Born in Lakeland | has lived in Lakeland for 30 + years | Manages Day-to-day operations at union hall


J eff has been a Lakelander so long that when he grew up in South Lakeland he had to commute across town daily to Kathleen High School because George Jenkins High School had not yet been built.

“I remember driving down 540A when it was two lanes and nothing but orange groves on the other side. There was no Valleyview (Elementary School), there was no Jenkins, there were no communities,” he says. 

Nearly three decades later, his daughter Chelsea is a junior at George Jenkins High, just minutes from their home.  

Jeff, 47, said he’s never really thought specifically about the characteristics of a Lakelander, but he describes Lakeland as “a big town with a small town feel” where people have access to everything they want, but without some of the challenges of a metropolitan area.

He remarked that it’s common for Lakelanders who grow up here to leave for a while and then eventually find their way back, often because their families and social networks are still here and it’s a safe place to raise a family.

Jeff knows that sentiment well because it’s his story. After graduating from Kathleen (he’s also an alum of Carlton Palmore and Lakeland Highlands Middle School) he went on to earn a history degree from University of Central Florida. He stayed in Orlando for about 15 years as he got married and started a family. Then, in 2010, after working for several Orlando-area home builders and earning his state residential contractor license, he moved back to his hometown, in part because his mom was battling a serious illness.

He settled back into Lakeland, but he still commuted for work. 

Last year, he knew he was ready for a major change, and a long-time Lakelander Sam Houghton, attorney at Houghton, P.A. and owner of Union Hall and Lean Spaces, ran an idea by him.

“I came to Sam to open up my own businesses…and then he kind of talked with me about running Union,” Jeff says. 

On January 1, 2022 Jeff took over the day-to-day management of Union Hall, a downtown music and entertainment venue that he has been tasked with transforming into a private event space.

He has had success creating a space for business networking gatherings of city entrepreneurs and influencers, and many Friday and Saturdays are booked with weddings and parties.

Jeff said he has enjoyed running into some old high school classmates on occasion in his new role, and he is glad to be part of a downtown scene that has been built and cultivated by familiar names and faces from his childhood. 


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