Veterans Florida is a non-profit corporation created by the State of Florida to help veterans fully transition to civilian life in the Sunshine State. We connect veterans to employers, grant funds to employers to hire and train veterans, and educate veterans on how to open their own businesses in Florida.
Bobby Carbonell joined Veterans Florida as the corporation’s first
Executive Director in January 2015. Prior to his position with
Veterans Florida, Bobby served as the Legislative and Cabinet Affairs
Director for the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the
Deputy Legislative Affairs Director for the Department of Military
Affairs.Bobby also serves as an Aircraft Maintenance Officer in
the Florida Air National Guard’s 125th Fighter Wing. He served as the
Aide-de-Camp for the 1st Air Force Commander at Tyndall AFB, Florida,
from 2012-2013. Prior to commissioning in 2010, he spent 10 years as a
soldier in the Florida Army National Guard. His Army career included
a tour in Iraq in 2003-2004 and selection as 83rd Troop Command’s
Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year in 2010.
He graduated from Florida State University in 2007 with a Bachelor of
Arts in International Affairs. He also co-owns Growler Country, a
small business in Tallahassee with his brother Michael Carbonell.
Chief Operating Officer
Joe Marino has been active in Florida Legislative policy
regarding military, Veteran and defense economic development issues
since 2002. He founded a trade association in 2010 for Florida
defense businesses working to improve their business climate in
Florida and to connect defense businesses for opportunities all across
the state.Joe is a West Point graduate and former US Army officer.
During his time in the Army, he was a commissioned Air Defense
Artillery Officer. Following his military service, Joe spent eight
years working for the State of Florida in various capacities. From
2008 to 2010, he was the Governor’s Office liaison to the
state’s military installations and communities. From 2006 to 2008, he
was Deputy Legislative Affairs Director for the Florida Department of
Veterans Affairs, advocating for Veterans issues and the departmental
budget. From 2002 to 2006, he also worked as legislative analyst on
the Florida House of Representative’s Military and Veterans Affairs
Prior to his time with the State of Florida, Joe was a recruiter
assisting separating military officers find employment with Fortune
Kristen Kerr joined Veterans Florida
as the organization’s Budget Manager and Administrative Assistant in
March of 2015. She is a two-time graduate of the Florida State
University with her Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs and
Sociology and Master’s degree in Public Administration and Policy.
Prior to working at Veterans Florida, she worked as an Office Manager
for a nonprofit organization, Aging with Dignity and as a Grants
Manager for the Florida Division of Emergency Management. Kristen
volunteers with the Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program
and the City of Tallahassee’s Senior Center. Kristen was born and
raised in Indian Harbour Beach, FL.
Governance: Board of Directors
Appointed by Governor
Courtney Heidelberg joined On 3 Public Relations in January 2014,
where she serves as Director of Accounts. She has more than a decade
of experience as a communications professional, including serving as
Communications Director for the Florida Department of Highway Safety
and Motor Vehicles, Public Relations Manager for the
Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs, and Public
Information Officer for the Florida Department of Children and
In addition to her work in state government, Heidelberg served in
the U.S. Army and Florida National Guard as a Signal Officer for a
total of six years. Her military service included a year-long tour
in Iraq from February 2004 to February 2005 in support of Operation
She is a member of the Florida Public Relations Association and the
Veterans of Foreign Wars. Heidelberg earned a Bachelor’s degree in
Journalism from Ohio University, and a Master’s degree
in Communications from Florida State University. Governor Rick Scott
appointed Courtney to the Board of Directors.
Captain O’Conor US Navy (Retired) holds a Bachelor’s Degree from the
US Naval Academy and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from
George Washington University. Additionally, he holds a Master’s
Degree in National Resource Strategy from the National Defense
University in Washington D.C.
