About Our Staff

Larry Polivka, PhD Executive Director of The Claude Pepper Center
Tom Herndon Executive Director and Treasurer of The Claude Pepper Foundation
Glenn Mitchell, PhD Director of The Claude Pepper Data Center and Faculty
Monica Laughlin Business Manager
Lisa Rill, PhD Research Faculty III
Lori (Moore) Gonzalez, PhD Research Faculty III
Carolyn Muse, MS Budget Analyst
Kacey Heekin Research Assistant

Llarryparry Polivka serves as Executive Director of The Claude Pepper Center and Scholar- in- Residence with The Claude Pepper Foundation. His primary research centers on critical aging issues including long-term care, affordable health care, and economic security for America’s elderly population. He recently expanded the scope of his research on aging studies examining this complex issue in the global community. Proposed plans with Dean David W. Rasmussen of the College of Social Sciences and Political Policy for a Program in Global Aging at Florida State indicate the importance and significance of Polivka’s broadened research interests.

A Florida State graduate (1978), Polivka brings national recognition to his alma mater. In August 2011, he was presented with the Dr. Carl Osterbind Florida Council on Aging Award (August 2011) for his work with former Governor Bob Graham on the development of the Pathways to the Future plan. He also serves as the Chairperson for Governor Rick Scott’s Assisted Living Workgroup, and is the current Chairperson of the Social Research, Policy and Practice Section of The Gerontological Society of America. Polivka also received the Clark Tibbits Award from the Association of Gerontology in Higher Education in 2009 in honor of his outstanding contributions to gerontology and geriatric education. Prior to Polivka’s return to Florida State University, he was honored with emeritus status in recognition of his distinguished service as a professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida. He also served as the Associate Director of the School of Aging during his tenure at the university.

In addition to his academic contributions, Polivka has worked at the state and federal levels. His contributions to the State of Florida are numerous including service in several state agencies, as well as in the Office of the Governor. The White House Council on Aging, American Society on Aging, National Council on Aging, and the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education have also benefited from his extensive consulting and committee work.

Polivka has also contributed to every major journal in his field. He has served on the editorial board of the Journal of Aging, Humanities and the Arts; Journal of Applied Gerontology; Journal of American Medical Association; The Gerontologist; Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology; Journal of Applied Gerontology; and was co-editor of the Journal of Aging and Identity. His most recent publication, “Neoliberalism and Postmodern Cultures of Aging (2011)” in the Journal of Applied Gerontology is highly regarded for the unique interdisciplinary perspective the article brings to aging studies. “How to Protect Social Security for Another 75 Years (2010),” is another recent publication. Polivka’s article was printed in prominent newspapers throughout the state to honor the 75th anniversary of Social Security.
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TPepper Foundation board members and group shot.  tom Herndonom Herndon serves as Executive Director of The Claude Pepper Foundation. In a state government that spanned 32 years, Tom Herndon served at the highest levels of management in Florida government including key positions in the Executive Branch, the Legislature and the Cabinet. A Florida native, Mr. Herndon started his government career working as a child abuse counselor in his hometown of St. Petersburg. He ended his public service as the Executive Director of the Florida State Board of Administration, managing $125 billion dollars of the State’s investments and pension fund assets. The breadth of his public service to Florida is truly unique in that no other senior state official has served in as many powerful and high profile positions for both Democratic and Republican administrations. He also enjoys the rare experience of having served as a senior official in all three aspects of Florida’s fiscal system. His unique and intimate understanding of Florida’s planning and budgeting process is unparalleled. He has served on the Board of Directors numerous national organizations including the National Association of State Budget Officers, Council of State Planning Agencies, National Association of State Tax Administrators, Council of Institutional Investors, National Association of State Investment Officers, and was twice appointed by the New York Stock Exchange to the Pension Manager’s Advisory Board.
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Dglennmitr. Glenn E. Mitchell II is the Director of The Claude Pepper Data Center and a faculty member at Florida State University. Highly respected for his grant work, he is currently supervising a large-scale grant between Florida State University, Florida Medicaid, and Medicare. The grant highlights the legacy of Senator Claude Pepper with its cutting edge analysis of the current strengths and weaknesses of long-term care in the State of Florida.

Dr. Mitchell also maintains an Aging Long-Term Care Data Warehouse. The extensive collections include data from the Agency for Health Care Administration, Florida Department of Elderly Affairs, Florida Department of Health, and U.S. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Studies. The recent addition of Florida Medicaid utilization and MDS III data to the warehouse furthers accessibility to policy-relevant information on Florida’s aged and disabled adult populations by interested PhD students and scholars at Florida State University, in addition to research analysts at The Claude Pepper Data Center.

