A group sat together in a meeting discussing ideas for upcoming issues. We were about 30 minutes into the brainstorm, ideas were being volleyed, concepts mulled over to see what stuck. Then, someone, seemingly joking, blurted out, “How about Polk’s Sexiest Man?”
We got a little giddy at the prospect. What sexy men did we know? Who would be nominated? Would anyone even participate? Would they think it’s all a joke?
Then we took our idea out of the conference room to share with the rest of the office. There were a few laughs, some excited applause, and…a worried look, followed by the notion that this could be objectifying to the men involved, and a serious question, “What if the tables were turned? What if we did Polk’s Sexiest Woman? How would you feel?”
This led to a spirited discussion about what the term ‘sexy’ actually meant. Some stood firmly on the side of physical attributes, some on actions, or character traits.
We came up with the following wording, urging people to submit their nominations for Polk’s Sexiest Man:
“What is sexy? Is it a smokin’ hot bod? Simply the way someone carries themselves? Their attitude? What do they do for others? Style, smarts, sophistication? Or perhaps it’s something intangible.”
The submissions began rolling in from coworkers, wives, friends, nominating exceptional men in their lives and we found out exactly what sexy meant…to us anyways.
So, what is a sexy man?
Sexy is a loving husband. Sexy is a dedicated father or grandfather. Sexy is a man willing to help someone down on their luck. Sexy is someone creative. Sexy is someone passionate about their career. Sexy is a mentor to others. Sexy is a man who is kind. Sexy is a man supportive of a family member’s dream. Sexy is an animal lover. Sexy is a man willing to take risks. Sexy is a loyal friend. Sexy is a man with a sense of humor. Sexy is a nice guy. Sexy is someone with the willpower to set a goal and achieve it. Sexy is a man who treats everyone equally.
After sifting through so many fantastic submissions of sexy men, here are our picks for Polk’s Sexiest Men. We appreciate you sexy fellas for all that you are to your friends, family, and community.
Photo Tom Hagerty
What do a giant toy collection, Steve Harvey, and Polk State College have in common? 2019’s Polk Sexiest Man, Melvin Thompson.
Thompson is Polk State’s Director of Student Activities and Leadership Office (SALO). From Polk County, Thompson started out as an academic advisor for Polk State College (then Polk Community College) before becoming the student activities advisor. From there he became a coordinator and later program director. All this might not have happened had the director of the dorm he was in his freshman year of college at Florida State University not given him the opportunity to shine where he does best – amongst the students.
One day Thompson was walking from class when Darwin Sewell drove up beside him and asked him to lunch. The two met and Darwin told Thompson he saw something in the way he interacted with students and subsequently asked him to become a Resident Assistant. Thompson tried it for the summer and loved it. He’s since made student life the focus of his career.
His current role with SALO, the brainchild of Thompson, entails responsibilities for student government, clubs and organizations on campus, tours, leadership development, student center operations, and the student services database.
Melvin Thompson was nominated by colleague Madison Fantozzi, on behalf of Polk State College. In her submission, Fantozzi wrote, “While Thompson exudes a natural swagger (seen on his blind date episode of The Steve Harvey Show discussed on POLKcast) his true attractiveness comes from his dedication to Polk State’s students and his innovative ideas that keep students engaged on their paths to college degrees.”
We’ll get to The Steve Harvey Show momentarily, but for now, let’s focus on that dedication to students Fantozzi described.
Excited about the role he plays in the students’ future, Thompson said he gets the chance to see students grow from freshmen to seniors, learning to manage their budget, work with others, communicate, and team build.
He joked that the best part of his job is being a forever college student, but noted, “To see them grow from 18, 19, 20-year olds to presidents and vice presidents of clubs, and then graduating, taking what they learned in student activities into the workforce – that’s great.”
He credits his former dorm director Darwin Sewell for lighting the spark, but also says he’s found mentorship in Reggie Webb, current Vice President for Student Services. “He showed me how to take what I learned in college to a more professional level,” said Thompson. He taught the SALO director to use his experiences and mistakes to make the lives of students better – and that is just what Thompson has set out to do.
One of the things that make students feel more at ease when having a chat in Thompson’s office is his massive toy collection, though this isn’t the reason he collects them.
