The Orlando Sentinel recently launched its latest editorial collaboration, the Central Florida 100, composed of the “most influential people in government, politics and culture.” Among those chosen are four who hail from the east side of town, with their roots at UCF.
Tasked with finding a diverse group of leaders, former Sentinel op-ed editor Michael Joe Murphy first looked to UCF. Although university President John C. Hitt didn’t return requests to contribute, Murphy found four worthy Knights: Sean Snaith, director of UCF’s Institute for Economic Competitiveness; Michelle Ertel, political analyst for News 13; Sibille Hart Pritchard, chairwoman of the Global Connections Foundation at UCF; and Anna Eskamani, a UCF alumna and director at Planned Parenthood.
Joined by those from all walks of life — politicians, reporters, religious leaders — the UCF selections will share their unfiltered commentary in both print and online with the Sentinel.
“We'll pose the same pair of questions each week to those leaders: What was the biggest story of the week? What will be the biggest story in the coming week?” Sentinel Opinions Editor Paul Owens explained in a column introducing the project.
So far, submissions from Eskamani, who earned two master’s degrees in public administration and nonprofit management in December, have focused on female health issues, given her prominent role as director of policy and field operations for Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida.
A former contributing columnist for the Central Florida Future, she has tackled subjects such as LGBT rights, the Affordable Care Act and easier access to birth control in her 100-word Sentinel blurbs.
“My resolve has never been stronger and my passion for this work continues,” she said of her work with Planned Parenthood, given recent controversy.
The 25-year-old grew up in East Orlando and attended UCF for her undergrad and grad and will soon return as an adjunct professor, teaching in the Women’s and Gender Studies program, in fall 2016, when she will also begin her pursuit of a Ph.D.
“Anna is one of the most dynamic young leaders in Central Florida, and she’s obviously very ambitious, and she’s articulate and she is an opinion leader,” Murphy said. “I have no doubt that she would make a great elected or appointed official in Central Florida someday.”
Also with ties to the Future, Ertel has thus far written on subjects such as bears in Seminole County and fracking in Orange County. The Seminole-based government relations and communications consultant is a former manager of the Central Florida Future, where she worked as an adviser to the student staff. Now, she lends her expertise as an on-air Republican political analyst for Central Florida News 13.
“Michelle Ertel, she just impresses the heck out of me,” Murphy said. “She is very articulate; she also knows issues thoroughly. You figure if you’re married to the election supervisor in Seminole County [Mike Ertel], you shop talk at night.”
When choosing writers, Murphy strove for diversity and credibility, and Sibille Hart Pritchard, he said, is very important to have on the list.
“There’s probably no one with a higher profile in the community, in the business community, than hers,” he said of Pritchard, who serves as chairwoman for the I-Drive Business Improvement District and executive board member for the Dr. Phillips Center. She also chairs UCF’s Global Connections Foundation, “a nonprofit, non-ideological, non-political, regional, educational network that promotes international awareness and understanding,” according to UCF’s website.
Often turned to for all questions economic, by the Sentinel and Future, Sean Snaith also graces the Central Florida 100 list, which he called “an interesting initiative.”
“[It] provides unique content that doesn’t’ have to be solely generated by employees,” he said. “For readers, they’re getting a different perspective. They’re sort of hearing it right from the horse’s mouth, rather than a sound bite.”
And while anyone can write a letter to the editor, Murphy said, not anyone can be a part of Central Florida 100.
“Here’s what you get from the CF 100 that you don’t get any place else,” he explained. “It’s unique and it’s really an elite because these are the people who drive decisions and thought in the community.”
Caroline Glenn is the Content Manager at the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter @bycarolineglenn or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.