Meet Our Staff
Mr. Roper’s career began in Law Enforcement where he served in different roles for 15 years, such as Drug Abuse Resistance Education instructor, canine officer, and patrolman. He moved on to become a Field Director for the State of Alabama Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board, then to Executive Director with the United States Green Building Council for the State of Alabama. His most recent position has been as Executive Director for Lighthouse Counseling Center in Montgomery.As a parent advocate of a special needs child, John understands the needs and challenges of the special needs community.He and his wife and children have relocated to the area from Wetumpka, Al.
Email John Roper: email@example.com
Chief Financial Officer
Heather earned her Bachelor of Arts in Accounting from the University of Alabama in 2000. She graduated from the University of Phoenix in 2004 with her MBA. After working different systems, cost accounting, and financial accounting positions of increasing responsibility she traveled around the country for a few years as a project manager responsible for large scale accounting system conversions and training. Throughout her accounting career, Heather has always been very involved in our local community; serving as Board President of a local non-profit organization, United Way Loaned Executive and Secretary/Treasurer of the Toastmasters Club. Heather and her husband moved back home to the area in 2014 after the birth of her first granddaughter that instantly stole her heart, Heather and her husband vowed to never leave the area that she calls home ever again! A grandson was born shortly after, which sealed the vow Heather made to live and work in the area that she has called home since 1973.
Email Heather Blansit:firstname.lastname@example.org
Debbie has worked at Horizons since April, 1992. She was appointed as Director of the Children’s Center in May, 2003. She is the mother of two and the grandmother of six. She feels a strong commitment to the children she serves.
Education: Debbie has an Associates of Applied Science degree (AAS) in Early Childhood Education; Director’s Credential; Debbie is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree.
Email Debbie Smith: email@example.com
Director of Quality Management
Nikki earned her Associates of Arts from Okaloosa-Walton Community College in 1994. She graduated from the University of West Florida with a Bachelor of Arts in 2003, with a major area of study in Criminal Justice and a minor in Psychology. Nikki first joined The Arc of the Emerald Coast in October 1994 and has worked a range of positions. Primarily supervising residential programs. Nikki has been certified by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) as an instructor for Introduction to Developmental Disabilities, Health and Safety, and Zero Tolerance, and by Professional Education Services, Inc., as an instructor for Therapeutic Alternatives in Crisis Training, and active in fundraising activities supporting The Arc of the Emerald Coast. Nikki and her husband reside in Fort Walton Beach and are the proud parents of twin daughters.
Email Nikki Owen: firstname.lastname@example.org
LA Woodall has served as Horizons Director of Community Development the last six years. His experience with the phone companies and business before that was extensive. He now serves as Director of the Horizons Foundation creating corporate partnerships and sponsors.
Email LA Woodall: email@example.com
Director of Life Management
Mike happened upon his career in Developmental Disabilities as a parent of a daughter with disabilities. His daughter, Meredith had several developmental disabilities and Mike quickly learned what it takes to become an advocate for those who can’t always advocate for themselves. Mike and Meredith were very active for The Arc and The United Way.
When Meredith passed away, Mike decided to continue what he had learned as a parent/advocate and started to work as direct support staff for a provider agency. Mike continued his advocacy efforts with The Arc, serving as board president as well as being appointed by the governor to serve on the North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities all while completing his education in Human Services.
Prior to moving to the area, Mike held the position of Operations Manager for a provider in N.C. for 8 years. Mike has a total of over 25 years’ experience as parent/advocate and as a professional.
Mike and his wife, Crystal have 3 adult sons who plan to visit Dad and Mom at the beach…often.
Email Mike Whitley: firstname.lastname@example.org
Donna is responsible for all aspects of fundraising, branding, marketing, community programs, and events. Donna is also involved with all four area Chambers of Commerce, and the Emerald Coast Foundation.
Donna has been with The Arc of the Emerald Coast since 2009 as a volunteer, Foundation Adviser and Event Coordinator. Her background prior was in construction management and sales. She and her husband John have lived in the area for over 20 years, have 4 children and 6 grandchildren and a black lab.
Email Donna Tashik: email@example.com
Ashley started off with the Arc of the Emerald Coast in January 2015 as a Teacher Assistant at the Children’s Center. She moved to Administrative Assistant at the Center in July. Ashley became the Human Resources Coordinator in September 2015.
