Our Staff

Nadine Smith, Chief Executive Officer

Nadine Smith is the co-founder and CEO of Equality Florida, the state's largest organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

A former award-winning journalist turned organizer, Nadine was one of four national co-chairs of the 1993 March on Washington. She was part of the historic oval office meeting between then - President Clinton - the first such meeting between a sitting President and gay community leaders. She served on the founding board of the International Gay and Lesbian Youth Organization, which celebrates 30 years in 2014. 

She is s a Florida Chamber Foundation Trustee, board member for Green Florida and served on President Obama's National Finance Committee. In 2013, was named one of the the state's "Most Powerful and Influential Women" by the Florida Diversity Council. She was also given the League of Women Voter's Woman of Distinction Award earlier this year. She currently serves on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Florida Advisory Committee.

She lives in St. Petersburg with her wife Andrea and son Logan.

Stratton Pollitzer, Deputy Director

Stratton co-founded EQFL in 1997 and serves as the Deputy Director overseeing all Field and Development programs. A Political Science graduate of Emory University, Stratton has spearheaded numerous community based campaigns both responding to far right political attacks and building support for anti-discrimination ordinances, safe schools policies, and domestic partnership laws at the local level and at our state capital. As a key spokesperson on LGBT issues, Stratton is a regular contributor to major television, print, and radio outlets throughout the state and has had opinion columns published in the Miami Herald, Broward Sun-Sentinel, Saint Petersburg Times, Tampa Tribune, Daytona Beach News Journal and Orlando Sentinel. Stratton served on the board of directors and as Vice-Chair of the Equality Federation, the national network of statewide LGBT advocacy groups, from 2004-2006. He has raised over ten million dollars for LGBT Organizations and political campaigns. Stratton lives in Miami with his husband of 19 years, Christopher Boykin and is the father of 16 year old twins, Ben and Sarah.

David Costa, Director of Operations

David Costa has been a part of Equality Florida since 2003, starting as a full time contractor and then moving into a full time staff position. Over the years he has worked closely with every department and is currently our Director of Operations. He directly manages our Database Team and our Communications Department. He also oversees the project management aspects of our annual plan, core goals and special projects.

David came to Equality Florida with over 20 years of experience in the private sector, mainly focused in Human Resources. His work with several professional employer organizations gave him exposure to thousands of corporations and their infrastructure models. These experiences have made him an invaluable resource as Equality Florida continually adapts and changes its technology tools and organizational structure to meet current trends and rapid growth.

David graduated with top honors from Florida State University College of Law in 1995, with course work completed oversees at Oxford University. While in law school, he focused on corporate and employment law. He also served simultaneously as Editor in Chief of the Journal of Transnational Law & Policy, Managing Editor of the Journal of Land Use & Environmental Law and Writing & Research Editor of the Florida State University Law Review.

Brittany Link, Director of Communications

Brittany is Equality Florida's Director of Communications. 

She first joined Equality Florida in June 2012 as a communications intern. In February 2013, she was hired in a part-time capacity as our New Media Associate working out of our Gainesville office. Brittany is responsible for managing the communications interns, social media sites, and email marketing.

Brittany is a graduate of the University of Florida and holds a Master's Degree in Political Science with a concentration in Political Campaigning. She is also a graduate of Kennesaw State University and holds a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science with a concentration in Government and Professional Politics. Currently, she is a member of both the national and D.C. chapter of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR). 


Phillip Clark, Design Manager

Phillip is Equality Florida’s Design Manager. He’s been working as a professional artist and designer since 2000 and creating the visual presence of EQFL since February 2014. Prior to coming on board with Equality Florida he worked as an Art Director for the Tampa Bay Times, was a co-founder of Bluelucy, and creator of the Saint Pete Shuffle. His art has been featured in galleries and museums across the world, including: The Cooper Hewitt - Smithsonian Design Museum, The RISD Museum, Tampa Museum of Art and Design Museum Boston.

Dana Roberts, Manager - Ops and Planning

Dana is Equality Florida's Database Coordinator. She joined us in May 2014.

