Let us introduce you to our 2020 Candidates for the SPAR Board of Directors! The Board of Directors is presenting Benjamin Alcorn as a new candidate who would bring valuable skills, passion, and knowledge to our organization. In addition, Kelly Lezama (current Secretary of SPAR), Soner Acar, Janie Coffey, and Michael Montoya are all seeking reelection to the Board for a second and final term.
Please learn more about the candidates by reading their bios below. If you have any questions for them prior to voting at the annual meeting, please submit them before December 3rd to [email protected] and the candidates will provide their answers at the Annual Meeting.
SPAR members will be able to vote on candidates at our Annual Meeting this coming Thursday, December 3rd at Uptown Kitchen & Bar. Doors open at 5:30 pm. Aside from voting, SPAR members will receive updates about on-going projects and have the opportunity to tour the SPAR office building right next door in the midst of renovations.
Originally from the Metro Detroit area, Benjamin attended Michigan State University to study accounting. His work in the Hospitality Business prompted his move to Jacksonville in 2007. In 2009 he met his wife Lauren Braddock, a Jacksonville native, and after a few years of continued travel for work with restaurant groups in Orlando and Tampa, they settled back in Jacksonville in 2014.
Shortly after Ben and Lauren’s marriage in the spring of 2015, discussion began on where in Jacksonville they would call home. Though Jacksonville was Lauren’s hometown, Benjamin longed for the tightknit sense of community that he had grown up within the Detroit area. Small central urban shopping and dining districts, interspersed throughout each neighborhood were common in the Midwest -the familiar corner bar where your name and usual drink order are committed to memory, the routine of the Saturday morning coffee shop and newspaper. He also missed the older homes and architecture that he was accustomed to. Benjamin was not yet familiar with Springfield, but his wife Lauren had attended RL Brown Elementary and Darnell Cookman. They quickly fell in love with the neighborhood and it was easy to see both the thriving community already here as well as the potential for growth. They purchased their forever home on W. 9th Street in December of 2015.
Benjamin instantly got involved in the Westside Baseball Team and has been the Team Captain since 2017. He is also a Board Member of the JaxChamber, Downtown Council. Benjamin and Lauren are small business owners and operate three SERVPRO franchises in the Jacksonville and St. Augustine areas. Benjamin sees the opportunity for continued and accelerated growth of our commercial corridors as well as cementing Springfield as an inclusive cultural destination spot for people of the Jacksonville area.
Candidates Seeking a 2nd Term
Soner Acar originally moved to the United States from a small town outside Stuttgart, Germany. He started attending college in Gainesville, FL, where he pursued a degree in political science. There he was heavily involved in student government and fund allocations. It was in this small town where Soner met his beautiful wife, Stephanie. Today, Soner works as an IT Project Engineer for a multi-site construction company based out of Chicago.
The couple moved to Springfield from San Marco in August of 2013. Like many, the Historic Springfield Tour of Homes brought to the neighborhood for the first time. Here he met more residents in four hours than four years in his previous neighborhood. That alone was the greatest selling point for this diverse and caring neighborhood. Having lived here going on their fourth year, they couldn’t imagine another place to call home; the friends they’ve made and moments they’ve shared are irreplaceable.
Soner started getting involved with the neighborhood through creek and street cleanups. From there he started helping with community bike rides, volunteering at local events like Jacksonville Porchfest, and joining the Block Captains Committee. Realizing the importance and positive role SPAR places on this neighborhood, Soner wanted to become more heavily involved. Bringing many years in Property Management and IT related experience, Soner would like to help develop SPAR's online presence and reach in the community; and use his passion for Historic Preservation, history and culture to improve the Springfield community where applicable.
Janie Coffey leverages almost three decades of experience in real estate, construction and development to expertly serve both residential and commercial buyers and sellers. Janie ranks in the top 250 agents in Florida, as identified by Real Trends and the Wall Street Journal. She has been named among the Top 100 Most Influential People in Real Estate by Inman News and was ranked as a top-ten agent in Northeast Florida by the Jacksonville Business Journal.
As Executive Director of Sales representing Compass in Jacksonville and Northeast Florida, Janie leads her namesake Coffey Team, specializing in luxury, waterfront, historic and architecturally significant residential properties, equestrian properties, and boutique commercial properties.
Prior to joining Compass, Janie worked with the Sotheby’s International Realty brand for eight years, most recently serving as the Director of Sales for First Coast Sotheby’s International Realty in Northeast Florida, where she quickly became one of the firm’s top producers. Previously, she was the Executive Vice President for ONE Sotheby’s International Realty in South Florida, where she helped oversee the growth of one of the company’s top affiliates. Janie has a BSBA Degree from the University of Richmond, which, combined with her experience, enables her to approach and analyze deals from a business-minded angle. Janie also relies on her licensure as a general contractor and 30 years of experience in the building industry to guide clients on projects ranging from new builds to historic renovations.
Janie is deeply passionate about historic and architecturally significant properties, helping clients navigate even the most complex processes relating to preservation practices, income tax credits, or adaptive reuse projects. Janie’s family has lived in St. Augustine, Florida since 1574, making her a 15th-generation First Coaster. She grew up in Northern Virginia and lived in Washington, D.C., Germany and Miami before moving to Jacksonville. Janie is multi-lingual, speaking both German and English. Janie regularly lends her expertise to courses, webinars, and podcasts on luxury real estate, and the list of her professional accolades is endless.
Kelly Lezama has lived all over the city of Jacksonville for the past 17 years, including suburbs, beaches, Downtown, and other historic neighborhoods like Riverside and Murray Hill.
Kelly first fell in love with Springfield in 2013 after attending a Historic Springfield Tour of Homes. Intrigued by the beautiful homes and tree lined brick streets, Kelly began attending other neighborhood events. While at a July 4th Throwback Baseball game, she saw the strong sense of community that sets Springfield apart from the rest. Kelly decided to plant roots and purchased her Springfield home in September 2016.
Kelly has been actively volunteering with Neighborhood Clean Ups, Second Sundays, and Music on Main events. During her first term on the SPAR board she has served as Chair of the Governance and Home Tour committees. Kelly currently serves as Secretary for the Executive Committee. In her spare time, you can see Kelly walking her dogs or bike riding around the neighborhood while supporting local establishments. Kelly also enjoys exploring different cultures. Her travel adventures include Japan, Costa Rica, Ireland, and New Zealand.
Michael Montoya lives near the intersection of West 5th and Pearl Streets with his wife Cherie and three of their six shared children. A Jacksonville native, Michael spent much time with his grandparents at their Springfield area home in the 1970's.
After stretching a four year college tenure into six, Michael later went on to earn a Master's in Architecture at the University of Florida where he currently serves as an adjunct professor. Michael also works at Elm, an architecture firm with offices in Jacksonville and Seattle, WA.
Michael has enjoyed enjoyed living in "The 'Field" for over a decade, first at a warehouse on Walnut Street and now a house on Pearl. He has come to appreciate the efforts of neighbors and volunteers, and their commitment to establishing a neighborly community.
Michael says, "I would really like to be a part of improving Springfield, and I think my professional background and love of all things old can bring a lot to the organization!"