Ashley is responsible for the hiring process of new employees. She schedules employees for trainings and makes sure they are current in their certifications. She manages worker’s compensation claims, assists in processing payroll, and works closely with ADP, our payroll/HR company, to ensure our employees’ needs are met.
Ashley has an A.A. in Liberal Arts. She graduated from NWFSC with a B.A.S. in Project Management – Training and Development/Human Resources.
She enjoys crafting, spending time with her family, and traveling, especially to Disney World. She is married to Michael Bauchwitz, who also works at The Arc of the Emerald Coast.
Email Ashley Zaleske: firstname.lastname@example.org
Community Development Coordinator
Erin is not a native of Florida but has called Florida her home for over 30 years. She moved to Niceville from West Palm Beach after her oldest daughter was born, 13 years ago. Since finding out that her daughter was going to be born with spina bifida, Erin has been a parent advocate for those with varying abilities, and speaks the language of the Arc of the Emerald Coast, understanding first hand the services we provide and our need of funding. Erin received her bachelors in Legal Studies from the University of West Florida in 2006 and is looking forward to graduating the Florida Partners In Policy-making class 2016. Erin has many skills to bring to the Community Development Department, from administrative to management, graphic design to event production.
Email Erin Thatcheremail@example.com
Debra oversees the Birth to Three program affiliated with Florida Early Steps. She graduated with a BA in Developmental Science from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh. After touring the world with her military husband, they settled in Northwest Florida in 1991. Debra’s first job with Horizons began in 1992, at the Children’s Center. In 1994 she began working with the Birth to Three Program as an Infant-Toddler Developmental, taking over the position of Program Manager in 2006.
Email Debra Diemand: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike is a Florida Certified Behavior Analyst III, with and AA degree. Mike is responsible for completion of Functional Behavior Assessments, development of Individual Behavior Plans, training direct care individuals in implementation of behavior plans and ensuring the correct implementation of these plans across settings. Mike has been employed by Horizons of Okaloosa County for seventeen years. Prior to coming to Horizons, Mike was employed has as Program Manager and House Manager at Fort Walton Beach Developmental Center.
Email MIke Murphy: email@example.com
Toni is a life-long resident of the local area. She graduated from the University of West Florida with a BA degree in Psychology. Toni began volunteering at the agency formerly known as Horizons in August of 1998 to complete her internship for her degree. She became employed by Horizons in Dec of 1998 as a direct care staff at the Adult Day Training Center in Fort Walton. After a year, she moved to the Supported Employment Program as an Employment Consultant where she worked for 3 years. In 2002 she was promoted to the Adult Services Manager over the FWB Adult Center. In 2005 she also took on managing the Support Services department which now includes Companion, Personal Supports (Community), and Respite services. In 2016 Toni oversees and mentors the managers at our three Adult Centers, manages the Supported Employment Dept., and continues to manage the Support Services Dept.
Email Toni McCormick: firstname.lastname@example.org
Julie was raised in Mt.Clemens, MI which is about 10 miles north of Detroit. Julie married in 1976 and left shortly after, to begin an interesting 24 year adventure as an Air Force wife. Julie lived in Texas, Virginia, North Carolina, Upper Heyford U.K., Lakenheath U.K. and Iceland with her husband ending his career and their marriage at Eglin AFB, Florida. During this time they raised two children and travelled extensively. As a stay at home mother and wife, Julie was very involved in school activities and volunteered extensively with the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts of America. As her children became older, she went to work with AAFES and the Navy Exchange as a procurement and operations clerk. Two years after moving to Crestview, Florida, Julie began her long and eventful career with Horizons.
Originally hired in 1993 as a direct care staff at the Crestview ADT, Julie moved up to the manager position in 1995. Since then, she has managed In-Home Support, Community Res-Hab, Companion Service, Personal Care, Respite and Adult Day Training. Julie also spent a majority of her work day providing Supported Employment Services.
Over the 17 years she has been with Horizons, Julie had the pleasure of watching Horizons expand and clients achieve goals they thought were unattainable. Many of her most memorable occasions were during trips with the Crestview ADT to Graceland, Nashville, Atlanta, and Orlando (on multiple occasions). Julie continues to plan recreational trips like a New Year’s Eve Retreat at Adventure’s Unlimited and Camp Horizons. One of Julie’s largest goals is to not only provide excellent training and service to her clients, but to help enrich their lives through stimulating activities and new experiences.
