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.
Governance: Board of Directors
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 Families.
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 Iraqi Freedom.
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, Florida.
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 Naval Station.
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 Directors.
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.
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 University.
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 Northern Virginia.
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 Congress.
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 Don Gaetz.
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 simple activities.
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.
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 Committee.
Prior to his time with the State of Florida, Joe was a recruiter assisting separating military officers find employment with Fortune 500 companies.
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.