Dana studied community and organizational development, leadership and adult education at Royal Roads University in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada where she earned her MA. She married her American sweetheart immediately after the US Supreme Court’s Windsor v US (DOMA) Decision and is a proud US Permanent Resident.

Prior to moving to St. Petersburg, Dana worked as a hospital administrator in Vancouver, BC, Canada and before that was a Healthcare Occupational Safety researcher and Workplace Violence Prevention training developer. She has also worked directly for the LGBT community as a manager at a palliative care agency supporting HIV/AIDS, Hep-C and addictions treatment clients.  Dana is a Veteran having served in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Daniel Benoit, Executive Assistant

Dan Benoit joined the Equality Florida team as a volunteer in 2005, helping out in the Tampa Bay area with anything that was needed. After two years of volunteer service, he joined the team as our Administrative Assistant. He quickly organized our general office procedures and handled all incoming corporate calls, emails, direct mail and corporate deposits. Shortly after taking over those administrative functions, he added on the responsibility of coordinating many of the final gala logistical pieces across the state and attending in-person the Tampa Bay events to oversee those gala logistics. He also handled many of the large mailers across the state and continues to coordinate all of our event insurance contracts.

In 2012, Dan was promoted to Executive Assistant. In addition to his existing administrative duties, he added on the responsibility of managing our CEO's travel itinerary, work calendar, meeting schedule and any other needed logistical items. He also works closely with accounting to manage her expense reimbursements and our corporate credit cards.

Prior to joining the Equality Florida team, Dan managed his own pet store in New Hampshire for several years, then eventually become the owner. Prior to that enterprise, he obtained over 20 years of experience in the retail management industry. Dan's varied experiences and entrepreneurial personality has made him a valuable member of our core operations.

Joe Saunders, Senior Political Director

As Equality Florida’s Senior Political Director, Joe is charged with leading Equality Florida’s civic engagement, mobilization, field, electoral and candidate programs.

For nearly ten years Joe served as Equality Florida’s Field Director, representing the organization in major campaigns including municipal non-discrimination efforts, the statewide campaign against Florida’s anti-marriage constitutional amendment and the successful effort to protect Gainesville’s human rights ordinance from repeal at the ballot. In 2012, Joe ran for and won an east Orlando seat in the Florida House of Representatives becoming one of the first openly gay Floridians elected to the legislature. As a state representative Joe served as the lead sponsor of the “Competitive Workforce Act”, legislation that would finally ban discrimination against LGBTQ Floridians.

Following his tenure in the Florida House, Saunders joined the staff of the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest LGBTQ advocacy organization. In this role he held leadership positions in LGBTQ campaigns across the Southern U.S. In 2016, Joe helped lead Turn Out North Carolina the successful effort in North Carolina to defeat anti-LGBTQ incumbent Gov. Pat McCrory - a champion of the notoriously anti-LGBTQ HB 2. In 2017, Joe worked across the pond as the Director of GOTV Programs for former United Kingdom Minister of Justice and openly LGBT candidate for U.K. Parliament, Simon Hughes.

A nationally recognized progressive leader and strategist, Joe has been recognized by Out Magazine as part of the 2016 “Out 100” and is a regular commentator in national and state press outlets.

Gina Leigh Duncan, Director of Transgender Equality

Gina Duncan is Equality Florida's Director of Transgender Equality. She was in the Mortgage Banking business in Central Florida for 31 years. She has served on the Home Builders Association of Mid-Florida and Mortgage Bankers Association Boards of Directors. Gina was President of the Mortgage Bankers Association of Central Florida in 2005. She was with Wells Fargo Home Mortgage from1997 to 2011, and served as the Area Manager of Central Florida, and Regional Manager for East Florida.

Gina also served on the HRC Orlando Steering Committee, as Co-Chair of the Diversity Committee. She chaired the Transgender Day of Remembrance and Transgender Career and Wellness Fair events. Gina served two terms as President of the Metropolitan Business Association (MBA), the LGBT Chamber of Commerce in Orlando. She was also the President of MBA's Come Out With Pride event, which annually draws over 100,000 people to the Orlando area.

