By PATRICIA STEELE, The Villages Daily Sun Staff Writer
THE VILLAGES — Elizabeth Lester has been busy since graduation from The Villages High School. In 2014, she added esquire to her title when she graduated from Stetson University College of Law. Also in 2014, she began working with Hogan Law Firm in general civil litigation and government law, representing Sumter County. She was admitted to the Florida Bar in 2015.
What’s it like to be working in Sumter County?
I was a Villages kid — you know, those kids whose parents live somewhere else, but work in The Villages. That was one of the requirements to attend the charter school. Several years later, there’s a lot of us now. When you think about it, we laid our heads in other counties, but we spent most of our time at school and activities in The Villages and Sumter County.
Why is this group of students important to the county?
So many kids who graduated from The Villages and Sumter schools have gone to college and now we’re back working in the county in law, business, medicine … and that’s going to continue. Because of the growth of The Villages, there are so many more job opportunities and a positive climate for young people to return and for some to start their own businesses.
How did you end up working in Sumter County?
I went to school at Stetson and received my law degree, and along the way went searching for a job. When I interviewed with Hogan Law Firm in Brooksville, I realized several Sumter County businesses and agencies were clients. Right now I’m traveling back and forth to the county about three times a week.
How did you end up serving on the Chamber of Commerce board?
Our law firm is a member of the chamber, and now that I’m spending time in Sumter County, I knew I wanted to be active and attend the meetings. I heard the chamber officers were adding board members, and I knew I wanted to serve. I love Sumter County. I love the sense of community.
Once you were on the board, what stood out about the membership?
There’s people in leadership roles who worked with and helped support me and other students at The Villages High School. They were leaders and mentors for young people and still are. Also, the board really works together to better serve its almost 400 members and they’re really active with events, training and networking.
What do you think makes the Sumter chamber unique?
It’s wonderful how members work together. The membership is made up of small and medium-sized locally owned businesses as well as corporations.
What do you see in the future for business and the Sumter chamber?
The chamber hosts several big events during the year. The most recent was the Taste of Simply Sumter. It was a big success and it was a great opportunity to promote local businesses. I think it’s important to grow these events. It’s also important to support new businesses as they come to the county. As the population grows, so do businesses. It’s good to have support systems in place.
Any last thoughts on this new role?
I think I’m blessed to be welcomed back in Sumter County. It’s wonderful to be able to come back to a place you love and share your time and work to help businesses not only survive, but thrive.
Patricia Steele is a staff writer with The Villages Daily Sun. She can be reached at 753-1119, ext. 9029, or firstname.lastname@example.org.