  Her oldest son Billy set homerun records at Flagler College and is currently in Sales Management in the beverage industry.  Needless to say, she has spent her share of years on baseball and softball fields.

headshotRachel Lawrence, Director of Public Relations
(863) 688-8551 Ext. 228  rlawrence@lakelandchamber.com

Rachel hails by birth from a small town on the outskirts of Erie, PA and has recently dove into a new life in Lakeland, FL. A natural people-person and lover of the written word, Rachel is passionate about photography and creating a lovable brand and bringing it to the masses.
With a Bachelor's in Communications, through Rachel's career experiences thus far, she has finely honed her skills for analyzing a wide array of business situations and formulating targeted communication strategies and their respective supporting mediums.
In her spare time, she enjoys music, dancing foolishly, good books, and loving her two dogs, Bosco and Bella, to the absolute fullest. 



javierJavier Marin, Consultant, Small Business Development Center at USF, Polk County
(863) 688-8551  Ext. 237  javiermarin@usf.edu

Javier Marin has a combined 22 years in the banking industry. He is formerly the CEO of DNJSA Federal Credit Union, manager at Chase Bank and Vice President at SunTrust Bank. He provided services to companies with sales under $5 million, including commercial mortgages and business loans/lines for equipment, debt restructuring and working capital. He joined the Florida SBDC at USF in November 2013. Marin earned an associate degree in business administration from Middlesex County College and a bachelor’s in public administration from Polk State College. His education also includes attending Stockholm University in Sweden in business-related courses, as well as the Management Training Program at Chase and Business Banking program at SunTrust. He has hands-on, in-depth knowledge in business finance, business lending, mortgages, HR, business planning, and business reorganization. Marin is also fluent in Spanish and Swedish.  The Chamber is truly fortunate to have Javier and his vast business knowledge on site for the benefit of our members!

KatieKatie McBride, Membership Consultant
(863) 688-8551 Ext. 236  kmcbride@lakelandchamber.com

Katie moved to Lakeland from Port Arthur, TX to be closer to her family.  She began her time with the Chamber in February of 2009, bringing with her an enthusiastic attitude and a willingness to help businesses succeed. Katie is always ready to lend a hand and is quick to offer advice to members and lift them up when they are down. Always the life of the party, Katie looks forward to assisting our members get the most out of life and their Chamber membership! She has two children, Kidane and Sonnii, five grandchildren and two Dachshunds, Daisy and Boosie.

NikiNikki Oakley, Membership Consultant
(863) 688-8551 Ext. 239  noakley@lakelandchamber.com

Nikki came to Lakeland in 1979 from Johnstown, PA having retired from a position as an Assistant Manager and cashier at the branch office of First National Bank.  Once in Lakeland, she performed volunteer work and started with RSVP, a senior group located in the basement of the Chamber.  As Lakeland was home to the Miss USA Teen Pageant in 1983, Nikki was asked to be Head Chaperon for the contestants and continued working with the USA Pageants for three years, the last year being in Miami.  Nikki was asked to come work at the Chamber as an Administrative Assistant part time, and later began selling memberships part time.  She has been with the chamber for nearly 28 years as a Membership Account Executive.  She is known as “the retention specialist” and truly loves what she does.  Nikki has two sons, four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

TerryTerry Ottinger, Vice President, Membership Development
(863) 688-8551 Ext. 231  tottinger@lakelandchamber.com

A third generation Lakeland native, Terry joined the staff of the Chamber in 2005 as Membership Director. With 17 years of experience as a Chamber member, Past Chairman of the Chamber Board of Directors and small business owner, he brings a unique perspective to all members and especially small business owners.  Terry has set a goal to help reduce the astounding figure of 50% of small businesses that fail in the first year.  Relationships and training from the Small Business Development Center and S.C.O.R.E. help educate first time and potential start-ups.  With a strong business plan and in depth planning it is hoped more businesses will prosper.

CoryCorydon “Cory” Skeates, J.D., President
(863) 688-8551 Ext. 234   cskeates@lakelandchamber.com

Cory was named President of the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce in January of 2015. In his role, he is responsible for chamber leadership, government affairs and also oversees the administration of the Lakeland Area Chamber Foundation and BusinessVoice, Inc. Originally from Scottsville, NY, Cory moved to Central Florida in 1997 to attend Barry University School of Law in Orlando after receiving a B.A. in Political Science, Cum Laude, from Grove City College in Pennsylvania. Prior to joining the Lakeland Area Chamber, he served as President/CEO of the Oviedo-Winter Springs Regional Chamber of Commerce in Oviedo, FL (2007-2014), as a Senior Legislative Assistant to Florida State Representatives Attkisson (2001-2002), Kallinger (2002-2004), Quinones (2005) and Adams (2005-2006) and also consulted independently on several local, state and federal campaigns. Cory is married to his wife Shannon and together they have two daughters, Ella and Amelia.

PattyPatty Smith, Administrative Assistant, Lakeland Convention & Visitors Bureau
(863) 688-8551 Ext. 224   psmith@lakelandchamber.com

Patty began her career at the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce in the fall of 2001.  She demonstrates her love for our community daily as she greets guests, provides visitor and relocation information, promotes Chamber members and keeps our Community Calendar updated.  Patty moved from Hialeah, FL with her family after her husband was transferred.  She has three children, James, Jennifer and Julie and two remarkable granddaughters, Emilee and Hallee.