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Tampa Talks

Tampa Talks
Tampa Talks Presents

“A City for All”

Representing diverse communities, advocating for disability rights, and emphasizing inclusion are all in a day’s work for the community volunteers who serve within the Mayor’s advisory councils. This installment of TAMPA TALKS will focus on the efforts of these citizens to make Tampa a “City for All.” In addition, we will spotlight how the City is partnering with local organizations that provide social services while supporting equal rights. TAMPA TALKS is an intracity forum and idea exchange. This forum was conceived by members of the Mayor’s Staff Advisory Group.

December 15, 2021 11:00 AM



Tampa Talks Video

City Experts

Melisa Martinez

Melisa J. Martinez was born in Venezuela.  At the age of 15, she and her family moved to the United States. After attending high school in Miami, FL, Ms. Martinez attended Florida International University and earned a bachelor’s degree in Construction Management. In 2005, she began working as a Development Services Coordinator within the City of Tampa Construction Services Department.  One of Melisa’s responsibilities is to provide assistance to developers and general contractors who may not be familiar with the City’s permitting process.

In 2016, she was appointed by Mayor Bob Buckhorn to serve as Hispanic Liaison for the Mayor’s Hispanic Advisory Council.  In this role, she used her experience and interactions with other City departments to bridge the gap between the Hispanic community and City government.

Melisa believes to make a difference, you must make the time, get involved, and be a part of the change.

Raquel Pancho

Raquel Pancho is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Coordinator for the City of Tampa. 

Raquel’s education and professional experience include a Bachelor’s in Psychology and a Master’s in Rehabilitation Counseling. Pancho has worked in the Human Services field for more than 30 years. Her passion for service was ignited in high school as a Certified Nurse’s Aide. While attending college, Pancho worked as a Tech within an assisted living facility. 

After graduating in 1993 from the University of South Florida, her work has focused on persons with disabilities in the areas of employment services, case management, counseling, advocacy, disability rights, and ADA compliance. 

Raquel considers herself fortunate to work alongside extraordinary colleagues at Abilities of Florida, Family Service Centers, Disability Rights Florida, USF, and currently the City of Tampa. 

Ian Whitney

Ian Whitney serves as Associate Director of Government Affairs in the Office of the Mayor. He is a member of the Hillsborough County Cultural Assets Commission and serves on the boards of The Florida Orchestra, Metro Inclusive Health, and COPE. Ian is also a member of the Florida League of Cities Transportation & Intergovernmental Affairs Policy Committee, the Tampa Fast Track Cities Task Force, and Artspace Steering Committee.

Community Partners

Sheryl Brown

Sheryl K. Brown is the President/CEO of Lighthouse for the Blind & Low Vision, overseeing services in Polk, Hardee, and Hillsborough Counties.  She earned a master’s degree in Visual Disabilities from Florida State University and is a certified vision rehabilitation therapist. 

Ms. Brown is a strong advocate for all individuals with disabilities but focuses her energy on improving the lives of persons who are blind or visually impaired. For almost 40 years, she has advocated for training, employment, and accessible transportation for the visually impaired community.

Justice Gennari

Justice Gennari (He, Him, His) is the Founder of the Tampa Bay LGBT Chamber Foundation and the current President & CEO of the Tampa Bay LGBT Chamber. Since joining the Tampa Bay LGBT Chamber, they have seen it grow in recorded numbers and achievements, including hosting the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce International Business and Leadership Conference in 2019 and being awarded the first-ever Challenge Grant from NGLCC. Justice is responsible for the vision, strategic direction, and overall operations of the Chamber. He leads the Chamber’s mission to “advance common business interests, economic growth, and equality in the workplace and society.”

Maria Pinzon

Maria Pinzon is the Executive Director of the Hispanic Services Council and has served in this position since 1996. Ms. Pinzon has extensive experience in community and public health and has a deep understanding and background beyond health care access issues to include health equity models. As Executive Director of Hispanic Services Council, Ms. Pinzon has actively pursued partnerships with the broader health system through outreach efforts and participation in various community advisory boards to enhance cultural competency and cultural relevance of interventions and health outreach activities.


Jeff Burger

Jeff Burger - Parking Division


Tina Thomas

Tina Thomas - Solid Waste Dept.

Updated: 10/01/2023