21 Intriguing Floridians
Florida Monthly spotlights 21 Floridians, excelling in fields from public service and film to technology and health, who intrigue us. They mirror the unique demographic and cultural makeup of the Sunshine State.
Agriculture - Born in Trinidad, West Indies, Greta Wrigley has been horseback riding most of her life. Starting at age 12 on ex-racehorses, she rode anything she could around her parents’ estate. After high school, Wrigley moved to England, received a British Horse Society Assistant Instructor certificate in 1973 and began working with Arabian horses. She also earned her certificate for breeding and stud management from the National Pony Society of England. She later furthered her studies in dressage to earn the British Horse Society Intermediate teaching certificate.
In 1976, Wrigley moved to South Carolina and then Ocala. While studying and improving her riding skills, Wrigley started training Arabians, specializing in dressage, show hack and hunters. She’s earned bronze, silver and gold medals from the U.S. Dressage Federation, plus more than 80 regional championships and nine national honors. In 1996, 1998 and 1999, Wrigley was named the Female Dressage Trainer of the Year by the Arabian Trust.
Since 1998, Wrigley has run Greta Wrigley Training, a training center in Ocala focusing on dressage, with an emphasis on Arabians, half-Arabians and amateur riders. “I use dressage as a way to improve horses, and not just ones who compete. It helps with training them—it’s for everyone and every breed,” Wrigley stated. Each horse and rider receives individual training methods that are informative, effective and, most of all, fun. Her students have won at all levels of competition.
“I like working with animals and people,” she said. “I like teaching. Bringing my students to the National Championships was a great achievement.”
Wrigley is still riding and showing heavily; she competes in 10 to 12 events a year. In addition, she runs active clinics located around the Southeastern United States. Working with a variety of horses and riders, she helps improve their skills and achieve their goals.
Visit the Greta Wrigley Training website at www.gretawrigleytraining.com.
Media - Ilana Fayerman has quite the dream job. She travels the world and hosts programs for the children’s online educational series ProjectExplorer. As a proud Floridian, she’s interviewed numerous influential individuals, including Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Greg Marinovich, former UN Ambassador Dave A. Steward and Her Royal Highness Princess Basma bint Ali of Jordan.
Originally from Coral Springs, Fayerman was always a fan of exploring the outdoors. “Growing up in a climate where it was always possible to go outside and play made me such a fan of being outdoors as an adult. Being outside and creating my own adventures is still something that keeps me occupied for hours.”
After earning her bachelor’s degree at the University of Central Florida in theatre performance, Fayerman moved to Vancouver, B.C. to act. She was awarded a few small roles, then tired of fictional characters. Fayerman moved to New York to earn a master’s degree in socio-cultural anthropology at Columbia University. It was then that she was invited to host a series for ProjectExplorer in South Africa. “I had hosted prior to that, but not as a travel host. It was thrilling! It was my first time off of the continent. After the success of the South Africa series, I was invited back to interview Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu. For that trip, I was asked to return as a producer as well as a host.” She worked with the program once again, traveling to Jordan, and she won an award for producing the series.
Today, Fayerman continues to host and produce programs with ProjectExplorer. “One of the reasons I wanted to pursue travel hosting was to educate myself (as well as anyone else who wanted to learn) about the world around me. I wanted to understand different regions, histories, cultures, religions and people. ProjectExplorer.org allows me the opportunity to do that every day.”
Fayerman she still has a lot of traveling—and exploring—she’d love to do. “I’ve always been really intrigued by Captiva Island,” she said. “I know that the local lore says that Captiva got its name because the pirate captain, Gaspar, used to keep his concubines there. I would love to dig further into that story and see what buried treasure I could unearth.”
Read more about Fayerman at www.ilanafayerman.com
Sports - Jennifer Rodriguez, the championship ice speedskater, started roller skating at age 4. She won several championships—she’s the only athlete in history to have won the World Roller Skating Championships in both speed skating and figure skating in the same year—before switching to ice skating at age 20.