Gina was invited to attend the first ever Human Rights Campaign’s National Women’s Diversity Leadership Conference, and also served on the HRC National Business Council. Gina serves on the Steering Committee of Equality Florida and on the Orlando Anti-Discrimination Alliance, which has been instrumental in passing the Orange County Human Rights Ordinance as well as a Domestic Partnership Registry in both the City and County. Gina ran for County Commissioner in 2012 garnering 40% of the vote in an unsuccessful bid for county office.

Gina currently chairs TransAction Florida's Advisory Council, Equality Florida's Transgender Inclusion Initiative, dedicated to ensuring that Transgender Inclusion is woven into all we do at Equality Florida. Gina is recognized as a national and international spokesperson and educator on transgender rights, public policy and civic engagement. She was recently featured on the cover of Florida Trend Magazine, Florida's largest business magazine. Gina was also recently chosen in the Top 100 LGBT Movers and Shakers in Florida. 


De Palazzo, Safe Schools Director

De Palazzo brings a passionate spirit and a solid depth and breadth of school-based knowledge to her role as Equality Florida’s new statewide Safe School Director, serving for over 25 years as a classroom teacher, Broward School District LGBTQ Coordinator, national LGBTQ consultant and anti-bias trainer. De helped build exemplary programs and practices in Broward Schools that are considered a national model for school districts looking for guidance.

De has served as a member of the GLSEN National Board of Directors, and founded GLSEN Fort Lauderdale. She has been a nationally certified anti-bias trainer for GLSEN and the Anti-Defamation League, as well as the Human Rights Campaign’s Welcoming Schools K-5 Project, a comprehensive approach to improving school climate in elementary school environments. De co-initiated “Courageous Conversations about Race,” a race and equity-based initiative in Broward County Public Schools and is a national adjunct trainer for “Future Work Institute” a diversity and inclusion workplace consulting organization.

De holds dual masters degrees in education and conflict resolution. She is respected for her ability to connect easily with school officials and teachers and to create spaces that allow for open, safe dialogue among participants.

Ian Siljestrom, Central Florida Safe and Healthy Schools Coordinator

Ian Siljestrom is the Central Florida Safe and Healthy Schools Coordinator for Equality Florida. He is responsible for fighting the extensive risk factors, which disproportionately affect our LGBTQ youth in school including: bullying, homelessness, suicide, and HIV transmission. He will be working directly with school districts to assist in the implementation of professional development and comprehensive best practices to ensure the empowerment of all students’ identities.

Previous to joining Equality Florida, Ian worked directly with senior leadership in Duval County Public Schools to create an in-depth training for teachers and administrators to ensure they had all the tools and knowledge needed to support their LGBTQ youth. Ian also taught for several years in a Title 1 elementary school in Jacksonville, Florida as a 5th grade science teacher. In his classroom, he was dedicated to creating an inclusive environment for all students, while practicing culturally responsive pedagogy. These efforts resulted in Ian eventually becoming grade level chairperson and co-chair on the school’s STEAM committee. He is also a Teach for America alumnus, Halverson Fellow, and has worked closely with local LGBTQ focused agencies.

Ian is a graduate of the University of Florida where he received a Bachelors of Science in Sustainability and the Built Environment, with a minor in Urban Planning and Landscape Architecture.

Carlos Guillermo Smith, Staff Member

A graduate of the University of Central Florida, Carlos Guillermo Smith first joined Equality Florida in 2011 as a public policy fellow and returned in early 2015 as government affairs manager. Carlos previously served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2011-2012 as the chief of staff to former Democratic Representative Scott Randolph as well as one of Florida’s first openly gay state representatives Joe Saunders from 2012-2014. A twice-elected former chairman of the Orange County Democratic Party himself and longtime LGBT progressive activist, Carlos made history in November 2016 when he was elected to the Florida House as our state’s first openly LGBT Latino lawmaker.

