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
Kacey Heekin Research Assistant
LuMarie Polivka-West, MSP Sr. Research Associate

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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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  received her Ph.D. in Sociology at Florida State University in 2011 with a specialization in health and aging. Her Master’s thesis focused on the effects of bureaucracy on quality of care in nursing homes and her Dissertation examined the efficacy of senior center participation. Her research interests include the aging process, long-term care, retirement, social services, and inequality.

Before attending graduate school, Dr. Rill served as a Social Worker in nursing homes throughout Florida and Indiana. During that time, she witnessed many unsettling realities about the long-term care system. After five years of working in the industry she realized that, regardless of whether one lives in an upscale private pay nursing home or a Medicaid supported home, there was a common trend of overall poor quality of life for the residents. With her hands bound by bureaucracy and unable to truly help her residents as a social worker, she decided to attend graduate school with hopes to improve the long-term care system and, in turn, the quality of life for residents today and in the future.

During her time in graduate school, Dr. Rill taught classes in sociology and aging studies, interned at AARP, volunteered at the local senior center, and received her graduate certificate in Aging Studies from the Pepper Institute on Aging and Public Policy at Florida State University. She also received the FSU Research Grant and the Claude & Mildred Pepper Dissertation Fellowship, which assisted her in completing her dissertation.

Dr. Rill’s research at the Claude Pepper Center includes identifying ideal assisted living facilities, trends among older voters, costs of aging prisoners, cross-cultural examination of aging in place in Hong Kong, long-term care labor force issues, nursing home risk scores, Medicare/Medicaid, and universal design for senior housing.

According to many in the field of medicine, extending our life expectancy is considered progress. However, socially we have not kept pace with the aging process, and because of this the quality of life for the older population has suffered. If we want to continue along the path of longer life, it is our responsibility as a society to work towards improving quality of care.

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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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Kacey 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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LuMarie LuMarie Polivka-West, MSP, joined the Florida State University Claude Pepper Center in October 2015 as a Sr. Research Associate (volunteer) after retiring from 23 years with the Florida Health Care Association, previously the Sr. Vice President for Policy and Program Development with responsibility for the planning and implementation of long term care related policies and programs, and staffing the Quality Credentialing Program. Ms. Polivka-West is a past Florida Director of Licensure and Certification with the Agency for Health Care Administration, HRS Medicaid Program Development Chief and Aging Community-Based Services Chief with over 20 years in state government.

Ms. Polivka-West is the Past President and board member of the Florida Council on Aging and the Florida CHAIN Board of Directors, a health care advocacy organization; Pioneer Network Steering Committee; past president of the Tallahassee Alzheimer Resource Center Board; and is a member of the Tallahassee Community Chorus. She received a BA in English Lit from the University of Tennessee and an MS degree in Urban and Regional Planning from Florida State University, where she was an adjunct faculty for fifteen years teaching graduate and undergraduate students on health care regulation.