Captain O’Conor retired from the Navy after serving a wide range of
duty assignments. He served on numerous ships, including USS Sampson
(DDG 10), USS Boone (FFG-28), USS Hayler (DD-997), Pre-commissioning
Executive Officer of USS Monterey (CG 61) and Commanding Officer of
USS O’Bannon (DD-987). Four of those ships were based in Mayport,
Additionally, he served several times in Washington, DC, including
tours on the Chief of Naval Operations Staff in the Pentagon as well
as serving as a Congressional Liaison Officer for the Navy on
Capitol Hill. After retiring from the Navy, he transitioned to the
civilian world and joined Earl Industries, LLC, as Director, Florida
Operations. He was instrumental in the growth and profitability of
the company’s ship repair operation in Mayport. He became the
General Manager, General Dynamics NASSCO Mayport after the purchase
of Earl Industries by General Dynamics in August 2012. He
successfully made the transition from working for a small business
to one of the largest defense firms in the country. Captain O’Conor
was a founding member of the Jacksonville Area Ship Repair
Association (JASRA). This is an organization of more than 50
companies which has been instrumental in successfully working with
elected representatives to bring more ships and jobs to Mayport
Captain O’Conor resides in Atlantic Beach and has three children
living in Florida and one in Abu Dhabi. He spends his spare time as
a Guardian Ad Litem Volunteer.
Governor Rick Scott appointed Captain O’Conor to the Board of
After serving 23 year at Cox Target Media, including roles
as President of Valpak and Executive Vice President at Cox Target
Media, Jim Sampey founded CIHU (Can I Help You?), LLC, in
retirement, helping friends and business associates to take their
businesses to the next level. Jim is engaged as Founder, Advisor
and/or Investor to several organizations including Live Water
Sports, Sky Data Ventures, Sterling Payment Technologies, Valpak,
and Shinn and Company, savvycard.com, Prime Medical Apparel,
and Performance Health Applied Technologies. He also serves
on various Boards, including the Tampa Bay Partnership, University
of Dayton, SunTrust Bank, Now Up Foundation, Vision Integrated
Graphics and the Tampa Bay Defense Alliance.
Governor Rick Scott appointed Jim to the Board of Directors and his
peers selected him as the Board’s first Vice-Chair.
Mark Harden served in the U.S. Navy for thirty years and retired as
a Chief of Naval Operations Directed Master Chief. He currently
works as Director of the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society in
Pensacola, FL. His passion is working on programs that support
Veterans and Active Duty military personnel.
Mark is actively engaged in his community in a variety of ways. He
is the current Area President Gulf Coast for the Navy League of the
United States and is a National Director for that organization. He
co-founded the Pensacola Veteran Support Organization Network
(PVSON) which is a clearing house of over 40 veteran support
organizations that work together to solve local veteran/ military
needs and he is a board member of the Community Veterans Engagement
Board for NW Florida.
In other community activities he is a graduate and an active member
of the Leadership Pensacola Alumni Association where he previously
chaired the leadership program for Pensacola and has served as
President of the Alumni Assn and currently serves on the board.
Appointed by Senate
Jim Bagby was appointed to the Board of Directors by former Senate
President Don Gaetz and elected Chairman by a vote of the Board.
Jim grew up near Tyler, Texas. He and his wife, Jennie, have two
daughters: Sara, who lives and works in New York City and
Jennifer, who lives and works in Mount Pleasant, SC. Jim has a
Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering from West Point and a
Master’s degree in Public Administration from Western Kentucky
Jim’s work experience includes 24 years in the US Army with a
variety of operational and staff assignments throughout the world.
Prior to becoming the General Manager of One Seagrove Place he was
the Executive Director of Visit South Walton and prior to that
served as the Town Manager of Rosemary Beach.
Jim served two terms on the City of Destin City Council and
currently serves on the Walton County Chamber of Commerce Board of
Directors. He is a Lector and Eucharistic Minister at Resurrection
Catholic Church. His hobbies include reading, golfing and riding
his Harley Davidson.
Prebble Q Ramswell was a Division I swimmer and coach prior to her
acceptance of a position with the Central Intelligence Agency
where she spent six years working in Counterterrorism.
Upon moving to Florida after her husband was named Course Director
EUCOM at the USAF Special Operations School at Hurlburt Field,
Ramswell embraced a new challenge: running for Destin City Council
in March 2014. Her successful bid for Councilwoman led to
appointments on the Growth Management and Economic Development
Board and International Relations Committee with the Florida
League of Cities, as well as appointments to the
Okaloosa-Walton Transportation Planning Organization, YMCA Board
and the Okaloosa County Economic Development Council Policy Board.