Alejandro Acosta, HIV Project Coordinator

Alejandro Acosta is the HIV Project Coordinator for Equality Florida. During his 17 years as an educator he strongly advocated for rights LGBTQ students and faculty. He later became a teacher trainer for Sexual Health Education and LGBTQ Inclusion within Broward County Public Schools. This lead him to successfully implementing a CDC program for HIV testing within public high schools, with a focus on Black & Latino males. During this time, he traveled across the nation sharing best practices with other school districts. Finally, he was an HIV Counselor and Tester for one of South Florida’s HIV prevention non-profits.

He holds a M.A.E.E. from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez. As an educator, he was one of 40 selected to attend a NASA Aerospace & Technology Inclusion Workshop. The past years have been focused on HIV and Public Health. He presented his work with CDC at the 2016 HIV Prevention Convention in Atlanta, GA. For the Florida LGBTQ Safe to Be Me Conference he spoke on LGBTQ inclusion and policy changing. Additionally, he was a speaker Broward’s Teen Youth Summit on the topic of Internet & education. He is currently certified as an HIV Counselor & Tester by Florida’s Department of Health.

As an HIV+ individual, Alejandro brings personal experience and passion to the HIV Modernization initiative at Equality Florida. Throughout his career Alejandro has been able to incorporate his creative side into his work. He was a professional ballet dancer & choreographer, he is a writer, a cook, and professional makeup artist & instructor. His eclectic professional and personal experiences make him a very approachable and empathetic individual who strongly believes in education, equality, and the rights of the LGBTQ community as a whole.

Mark Puskarich, Development Director

Mark is proud to be part of Equality Florida, raising support and awareness for the organization's important work throughout Florida. No stranger to the organization before joining full time, Mark served on Equality Florida's Tampa Gala Steering Committee in 2012, and as vice chair and chair of the committees for the 2014 and 2015 galas, respectively. As Development Director, Mark manages Equality Florida’s major fundraising programs including membership, annual galas, corporate gifts, and legacy giving.

Prior to joining Equality Florida, Mark held positions in marketing and communication roles in universities and corporations located in the Tampa Bay area.

In his spare time, Mark volunteers as a TrevorChat counselor for The Trevor Project, the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth.

Mark graduated from the University of Miami with a bachelor's degree in communication with majors in public relations and political science. He lives with his partner, JT, in Tampa.

Rene Cantu, Business Outreach Manager

Originally from Corpus Christi, Texas, Rene Cantu, has resided in South Florida for 5 years.

He brings 20 years of non-profit management and marketing experience.  Most recently, he served as the Director of Membership, Communications and Resource Development with Leadership Broward Foundation, and as Director of Membership and Business Development at the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce. While in these positions, he worked diligently to build his network of business and community leaders, and strategic partners in order to further the mission of both organizations.

Prior to moving to Fort Lauderdale, he lived in Houston, TX where he served as Executive Director of Leadership Houston, and as the Vice President for Programs and Services with the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.  He has held management positions with the LULAC National Educational Service Center (Executive Director), the Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce (Vice President) and the Greater Corpus Christi Business Alliance (Director of Education Programs).

Rene holds his Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University. His community involvement has included serving on the board of Latinos Salud (Wilton Manors, FL) and is a current member of Riverwalk Trust, The Pride Center’s Founders’ Circle, and is a graduate of Leadership Corpus Christi, Leadership Houston and Leadership Broward.  He has delivered the commencement address for Sanford Brown College (2011), Westwood College (2012), and his alma mater, West Oso High School (2016).

Michael Farmer, Statewide Deputy Director of Development

Michael Farmer began his advocacy at the age of 17, when he and a group of his friends started a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) at Apopka High School in a conservative part of Central Florida. While he was a student at the Valencia College, Michael served at the Valencia College Campus Organizer for the Fairness For All Families Campaign (FFAF), a campaign to defeat a constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality and civil unions in Florida. Michael went on to serve as the Orlando Area Field Organizer for FFAF.

Michael joined the staff of Equality Florida (EQFL) in 2009 as the organization’s Safe Schools Policy and GSA Network Coordinator. As Equality Florida’s GSA Network Coordinator, Michael trained hundreds of students and teachers across the state on best practices for making schools safe for LGBT youth.

