Debbie Faulkner is living the American Dream. Debbie is a small business owner, lawyer, and community volunteer who lives and works in Palm Harbor, Florida. Debbie was raised in Palm Harbor by Sandy and Bill Faulkner, who instilled in her the notion that “anything is possible with hard work and dedication.” And Debbie has made that her motto.
Ever since she was a young girl, Debbie’s dream was to become an entrepreneur. When she was 11-years-old, she convinced her parents to hire her to fold and label mail outs for their business. They agreed, but being smart business people, they paid her on a per-piece basis. It didn’t take long for Debbie to recognize that she could make more money by creating jobs and improving production. She hired her friends to fold and label, and kept a management fee for herself. Debbie knew then she loved being at the helm of a business.
Debbie’s parents also instilled in her the value of volunteerism and community service. Just a couple of years after her first “business venture,” Debbie, at 14, along with her younger sister Lisa, founded Teens for Charitable Causes. Debbie’s inspiration for the group stemmed from a newspaper article that warned that the Palm Harbor Senior Center (now the Centre of Palm Harbor) may close due to a shortage of funds. Debbie organized a group comprised of teens and pre-teens ages 14 and younger to fundraise because she felt they could make a difference. As President of the organization, she delegated responsibilities to each group member and in their first year of existence, they raised over $2,000 for the Palm Harbor Senior Center, giving the group a place at the top of the Center’s giving tree. With a year of experience under their belts, the 2nd year the group raised enough money to grant two wishes for children from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. As an example of Debbie’s leadership skills, she spent the first three weeks of the summer touring Europe as part of the People-to-People Student Ambassador delegation while her group carried on. Upon her return, Debbie learned that entrusting the right people to do the right job is the key to business success. As a result of her efforts, Debbie was named Bay News 9's Everyday Hero and was also featured on ABC, NBC, CBS, 970 WFLA, 93.3FLZ, various other Clear Channel Stations, in the St. Petersburg Times, and many other local newspapers.
Debbie was a member of the first graduating class at Forest Lakes Elementary and still has some school work buried in their time capsule. She attended Safety Harbor Middle where she served as co-Editor of the school’s yearbook. Then she moved on to East Lake High School. Yearning to push forward, Debbie spent the last two years of high school attending St. Petersburg College as a dual-enrolled homeschool student. The summer after she would have received her high school diploma, Debbie graduated with her Associate in Arts Degree. From there, she attended Stetson University in DeLand, Florida on a Presidential Scholarship. At 19, Debbie graduated from Stetson cum laude and earned the distinction of being Stetson’s youngest known graduate since its founding in 1883.
After Stetson, Debbie landed a position as an Executive Assistant to a small business owner in Oldsmar. Although still in her teens, Debbie was responsible for directing customer service, organizing management meetings, and helping the business owner locate and acquire properties in Central America for company expansion. While doing that, Debbie realized that she loved learning about the law and she decided to apply to law school.
With a number of choice schools recruiting her, she accepted an admission and scholarship offer from Cornell Law School - one of the five Ivy League law schools. Longing for Florida, Debbie obtained a full-time externship while at Cornell to clerk for the U.S. District Court in Tampa, working with the Honorable James Moody and the Honorable Elizabeth Jenkins. To extend her stay in the Sunshine State just a little longer, Debbie spent the summer working in the General Law division of the Judge Advocate General’s Office at MacDill Air Force Base. During her time at Cornell, Debbie served as an Associate Editor for the Legal Information Institute's liiBulletin, an online subscription service comprised of articles discussing current and pending Supreme Court cases, where she had the chance to lunch with retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Debbie was also elevated to Moot Court Board.
Upon graduating, Debbie was offered and accepted an appellate clerkship with the Court of Appeals of Virginia. After she spent two years working closely with appellate judges, Debbie once again returned home to Florida and became an Assistant State Attorney for the Sixth Judicial Circuit, serving Pasco and Pinellas counties. There, she investigated and prosecuted various crimes including sexual battery, DUI, assault, domestic violence, battery, and robbery. She litigated several cases to jury verdict and settled over a thousand more prior to trial.
In 2013, Debbie obtained a Master of Laws (LL.M.) in Taxation from Washington University in St. Louis. In the Taxation program, she focused her coursework on sophisticated personal estate and tax planning. After graduation, Debbie returned home to Palm Harbor to fulfill her lifelong dream of being an entrepreneur. In 2013, she opened an estate, tax, and asset protection planning law firm - The Faulkner Firm, P.A. – where she helps clients create customized estate plans minimizing transfer taxes and government intrusion, and maximizing and preserving their personal wealth.
Debbie’s keen sense of business has not gone unnoticed. In late 2013, she was invited by Charles Schwab to be a member of their Select Investor Advisory Group and in November 2013, she was selected as one of the Tampa Bay Business Journal’s Up and Comers for 2013, a recognition of her hard work and accomplishments thus far as a business owner in Tampa Bay.
Debbie is an active member of the Taxation and Real, Property, Probate & Trust divisions of the Florida Bar and the Morton Plant Mease Planned Giving Council. She volunteers throughout Tampa Bay with the Junior League, Gulfcoast Legal Services of Clearwater (see Debbie on page 11), and the Young Lawyer’s Division of the Clearwater Bar. In her spare time, Debbie enjoys spending time with family, working out, clay shooting and skydiving.
At a Glance
LL.M. (Master of Laws) in Taxation, Washington University in St. Louis, 2013
J.D., Cornell Law School, 2009
B.A., Stetson University, cum laude, 2005
A.A., St. Petersburg College, 2003
Florida, Missouri, and Virginia; U.S. Tax Court
Morton Plant Mease Planned Giving Advisory Council
Charles Schwab Selector Investor Advisory Group
East Lake Library Foundation volunteer
Clearwater Bar Association - Probate & Young Lawyer's Divisions
The Florida Bar Real Property, Probate & Trust Law Section: Probate Rules Committee; Real Estate Structures & Taxation Committee
The Florida Bar Tax Law Section
Virginia State Bar
The Missouri Bar
The Faulkner Firm, P.A., Palm Harbor, FL, Managing Attorney, 2013-present
Bryan Cave, LLP, St. Louis, MO, Private Wealth Group Clerk, 2013
Office of the State Attorney, New Port Richey, FL, Assistant State Attorney, 2011-2012
Court of Appeals of Virginia, Judicial Clerkships for the Honorable D. Arthur Kelsey & the Honorable James W. Haley, 2009-2011
U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida for the Honorable James Moody & the Honorable Elizabeth Jenkins, Full-time Judicial Extern, 2008
U.S. Air Force JAG Corps, MacDill AFB, Tampa, FL, General Law Division Clerk, 2008