Valerie McKee

The Wedgworth Leadership Institute welcomes Valerie McKee as the Leadership Programs Coordinator for the institute, the alumni association and the new UF/IFAS Center for Leadership.

Valerie was raised in Okeechobee, FL, and was an active member of Future Farmers of America. She went on to serve as the Florida FFA State Secretary in 2010-2011.
Valerie received her undergraduate degree in Communications and Leadership Development from UF and attended Texas A&M University to earn a Masters of Science in Agricultural Leadership. She has a passion for Florida’s agriculture industry, leadership education, her faith and serving others. When she gets the chance, Valerie loves to spend her time saltwater fishing, kayaking, blogging and painting portraits.

Valerie will be working on communications efforts for the WLI, including the WLI website, the alumni newsletter and WLI social media accounts.  She will also assist Dr. Carter with programming as WLI prepares to receive nominations for Class X.

Contact Valerie at
(352)-273–2584 or on her cell at 
(863)-801-5843, or via email.

Stay connected!

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2016 AAWLI Annual Meeting
August 4-6, 2016

Hammock Beach Resort, Palm Coast, Florida

Click for more information

Region 6

Region VI Meeting
Thank you Toby Basore (Class V) for putting together such a great Region VI meeting last night! Good times were had by all! We greatly appreciate Farm Credit's sponsorship of the evening!

April Davis Butler photography

The WLI was pleased to be a part of the Center for Public Issues Education photo contest this year! They even added a "Leadership Category" for us! Winners were announced and we are THRILLED that April Davis Butler (Class IX) was the winner of this category--we kept in the WLI Family! Her photo epitomizes the future of agricultural leadership! Congratulations April!

News from the WLI Office

Alumni Association Newsletter
Latest newsletter contains:
  • A link to the official 2016 AAWLI Survey
  • "Let's Rock the Hammock!": Catch the official schedule and promotional flyer for this year's annual meeting.
  • More information about the 2016 WLI Youth Leadership Program on August 6th, 2016..
  • Reminder: Learn about how you can share and see job postings from the WLIANR program website.
  • Class V alumnus is unopposed in his reelected into the House of Representatives.
  • Class VIII and Class III alumni installed in the newly appointed Board of Directors for Florida Citrus Mutual.
  • Alumni honored at the 2016 FNGLA annual meeting.
  • FFAA reunites alumni at 2016 annual meeting.
  • On Facebook? Like this page to help advocate for south Florida farms fighting false propaganda.

WLI Sustainability
For those who have indicated interest in working on the WLI endowment: We'll be gearing up to launch Phase II of this important campaign. If you are interested in WLI sustainability, please think about the a donation!  One of the reasons for WLI's success is the generosity of our alumni. For anyone interested in supporting WLI, here are two ways to make a gift:

Online -
Mail - Checks, made payable to the University of Florida Foundation can be mailed to:
Wedgworth Leadership Institute
PO Box 112060
Gainesville, FL 32611

Thank you for your consideration!

FFVA Annual Meeting

FFVA Annual Meeting

Thank you to Lisa Ferguson Lochridge (Class VII) for organizing this event and for all the alumni who joined in!

Alumni at the 2015 Landscape Show

Wonderful WLI Gathering at The Landscape Show! FNGLA was the first industry group to host these alumni gatherings and we greatly appreciate their leadership!

Congrats to all Class IX Alumni!
Class IX
Check out the photos of the class's trip to South America on the WLI blog. including more pictures from our Class IX trip to South America!
Tracy Duda ChapmanTracy Duda Chapman to Chair Florida Chamber
Tracy Duda Chapman (Class III), a senior vice president of A. Duda & Sons agricultural and land development company, has been elected the 2015-2016 chairwoman of the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors, the organization announced in early November.

Her “longtime leadership in agriculture, the backbone of Florida’s economy, makes her a forward thinking leader who can keep Florida moving in the right direction,” said Mark Wilson, the chamber’s president and CEO. “Tracy’s commitment to free enterprise will help ensure Florida’s diverse communities can unite under an integrated business agenda.”
Rick Roth of Wellington to run for U.S. Congress

Long-time Belle Glade farmer Rick Roth (Class II), a Republican, said today he plans to run for the Congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter.

Roth, 62, of Wellington, said he has been involved in politics for years, dating back to raising money for Bob Martinez, who was elected the state’s governor in 1986, but he has never held public office. He has held a variety of leadership positions with the Florida Farm Bureau Federation and the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association and is on the board of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida. Roth is president of 5,000-acre Roth Farms east of Belle Glade.

