Presenting this year’s group of dynamic 40 under 40 movers and shakers who have made and are poised to continue to make a significant impact on the future of our region, thanks to their many talents, interests and passions.
Compiled and location conception and arrangement by: John Sotomayor
Photographed by: Chris Redd
Robert “BigBert” Smith, 33
Record Producer, Studio Rock It, Ocala
About me: As a passionate musician and record producer, I have worked with A-list artists and recording projects in L.A. and Miami exceeding 50 million records sold. Currently an Ocala resident, I plan to share my experiences and talents with the local community Noteworthy personal accomplishment: My wife and children Proudest moment: The day my wife and I accepted Jesus as our savior Ocala connection: My father had a vacation home here, and we visited every summer, and every holiday Playlist: Miguel, Steely Dan, Hillsong United, Marvin Gaye, Israel Houghton Last book: “Kingdom Man” by Tony Evans Strengths: Loyalty Favorite food: soul food Favorite sport: basketball hands down (GO HEAT) A drink with one person, dead or alive: My late father Reuben D. Smith Sr. How would I improve Ocala: A more viable music and art scene Greatest extravagance: Fine dining My motto: Eyes on Jesus! (Thanks Pastor Carl) Ocala needs: a revival Save the: public school system.
Xochitl Jacques – Smith, 36
Princess Expert at Ocala Princess and President of Studio Rock – It
About me: I have started Ocala Princess, a whimsical children’s entertainment company with the purpose of entertaining, pampering and making little girls feel special Noteworthy personal accomplishment: Putting God first, in every aspect of my life Ocala connection: My husband had a home here prior to us getting married. We would always drive up from Miami for the weekend. It was always a peaceful place for me, and I always looked forward to coming here, and now I live here! Last book: “Let It Go” by Karen Ehman Strengths: Creativity Guilty pleasures: Facebook and dark chocolate Favorite electronic device: remote control Favorite food: Sushi, Cuban, Mexican Marathon worthy: Broken Hearts of Florida Justice or forgiveness: Forgiveness, because to forgive is to love I would rather be: IN the moment In 5 years: my PHD in Psychology In 10 years: publish my best seller! Luxury is: peace of mind.
Heather A. Haffner, 39
Dean of Academics, Rasmussen College, Ocala Campus
About me: I would like all women to feel empowered that they can achieve anything – especially in education. I am proof it is possible, even when the odds are stacked against you. I grew up poor, on public aid and food stamps. In high school, I was an average student, but I loved to read and learn. I went on to a 4-year university, and then earned my Masters, while working fulltime. I recently earned my PhD in Leadership in Higher Education. Many people along the way told me to give up. I share my story with students so they see anything is possible if they pursue it. Honestly, I feel I am the luckiest person alive – I get to be part of people’s dreams coming true. It really does not get any better than this Noteworthy business accomplishment: Building my Academic Team at Rasmussen College One career goal I have yet to achieve is: publish a book.
Corey M. Taylor, 37
Police Lieutenant, Ocala Police Department, 13 years. Assigned to the Community Policing Operations Bureau (A.K.A. the Patrol Division) as a Watch Commander
Noteworthy career accomplishment: In 2011, retired Chief Samuel Williams selected me to attend the Federal Bureau of Investigations’ prestigious National Academy in July 2012. The honor of attending the FBINA is one granted to less than one percent of law enforcements officers in the world. I graduated in September 2012. As part of the graduation activities, I was awarded the FBI National Academy Leadership Department’s Excellence in Leadership Award and the FBI National Academy Yellow Brick Fitness Award Noteworthy personal accomplishment: Graduating Summa Cum Laude from American InterContinental University with my Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice/Law Enforcement Degree in July 2011 Proudest moment: I have four … when my children were born Last book: Tony Dungy’s “Quiet Strength” Strengths: Hard-working, determined, dedicated, resourceful Favorite TV show: NCIS A glass of iced tea with one person, dead or alive: Martin Luther King, Jr.
Sarah Miller, 32
About me: I have been so fortunate enough to recently get some great exposure via local print work as well as clients word of mouth to help grow my business to where it is today. It’s been amazing to see so many lessons I’ve learned (the hard way) come to fruition Noteworthy personal accomplishment: the birth of my daughter Raegan was the best thing that ever happened to me Proudest moment: The recent opening of my new studio downtown Strengths: Perseverance and fortitude Guilty pleasures: Tyler laundry detergent Ocala’s best kept secret: Harvest Market Deli and Produce Favorite electronic device: My Canon Mark II with 85mm 1.2 lens Favorite food: Sushi Favorite TV show: “Revolution” Favorite movie: “Brides Maids” Favorite sport: Hide and seek with my daughter Perfect happiness: Professionally, the joy I see in my clients when they view their images Luxury is: balancing faith, family, and friends One career goal I have yet to achieve is: national print exposure.