Members of the Osceola Bar:
Happy New Year! Thank you for allowing me to lead the Osceola County Bar Association in 2016. For those of you that do not know me, my name is Celia Thacker; I’m an Assistant City Attorney for the City of Kissimmee. As a fourth generation member of the Osceola Bar this organization is very special to me. The Osceola Bar once had a very strong presence and reputation throughout Osceola County. However, with the economic collapse and more attorneys setting up shop in Orange County, the Osceola Bar started to lose its predominance in the community. Over the last few years, with the assistance of great leadership, the Osceola Bar has reorganized and started to regain a presence throughout the community, throughout the Ninth Judicial Circuit, and throughout the State of Florida.
In 2014, the Osceola Bar joined the Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce. Most of our members are small business owners that face the same struggles as other small businesses in Osceola County. By joining forces with the Chamber we can use our resources in a smarter more efficient way.
In 2015, our Young Lawyers Section hosted our first joint event with the Orange County Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Section. Members of the OCBA YLS trekked down to Osceola County for a joint tailgate and Astros Spring Training Game, something we hope to continue this year and in the future.
In addition, our Young Lawyers Section received our first grant from the Florida Bar Board of Governor’s Young Lawyers Division. This grant enabled our YLS to host a Health and Wellness Tea in May. We also applied for and received a grant to host a Professionalism Roundtable in 2016.
Finally, we revised our bylaws, finished the process of obtaining our 501(c)(6) status from the IRS, and revamped our website to improve our communication to our members and the community.
This year our goal is to continue to build on the successes of the last few years. In January, we will compete for a large grant from the Florida Bar Board of Governor’s Young Lawyers Division. We will use this grant to start a program to help at risk youth that have found their way into the criminal justice system. The program will focus on leadership and mentorship. In addition to the grant, the proceeds from the 2016 Gala Auction will go towards this initiative.
Furthermore, we will continue to work on our internal structure. This will enable smooth transitions from one Executive Board to the next. The less time spent reinventing the wheel, the more time spent providing services to our members and the community.
The Osceola Bar will continue to offer CLEs and dynamic speakers during our lunches. Our January speaker is from the Howard Philips Center. This organization offers many services to our clients, especially those who are victims of domestic or sexual violence. They also provide services to children in our underprivileged segments of the community. With such a large homeless population in Osceola County, these services are invaluable to many families. We plan to have an ethics CLE and a CLE on water law. During our lunches we would like to shine a light on non-profits throughout Osceola County. If you are a member of a non-profit that you would like featured during one of our lunches, please reach out to me to schedule a speaker.
Finally, I encourage our members to take the time to meet the members of our Executive Board this year. This team of individuals works extremely hard and often goes unrecognized. Our President-Elect, Richard Mendoza is a Partner at Mendoza and Fowinkle, PLLC which specializes in Family and Criminal Law. Our Treasurer, Erika Friedlander is an Assistant County Attorney for Osceola County. Our Secretary, Cristal Mendoza, is an Assistant State Attorney in Osceola County. Our Public Information Officer, Alesha Smith, is an Assistant Public Defender in Osceola County. Our Membership Director, Warda Ali, is an Assistant State Attorney in Osceola County. Our Young Lawyer Section Director, Celeste Thacker, is an Associate at Burr Forman, LLP. Our At Large Director, John Newstreet, is President of the Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce. These individuals have a diverse background and bring different perspectives and talents to our Executive Board.
Here’s to a great 2016!