From 2010 to 2012, Michael served as EQFL’s Statewide Field Coordinator. In this role, Michael helped to increase Equality Florida’s pro-equality voter file by more than 20,000 voters. Additionally, he raised Equality Florida’s profile at community events and mobilized Equality Florida members and pro-equality voters to deliver victories for pro-equality and openly LGBT candidates all over Florida.

In 2013, Michael moved into the role of Statewide Field Director. As Statewide Field Director, Michael led EQFL's field staff on programs related to voter education, identification, and mobilization, and built EQFL's member engagement.

Currently, Michael serves as Equality Florida's Director of Development for Central and North Florida where he leads EQFL’s development programs and staff in Orlando, Sarasota, Jacksonville and Tallahassee. Since 2012 Michael and his teams across the state have raised over one million dollars for LGBT equality in Florida.

In 2012 Michael was nominated as one of The Advocate's "40 under 40" activists in the nation, and he was recently recognized by Congressman Alan Grayson as one of the top 50 LGBT leaders in Florida and honored by having his accomplishments read into the Congressional Record. Michael regularly represents Equality Florida's initiatives and programs on local TV and print media.

Michael is a graduate of the University of Central Florida and holds a bachelors degree in Political Science with a concentration on American Politics and Public Policy.

Row Iliescu, South Florida Development Director

Row (short for Rowena) Iliescu is Equality Florida’s South Florida Development Director, and oversees the Galas and fund-raising events in 3 regions: Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade Counties,.  Row’s activism began as a volunteer for Equality Florida in 2008 when she tirelessly canvassed voters at the polls on Amendment 2. 

Since joining the Equality Florida team, Row has developed our Membership Services Program with cheerful dedication, attention to detail, and genuine concern for our members. Working alongside Stratton in South Florida, Row has helped broaden our base of support among small businesses and ally communities, while strengthening our network through increased collaboration with local organizations, and the development of dedicated volunteer teams. 

Originally from Toronto, Row has been a weather refugee in South Florida for almost 20 years.  She arrived as a successful trainer and exercise rider of thoroughbred racehorses, but following a serious riding accident went back to school earning a Masters Degree in Social Work and beginning doctoral studies in HIV prevention.  Finding that she preferred fieldwork, Row worked in the non-profit sector as a therapist to children and families in the foster care system for ten years before joining the Equality Florida team, where she says she feels, “at home.”

Row is an avid outdoorsperson, spending much of her leisure time mountain biking and exploring Florida’s trails and waterways with her boxer, Loki.  

Todd Richardson, St Petersburg Development Officer

Todd Richardson is the Pinellas County Development officer for Equality Florida. He is a graduate of the University of South Florida College of Fine Arts, and a veteran of the United States Air Force. His life as an activist started with photographing the March on Washington in 1993. As a commercial photographer, Todd’s work has been seen in advertisements for companies such as Dillard’s, The Home Shopping Network, and Esquire Magazine. As an exhibiting artist, Todd has raised thousands of dollars through art performance pieces and activism. His photograph, “The Lost Pages of The Bard,” was accepted into the personal collection of Sir Elton John. Most recently, his photography has appeared in the Huffington Post. He volunteers and supports, Equality Florida, Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Tampa AIDS network “Art for Life,” Metro Wellness and Community Centers, ASAP/Empath, and Hands Across The Bay. Originally from Salem, New Hampshire, he now calls St. Petersburg home.

Michelle Adams-Manning, North Florida Development Officer

Michelle is the Development Officer for North Florida which encompasses Jacksonville, Gainesville and Tallahassee.  She has been living in the Jacksonville area since 2011, originally coming from Michigan leaving the snow and cold behind.

Michelle's career has been in higher education, specifically working within Student Affairs and addressing the needs of college students.  Most recently coming from the University of North Florida where she worked with students who lived in the residence halls.  At UNF, she quickly became involved with the LGBT Center on campus, becoming a mentor for LGBT students, working to create a preferred name policy on campus which would allow trans* students to use a preferred name rather than their birth name in the university system.  Additionally, Michelle got her feel for development by helping with the UNF’s LGBT Center's annual Building Bridges Fundraising event.  It was through these activities that Michelle felt her passion shifting towards advocating for LGBT people in the greater Florida community.  Michelle still loves education though, as she pursues her doctorate in educational leadership at the University of North Florida.