First, let’s elaborate that it isn’t a pristine, mint condition, still in the box collection that Melvin has. His collection is compiled of toys he has loved and played with from the ’80s and ‘90s – think eating cereal on the living room floor watching cartoons kind of toys. His favorite show to collect from is Transformers. The “first real piece of nostalgia” Thompson ever got his hands on was when he as about 10 or 11. A still scene from Mickey and the Beanstalk in The Disney Store at Lakeland Square Mall caught his attention.
His parents told him if he saved up, he could get it. “I mowed yards, washed cars – I was terrible at it – I cleaned my grandma’s house, my aunt’s house. I finally had the money and I went and bought it,” he explained. The piece still sits fresh in his memory and on a shelf in his office amidst his other action figures. His collection is so large it spans his office, home, and a filled up R2D2 toy chest.
Proof that he’s always up for a new experience, Thompson appeared on an episode of The Steve Harvey Show which he discussed on a great episode of POLKcast. Check it out if you get the chance!
A few correspondences, a Skype, and a phone call later, and Thompson was on a flight to Chicago.
The premise of this episode called “Dating Like a Boss” was that Melvin would go on date with a business-oriented boss-lady who was getting tips from Steve Harvey on how to leave business out of dating.
Thompson and “the boss” went on a date, but that is as far as the relationship got. He said the experience was fun, but that he’s never seen the episode.
In her email, Fantozzi also noted SALO’s 10th birthday in 2018, which Thompson was happy to discuss. Thompson said, “I don’t have kids, but I can say SALO, that is my baby, that’s my child.”
The journey has had its ups and downs, but Thompson is beyond proud of SALO and says of its future, “Do I want to see it grow? Yes. But, as the campus and the college grows, it’ll grow with it.”
Fantozzi’s submission finished with, “From fostering leadership, networking, and professional growth opportunities, to facilitating activities including musical performances, comedy shows, glow parties, and more, Thompson plays a critical role in ensuring students at Polk State enjoy the full college experience.”
Mission accomplished for the SALO director, or at least it’s a mission he takes on daily. “I think I have the best job the college because I’m there to help,” he said, “but at the same time I’m there to make sure they enjoy college, so they’ll stay in college.”
Admired by colleagues and students for his ceaseless dedication to bettering the lives of the next generation of thinkers, leaders, innovators, and community contributors, Melvin Thompson is a down to earth kind of guy with big goals and a big heart for his students. He is funny, articulate, and well put together. This is why we chose Melvin Thompson as Polk’s Sexiest Man.
Arts education advocate, future political leader, well put together young man – Brandon Alvarado has clear designs for the future. “What makes Brandon sexy is his charisma, charm, intelligence, and Spanish suave,” wrote his friend, Samantha Smith, describing him as a humanitarian with future political goals. Brandon is the Education Coordinator at the Lake Wales Arts Council. His job duties include overseeing the Youth Symphony, Homeschool Fine Arts programs, Elementary Fine Arts programs, and the after-school fine arts programs, making sure that each class runs smoothly. “I coordinate with teachers on their class schedules, enrolling students, working with different schools to enroll students, and working with the Executive Director to set curriculum,” he explained.
He started as the receptionist for the arts center and expressed an interest in education coordinating. “I’ve always had a passion for fine arts education. Every kid deserves access to a high-quality fine arts education,” he said. Born and raised in Lake Wales, Brandon has his sights set on a future in politics, calling it his heart and soul. What change would Alvarado like to see in our community? Fine arts education was his emphatic answer. “I feel the arts are just as important as science, math, or anything else,” he said, adding that regardless of how a student is schooled – home school, public school, private school, or charter school – a fine arts education should be available to them. “The arts bring us together as a community,” asserted Alvarado.
Brandon is a member of the Museum Association of Lake Wales and the Historic District Regulatory Board. “If I don’t like what I see, it’s my opportunity to go out and change something. I don’t believe in sitting on the sidelines and complaining. It’s my responsibility to get out there and at least make some change in the community,” he explained.
Brandon attributes his drive and resolve to his father. His dad immigrated from Mexico to the United States and worked for a construction company. When told by someone that he would never own his own company – he proved them wrong. He now owns a successful residential and commercial construction business of his own. Brandon said, “It’s an inspiration that he took someone who said, ‘You’re not going to be able to do it, you can’t do it,’ and he said, ‘Absolutely not, I will do it.’”
