Staff

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John Sotomayor

Publisher / Executive Editor / Sales Director 

Sotomayor is the president and CEO of Sotomayor Media Creations LLC, the parent company of  Elevate, formerly Ocala Christian Advocate magazine, of which he serves as publisher and executive editor. Sotomayor has an extensive career in media, honed as president of Sotomayor Media Creations, LLC. Clients include several Florida publications, such as: Florida Trend, Florida Travel & Life, Gainesville Today, Ocala Star Banner, and North Central Florida Business Report, and national corporations, such as Best Version Media, which he served as content coordinator for four publications: Country Club Living, Southeast Neighbors, Downtown Neighbors and Innovation Ocala. Sotomayor and his business have won numerous media awards, including Minority Business of the Year, Journalist of the Year, and the Mary Sue Rich Diversity Award by the City of Ocala. Sotomayor was a staff writer for five publications of Akers Media Group: Lake & Sumter Style, The Villages Edition Style, Healthy Living, Lake Business Magazine and Welcome to Lake. Previously, Sotomayor worked at Ocala Magazine as executive editor, which he began as associate editor. He produced/hosted a radio talk show called: Ocala Magazine Radio with John Sotomayor on WOCA 1370 AM/96.3 FM. His work won numerous awarded by the Florida Magazine Association, Florida Press Cub and Society of Professional Journalists. Sotomayor served on numerous boards/councils and led the Hispanic Business Council for two consecutive terms.

 

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Joe DeLeon

Creative Director

Joe DeLeon is a Christ-follower, father, husband, athlete and plant eater, with a wealth of more than 20 years of experience as an award-winning designer. For nine years he served as Art Director of Charisma, the flagship magazine of Charisma Media in Lake Mary, FL, and supervised the art direction of three additional publications in digital and traditional print formats.

His portfolio of work includes providing creative vision and artistic leadership for magazines such as Parenting, Cruising World, Sailing World, and Flying. His logo work and overall graphic design abilities have touched everything from the competitive Chicago sports scene and the world of investment banking all the way to the artistic support of the compassionate voices of internationally impactful ministries such as Awana and Pioneers. His talents are a real asset for Elevate and Elevar magazines.

As his creative influence continues to evolve, this Chicago-born and Miami-educated artist gives thanks for his success to the source of all inspiration, faith, and consistently looks to motivational authors, the wonders of nature and the timeless sound of smooth Jazz for renewed perspective to guide his work.  Bold colors that dance off of the page united with cleverly crafted typography are his signature style, declaring his thought-out vision, loud and clear.

 

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Ashley Burdeshaw

Graphic Designer

Originally from Atlanta, GA, Ashley Burdeshaw currently lives in Ocala, FL. She completed her undergrad at Florida State University and began her career working as a child abuse investigator in Tallahassee FL. During this time, she also helped run a grassroots organization whose mission was to combat the human trafficking industry. Ashley developed a passion for design several years ago, and currently work as a graphic artist at TJM Promos. She loves what she does, and loves the people she met along the way. Most of all, Ashley loves building the kingdom of God in whatever she does –  whether it be through design or working to help people. She is passionate about the love of Jesus and sharing that love with the world. Ashely is currently pursuing her MSW at Florida State University in hopes of designing better policies and programs that serve human trafficking victims. Some random facts about Ashley: she loves a great cup of coffee, college football is one her favorite things of all time (“Go Noles!”), and she plays the guitar.

 

Conan Segrest

Conan Segrest

Chief Photographer 

Conan Segrest and his wife Yaisa have been the owners of Full Line Photography Studio, located on SR 200 in Ocala, for the last 6 years. They been in the Ocala area since graduating in 1998 and married since 2001. His wife got him his first camera that same year and he hasn’t put it down since, now providing timeless wedding photography and family portraits to his clients to cherish a lifetime. Their extended family consists of 5 dogs, a cat and one squirrel, and when not working they enjoy getting into home projects and spending time outdoors.