Ms. Ramswell has also served on the Board of Directors for
organizations that include the Junior League of Northern Virginia,
Junior League of the Emerald Coast, Montessori Learning Center in
Fort Walton Beach, Gulf Swimming and the Children’s Museum of
Prebble earned BA’s in Psychology, Sociology, and Political
Science from the University of Houston, a Masters in Liberal
Arts/Social Science from Texas Christian University, and a PhD
(ABD) in International Development/Political Science from the
University of Southern Mississippi.
Prebble was appointed to the Board of Directors by former Senate
President Don Gaetz.
Tom Rice is the owner and chef of The Magnolia Grill of Ft. Walton
Beach, which he and his wife, Peggy, opened in 1996.In 2004, the
Magnolia Grill received Florida’s Good Neighbor Award from the
National Restaurant Association and was the Greater Ft. Walton
Beach Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business of the Year. In July
2007, Congressman Jeff Miller recognized Tom and Peggy for
humanitarian work in the Congressional Record of the 110th
Tom serves on numerous Boards, including the Emerald Coast Bridge
Authority, Emerald Coast Honor Flight, Northwest Florida Chapter
of the American Red Cross, Community Advisor for Covenant Hospice,
and he has served on the Fisher House of the Emerald Coast Board
for the past two years. He is a Life Member of the Veterans of
Foreign Wars and DAV 72.
Tom is a Veteran and retired as First Sgt. from the US Army. Tom
was appointed to the Board of Directors by former Senate President
Appointed by House of Representatives
Brigadier General John Adams retired from the US Army in September
2007, culminating his service as Deputy U.S. Military
Representative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
As a Foreign Area Officer, Military Intelligence Officer and Army
Aviator, his more than thirty years of active duty service in
command and staff assignments included nearly eighteen years in
Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.He is the founder and
President of Guardian Six LLC, a Florida-based Service-Disabled
Veteran Owned Small Business that assists clients in successfully
analyzing national security issues and addressing U.S. and
allied national security requirements. John holds a Master’s in
International Relations (Boston University), English (University
of Massachusetts) and Strategic Studies (US Army War College).
Appointed to the Board of Directors by former Speaker of the House
Will Weatherford to represent military spouses and families, both
active, transitioned, and retired, Jamee Graff brings a wealth of
experience to the Veterans Florida Board.As a military spouse and
mother, Jamee has been a champion for military spouses and
families for more than twenty years. She understands the complex
nature of being a military spouse and is passionate about being a
voice for military spouses and families. She is continuing that
dedication while serving as a Board Member of Veterans Florida,
and the Chair of the External Affairs Committee.
Jamee attended University of Alaska where she graduated from
nursing school. She also received her Bachelor in Science degree
in Business Management from Bellevue University. She began her
career as a Real Estate professional, focusing on the unique
needs of a military family during frequent relocations and change
of duty stations.
While in Washington D.C., Jamee led a committee of Air Force
General Officer spouses in a program to help the recovery journey
of Wounded Warriors and their families at Walter Reed National
Military Medical Center. This program provided real, personal
interaction with Wounded Warriors and their families, encouraging
Veterans and their families to interact with their disabilities in
While at Tyndall AFB, FL, Jamee worked with base organizations and
personnel to help bridge the gap between military spouse and
families with the base leadership. She served as the honorary
President and Vice President of the Tyndall AFB Officer Spouse
Club, which championed support for spouses during times of need
and during service member deployment. Jamee also created new
liaisons and worked closely with the Bay County Chamber of
Commerce and the Bay Defense Alliance to garner community support
for Tyndall AFB families. Jamee also served on the Panama City
Habitat for Humanity Board and worked closely with the Wounded
Warrior Beach Retreat.
Jamee is currently a Real Estate Professional with ERA Neubauer
Real Estate and a Board Member on the Niceville High School
Student Advisory Council.
