Women at the Helm

These local ladies are leading the charge at their respective businesses and organizations and empowering others to do the same

Holly Meyer Lucas, Founder and President, Meyer Lucas Team at Compass Florida, Photography by Jason Nuttle
Photography by Jason Nuttle

Holly Meyer Lucas

Founder and President, Meyer Lucas Team at Compass Florida

As the wife of former professional baseball player Ed Lucas, Holly Meyer Lucas became an expert in relocating when her husband was traded to different teams, forcing them to move around the country many times. As she learned how to find homes in new cities, she also gave advice to other baseball wives who were in the same situation.

“I was good at moving all over the United States,” says Meyer Lucas, who now heads the high-volume Meyer Lucas team at Compass real estate in Jupiter. “There is an art to finding homes and being able to assess how a place looks and feels from pictures. I did a lot of this before, and I learned how to translate it to high-profile client real estate sales from afar.”

As a top-producing luxury real estate specialist in Jupiter and around Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast, Meyer Lucas calls on that experience to find the perfect nests for her wealthy clients—many of whom are elite sports and entertainment figures. 

When Ed retired from professional baseball in 2015 (the third baseman had been a Miami Marlins player, among other teams, and is now a hitting coach with the San Francisco Giants), the couple was looking for a place to settle down. Of course, Jupiter is a hub for all kinds of professional athletes, from baseball and football players to tennis stars and golf pros—so it seemed like a good fit for their permanent home. “It made sense for us to live around other jocks,” says Meyer Lucas, who was born in Seattle and spent part of her youth overseas in Munich (her father is German). “Jupiter is so convenient and offers us a support system. Resources like training facilities and other specific environments align with our lifestyle.” 

Meyer Lucas earned a bachelor of arts in German literature and business from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, then worked as a traveling medical sales representative. When the couple moved to Jupiter, she obtained her real estate license and began assembling her team. It now comprises 15 agents, of which three leaders are women.

When hiring new team members, Meyer Lucas is adamant that each hire fits into her ecosystem. “They must radiate a good vibe, have ample energy—even on the phone—and not be intimidating,” she says.

Last year, her team sold nearly $100 million worth of real estate and has already increased that number by $20 million halfway through 2021. “I have built 30 agents over the years,” says Meyer Lucas, the mother of three young children. “Each has a concrete understanding of how real estate works. That training is essential because I want them to do their best.”

Meyer Lucas and her team work with sports agents, financial representatives, and athletes and their wives. Confidentiality agreements protect the identities of her high-profile clients. “I work eight days a week and love it,” says Meyer Lucas, who also enjoys boating, the beach, playing soccer, and golf. “But I take pride in my team of professionals to proxy if I am not there.”

Nationally respected for her skills and work ethic, Meyer Lucas is regularly hired for speaking engagements at sporting events and other functions. She is proud to be a woman in the male-dominated world of sports. “I am successful because I am a pro,” she says. “I know women run into issues and get pulled down, but my mission is to get rid of that and make sure women rise to the top—and stay there.”

Amy Kight, Executive Director of Busch Wildlife, Photography by Jason Nuttle

Amy Kight

Executive Director, Busch Wildlife Sanctuary

Born and raised in South Florida, Amy Kight grew up in an animal-loving family. A family friend who was a veterinarian offered her her very first job involving animals. “As a volunteer, I’d wipe down the exam rooms, clean bird cages, and watch dogs,” says Kight, who has been the executive director of Busch Wildlife Sanctuary for the past four years. “Working with animals is my passion because every day is different.”

Kight is highly qualified for her job with the not-for-profit organization dedicated to the protection and conservation of Florida wildlife and natural resources. In 2002, she earned a bachelor of arts in psychology from Florida Atlantic University, later obtaining an associate’s degree of applied science in veterinary technology from St. Petersburg College.

“I have worked at Busch Wildlife Sanctuary for more than 15 years in different capacities and was already employed there when I went back to college to learn why you give medicine to patients and how to keep wildlife healthy,” she says. “I love nature and all animals, so education and caring for them is not work for me.”

Kight worked her way to the top of one of the most respected local wildlife organizations, which is also a leader in conservation education. She served as the sanctuary’s education director for five years before being promoted to animal control director and then executive director in 2017. Prior to joining the sanctuary, she worked as Palm Beach County’s wildlife officer; she also holds multiple certifications and is an internationally certified wildlife rehabilitator.

In 1994, the Peter W. Busch Family Foundation joined the Wildlife Rehabilitation and Environmental Education Center to create Busch Wildlife Sanctuary. Today, the sanctuary offers free medical and rehab care to about 5,000 patients across more than 256 different species with the goal of returning each to its respective natural habitat.

Over the years, the sanctuary has rescued hawks, great blue herons, screech owls, squirrels, bald eagles, deer, foxes, bobcats, and panthers, among others. Last year, Kight and her team treated around 5,600 wildlife patients at their hospital. She applauds her staff of 26 and another 100
volunteers who devote their time during season, many of them women. “I hire a lot of females,” says Kight. “They seem to be drawn to this industry and love it as much as I do.”

