Council of Leaders

The Council of Leaders are former members of the Equality Florida Board of Directors who have a record of exemplary service and who have volunteered to continue their advocacy on Equality Florida's behalf.

The Council of Leaders will:

  • Focus on representing Equality Florida in the community and cultivating community support
  • Provide institutional knowledge and guidance on Equality Florida advocacy and initiatives

Jim Harper is a writer, editor, educator and community activist. Most recently he developed a chain of free tutoring programs for low-income children in Sarasota, Lee and Collier counties.  

His gay activism began in the early 1990s when, as a long-time reporter and columnist at the St. Petersburg Times, he was among the first mainstream journalists in the U.S. to write openly as a gay man. He served on the board of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, and at the Times, helped to pioneer a more open, community-based coverage of LGBT issues. He also covered politics, education, music, and cultural issues. In 1997 he was part of a reporting/editing team that was runner-up for a Pulitzer Prize, for its coverage of a police shooting and racial violence in St. Petersburg. 

Jim was founding president of Friends of the Festival Inc., the non-profit entity that produces the Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Festival. He also was board chair of the Tampa Gay and Lesbian Community Center and helped negotiate its successful merger with Tampa Bay’s Metropolitan Charities. For more than a decade, he has participated in a student mentoring program at his undergraduate alma mater, The University of the South, in Sewanee, Tenn. He joined Equality Florida’s board of directors in 2007, where he has focused on strategic planning, fundraising and governance. He lives with his dog Booker in Tampa.

Awakened by the Women's Movement in 1971, Meryl took her first steps as a lesbian feminist in what was to become a very rewarding yet challenging journey. In the early 1970s Meryl was a founding board member of the National Gay Task Force and also co-founded the Gay Teachers' Association.

During her career, she was a teacher and administrator in a junior high in her native Brooklyn. Meryl has been living in Fort Lauderdale since 1990. She and her partner, Pokey Anderson, spend part of each year in rural Washington State as well.

Meryl was the 2014 recipient of the Equality Florida Service and Leadership Award and has long been a member of the Broward County Steering and Host Committees.

She has spent her life fighting the negative stereotypes of LGBT people that so often lead to bigotry and discrimination. She believes that whatever the question, education is always the answer!

Chuck V. Loring, MBA, CFRE is the senior partner of the Fort Lauderdale and Indianapolis -based firm of Loring, Sternberg, & Associates, which provides fundraising and governance consulting services to nonprofits. Chuck is also a Senior Governance Associate for BoardSource (formerly the National Center for Nonprofit Boards) in Washington, DC, offering expertise in board development and other governance issues to nonprofit boards across the country.

Chuck is a past president of the Indiana Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, is a Certified Fund Raising Executive, and holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) and an MBA from the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California. He is a former President of the University of California Alumni Association and a former Trustee of the UCSB Foundation.

Chuck has helped hundreds of local and regional nonprofits across the country improve their governance and such prominent national charities as Special Olympics, The First Tee, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Girl Scouts USA, The Alzheimer’s Association, Easter Seals, Planned Parenthood, Feeding America, Make A Wish America, The League of American Orchestras and the Professional Golfers Association. Each year Chuck conducts dozens of training programs for funders, Community Foundations and Nonprofit Centers interested in good governance.

Chuck is a former member of Equality Florida’s Board of Directors, having served as Governance Chair. He also servied for 6 years on the national Board of Directors for Lambda Legal and was the founding Board Chair of Our Fund, a LGBT community foundation based in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Amy was a long-time Equality Florida Board Member and is a charter member of the Council of Leaders.

Amy owns Feet First sporting goods stores and Naturally Green Products, manufacturer of all natural cleaning products and an all natural pest control product sold on Home Shopping Network!

Amy is proud of all the work that Equality Florida has done over the years, and happy to be continuing to volunteer and serve the community on their behalf.

Tom has been a longtime supporter of Equality Florida. He was at the formation meeting in Key West over 20 years ago. He has remained very impressed with the direction that Equality Florida has taken since its inception. Most importantly, he knows that the organization is making headway in Florida to effect change for its LGBTQ citizens and visitors. He is a past member and Co-Chair of the Equality Florida Board of Directors. Currently, he is a member of the Broward Steering Committee and Host Committee.

Tom has been a community activist for many years working with a variety of non-profits including the SMART Ride and Love Always Wins, which he founded. Tom owns The Runyan Law Firm and specializes in Real Estate Contracts and Closings.

Ken Shelin has been a Florida homeowner for 28 years and has lived in Sarasota with his partner of 42 years, full-time since 1996. For 34 years he worked in the enforcement arm of the United States Food and Drug Administration in Philadelphia, Detroit, and Baltimore. For much of that time, he managed a number of offices in several states as well as helped to write Federal regulations and policy documents in the drug regulatory area. He received numerous awards during his Federal service including two Reinventing Government Awards and FDA's highest individual achievement award, the Award of Merit. Subsequent to his Federal career, he consulted with pharmaceutical manufacturers, blood banks, and blood and plasma processing organizations throughout the world on regulatory compliance issues. He also planned, executed and spoke at numerous pharmaceutical manufacturer conferences sponsored by the University of Rhode Island College of Pharmacy in the US and Europe for a period of ten years.