Staff Sergeant Matthew Brennan was nominated by his wife, Brooke. The Brennan’s call Winter Haven home though they don’t currently live here. Matthew’s nine-year career in the marines has moved the family all over the country, but both of their families live here, and they come home to visit three to four times a year.
A graduate of Lake Region High School, Brennan joined the Marines in 2009 via RSS Winter Haven. He and Brooke met at a karaoke bar, then called The Sand Dollar. “I heard her voice and fell in love with her,” he said. “She is very caring, very strong-willed, very independent and that’s what you need in a military spouse, is independence.” Over the course of his career, Brennan has been deployed on a naval ship to five different countries and to Japan with no upcoming deployments scheduled.
In her email, Brooke numbered out the reasons she chose to nominate him. The couple has four children ranging from six months to nine-years-old. Brooke’s number one reason was, “He works hard every day to give us a better life and never asks for anything in return.” Reason two read, “Despite all of his accomplishments and even the military medals he has received, he still boasts that his greatest role and success in life is being a husband and father.”
Speaking to the Marine on the phone, he got a little choked up expressing that family means everything to him. “They’re my world. They’re the reason I wake up every day and go to work. I don’t think I could do it without them. Every day they put a big smile on my face and make me feel proud of what I’ve done,” he said. His dedication to family was made evident when asked what his hobbies outside of work were. Brennan said he enjoys fishing, then paused and added, “Most of my time is spent at home with family because I don’t get a whole lot of time with them.”
Months spent away from family and moving across the country could be difficult for any military family, but in reason three, Brooke says, “Instead of asking to stay home and relax he always makes time and drives hours and hours to make sure the kids and I get to come home to Winter Haven for holidays and family celebrations.” The family plans to come home for a visit in July when they are in the process of moving to his next duty station.
Brooke’s final reason for what makes her husband sexy? “Dress. Blues. (Need I say more?)”
Nominated by his wife, Lynn Polston, this lifelong Polk County resident is admired by many who get the chance to know him. David Polston has been with Florida’s Natural Growers for 12 years now, working as an Electronics Technician. He also helps his wife at the insurance business they’ve owned for two years, whenever he can. Lynn described David as, “an awesome Dad, Papa, son, and son-in-law.” The two are raising their 6-year-old granddaughter, Emma, together. “He makes sure he attends all the events with her and is always spending quality time with her,” Lynn said.
David beamed talking about his little joy of a granddaughter saying, “She’s a blessing.” They go on fun adventures to Disney World and Chuck E. Cheese but are just as happy to be playing in the backyard together. “Wherever we go she’s happy, she’s just a really easy kid to be with and enjoy. She’s very loving,” he said.
Lynn went on about what makes her husband a candidate for Polk’s Sexiest Man, saying, “He has been a great role model for my son and is always willing to lend a hand where needed.” I asked David what it meant to him to be a role model. “Being a role model means teaching people what you know how to do and showing people how to do it properly and being someone they can look up to and admire.” He tries to be a role model for any newcomers on the job at Florida’s Natural, helping them get acclimated and spending time with them, teaching them the ins and outs of the job. Who was the role model that so inspired this admirable fella? His father. David Polston described his dad as being “multi-talented,” saying that he always did his best to make sure his kids knew how to do a variety of things.
When he isn’t hanging out with his family or hard at work, David enjoys playing the drums. He’s played and toured with three different gospel groups and has played in church for a number of years as well. He’s not playing publicly at the moment but does jam out with the drum set in his music room on occasion.
Lynn finished her submission gushing about her husband, “He has the kindest soul and loving heart, that is why I nominate him.”
David Wilson IV
Described as, “A remarkable human being who lives his life with great purpose,” by coworker Lauren Patrick, attorney David Wilson IV personifies success and leadership.
The Wilson Advocacy Group, P.A. is the family law business started by Wilson’s father in 1976. David joked that this is truly the only job he’s ever had, he started by sweeping the floors in elementary school, making copies in middle school, working his way to practicing law.
Wilson has made mentorship to the youth a pillar of his life. Lauren wrote, “He loves talking to them about their goals and aspirations and even showing young boys and men the proper way to tie a necktie so that they will be equipped with the tools they need to be successful, even at a young age. The kids look at David and know that anything is possible if you just plan, focus and work hard to reach your goals.” The issue is so dear to his heart because he watched countless classmates go off to college and not return to the community. This, he said, creates a void for Polk County youth because of the gap between youth and older adults. Wilson tries to teach “Persistence, dedication, education, just being an all-around good person. I believe in Karma, I believe what you put in is what you’re going to get out,” he explained.