Kight lives in Jupiter Farms with her husband, chickens, donkeys, dogs, cats, and a porcupine. “My pets are my children,” she says. She arrives at work each day around 7:30 a.m. after she has finished tending to her “zoo at home.” 

Under her leadership, the sanctuary is in the middle of a huge expansion. Kight is currently in meetings with architects, surveyors, and planners because the sanctuary, which relies on donations, is moving from its current Jupiter location to loftier and larger quarters in Jupiter Farms, hopefully by March 2022. The facility size is increasing from 11 to 19.4 acres. “We are devoting 5 acres to rehab, adding more hospital space, outdoor acreage, and parking, and will host exhibits,” says Kight. “We intend to show visitors how things used to look in Florida.”

Kight finds her work extremely satisfying because she understands that humans share an environment with wildlife—and that we must respect one another. That goes for all species, even venomous reptiles like the two rattlesnakes, copperhead, and water moccasin who are part of her wildlife family.

Giving animals freedom after they heal from injury, illness, or just being scared creates a bond between human and animal that Kight believes the animals understand. “It is amazing,” she says. “I especially love the part where I can hold a bald eagle on my arm and see the connection.” 

Nancy A. Politsch, CEO and CFO of Lighthouse Art Gallery, Photography by Jason Nuttle

Nancy A. Politsch

CEO and CFO, Lighthouse Art Center Gallery & School of Art

In addition to being a financial expert, Nancy A. Politsch has spent years pursuing the arts as a hobby, taking pictures and publishing two photography books. In 2016, when a creative opportunity presented itself, she gave up her wealth management job to take the reins at Lighthouse Art Center Gallery & School of Art in Tequesta. 

“Even though my background is in finance, I have always loved art and photography,” says Politsch, who was born in Kansas City and later moved to St. Louis as a child. “While working at Wells Fargo in Baltimore, I was on the board of Maryland Hall, a multidisciplinary arts center in Annapolis. When some of my wealth clients who were on the boards of both [Maryland Hall and Lighthouse] asked me to come to Lighthouse, my husband said, ‘Let’s go!’’’

Politsch was excited, if a bit skeptical, about leaving the security of her finance job. But she’s not sorry that she did. “Lighthouse wanted to come into the twenty-first century and connect to the community,” says Politsch, who recently celebrated five years as the center’s CEO and CFO. “I help with finances, hired a new auditor, bought new computers, and, with a great team, helped make us the best art center we can be.”

Her impressive background was just what Lighthouse needed. The board was seeking a talented pro to improve the not-for-profit center’s financial arm and also make it more relevant. With a master’s degree in finance from the University of Missouri, Politsch had worked for Bank of America and other financial institutions in similar capacities around the country, eventually becoming a senior vice president and wealth advisor at Wells Fargo Private Bank in Baltimore. That experience, combined with her passion for the arts,  made her the perfect mix of financially savvy and creatively curious. “I save us money and make us money,” she says. “Since I am not actually an artist, I can focus on making Lighthouse bigger and better.”

Lighthouse was founded in 1964 by a group of eight artists and Christopher Norton, the son of the founders of the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach. Today, Lighthouse hosts classes and workshops, including ceramics, drawing, jewelry making, painting, photography, and sculpture. It offers senior art options, teen and veterans programs, art camps, special needs classes, an improved glass program, and outreach experiences. The gallery also hosts revolving exhibitions, like the current show, Women in the Visual Arts, running September 7 through October 29.

“Our team members are passionate about their work,” says Politsch, the mother of two grown children in their thirties. “As a not-for-profit, we need to love this place and go beyond. I hire women when I can who share my vision, and I empower them. I don’t micro-manage.”

Politsch drives to work from her home in Port St. Lucie sometimes six days a week. She often snaps photos of Lighthouse projects for both personal and professional enjoyment. “I find the most rewarding part of my work is when I see people who are wowed when they come in,” she says. “Visitors make new friends here, we offer scholarships to kids, and we introduce art to all different folks. We bring joy into people’s lives.” 

Liz Soulen, Danielle Coffaro, Meghan Wright, Jenniffer Woo, Photography by Jason Nuttle

The Ladies of Love Street

Liz Soulen Director of Operations; Danielle Coffaro, General Manager, Beacon and Topside at the Beacon; Meghan Wright, Principal Bartender; Jenniffer Woo, Executive Pastry Chef

When Charlie & Joe’s at Love Street opened its doors in February, the community showed up in droves to get a taste of the long-awaited project by two of the area’s very familiar faces, Charlie Modica and Joe Namath. The dynamic duo put their project in the hands of some top-tier professionals—with four experienced women leading the charge in various aspects.  

“I am happy to be around these great female decision makers,” says football great Namath, who co-owns the unique hospitality experience with Modica, his friend and business partner.“I have been lucky in my life!”

