President / CEO
Vice President / COO
Director of Business Development
Director of Communications & Marketing
Chair, Lee Mikell
First National Bank of Wauchula
Vice Chair, Barney Cherry
Florida Commission Company
South Florida State College
Alan Jay Ford
The Mosaic Company
Denise Grimsley served as Florida State Senator from 2012 – 2018 following four terms in the Florida House of Representatives. During her time in the Florida legislature she chaired several appropriation committees, the Energy and Agriculture committee and has been the only female to ever chair the influential House Appropriations Committee.
The diversity of organizations that have recognized Denise during her career, indicates the reach of her service. From Florida Citrus Mutual to the Florida Chamber of commerce, she has been acknowledged for her consistent efforts on behalf of the Heartland. Grimsley is regarded as an expert in state health care policy, a reputation forged out of her concern for patient access to quality, affordable care. To that point, Denise has authored or been a key player in nearly every significant piece of health care legislation passed by the Florida Legislature during her last eight years in office.
A fifth-generation Floridian, Denise’s service is rooted in Florida’s Heartland where she was born and raised. Her degrees in Nursing and Organizational Management were obtained from South Florida State College, Polk State College and Warner University. She earned an MBA from the University of Miami and In 2013, she was awarded a Doctorate in Humane Letters; honoris causa for her work in Health Policy by Nova Southeastern University.
From 2013 - 2022 she served as Vice President/ Administrator for AdventHealth. During her tenure Grimsley led the Wauchula and Lake Placid Hospital campuses as well as several service lines of the Heartland area.
Denise Grimsley currently serves as the CEO for The Development Group. Responsible for growing the economy of Hardee County, Grimsley remains engaged and committed to her connections statewide, creating a strong community of integrity where people want to be.
Justin Smith is the VP and Chief Operating Officer at The Development Group. Prior to joining this organization, Justin served as the Administrator of Classified Use for the Department of Revenue. With a passion for community service, Justin spends much of his time serving on various boards and committees to improve the lives of those in his community.
Justin's dedication to his community is evident through his involvement with Main Street Wauchula, where he serves as a member. He has also served as the President of the Peace River Citrus Growers Association and is currently on the advisory committee of the Florida Farm Bureau State Budget and Policy.
Justin's commitment to helping others extends beyond his professional life, as he is a board member of Choices Family Resource Center and a member of Kiwanis. He takes great pride in giving back to his community and using his skills and experience to make a positive impact.
Justin's extensive background in public service and community involvement, coupled with his current role at The Development Group, make him a valuable asset to both the organization and the community he serves. His dedication to making a difference in the lives of others is a testament to his character and leadership.
Sarah Evers is the Director of Business Development at The Development Group. Before joining this organization, she worked as the manager of Cavolli Engineering, an engineering firm based in Lakewood Ranch. Sarah has been in the field of economic development for 15 years and has completed the first phase of the Certified Economic Developer's certification. She is currently pursuing a BS in Business with a focus in Public Administration and is expected to graduate next year.
Sarah is an active member of the community and serves as a board member at Main Street Wauchula. She also chairs the Economic Vitality Committee for Main Street, where she uses her expertise in economic development to support local businesses and promote economic growth. In addition, Sarah has been a valuable member of the board of directors of the Economic Development Council as the South Central Regional Director for 5 years.
Sarah's extensive experience in economic development, coupled with her education and community involvement, make her a valuable asset to The Development Group and the organizations she serves. Her dedication and commitment to promoting economic growth and community development have earned her respect and admiration from colleagues and community members alike.
Kristi Schierling is a highly experienced professional who has been an integral part of The Development Group since 2011. Over the course of her 12-year tenure, she has served as the Office Manager, playing a crucial role in ensuring the smooth running of the group. Her organizational skills and attention to detail have been instrumental in the success of The Development Group's projects.
Kristi is a driven and ambitious individual who is committed to her personal and professional growth. She currently holds an associate's degree and is attending Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) to receive her bachelor's degree. Kristi’s dedication to education is a testament to her desire to expand her knowledge and skills, and to better serve the community. She is determined to succeed in her academic pursuits and to use her education to make a positive impact on the economic development of Hardee County.
Kristi is a compassionate individual who is dedicated to helping people in her community. In addition to her work with The Development Group, she is also a member of the Recover Hardee. This program provides assistance to individuals and families in Hardee County who are in need, such as those who have suffered home damage due to a hurricane. The long-term recovery group, of which Kristi is a member, works to help rebuild lives and homes. Her dedication to the community is a shining example of the kind of person she is, and the impact she has on those around her. Kristi's work with the Recover Hardee Board is just one of the many ways she is making a difference in her community, and her contributions are greatly appreciated.
Krystin Chapman’s passion for Hardee County is rooted in her heritage. As a seventh generation Hardee Countian, she is able to invest in her community through her career as the Director of Marketing and Communications at The Development Group.
She obtained her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communication Studies from Florida Gulf Coast University and her Master’s Degree from Argosy University. Her education, coupled with five years of economic development experience, has been invaluable in developing a strong foundation that allows Krystin to raise awareness and promote The Development Group’s mission to inspire economic growth.
Creating meaningful careers that transform a person’s future, is what Krystin credits her inspiration and purpose to. Krystin serves as Board of Director of the Hardee County Education Foundation, Hardee County Chamber of Commerce and the Hardee County Farm Bureau. Through these roles she supports many local and statewide initiatives. Krystin chairs the Ag Fest Committee which ensures every fourth grader in Hardee County is intimately aware of the agriculture industry. Krystin serves on several other committees that support the education, leadership and legislative activities of Hardee County. Her dedication to the community and her leadership within various organizations make her an invaluable member of the Hardee County community.