Storied figures

The legacies of some community leaders are still being written.

Style regularly profiles local legends who have been instrumental in shaping Lake and Sumter counties. Here are March 2016 excerpts for four “Legends of Leadership” and today’s updates:

Carey Baker

Lake County property appraiser. 

Then: Eustis native Carey Baker has fought for what he has believed in for decades—as a member of the armed services, Florida House of Representatives, Florida Senate and now as the Lake County property appraiser. As a legislator for Lake County, he helped pass historic property tax cuts for millions of Floridians and sponsored legislation to modernize the appraisal process. He now has a new mission: enhancing the level of useful information and services for Lake County property owners. 

Now: Construction growth is keeping the property appraiser’s office busy with mapping, inventory and appraisal, Carey says. The office has adopted new technology to help with damage assessment after hurricanes and other disasters, interpretation of deed information, appraisal comparisons across geographic areas and efficiency of field appraisers.

“These are indeed exciting times for my office and especially for me,” Carey says. “I have seen our county go from a farming community where we were the largest citrus-producing county in America to now an increasingly busy suburban area with new people, new ideas and new possibilities for all of us; all the while retaining the warmth and sense of community that has made this such a great place to live. … I can mostly say that I feel blessed.”

Carman Cullen-Batt

Executive director of the Lake County Educational Foundation.

Then: “Legendary? No, I am a believer in community and lover of Lake County. My previous position at the Daily Commercial allowed me to form relationships (that helped organize) Lights of Lake, Mardi Gras, Ibini Tera and Lady of the Lakes Renaissance Faire. I now serve 46,000 students and employees in our schools. My skills are not making a corporation rich but enriching the lives of our students and teachers. Hopefully, my efforts will produce a true Lake County legend.”

Now: Carman spoke this year at TEDxEustis and related a story about a young woman named Diamond, who earned a college scholarship with the help of the foundation.

“Even after all of these years, Diamond’s story still inspires me in the work that I do,” Carman told the audience, comparing Diamond the person with the gem. “We like to think of it as ‘cutting and polishing.’ Our work allowed Diamond the chance to succeed, just as it has given thousands of other students, many uncut and unpolished gems, the chance to become brilliant in their own right.”

Beverly Steele

Founder, Young Performing Artists Inc., Wildwood.

Then: Her most intimate work has been within the community, providing a place and resources for young people to find self-expression. Through numerous initiatives, Beverly brought arts education to the forefront. Her commitment to community programs has helped build a culturally rich foundation for Sumter County and surrounding areas.

Now: YPA is celebrating 21 years of encouraging young performers in the arts and has awarded about $50,000 in scholarships.

“I am very thankful for what we have been able to accomplish and I’m also very thankful looking forward to what we will continue to accomplish,” Beverly says.

In May, she published “Hello, Somebody!”— Beverly Steele’s 40 Acres & A Mule Stories; Her People Kept the Land!” She tells the story of Royal, one of Florida’s oldest African-American communities, which was formed by freed slaves in 1865 in Sumter and still exists today.

“It’s more a reflection of the characteristics of the people that held on to the land and were thankful for the land to pass it down through the generations,” she says.

YPA, located within Royal, is seeking a national historic registry designation for the community.

Ann Dupee

Former newspaper owner and civic leader who died six months after the Style story at age 82.

Then: At a time when media was a man’s world, Ann Dupee shattered the glass ceiling to blaze a trail that led her through an incredible career. In 1968, she and her husband, George, purchased the South Lake Press and, under her leadership, circulation grew to 4,000. She served on the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council, the South Lake Kiwanis Club and the Greater Clermont Area Chamber of Commerce.

“I do it because I love this community and it’s where my interests lie,” she says.

Now: In September, Lake-Sumter State College dedicated the Ann Dupee Nursing Simulation Center at its Clermont campus. A gift from Ann and her family went toward the purchase of a high-fidelity manikin that will allow students to practice in realistic patient settings using current health-care technology.

 “Ann Dupee was a positive force for the South Lake community that she loved so much,” LSSC President Stan Sidor says in a news release. “It’s our honor to dedicate this simulation center for her today. We appreciate all the support she’s given to this college, especially in growing this campus in Clermont.”

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