Wilson too had people in his life who inspired him to be the person he is today. Number one on that list was his father who passed away in 2010. “He was my first example of what a man should be,” remarked David. He also noted his father’s younger brother as a mentor as well as Pamela and Leslie Muma. The Muma’s are Winter Haven residents who offer a scholarship exclusive to Winter Haven High School – a scholarship David Wilson IV received. “Being able to have the opportunity to receive that scholarship and talking to him one on one gave me a different perception of success,” he said of Muma.
Lauren continued in her email, “Also, we must note his personal style wherever he steps into a courtroom, he personifies the words ‘sharp dressed.’” Wilson places such emphasis on his appearance first and foremost because, “It is an example of my personality. I think I’m fun, eclectic. I think it’s a confidence thing, setting yourself apart from the crowd.”
With the limited free time he has, Wilson likes cars (especially Porsche), movies, shopping, and eating. He says his goals for the future include expanding the practice and in his personal life, “Just to be better than I was yesterday.”
“The man is basically a Polk County legend, for so much more than his pressed Cuban at his own bistro.” Chef Neil Curran (Chef Neil’s Bistro) was nominated by his daughter Emilee Rankin who admires and loves her dad for countless reasons.
Curran has also achieved a significant weight loss and made lifestyle changes sparked by his older daughter, Kayla, a Registered Nurse. She talked with her dad about getting healthier. He and his wife started by walking. “We walked a quarter of a mile, then a quarter became a half, then a half became three-quarters and then a full. Next thing you know we’re walking two miles and we started jogging a little bit,” he said.
Neil and his wife Emma, have been married for 32 years. “She’s my best friend,” he said. Family means everything to Curran. Last year, the tight-knit crew went to Utah for what Neil said was the best hike of their life. “That’s why I lost the weight too,” he said, “to be healthy enough to do some of those things.”
“My dad, he taught me to go to work every day,” said Neil. “My father instilled hard work in me. He was a happy kind of guy and I think I get that from him. He was always in a good mood, laughing and trying to be the goofball or say something funny – that’s just how I am.”
From Melbourne, Australia originally, Troy Roker started water skiing when he was only nine. The sport has been an integral part of both his personal and professional life ever since. In 2012, he was representing Australia at a competition when he met his now wife, Emily. Troy told the story of how they met with a grin, “It all snowballed from there really.”
“Currently a water skier at Legoland, this sexy man has the personality to make anyone smile. Looking like a badass with all his tattoos, he’s a softy,” wrote Emily, who admittedly nominated him as a prank, but was sincere with reasons for what made Troy sexy in her eyes. Part of Emily’s submission said that his tattoos tell a story but, “Let him tell you [because] that’s right, he has a sexy Australian accent.”
Troy pointed to each piece on his arm explaining its significance. One that stood out was a roulette wheel, signifying that he likes to gamble, though not in the traditional sense. When he isn’t playing a pirate for Legoland, Troy is passionate about stunt work. He’s been a stunt man for Telemundo and recently signed on to do a movie titled, The Hunt. The adrenalin junkie performs stunts with motorcycles, driving, fighting, “Anything extreme gets my heart racing,” he said.
Emily said her favorite character trait in Troy is, “He lives each day like it’s his last and that’s what he goes by and I just love that about him.”
It’s clear how much Scott Eiler’s wife, Tracy, absolutely adores her husband. “Besides his rugged good looks and imperfect infectious smile, he has an enormous heart for helping others,” she wrote. “Any given day he can be found helping friends, family or co-workers with any requests, big or small.”
Scott and Tracy met when they were just 13 years old, “skating rink sweethearts,” he said. The summer romance ended. Thirteen years later, they reconnected and have been going strong ever since. Scott said, “That was it, we’re 19 years married this year.”
Scott went to school for commercial art with aspirations of becoming an artist. He has worked for 27-years with The City of Winter Haven, currently as the Athletic Superintendent. In his spare time, he still creates art. He has painted paddles and donated them to Chain Life Winter Haven, done work for the Cleveland Indians, as well as an airboat prop for the benefit of a friend that had passed away. “Most of the stuff I’m doing right now is donations, but it makes me paint, where otherwise I might not have time to do it,” he said.
