Board of Directors

OPI Executive Board

Paula Smith (President)



Paula Smith, 46 is an artist and own's Backward Glances Studio which she operates from her home in Ocala Fl. She Specializes in Hand Painted Furniture and OOAK Doll's. Previously to perusing her art career, Paula received her Office of Administration degree from CFCC in 2005 and worked in the field for 16 years. She has been President of her sorority Phi Beta Lambda where she was honored with Certificates of Excellence for the work she did for the sorority and Vice President of Walkerfest, Inc. a Non-Profit Organization in Citrus County.

She has been a member of Ocala Pride since 2015. She became part of Ocala Pride’s Board in 2018 as their Secretary and was elected 2019-2020 President in November 2019

Lyz Karschner (Vice President)


Lyz Karschner, 46 is your Ocala Pride Vice President and Head of OPI Security. She hales from Gainesville, FL, but moved to Marion County 25 years ago. She has been a member of Ocala Pride for many years. Serving on the Board since 2018 as your Sergeant at Arms and Head of Security. She was elected your Vice President for 2019-2020 in November. “Ocala Pride is growing, and I am proud to Grow with it.” 


Charlotte Katz (Treasurer)


Are your customers raving about you on social media? Share their great stories to help turn potential customers into loyal ones.



Position Open

Please Message Us at is interested in applying for this Seat

Porsha Ross (Sergeant at Arms)


Have you opened a new location, redesigned your shop, or added a new product or service? Don't keep it to yourself, let folks know.

OPI Committee Officers

Tiffany Ross (Event Director)



John Sotomayer (Public Relation's Director)

  John Sotomayor, 51, is the Director of Public Relations of Ocala Pride Inc. Sotomayor is the presi

   John Sotomayor, 51, is the Director of Public Relations of Ocala Pride Inc. Sotomayor is the president of Sotomayor Media Group LLC, the parent company of EMBRACE Magazine, the first ever LGBTQ+ publication in North Central Florida, and ELEVATE Magazine, the first ever faith-based publication in North Central Florida, both based out of Ocala, Fla. He serves as publisher and executive editor of both magazines. Previously, Sotomayor worked at Ocala Magazine as executive editor and Akers Media Group as a staff writer. He produced/hosted three radio talk shows: Ocala Magazine Radio, Elevate Magazine Radio, and Embrace Magazine Radio on WOCA 1370 AM/96.3 FM. Sotomayor and his business have won numerous media awards, including Minority Business of the Year, Journalist of the Year, and the Mary Sue Rich Diversity Award by the City of Ocala. His work won numerous statewide awards by the Florida Magazine Association, Florida Press Cub and Society of Professional Journalists. ELEVATE Magazine was honored as Best of Class: Digital Magazine by the Associated Church Press in 2019, a nationwide award. Sotomayor served on numerous boards/councils and led the Hispanic Business Council for two consecutive terms. A native of New York City Sotomayor is a graduate of the University of Rochester with BA degrees in Economics and Political Science. He received a Certificate of Business Administration in Finance and Marketing from the prestigious Simon Business School in Rochester, NY. 

Jay New (Fundraising Director)


LaVision Dejure Ross (Membership Director)


Assists with building and keeping track of OPI Membership as well as expanding membership benefits.

Pictured from left to right:

Jessica Greeno - Membership Committee Member

John Sotomayor - Membership Committee Member

Kevin Lewis (Superman) - Membership Committee Member

Vision Ross - Membership Director

Jayquan Hankerson - Membership Committee Member

OPI Security Team


Secures the premises and personnel at our event’s by patrolling the properties; inspecting buildings, equipment, and access points; permitting entry.

Obtains help by communicating alarms.

Prevents losses and damage by reporting irregularities; informing violators of policy and procedures; restraining trespassers.

Controls traffic by directing vehicles to accessible parking lots.

Maintains environment by monitoring and setting event and equipment controls.

Maintains organization's stability and reputation by complying with legal requirements.

Ensures operation of equipment by completing preventive maintenance requirements; following manufacturer's instructions; troubleshooting malfunctions; calling for repairs; evaluating new equipment and techniques.

Contributes to team effort by accomplishing related results as needed.

 Pictured from left to right: 

Angella Abel - Security Personnel

Lyz Karshner - Head of Security

Kevin Lewis (Superman) - Security Personnel

Jessica Greeno - Security Personnel

Stacy Marra - Security Personnel

Jayquan Hankerson - Security Personnel

About Us


Our Mission

Ocala Pride Inc. is a non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement and well-being of the Ocala LGBT community.  To that end, we organize fundraisers and community events to help those in need and bring us together.


Our History

From our tumultuous beginning with the Stone Wall riots in the late 1960's to the establishment of Ocala's own Pride organization in the 2000's, the story of LGBT pride is full and rich, and we are all part of that story.

An Event for Every Occasion

Ocala Pride Inc. hosts many events throughout the year for the benefit and enrichment of the community.  Take a look at what we have in store for 2020!