Tiffany Whitaker has bloomed where she was planted.
Born in Fort Myers, Whitaker became involved with supporting her local community from a young age, taking a job with the City of Fort Myers while enrolled as an undergraduate at Hodges University. For the past six years, she has worked for Lee Health, and is now the senior director of foundation marketing for the organization, one of the largest community health organizations in Florida.
“I’m pretty loyal,” she explains. “The longer you’re with a company, the more you really understand what the company is about, and you can make an impact.”
When she joined Lee Health, the organization was concluding its $200 million capital campaign to help pay for the construction of Golisano Children’s Hospital, an effort she helped close out. But the work to expand access to health care in Southwest Florida is far from over. “I don’t remember the last time our hospitals have been under 90% capacity,” she says.
In addition to continuing the momentum of that major campaign, one of Whitaker’s current major projects is the expansion of an initiative called Kids Minds Matter, which is about expanding access to pediatric mental health services. Whitaker has helped raise more than $10 million to support this program, and is motivated to do even more. “I’ve seen and spoken with kids who have received mental health services, and seen the difference it’s made for them,” she says.
In addition to being loyal, Whitaker says being open to new opportunities has helped her grow her career, a skill she credits her mother for instilling in her. For example, when asked to drive attendance at the local aquatics center while working for Fort Myers — a responsibility she did not expect — Whitaker leaned into the opportunity. She became a certified public relations counselor and unknowingly started down a path that would take her straight to her current role.
True to form, Whitaker’s current focus for what’s next is on having an even bigger impact in her role at Lee Health. “Our team is expanding, and we are looking at the next five to seven years and what health care will look like,” she says.
City of residence: Cape Coral
Employer: Lee Health
Title: Senior director of foundation marketing
Birthplace: Fort Myers
Years in the area: 36
Marital status/children: Engaged/no children
Alma mater/degree: Hodges University/bachelor of science, business administration
What community group or organization are you most involved with? I'm a 10-plus year member of the Florida Public Relations Association, and my newest involvement is volunteering as a certified child advocate with the 20th Judicial Circuit of the Florida Guardian Ad Litem Foundation.
Are you working from the company office, home office or hybrid? I work from my home office, and have always enjoyed meeting up with colleagues "outside of the office" to collaborate.
What's the weirdest job you've ever had? Or the weirdest task you've ever been assigned? In my early 20s, I managed City of Fort Myers Aquatics. It was weird, but so cool to certify the Lee County Sheriff’s Department Waterborne Strike Team in lifeguard skills. I customized the curriculum so they would be better equipped to make rescues.
What's your top tip for being productive? Prioritize communications with others first, and then get to your projects or tasks at hand. It's more efficient to work with others first, whether it's collaborating or aligning on the project, or ensuring they know what you need from them and vice versa before "getting to work." You won’t waste time working in the wrong direction or have to pause a project while you wait for someone else to deliver.
If you could have a side hustle, what would it be? My side hustle might be home decorating on a budget.
What's your favorite off-hours activity? Boating with my fiancé, which typically includes fishing, hanging at the beach or local restaurants and just enjoying the scenic coast and backwaters.
What's the most significant item on your life bucket list — and what's keeping you from completing it? I've always wanted to go to Greece. I've had the opportunity to visit many places over the years, so it's just a matter of right timing for that specific trip.
What's your favorite podcast? I'm more into reading than listening to podcasts, but my mom has recently introduced me to Richard Rohr, so I'm listening to his podcast appearances and audio books.
At what percentage on your phone do you start to get Low Battery Anxiety? The anxiety doesn't really kick in until the phone is off. I fear that's when I'll get an important call, that I was needed, unavailable, and have no idea.
What are the top three apps used on your smartphone? Pandora is always playing my favorite music picks. I love Pinterest for all kinds of inspiration. And the BeachBody app for a variety of at-home workouts like my favorite, Barre Blend.
What books are you reading now? My book club just read Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit by Christopher J.H. Wright. Books like this and Real Women Leading with Proverbs 31 Values by Lisa Troyer and Dawn Yoder help me grow professionally and in my relationship with Jesus.
What's your go-to music genre, band or act to be inspired? I love many genres of music for inspiration, from Peter Gabriel to Janet Jackson, country to jazz, but when I need a reset or some clarity I turn to contemporary Christian.
Who would play you in the movie of your life? I've had strangers come up to me numerous times to ask me if anybody has ever told me how much I resemble Candace Cameron or Kelly Clarkson.
Where is your happy place? Any place with my fiancé, friends and family, but I really enjoy hosting at my home.
Describe yourself in three words: Christian, authentic, strategic
Who is your mentor for your career and why? My mother. Since my birth and reinforced watching her raise my four younger siblings, my mother has always encouraged, supported and celebrated individuality and authenticity, as well as a strong work ethic.
What are the biggest lessons you have learned from your mentor? Think for yourself! Don't be afraid to say what you need to say, to stand up for what's right and to remain true to yourself.
Seize new opportunities! You don't have to have all the answers, and you won't, to move forward. Work with what you've got, lean in to every opportunity at hand and make the most of it. At the very least you'll learn something, and you're likely to end up somewhere better than you even imagined, which has always been the case for me.
Always be open to learning! At 55 years old, my mom is back in school pursuing her second career. She has always valued education, not only in the traditional sense, but in every opportunity to learn and grow; whether it's been through traveling, picking up an instrument, engaging in a conversation, taking a class or otherwise. Growing up, she found unique ways for me to experiment in different areas, and develop my interests and abilities. And she has shown me that an any age, in any situation, you have the opportunity to learn something, to evolve, to be better. Most importantly, my mother grounded me in the Christian faith, which gave me a foundation to stand on when life has gotten hard. It was just in the past few years though that I've truly grown in my relationship with Jesus and understanding of what it means to live with the Holy Spirit in me. And while I will always stumble in my execution, it has given me the principles by which to interact with others, as well as to give myself grace when I fall short. I am grateful to her for that.