“He also is an animal lover and is partial to rescues,” added Tracy. The pair have a dog and two cats. She also recounted a time he climbed down a manhole to rescue a kitten they had heard crying. In the conclusion she said, “He is a man of substance, honor, integrity, humility, sincerity, and kindness. He is a loyal husband of 19 years, and the best dad to 3 fur-babies.”
Jerry Pollard Jr.
Jerry Pollard Jr., a lifelong Polk County resident and Assistant Sulphuric Operator for Mosaic was nominated by his wife, Antoinette. “Jerry’s personality and family-focused attitude among other traits make him a sexy man,” she wrote.
He was incredibly supportive during the time Antoinette was recovering from major surgery. Happy to do so he said, “Hey, that’s my wife. I’ll always support her no matter what it is.” He was supportive of her through graduate school and was a reassuring force behind her entrepreneurial goals, even helping her select a name for the business, Pieces to Peace. Jerry is passionate about mental health because he saw family members deal with issues and wants to see the topic destigmatized. Antoinette further wrote, “Jerry demonstrates the importance of family by working a 16-hour shift, afterward coming home to make breakfast for his wife and three children to have family bonding time.”
Jerry’s three children play sports and he stays involved by coaching and helping anytime he can. As for teaching them off the field, the biggest lesson Pollard tries to impart on his children is respect. He said it is paramount they learn “respect for other people and respect for themselves.” This and other lessons Jerry learned himself from his stepfather and uncle. Both men taught him to be a provider, to care for his family, and to continually educate himself throughout his life. The doting father and husband does all this, “with love, compassion, and a sexy smile,” Antoinette said in closing.
Russell Hernandez of Lakeland has always loved cars. He remembers falling in love with a black 1969 Corvette that he bought for $700 when he was 18. Hernandez now works for Kelley Buick GMC and has expanded his collection to 11 Jaguars and Corvettes, including the black ’69. An elaborate car collection isn’t the only thing that makes Hernandez exceptional. We received an anonymous submission describing him as a loyal friend, saying, “I believe he gives his all to a friendship. Even in tough times, he has a smile for you.”
Russell named Derrick Kelley as a mentor and influence. He described the Auburndale native as a “self-made man” who taught him to, “…be proud of who you are, what you do, what you’ve accomplished.”
The anonymous admirer also remarked, “He is an amazing father and is very proud of his son.” This struck a nerve with Hernandez. He got a bit choked up talking about his son, who is named after the proud papa. Sixteen-year-old Russell is on track to becoming a future commercial airline pilot. “My greatest accomplishment is being a good dad,” said Hernandez. He’s proud of everything about his son from the way he treats others to how well he articulates. “He’s my greatest accomplishment of all time,” said the father.
Cheryl Davis nominated her fiance, Tom Spies because she thinks his sexiness exudes from within. “Tom is the sexiest man in Polk County because he is adored by so many. Always respectful, a gentleman with a warm heart,” she said. Tom is in pest control and in his off time enjoys golf, Words with Friends, and playing the drums. He’s on the course almost every weekend teeing up and says he’s self-taught on the drums, playing for about a year now. His favorite music to play is Bad Company.
Tom and Cheryl were middle school and high school sweethearts until Tom moved away from Fort Lauderdale to Polk County some 40 years ago. They both married other people, had children, and life went on. Eight years ago, both divorced, they connected through a mutual friend on Facebook. Cheryl described their reunion as an automatic connection and she felt that they had picked up right where they left off. “I was just elated,” she said emphatically. From the start of their reunion, Tom was easy to talk to, he and Cheryl shared life experiences, recalled old memories, and eight years later, that spark hasn’t diminished. “He is the same happy, loving, most affectionate man I have ever known,” Cheryl wrote. “Tom is truly a unique soul.”
As the two lovebirds sat talking about each other and how they met, Cheryl said, “In my opinion, he is the gentlest man I have ever met. He’s always smiling.” And he was smiling, the whole time with a happy demeanor and easygoingness about him. Tom and Cheryl say fate brought them together and agreed that they were soul mates. Cheryl is currently back in school working towards a degree and says that Tom has been very supportive of her.