Rod Alonso, Miami Development Officer

Rod is Equality Florida's Miami Dade Development Officer

Rod was born in Cuba but never lived there. He grew up in Venezuela where he learned how difficult it is to be different from others. As a result, he committed himself to help people who fear opening up about their sexual orientation.

After graduating from High School, Rod came to the U.S. as an international student where he attended Miami Dade College and Florida International University. Rod obtained a degree in International Relations. He worked in the banking industry for over 10 years as a Branch Manager, Vice President of the Retail Banking Division. While climbing the ladder in the banking industry, Rod obtained a Real Estate License and has worked as a realtor for the past 6 years. Rod is a long time advocate of the LGTBQ Community who is described as a High Energy Individual. In 2013, he met his partner Scott Russell and together fought for marriage equality. Rod is continuously working to achieve social justice.

Evie Evers Kling, Key West Development Associate

Evie Evers Kling graduated cum laude from the University of Cincinnati with a degree in Political Science, having also attended Wheaton College and Ohio University.  She has worked for charitable health, civic, and arts organizations, including:  American Heart Association in Cincinnati, American Cancer Society in Atlanta, the Friends of the Maryland Federation of Art and Annapolis Hobbycrafters.  While living in Oakwood, a suburb of Dayton, OH, Evie chaired her city’s Environmental Committee and played a critical role in starting the city’s recycling program. 

Evie was instrumental in raising awareness about the prudent and careful use of pesticides, including the posting of areas that had been treated.  Having been an AFS high school exchange student to Brazil, Evie served as President, Public Relations Chair and for 15 years as Host Family Finder for Oakwood’s AFS Chapter.  Along with many other leadership positions, Evie served on the Board of Directors of The Little Exchange, a fine gift shop that donates its proceeds to Dayton Children’s Hospital.  Evie and her husband of 40 years, George Kling, split their time between their homes in Dayton and Key West.  They have two grown daughters and three grandchildren.

Ed Lally, Tampa Bay Development Officer

Ed Lally serves as Central Florida & Corporate Development Manager for Equality Florida and is responsible for general and Florida Council memberships and fundraising in Tampa/St Petersburg. After a long-term career in banking Ed retired from Wachovia Bank to devote more time to LGBT causes. His activism in the community began in the mid-80’s when many of his friends were lost to the AIDS epidemic. Ed was one of the first board members of the Bay Area AIDS Consortium and later the Tampa Bay Aids Network (TAN) and headed up TAN’s annual giving programs and initiated fund-raisers such as TAN’s White Party and Life Dance. Recently recognized in Watermark Magazine as “The Constant Fundraiser,” Ed has raised over $1,500,000.00 for various LGBT organizations over the years. He has also been active in the political fundraising campaigns for candidates that support LGBT rights and was a big brother in Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Tampa Bay for several years. 

Ed has worked as a fundraising volunteer for Equality Florida since 1997 as well as financial supporter. Ed’s goal is to increase and broaden Equality Florida’s membership and donation base in the Tampa Bay area which will allow Equality Florida to expand their efforts to make Florida’s laws, on both a state and local level, more inclusive of the LGBT community and as a result, a better place for us to live and raise our families. A Louisville native, Ed attended University of Kentucky and University of Louisville and relocated to Tampa in 1979. He and his husband, Phil Dinkins have been together 32 years and were married in Canada in 2003.

Paul Wierbonics, Staff Accountant


Paul is Equality Florida's Staff Accountant. 

Paul joined the staff at Equality Florida in August, 2016. He graduated from Brenau University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration.

In his prior career, Paul served as a U.S. Navy Master Chief (Chief of the Boat) onboard two nuclear-powered fast attack submarines. He served on six different submarines during his 23-year career. Immediately following his Naval retirement, he spent the next 10 years in the manufacturing and retail industries.

Paul and his wife Sue married in June 1985. They are the proud parents of two grown children. After living in seven states they now reside in Apollo Beach.