“I like the purity of the sport,” Rodriguez said. “The fact that it’s you against the clock and the fastest person on that day wins. I also really enjoy the camaraderie, as well as the feel of the blade on the ice.”
Only 18 months after first stepping onto the ice, Rodriguez made it to the international speedskating scene and won fourth place in a 3,000-meter race at the Olympics. Since then, Rodriguez competed at both the 2002 and 2006 Olympics, earning her place as one of the most successful speedskaters in the world. Along with her two Olympics Bronze medals, she’s won more than 50 international speedskating metals, is a four-time American record holder, and was the 2005 World Champion and 2004 World Cup Champion.
“Winning my medals was a great feeling of accomplishment during a very trying time in our country's history. It was right after 9/11. The sense of country pride was tremendous and I felt very honored to be a part of that. My accomplishment was not only for myself, but for my family, friends, teammates, coaches and staff, supporters, and my country,” she said.
In 2006, Rodriguez retired from speedskating and returned to her hometown in Miami, where she owned and operated a bike shop, all while training to be an elite cyclist. By 2008, she was back on the ice and destined for another shot at the Olympics. After earning her way back to the U.S. National Team, she competed in the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, earning many top spots, including 7th place in the 1,000m and 4th place in Ladies Team Pursuit. She holds the title of the first-ever Hispanic-American woman to win a Winter Olympics medal.
Politics - Julie Jones has had one prestigious title after the other, first as the director of law enforcement for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and now the executive director of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Jones graduated from Florida Atlantic University, receiving her master’s degree in ecology, and then joined the Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission as a biologist. In 1983, she was recruited by the Division of Law Enforcement and eventually became regional director in Lake City in 1997. In 2002, she earned her prestigious spot with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
“Working for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conversation Commission allowed me to interact with the recreating public, keeping our citizens and visitors safe while protecting the state’s fragile environment. It is pretty neat to be paid to be outdoors in a beautiful state like Florida,” Jones stated.
For her outstanding work, she was named the Fish and Wildlife Officer of the Year by the Florida Wildlife Federation in 2003. “Being named Officer of the Year … was a highlight of my career. It is very rewarding to have your hard work recognized by a major stakeholder.”
Jones moved to her new position heading the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles in September of 2009. Using her extensive knowledge of the business and public governance, she works to balance accountability and teamwork, emphasizing customer service and bringing in a new energy. “My job is to support employees and help remove roadblocks so that they can effectively do their jobs,” she said. She plans to set goals and measure their success as she tackles new challenges with her staff, and she cites her position as the culmination of her professional career.
Science - Can one person save the environment? That’s exactly what Justin Kramer, a research engineer at Florida State University, is trying to do. Kramer, who holds a master’s degree in sustainable energy engineering, he researched high-efficiency buildings and hydrogen combustion technology. Today, Kramer serves as the project manager for the Energy & Sustainability Center, where he tries to find alternative energy sources. Most notably, Kramer led a team through both design and construction of the Off-Grid Zero Emissions Building (OGZEB).
The 1,000-square-foot facility is constructed out of recycled and eco-friendly materials. This fully functional house, located on FSU’s main campus, is 100 percent environmentally friendly. Since the building is “off-grid,” it’s not connected to the city’s electrical service. Instead, electricity is generated from the roof’s solar panels. A hydrogen “battery” was constructed to harness light for overcast days or nighttime. “The OGZEB started as a building that would test and develop hydrogen technologies, and as it evolved, we decided to make it as sustainable as possible and install the best technologies on the market. The OGZEB has turned into a living laboratory that will be used to test how occupants feel about cutting-edge technologies and how they perform,” Kramer explained.
Since its completion, the house has lived up to expectations, even housing Kramer’s office. By the end of the year, people will start living there. “The building is operating as expected at this phase but will continue to change as new technologies come on the market and we design better systems.” The building is the first of its kind in Florida and the 14th in the country. Kramer hopes many more will be constructed.
In addition to the OGZEB and hydrogen combustion technology, Kramer has worked on projects ranging from an adjustable pitch propeller to a sustainable power plant. “I work with an amazing team and it is our goal to push the envelope and make sustainability work.”