With views of the Jupiter Lighthouse, Love Street encompasses four concepts: Lucky Shuck Oyster Bar & Taphouse, Beacon, Topside at the Beacon, and The Tacklebox. Overseeing all four establishments is Liz Soulen, who brings 20 years of experience to her important role as Love Street’s director of operations. Born in West Virginia and raised in South Florida, Soulen learned the hospitality business early on. “I’d watch my grandmother cook, and I also had a good cooking teacher at Spanish River High School in Boca Raton,” she says. “I learned the service side of the industry at places like Charley’s Crab, 11 Maple Street, and the Sailfish Point Country Club. I like the instant gratification of the work; we give people a moment to check out of daily stresses.” 

Soulen, who earned a food and beverage management degree from Florida Culinary Institute in 1999, helped establish partnerships with many local vendors while Love Street was in development. As she was seeking talent, female department heads came naturally, she says. She also likes to “teach leadership, watch staffers grow, and share successes.” “I take what I love and implement it for the community,” says Soulen. “This is a culture I want to build.”

Keeping things running at both Beacon and Topside at the Beacon is General Manager Danielle Coffaro. Born near Rochester, New York, Coffaro decided at age 14 that she wanted to tackle the hospitality industry when she began busing at a restaurant in her hometown. After graduating summa cum laude from Pace University in 2012 with a bachelor of business administration in hospitality administration management, she worked in a variety of New York City restaurants and bars. But she soon grew weary of the cold weather. 

On a whim, she drove to West Palm Beach with a friend and promptly found a job as a server at the now-closed but well-respected Jardin. “I then spent a few years managing restaurants and bars at the Boca Raton Resort & Club, and I really grew to love the business,” says Coffaro. “I like being busy and seeing people come out to eat and have fun. There is an air of happiness and positivity.”

On the job, Coffaro believes in open communication among team members and says she has such appreciation for the female department heads, who are as genuine as could be. The most rewarding part of the job, she says, is that her team provides such a high level of service. “Beacon is pure culinary theater,” she says. “It’s like a dance, where everyone takes a position. We have a host, busboys, and servers, and when all parts of the performance come together, it is beautiful.” 

A perfect fit for this “culinary theater” is Meghan Wright. A classically trained ballerina who has danced with the Pittsburgh, Sacramento, and Sarasota ballet companies, Wright is the choreographer behind the extravagant cocktails at Love Street. To get a good idea of her creative talent, try the Fog on the Water (rhum agricole blanc, cognac, navy strength gin, passion fruit, amontillado sherry, orgeat, lime blackstrap rum) or the Mr. G (prosecco,
clarified strawberry muscat, yuzu, basil), two stellar examples of her skills.

Born and raised in Tampa, Wright left ballet due to an injury. “When I was trying to get my strength back, I became a hostess at Ruby Tuesday’s on the west coast of Florida,” she explains. “I would stare at the bartenders to learn how to make drinks. I fell in love with the profession and found it to be an easy transition [from ballet] because the technique and skills involved were similar. I had to be creative in the same manner.” After stints at establishments like Chops Lobster Bar in Boca Raton and Voltaire in West Palm Beach, she is now principal bartender in charge of three cocktail programs at Love Street. 

Wright keeps high standards and says she appreciates having female bosses—she believes they have a stronger drive. “Women work hard with push, passion, and desire,” she says. “If we have new ideas, they have to be different and solid. I like the creative process, and I have learned so much.”

If Love Street satisfies your sweet tooth, you have Jenniffer Woo to thank for that. As executive pastry chef, she’s responsible for all of the delectable concoctions at each dining establishment. 

Woo first became interested in the business watching Cake-Off on the Food Network. Born in Miami, she knew by age 15 that she wanted to be a pastry chef. “I started working in restaurants while I was in school because I was eager to start putting art on a plate,” says Woo, who earned a bachelor of science in food service from Johnson & Wales in 2015. “I love being innovative and making the dessert presentation an event.” 

She gained valuable experience as a pastry chef in a variety of Miami-area restaurants, including Catch, Makoto, and Komodo, before moving to Jupiter to join the team at 1000 North and now the team at Love Street. She was thrilled when she learned she’d be working with so many talented women at Love Street. “Love Street seemed different for me because I was used to working in the kitchen with men,” says Woo, who is an artist/painter on the side. “Women are sometimes underestimated. We are powerful and are rewriting history. We handle ourselves well and have brains. We are eager to grow together in society.”

Woo is constantly creating dynamic new desserts to please customers who come for her exotic creations. Some of her most popular items are the eye-catching smoked chocolate concoctions; the Meyer lemon, a deconstructed lemon tart with Italian meringue, graham cracker crumbles, and strawberry sorbet; and her various Cuban delights.“I am Cuban, so I like to tie in my culture,” she says. “I’m also a person who never stops learning. I need to grow, and Love Street is a perfect match for me.” 

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