District Board of Trustees
Polk State College, like Florida’s other state colleges, is governed by a locally autonomous District Board of Trustees that serves without compensation. The Trustees are vested with decision-making power in all matters of College policy, programs, building, budget, and personnel, and the President of the College reports directly to the Board.
The Governor of Florida appoints this group of seven outstanding local citizens. The Trustees meet once a month and contribute their time and talent to guide Polk State College in its mission of being a “quality-driven educational institution, providing access to affordable associate and baccalaureate degrees, career certificates, and workforce development programs, delivered by diverse, qualified faculty and staff who are committed to student learning and achievement through the consistent practice of collaboration and focus on excellence.”
Teresa V. Martinez, Chair
Teresa V. Martinez is the president and founder of the Institute of Spanish Communication Inc., and a Polk State College alumna. She also produces and hosts Spanish shows for television and radio, such as “Communidad Viva,” which aired on PGTV. Teresa is the author of the bilingual book, “Success in Exile — Five Decades of Cuban Stories.” A native of Cuba, she and her family fled the country when she was 15 and relocated to Polk County. After graduating from Polk State College in 1975, she attended the University of Central Florida, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and Education. She spent 11 years teaching Spanish at Lakeland High School. She has been a member of several boards of directors, including the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce, the Central Florida Speech and Hearing Center, the Imperial Symphony Orchestra and the Hispanic Club of Lakeland/Hispanic Festival. She is a recipient of the Governor’s Point of Light Award, the Lakeland Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners’ Women of Distinction Award and the Ledger Media Group’s 2013 Entrepreneurship Award. In 1997, she was selected as the Central Florida Development Council’s International Individual of the Year, and in 2006, the Polk County Board of County Commissioners proclaimed Teresa Martinez Day in recognition of her contributions during the 2004 hurricane season.
Cindy Hartley Ross, Vice Chair
Cindy Hartley Ross is the owner of Social Graces, a company specializing in etiquette and protocol training. She is a Lakeland native and currently serves as Vice-Chair of the Florida College Association and as a member of the Board of Trustees for the Florida House in Washington, D.C., which she has served for more than two decades as part of the organization’s Lakeland Council. She also serves the Former Members of Congress Spouse Advisory Committee in Washington, D.C., Girls Inc. of Lakeland Board of Trustees, Polk Arts Alliance Advisory Council, and Habitat for Humanity Advisory Council. She has previously served as a Commissioner of the Florida Commission on the Status of Women, Board and Board of Governors member of the Polk Museum of Art, and President of the Polk Arts Alliance.
Ross has served the Polk State College District Board of Trustees for 17 years under Governors Jeb Bush, Charlie Crist, and Rick Scott. Additionally, she served on the Polk State College Foundation Board and as President of the Polk State College Alumni Association, and represented Polk State in the Florida Association of Community Colleges and the national organization, Association of Community College Trustees. She invested 15 years volunteering and substitute teaching for Polk County Public Schools. Having served in many roles at Rochelle School of the Arts and George Jenkins High School, including Parent-Teacher Association President and Academic Booster Club President, she earned Volunteer of the Year awards at both schools, the USA Presidents Volunteer Service Award, and the Kids Count Award.
Ashley Bell Barnett
Ashley Bell Barnett is a community advocate who has worked as a public educator, workforce development analyst, and nonprofit leader. She joined the Polk State College Foundation Board in 2014 and served in leadership roles including Development Chair, Treasurer, and Vice-Chair. She concluded her service on the Foundation Board in June 2020. In addition to her leadership and advocacy at Polk State, Barnett serves as Vice-Chair and Community Impact Chair for the United Way of Central Florida Board of Directors. She also serves the Lakeland Regional Hospital Foundation Board, GiveVisual Board, Talbot House Fundraising Committee, Polk Academies Board, and as Central Florida Speech and Hearing Fundraiser and Letter Campaign Chair. Additionally, she assists with outreach for Florida Polytechnic University as a Pivot Fellow. She has participated in Leadership Florida and Leadership programs beyond state lines and is a graduate of Leadership Polk Class XII. Barnett holds a Master of Public Administration from the University of South Florida and received a bachelor’s degree from Florida Southern College. She is a fifth-generation Floridian who lives in Winter Haven with her husband, Wesley Barnett, and their two daughters
Ann Barnhart is Vice President of Strategy for AdventHealth West Florida Division. Prior to her current role, she served as the Chief Business Development Office for AdventHealth Polk Market. Prior to AdventHealth, she was Market CEO for Heart of Florida Regional Medical Center in Haines City, where she had direct administrative and operational responsibility for the hospital as well as operational oversight of Lake Wales Medical Center.
With more than 40 years of experience in healthcare, Barnhart began her career at Yale New Haven Hospital in Connecticut, and joined Health Management Associates in Florida where she held the position of Senior Vice President/Division President.
She serves on the Haines City Economic Development Council and the Winter Haven Economic Development Council and is a Board member of the Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce, Truist, Give Well Foundation, and Associated Industries of Florida (AIF). In November 2018, she was selected to serve as a member of Governor DeSantis’s Transition Advisory Committee on Health and Wellness and in 2023, was appointed to the District Board of Trustees for Polk
Greg Littleton is president and chief executive officer of Citizens Bank & Trust. He graduated from Polk State College in 1987. He went on to attend Freed-Hardeman University in Tennessee and graduated in 1989 cum laude. He has been at Citizens Bank & Trust since 1997 and has been president since 2001. He serves on the board of the Lake Wales Arts Council, Florida School of Preaching, Florida Bank Pac, Government Relations Council for the Florida Bankers Association, Polk State College’s Workforce Education Council, the executive board of the Polk Vision Steering Committee, and is chair of the Economic Development Foundation. He is the past president of the following: Lake Wales Chamber of Commerce, East Polk Committee of 100, and Central Florida Development Committee.
Ashley Troutman is a financial advisor and operates a financial services practice within the Northwestern Mutual Financial Network. He and his team engage clients in the financial planning process which includes risk management and wealth management. Troutman has been a business owner in the industry since 2012.
A lifelong Lakelander, he attended Polk County Public Schools throughout his primary education and graduated from George Jenkins High School. He received his Associate in Arts from Polk State College and his Bachelor of Science in Marketing from the University of South Florida. He is also a published poet, and his work has been featured in two books published by Brown Bear Publishing.
A member of Leadership Lakeland Class 27 and Leadership Polk Class 12, Troutman has served the Polk County community in several different capacities, including as Chairman of the Board at Lighthouse Ministries, a member of the Lakeland Regional Health Foundation Board of Directors, a member of the Lakeland Electric Utility Advisory Committee, a member of the IDEA Public Schools Advisory Board, and other committee roles for various organizations. He is also actively involved in his church. He lives in Lakeland with his wife, Kia, and their two sons, Bryce and Ellis.