Enlisted in the Marine Corps in January 1965. He rose from private
to three-star general, culminating his military career as the
Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans, Policies and Operations at
Headquarters, US Marine Corps, in Washington, DC, in August of
1999.A decorated combat Veteran with 34-1/2 years of service,
he is a recognized expert in the integration of all elements
of national power (diplomatic, economic, informational
and military) with strategic military war plans and has served
as an executive strategic planner/policy director in
multiple theaters across Asia. His extraordinary career was
chronicled as one of three principles in the award-winning
military biography Boys of ’67 by Charles Jones.
Upon his retirement from active duty in 1999, he served as
President and CEO of the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York
City. Under his leadership, they adopted the mission statement of
“Honor our heroes, educate the public, and inspire our youth
about the price of freedom.”
Currently, General Steele serves as the Associate Vice President
for Veterans Research, the Executive Director of Military
Partnerships and Co-Chair of the Veterans Reintegration Steering
Committee at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida.
Additionally, General Steele is the Chairman and Chief Executive
Officer of Steele Partners, Inc., a strategic advisory and
leadership consulting company.
General Steele is a graduate of the University of Arkansas where
he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in History (’74) and was
recognized as a Distinguished Graduate of the Fulbright College of
Arts and Sciences. He is a recipient of the 2013 Arkansas
Alumni Award Citation of Distinguished Alumni, which recognizes
exceptional professional and personal achievement and
extraordinary distinction in a chosen field. He also holds
three Masters Degrees from Central Michigan University, Salve
Regina College and the Naval War College. General Steele
serves proudly on several boards across the country that include
the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, Fisher House Foundation,
Stability Institute, Call of Duty Endowment, Stay in Step
Foundation, Operation Helping Hand, Veterans Advantage, University
of Arkansas Veterans Resource and Information Center Board, and
the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation.
Former Speaker of the House Will Weatherford appointed General
Steele to the Board of Directors.
Board Meeting Documents
As a new organization, I believe it is critical to set a strategic direction to guide the Organization from its infancy to its maturation as a viable organization capable of fulfilling the mandates given. Veterans Florida’s (VF) Strategic Plan provides the foundation upon which VF will grow and progress. We conducted a deliberate strategic planning process that included external stakeholders from state government, Veteran service organizations (VSO), not-for-profit organizations, as well as business and industry to develop this strategic plan. The process identified three strategic goals with nine high-level objectives that will guide VF over the next 3-5 years.
These goals and objectives are:
Goal 1: Market Florida as most Veteran-Friendly State in the Nation
Goal 2: Increase Veteran Employment
Goal 3: Establish, Grow and Maintain an Effective and Efficient Organization
Jim Bagby, US Army (Retired)
Chairman of the Board
Florida is for Veterans, Inc. d/b/a Veterans Florida
Title XX VETERANS Chapter 295 LAWS RELATING TO VETERANS: GENERAL PROVISIONS
(1) CREATION.—There is created within the Department of Veterans’ Affairs a nonprofit corporation, to be known as “Florida Is For Veterans, Inc.,” which shall be registered, incorporated, organized, and operated in compliance with chapter 617, and which is not a unit or entity of state government. As used in this section and s. 295.22, unless the context indicates otherwise, the term “corporation” means Florida Is For Veterans, Inc. The corporation shall be a separate budget entity and is not subject to the control, supervision, or direction of the department in any manner, including, but not limited to, personnel, purchasing, transactions involving real or personal property, or budgetary matters.
(1) LEGISLATIVE FINDINGS AND INTENT.—The Legislature finds that the state has a compelling interest in ensuring that each veteran who is a resident of the state finds employment that meets his or her professional goals and receives the training or education necessary to meet those goals. The Legislature also finds that connecting dedicated, well-trained veterans with businesses that need a dedicated, well-trained workforce is of paramount importance. The Legislature recognizes that veterans may not currently have the skills to meet the workforce needs of Florida employers and may require assistance in obtaining additional workforce training or in transitioning their skills to meet the demands of the marketplace. It is the intent of the Legislature that the Veterans Employment and Training Services Program coordinate and meet the needs of veterans and the business community to enhance the economy of this state.