The academic world and state government have greatly benefited from Mitchell’s many contributions. Early in his academic career, he taught at the University of South Florida and Florida State University. Mitchell also served as a top administrator in the Methodology and Studies Section in the State Data Center on Aging at the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.

Mitchell has a wide variety of professional interests ranging from politics to health care. In addition to his extensive publication of discipline-related articles, datasets and reports, he has authored three books pivotal to computer networking and programming: Beginning Java Networking, Professional Java Data and Professional Oracle 8i Application Programming with Java, PL/SQL and XML.
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MPepper Foundation board members and group shot.  Monica Laughlinonica Laughlin has worked at The Claude Pepper Center since 1997. Invaluable for her administrative and management support during the early planning stages of the Center, she remains an integral part of the organization’s daily activities. Ms. Laughlin is responsible for all administrative, financial and human relations operations, and assists in the development and implementation of the many events at The Claude Pepper Center.
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Dr. Lisa Rill is a recent graduate of Florida State University’s Department of Sociology in the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy (2011). While in graduate school, Dr. Rill distinguished herself with numerous awards and honors. She has certificates in Aging Studies and Teaching Training from Florida State and Florida Atlantic universities, and a Social Service Designee Certificate from the Indiana Healthcare Association. Rill was also the recipient of two research grants, and the prestigious Claude and Mildred Pepper Dissertation Fellowship. Her areas of specializations are health and aging. Further studies have led to additional foci of retirement and long-term care, and social services and organizations.

Dr. Rill had a successful professional career as well. Before coming to Florida State, she worked overseas at the Kumano-Intercultural Center in Shingu, Japan, and served as a Social Worker in nursing homes, rehabilitation, and senior centers throughout north and south Florida, and Indiana. At Florida State and Florida Atlantic, Rill taught a wide variety of sociology courses. A Research Associate at The Claude Pepper Center, she currently works with Dr. Larry Polivka, Scholar-in-Residence at the Pepper Center, and Dr. David Rasmussen, Dean of the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy on a long-term care and integrated care education and training program.

Dr. Rill’s undergraduate studies were at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. She has a Bachelor of Arts in General Studies with an emphasis on the social and behavioral sciences.
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DLoriMoorer. Lori Gonzalez received her PhD in Sociology from Florida State University in 2011. Her specialization was in social inequalities and her dissertation focused on explaining racial and ethnic disparities in Florida’s juvenile justice system. She co-authored two publications on juvenile justice while in grad school.

Dr. Gonzalez was drawn to the Claude Pepper Center and its mission with her education in social inequalities and her own aging father who was 55 years old when she was born. Words like “Medicare” and “Social Security” were common in her household growing up.

Dr. Gonzalez’s research includes uncovering alternatives to traditional nursing home care including the Green House Project and the Program of the All Inclusive Care for the Elderly, understanding racial and ethnic disparities in nursing home admission, international comparisons of long-term care quality, and Medicare and Medicaid. Dr. Gonzalez is also an experienced SAS programmer and uses that skill to analyze data for the center.

“I worry though about the future of LTC in Florida and the nation and about the lack of alternatives to large nursing homes. This drives my research. There’s got to be a better way to provide quality care while at the same time preserving quality of life.”

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Carolyn Muse received her MS in Instructional Systems Design at Florida State University and her BS in Exceptional Child Education from Barry University. As an educator, she taught children and adults with physical, emotional, and cognitive impairments. Years later, as an instructional designer, Ms. Muse helped design and develop instruction for an electronic performance support system created to support Florida’s special education teachers.

While living in Seattle, she designed and developed computer-based training for Boeing pilots and maintenance technicians, and assisted in the development of a training evaluation plan for FAA propulsion engineers. At the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration in Tallahassee, Ms. Muse served as an administrator, researcher, and project manager, and assisted in the start-up of a multimedia unit where she pursued her interest in graphic art and visual communication.

Ms. Muse brings many skills to the Claude Pepper Center where her design, management, and research capabilities are utilized. Her current focus is on researching issues related to quality of care and quality of life for elderly persons residing in our nation’s long-term care system.
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Kacey Heekin received her BS in Psychology from the University of Florida in 2014. During her time as an undergraduate student, she worked as a research assistant in the University of Florida Department of Aging and Geriatric Research for several years. Ms. Heekin also worked as a clinical research assistant in a private orthopedic practice in Jacksonville, Florida. Her research experiences primarily involve examining behaviors and interventions associated with prevention and improvement in quality of life in relation to age-related disease and decline and obesity. Ms. Heekin has coauthored several peer-reviewed articles on these topics.

Ms. Heekin’s interests in health, social, policy, and economic issues related to aging prompted her involvement with The Claude Pepper Center. Her current research centers on the mental health system, with specific focus on aspects of mental health and aging, and long-term care.
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