Email Julie Nonnenamnn Petrushak: email@example.com
Program Manager – Supported Living / Personal Supports
Sean joined ArcEC in the summer 2011. He began as a behavior tech in our behavior focused homes. Since then he has worked in various positions and departments while working to obtain certification as a Supported Living Coach, TACT instructor, RBT through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. He was the Program Coordinator of the Adult Day Training center in Fort Walton Beach in early 2016 before accepting the positon of Supported Living Manager for Okaloosa County in the summer of 2016. Prior to ArcEC, Sean was a Group Home Manager and Facility Supervisor of an ICF facility in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Being raised in a military family and living many places around the world even being born in England and having family members with autism, the experiences he has faced has given Sean a sense of what most hope for and the best way to achieve dreams. He graduated from Fort Walton Beach High School and has remained in the area ever since. He volunteers in many of the ArcEC fundraisers and continues to strive at helping others.
Email Sean Long: firstname.lastname@example.org
Heath has been with The Arc of the Emerald Coast for 5 years in bookkeeping, and has recently been promoted to Senior Accountant. Heath is an integral part of The Arc, managing all accounts, billings and donations for the entire agency. Heath also volunteers continuously at Arc events, plays on The Arc’s softball and bowling leagues, and will be a first time father this spring.
Email Heath Bechtal: email@example.com
Michael has worked at the Arc of the Emerald Coast, formally Horizons of Okaloosa County since August of 2005.Over this period, he has worked in several different capacities, including; clerical work in the accounting office, mobile work crew, In-Home Support Live-In, Supported Employment Consultant, and Supervisor of Santa Rosa Community Supports. Since August, Michael has been working out of the Santa Rosa office located in Milton, supporting individuals with obtaining and maintaining competitive employment in the community. In July, Michael was promoted to Santa Rosa Area Program Manager. Michael’s’ responsibilities include; overseeing the ADT, Supported Employment, Supported Living, and Personal Support programs in Santa Rosa County.
Michael graduated from Fort Walton Beach High School in 2006, and attained an A.A. from Northwest Florida State College in 2009. In 2012 he earned a Bachelor’s of Arts in Political Science from the University of West Florida. In addition, in 2014 he completed an alternative teacher certification program from Gulf Coast State College. Michael also holds certification in Social Security Work Incentives, Best Practices in Supported Employment, and Pre-Service in Supported Living. Michael has grown up living and working closely with individuals with developmental disabilities, starting from the time he attended the Children’s Center. Michael finds his work very rewarding and fulfilling, as his favorite thing is seeing the individuals we serve become excited with joy when they learn new skills.
Michael enjoys traveling, reading, writing, exercising, and spending time with family and friends. In April of 2016 Michael married Ashley Bauchwitz, who also works at the Arc. Michael and Ashley became proud parents of a Siberian Husky/Lab mix puppy, Cooper, in June.
Jenna Thompson is a recent graduate from the University of Phoenix with her Bachelors in Accounting (Oct 2016). She took the position with ARC as an Accounting Assistant in January 2017 because it was an amazing company that she has the ability to grow with, which was the ultimate goal. She was born in New Hampshire and grew up most of her life in Oklahoma. She moved to Florida in 2014 with her daughter to explore greater opportunities. Before She started at ARC she was in the service industry since she was 15 years old. Today she calls Florida home and will be residing in Niceville with her daughter after the purchase of their first home at the end of 2016. She loves to travel and has been to many places. It is a hope of hers to experience the world even more so, with her daughter by her side.
Email Jenna: firstname.lastname@example.org
Carol is responsible for creating branding in our area, developing corporate partnerships, sponsorships, fundraising, and is responsible for the local programs and events.
Her professional affiliations are Graduate and Alumni, Santa Rosa Leadership Class 27; Member, Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce; Member, Rotary Club of Milton; Committee member, Milton/Pace Relay for Life; Board member, Santa Rosa Kids House; and Board member, American Cancer Society Volunteer Leadership Board.
Carol is a new team member of The Arc of the Emerald Coast but not new to Santa Rosa County. She has spent the past 32 years working in the local credit union industry. Her experience with these financial institutions has enabled her to build strong community partnerships in our area.
Carol and her husband Ron have been lifelong residents of Milton. They have 5 adult children and 2 granddaughters.