 

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Crystal Jewell-Maksou

Outreach  and Communications Director 

Crystal Jewell-Maksou is first and foremost, a child of the One True King, Jesus Christ. She is Contributing Writer for Daughters of King International Ministries. She is the Co-Owner of Angel Maids Cleaning Ministry in Ocala, Florida. She has been an inspirational outlet to not only the community, but also the women at Lowell C. I., where she instructs a class. She stands on a foundation that cannot be shaken in Jesus name and wishes for all who are willing to join her in this pilgrimage. She is part of Ocala Business Leaders Association, Faith and Justice Coalition, Phoenix House Alumni, Christian 12-Step, and several other community based outreaches. (Also in college for AA in Business Administration) (www.dot-k.com/contributingauthors/)

 

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Tai DeMaris

Social Media and Marketing Manager 

Tai DeMaris born in Texas, lived in Saint Petersburg, FL for 20 years before moving to Ocala in 2009. She graduated from University of South Florida  with a B.A. in Accounting.

After receiving her education, Tai worked for Outback Steakhouse Inc. in Tampa, FL. Tai was responsible for the accounting duties of multiple Outbacks in Tennessee and Kentucky. She moved to Ocala in 2009 where her and her husband owned a local franchise through the end of 2015. During that time, she earned several awards for sales growth and marketing. Tai has several years of experience in running a business that includes operations management, customer service, accounting and marketing.

 

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Nicole Gomez

Copy Editor

Nicole Gomez serves as copy editor of Elevate, formerly Ocala Christian Advocate. She chose to take her first journalism class as a reason to visit and write about homeless travelers in the Ocala National Forest and never looked back, enamored with a career of exploring new places, people and things.

Through this past spring she studied journalism at the University of Florida and has shot, written and edited for Ocala Magazine, Gainesville Today, the Independent Florida Alligator and other esteemed local media. Her work has earned first place in 2013 from the Florida College System Activities Association for best feature story, one called “Dreamkeepers Lends a Hand” in the Patriot Press about students helped by a special aid program at the College of Central Florida; and third place in 2016 in the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sunshine State Awards for best student-made video, a WUFT feature on the Repurpose Project, an innovative local effort to divert waste into art and useful products instead of pollution.

Currently, Gomez works as a freelance photographer, web designer and social media marketer, learning the many angles of art, entertainment and communications to refine a vision for her own publications one day. Her work is displayed on her personal website.

 

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Jason Pohlsen

Advertising Account Manager

Jason Pohlsen has an extensive history of sales and management expertise. Most notably, Jason served 5 years in the U.S. Army. During that time, Jason provided religious and spiritual support to soldiers while deployed and families while stationed at Fort Stewart, GA as an assistant to the Chaplain. He also has local publishing ad sales experience having been an account manager for Ocala Magazine and digital ad sales for Ocala Star Banner. Jason will prove to be an invaluable asset and looks forward to serve the readers of Elevate Magazine.

 

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Michelle Lissette Clark

Columnist and Contributing Writer 

Michelle Lissette Clark was born in a culturally diverse area of South Florida to youth ministers who accepted the call of providing homes for troubled teens. As a result, she continues to believe in the importance of investing in people. She received a Bachelor of Arts from Flagler College, and a Masters in English and Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University. She has worked as a journalist, librarian, and seamstress. Her interests are vast, but are centered around the arts and theology. She also doesn’t mind if you call her a hipster, as long as you serve it up with a cafe con leche.

 

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Jarod Kintz

Observational Humor Columnist and Contributing Writer 

My motto is: “Love now, not later. Also, love later.” No matter what the clock says, now is the time to love. Life, it’s made up of two things—time and love. A watch tells one, but what tells the other? We tell each other. We can’t control time, but we can control how much love we give.

Publisher’s Note: Jarod Kintz is a prolific author of humorous books, such as “This Book is Not For Sale,” “This Book Has No Title,” “It Occurred To Me,” ‘I Should Have Renamed This,” “Six Foot and Some Change: A Chronicle,” and several more, less note-worthy (said in jest).

