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Meet Orlando Sentinel's Editorial Advisory Board

Meet the members of our community that make up the Orlando Sentinel Editorial Advisory Board

In November 2015, we selected six members of the community to serve on our first-ever Editorial Advisory Board. They were among more than 100 from throughout Central Florida who applied. As members, they meet with our Editorial Board twice a month to critique our Opinion content and to share news and ideas from their communities and beyond. They also write letters to the editor and My Word columns, whenever inspiration calls.

Here's a snapshot of each:

Susan Schaidt Averill, of Altamonte Springs, is a retired Orange County schools employee. Over a span of 34 years, she rose from teacher's aide to teacher to high-school administrator. Also, an alumnus of Orange County schools, she attended Stetson University and has degrees from then-Seminole Community College, Rollins College and the University of Central Florida.

Of Central Florida, she writes, "I adore this area and feel that we must respect the past and look to the future of building a strong and vibrant community, a diverse community based on respect where acceptance may not always be comfortable."

Susan calls herself a centrist politically.

"A local newspaper," she writes, "remains essential to informing the local area of the issues, challenges and triumphs of our community."

David W. Cruise, a three-decade resident of Pine Hills, worked 25 years in the hotel industry and now lives with numerous disabilities. As a former Republican-turned-Democrat, he describes his views as multifaceted.

David believes that the job of any news organization is to educate the public, and when the newspaper is presenting an opinion, it should back it with facts.

He writes that he brings no agenda to the board: "I just want to make the paper I read the best it can be and to improve the reading experience for those who pay their hard-earned money to buy your paper."

Alexander F. Fernandez, of Windermere, was born in Cuba but came to the United States with the Peter Pan organization. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in business administration from Rutgers University, Alexander joined the international firm AIG which took him to South America, Latin America and Europe over 30 years.

He settled in Orange County to form a family business in 2010. He owns six Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robbins restaurants in Polk and Hillsborough counties. He also has held leadership positions with business and nonprofit organizations.

Alexander has been married for 46 years and has two sons and seven grandchildren.

George W. Koehn, of Winter Park, is a retired banker who began his career as a check desk clerk and rose to be chairman, president and CEO of SunTrust Bank, Florida. He has served in top Central Florida and statewide posts for civic, educational and nonprofit groups.

A native of Western New York State and a Central Floridian for more than 40 years, he attended the University of Miami and enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps before completing his education at the Stonier Graduate School of Banking at Rutgers, The State University and the National Commercial Lending Graduate School at Oklahoma University. George has been retired for 11 years, describes himself as a free-market capitalist and writes that he has no current affiliations, other than membership at the First Presbyterian Church of Orlando, to "bias my thinking." He is married with two children and one grandchild living in Winter Park.

Pat McFarland, of Clermont, has worked in multiple fields, including health care, mental health and education. She's also president of a nonprofit that offers college scholarships to African-American youth in West Orange County.

Born and raised in Winter Garden, she was educated in Florida, Georgia and Connecticut. She has a master's degree in social work and has worked with diverse populations who have medical, financial and emotional problems. She is currently semi-retired and continues to work with individuals and groups.

Pat feels strongly about her civic duty, and she gives her time where it is needed. 

Kenneth R. Wells, of Kissimmee, is a native Floridian and a graduate of the University of Central Florida, with a degree in psychology and a computer education degree from Nova Southeastern University. He is retired from Orange County Public Schools after working as an exceptional education teacher, a curriculum support teacher and as a technology support teacher in adult education.

"I've been a witness to most of the major events that affected Central Florida …," he writes. "My roots go deep here." He says he has witnessed the transformation of Orlando from a sleepy citrus town to the vibrant community it is today. He was here when Martin Marietta came to town and Orlando began to change almost overnight. He and his high school friends stood on the beach as the ground shook and a Saturn V lit up the sky on the way to the moon.

Kenneth and his wife, who is from Central America, have been married 44 years. They have three children, all graduates of UCF, and each working in engineering positions in defense companies. He describes himself as a "yellow dog Democrat."

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