Dr. Gene Trotter Inducted into the Florida Agriculture Hall of Fame

The late Dr. Eugene E. Trotter was inducted into the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame in their annual banquet and ceremony at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa on February 12, 2013. Dr. Trotter established the Florida Leadership Program for Agriculture and Natural Resources in 1992 at the University of Florida, which became the Wedgworth Leadership Institute Agriculture and Natural Resources in 2003. He served as director for 12 years and helped graduate many influential individuals who positively impact the future of Florida.

Dr. Trotter dedicated his life to agricultural education and to improving the leadership capacity of Florida agriculture. Raised on a farm in rural Illinois, Dr. Trotter had a passion for agriculture from the beginning.

After completing degrees from Southern Illinois University and the University of Illinois, Dr. Trotter directed the Agricultural Leadership Program at Michigan State University for 11 years. Dr. Trotter was then recruited by the University of Florida to establish a similar program.

In 2003 Trotter received the Outstanding Leadership Program Director Award from the International Association of Programs for Agricultural Leaders, the same award his mentee and current Executive Director for WLIANR, Dr. Hannah Carter, recently received. Dr. Trotter passed away after an illness in 2004. He is survived by his wife, Gale, their daughter, Dottie, and countless Wedgworth alumni who also considered him family.

Of Dr. Trotter, Carter said, “This is a great honor for him and his family for the outstanding work he did in setting up and directing the Wedgworth Leadership Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources. The award is a testament to the impact this program has had on Florida agriculture.”

To view the
Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame webpage that chronicles his life, click here.

Dr. Hannah Carter receives the Outstanding Leadership Program Director Award

Dr. Hannah Carter, director of the Wedgworth Leadership Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources (WLIANR), recently received the Outstanding Leadership Program Director Award at the annual meeting of the International Association of Programs for Agricultural Leadership (IAPAL) in Canandaigua, New York.

Dr. Carter was honored for her excellence in teaching, research and extension. The award also recognizes her mentorship and service through launching positive leadership trajectories and legacies for fortunate students, staff, colleagues and friends.

“[Carter] is highly respected by her peers in leadership development in this country and internationally and we are proud to recognize her talents and impacts with this prestigious award, “said Dr. Joe Waldrum, executive secretary for the IAPAL association.

Stephen Basore, a program graduate and president of the Wedgworth Leadership Institute Alumni Association states “The investment Dr. Hannah Carter has made in the professional development of Wedgworth participants and alumni has made a huge difference in the quality of our experience in WLIANR and beyond.”

We congratulate Dr. Carter and the WLIANR as it’s a testament of her and the program's positive influences on issues affecting Florida agriculture.

More than 20 years of
growing agricultural leaders!

The Mason G. Smoak Foundation, named after an alumni of the Wedgworth Leadership Institute (Class V), was founded in 2008 after his tragic death. Mason Smoak had the rare spirit of lending a helping hand and impacting his community in positive ways. These exceptional characteristics live on through the Foundation, which is a faith-based organization that partners with nonprofits dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of children, and will assist those who suddenly find themselves in need. The Foundation is dedicated to supporting education, preserving and protecting the environment and fostering opportunities for leadership development.

The Foundation hopes to raise support to meet the mission of the organization and continue to build an endowment, which will fund the Foundation for many years to come. Annual gifts to the Foundation will do just that, help to meet the needs of the community and establish a legacy which will have an impact well into the future.

The Leadership Circle of the Mason G. Smoak Foundation seeks to annually fund the programs and endowment of the Foundation. Through leadership level annual gifts, grants and scholarships will be awarded and the endowment will grow to continue funding the Foundation for years to come. Click here to learn how you can continue Mason’s efforts of making the world a better place.

Please mail your check with a notation somewhere that states your class (if applicable) and made payable to the Mason G. Smoak Foundation and mail  to:

Mason G. Smoak Foundation • 1025 County Road 17 NorthLake Placid, FL 33852

For more information, see the Mason G. Smoak Foundation website



The mission of the Wedgworth Leadership Institute Alumni Association:

To build and maintain a broad-based network of leaders committed to promoting Florida agriculture and natural resources and expanding the Wedgworth Leadership Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The vision of the Wedgworth Leadership Institute Alumni Association:

To be the premier networking association for agriculture and natural resource leaders in Florida.

For more information, please visit the main website of the
Wedgworth Leadership Institute