Later, Ken became involved in civic affairs in the City of Sarasota and has served on the Boards of and as an officer of a number of resident, civic and government boards including the Sarasota Planning Board for 5 years and was elected to and served on the Sarasota City Commission. While on the Commission, Ken was able to convince the Commission to provide domestic partner healthcare benefits to city employees. Ken continues to serve on public and private Boards in Sarasota and state-wide.

About 12 years ago Ken became involved with Equality Florida as a donor and organizer of the annual Suncoast Equality Florida Celebration. He served on the Board for 6 years including 2 years as Chair of the Board of Equality Florida Institute, Inc. the 501 c(3) arm of this state-wide organization.

To eliminate inequality and a lack of diversity, Ken has been working in recent years in southwest Florida and state-wide to create local ordinances which prohibit discrimination against LGBT people in employment, housing and public accommodations. He is currently working to convince the Sarasota City Commission to adopt a ban on conversion therapy. He often speaks on behalf of tolerance and diversity issues before elected bodies as well as broadcast and print media in our area. He has won a number of awards for his work on behalf of equality in our area including the Sarasota Magazine Unity Award.

Ken is a graduate of the University of Delaware, and has two daughters, a son, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Four years ago, Judge Charles Williams, Chief Judge of the 12th Judicial Circuit married Ken and Steve Stockwell. They live in downtown Sarasota.

Jim Van Riper is a former Equality Florida board member and board chair. Jim has been engaged in our movement since the 1990's. Jim was board chair for the Pikes Peak Gay and Lesbian Community Center in Colorado Springs Colorado and actively involved during the Matthew Shepherd murder and one of the first anti-gay constitutional amendment dubbed Romer vs. Evans. Upon moving to Florida, Jim located the Tallahassee "Family Tree" LGBTG Community Center and quickly got involved in local activism in Tallahassee Florida. He became engaged in Equality Florida's work to protect students from bullying due to his own son's experiences in Junior High School.

Jim worked to pass the Leon County human rights ordinance and a local ordinance providing domestic partner benefits and domestic partnerships in Leon County Florida. Jim is a Technology Manager for the City of Tallahassee Police Department.

Jim Van Riper and his husband Myles Robertson have been together for 19 years in June of 2018. Having met at a Pride festival in Denver Colorado and never looked back.

In 2017 Jim was recognized with the Voice for Equality award at the annual Tallahassee Gala.

David Bloom is a Miami native who, as the son of former State Representative Elaine Bloom and Circuit Court Judge Philip Bloom, was born into a life of public service. David was the recipient of the 2013 Miami Gala Voice for Equality Community Service Award and currently serves on the Equality Florida Miami Steering and Host Committees. David served on the National Board of Directors of Family Equality Council (formerly the Family Pride Coalition), the national organization for LGBT parents. He single-handedly organized the first ever LGBT parenting event in South Florida in February 2002. He served on the Steering Committee for the Valuing Our Families LGBT Parenting Conference from 2004-2009. He was recognized in 1990 by the Fenway Community Health Center in Boston for his outstanding fundraising efforts.

David is the owner of, a marketing firm that supplies printing, wearables and promotional Items to businesses and non-profits. He received the Certified Advertising Specialist (CAS) designation, which has been awarded by his industry's association to only a few select professionals who have met rigorous educational requirements and demonstrate exemplary commitment to their profession. He is a graduate of Brandeis University and Harvard University.

David lives in Miami with his husband Damian McNamara and their sons Dawson and Donovan. He enjoys travelling and considers SCUBA diving the Great Barrier Reef one of his most thrilling trips followed by riding rollercoasters with his family.

Pat is a passionate straight ally and longtime activist for LGBT equality with an extraordinary journey of grassroots advocacy and activism. She has been involved with Equality Florida for over 20 years, served as a member of the Board of Directors for 8 years, and now serves on the Council of Leaders along with her continued support for LGBT youth with EQFL.

Pat was president of PFLAG Orlando for 11 years and a member of Orlando Anti-Discrimination Organization (OADO) since 2001. With OADO, she was instrumental in making sure gender identity and/or expression was included in the anti-discrimination ordinances in Orlando and Orange County – working behind the scenes. She is also involved with various organizations supporting the rights of LGBT youth in schools.

In 2015, Pat was awarded the EQFL Voice for Equality award. She also received the 1st Orlando Metropolitan Business (now Pride Chamber) Organization’s Community Service Award in 2009. She was the only ally who was selected among 50 distinguished Central Florida LGBT leaders to be honored with Congressional recognition for their accomplishments in 2015. She has also been on the EQFL Greater Orlando Steering Committee.

While working in software for 25 years, including Symantec Corporation, she co-chaired SymPride - Symantec’s LGBTA group - globally. She Initiated a change in Symantec’s global non-discrimination policy to include gender Identity and/or expression. At the same time, Pat brought awareness of the importance of the HRC Corporate Equality Index which led Symantec’s score to go from 0 to 100 in 18 months.

Pat holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from the University of Central Florida. She speaks fluent Spanish after living in Venezuela for 10 years where she translated for Mother Teresa and the Sisters of Charity. Having the privilege of working with so many amazing, committed individuals from the LGBTA+ community has enriched her life in so many ways.