 

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Trisha Hiatt

Contributing Writer 

Trisha Hiatt is a third-generation Ocalan who is a Christ follower, wife, and mom. Trisha was a Kindergarten teacher at Redeemer Christian School for seven years and at Victory Academy for three. She loved teaching, but the Lord opened the doors for her to write from home which ended up being ideal as she is able to stay home with her two-year-old son, Sutton. She thoroughly enjoys writing and has been honing her craft for four years working with Best Version Media as the Content Coordinator for three Citrus County neighborhood publications. As this has been such a joy for her, she is even more excited to have the opportunity to share her faith and beliefs while writing for Elevate. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, playing with her son, painting, laughing, dancing, playing the piano, and theater. She gives God all the glory for the blessings in her life.

 

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Michael Lee Simpson

Contributing Writer 

Michael Lee Simpson is a multi-award-winning writer and filmmaker with accolades in the Austin Film Festival, Worldfest Houston, KAN Film Festival, STN Nationals, and most notably, received honors from the Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting for two consecutive years at the ages of nineteen and twenty, standing in the top 300 out of over 7,000 people. Michael was also an editor for Ocala Magazine, and also served as a film critic for NightlifeKC.com and The Kansas City Star. He is a graduate of the University of Kansas and was born and raised in Kansas City.

 

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Eric Skinner

Contributing Writer 

Originally from Sharon, PA, Skinner relocated to Florida in 2003 at 9 years old. In middle school, he joined the yearbook staff and immediately knew he wanted to make a career out of journalism. Skinner, a newly established journalist who has 4 years under his belt was a graduate of Vanguard High School in 2012. He has attended the College of Central Florida and helped bring their college newspaper, The Patriot Press, to the number ten spot in the nation for college publications through the Associated Collegiate Press. Skinner has also previously held an internship at Ocala Magazine. He looks forward to his time as a contributing writer at Elevate and is ready to serve you!

 

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Lisandranette “Lisa” Rios

Contributing Writer 

Born and raised in Ocala, Rios can truly share how wonderful the Ocala community is. Some of her fondest memories are from events held after church in the community. She graduated from Forest High School and the College of Central Florida. At CF, she fell in love with journalism serving as the news editor of The Patriot Press and editorial intern at Ocala Magazine. Now a senior at the University of Florida, she has been published in The Patriot Press, Ocala Magazine, The Independent Florida Alligator, The Student Body Magazine, WUFT News and Orange and Blue Magazine. As a proud millennial, she enjoys social media marketing, playing with her Yorkie and visiting local shops in Ocala and Gainesville.

 

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D. R. De La Croix

Contributing Writer

D. R. De La Croix is passionate about his savior, youth, the great outdoors, paddling, and football. De La Croix was raised in Wisconsin with an enormous extended family that gave him a wide variety of life experiences. He began volunteering with Young Life and at Christian camps at 18, and has been engaged in youth ministry for half his life. After graduating from prestigious Lawrence University, De La Croix completed Tentmakers Ministry Leadership training, an intensive youth ministry “boot camp,” and served as the Director of Youth and Children’s ministries in Wisconsin and Florida.

 

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Bill Dodd

Wellness Columnist and Contributing Writer

Bill Dodd has served in numerous executive positions overseeing administration, governmental and public relations, marketing and publications for major public and private entities. Over the years, he attained national recognition for public service and tourism efforts.

For over fifteen years, Bill planned and managed AAA Public and Government Relations programs in Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.  Over these years at AAA, he was the Executive Editor and Publisher for Car & Travel  and AAA World magazines.

Bill also served as a lobbyist for AAA and published a book about dream Interpretation entitled Dream On. After his years at AAA, Bill served as Executive Director of Florida Community Foundations, Youth Reach and Case Manager at The Centers.

Bill Dodd was the Senior Minister at Unity of Ocala from 2003 to 2009 and presently is the Senior Minister of a non-denominational church focused on meditation called Trinity of Light in Ocala.

Bill’s community involvement included serving for years as a Commissioner on the Florida Tourism Commission, the Florida Economic Development Commission, the Florida Tourism Association and on the Board of Directors of the Florida Audubon Society.

 

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