May 5, 2024

Friends & Neighbors Edition

In this Edition

I am finishing up this edition from my office in Connecticut.

When I left Stuart earlier in the week we were having some spectacular days. When I arrived here there were beautiful sunny days interspersed with cold rainy ones. In both locations you realized we were on the cusp of summer. Since I go back and forth so often all year long, I have my Connecticut summer and my Florida one. They are both hot and humid at times.

In this edition we explain Stuart’s conundrum with a large rehabilitation center entering a defunct assisted living. The adventures of The Ranch being approved at the county. Sewall’s Point discussing a dedicated source to maintaining the millions in dollars that they have spent on storm water. And my pet peeve of the Indiantown Council completely incapable of making a motion.

As usual we have our wonderful columnists. Maybe you have noticed that Darlene VanRiper is writing more than her column for us. Occasionally she writes articles, including one this week on School Superintendent Michael Maine that already appeared on our Facebook page, but we have republished it here.

The larger our footprint becomes the more help I will need. We would like to expand our stable of columnists. If you are interested drop me a line.

So, on this first Sunday in May have a happy one as you read today’s Friends & Neighbors.


Going out to eat isn’t what it once was.

As a kid, we ate out quite a bit, especially because my parents and relatives worked in so many food establishments. I remember when I began working in restaurants, especially when it was fine dining, diners would always go and come in a jacket and tie and most times they wore a suit…even a kid like me.

I had a couple of hand-me-down suits from older cousins. One of them was a three piece and the vest was reversible. If I felt sporty, I would wear it with the check pattern showing. The first thing I did when I had a few bucks was buy a few new suits of my own.

I don’t think I ever saw someone wear a pair of jeans or shorts to a job. From the dishwasher to the chef, you would never guess that these guys were blue collar or more correctly “uniform white” collar workers. Most didn’t go right home after work but to a bar, club, or another restaurant that stayed open later to blow off steam.

That was completely different for people who worked in institutional settings. When working in catering halls or schools, staff usually wore their “whites” home. Times and styles were changing. Staff would keep an outfit at the job but would only change if something went on after work.

Somehow things changed. Today there are few professional dining room staff. Interestingly in the kitchen there are far more culinary school graduates than in my day. But if I were staffing a kitchen, I would rather promote a promising dishwasher to the line than hire a culinary school graduate. Most places just want to put out good food. The kind that can be reproduced over and over with a modicum of drama.

If it were a union shop, people both front and back would work there forever. They had benefits. When it wasn’t a union shop, it was much more transient.

My father told a story about his landing a job in a French restaurant as a waiter in the early 1950s. His skills were fairly good, but his French was pretty bad. The unknown secret to the patrons was that all the waiters, captains, and even the Maître D were Italians. Off the floor, they didn’t speak anything but Italian. Unfortunately, on the floor, only French was spoken. My dad struggled, and within short order he was told not to come back. I think he said in Italian.

I landed a job at an Italian restaurant when I was starting college. The chef who hired me asked if I could open clams. I said I could, and if it had been the occasional dozen, there would have been no problem. I didn’t realize how many clams had to be opened every night especially during ‘Rush Hour”. It wasn’t really an Italian restaurant but rather a clam house.

There was Clams Casino, spaghetti with clam sauce, Seafood Fra Diavolo, steamed clams, roasted clams and raw clams. Almost everyone ordered clams with an occasional veal parmigiana thrown into the mix. While not all those dishes require the clams to be opened, in between the clams, we had oysters to open. And I was expected to have time to help in putting the finished dishes out. Like Dad, I didn’t last long in that job.

There was one thing I was taught to do by every boss I ever had. It was how to perform proper service for customers if I was working in the front of the house. What glass to put where and how to lay out the cutlery were the first things to know. We knew never to take away plates before every diner at the table was finished. I never told a customer my name and that I would be taking care of them this evening. If I wasn’t going to serve him what was I doing there.

The entire point of going out is to eat something special and be treated that way. At home there is probably no cook in the kitchen or butler serving their food for most customers. It was our job to make the evening an enviable experience. We were the customer’s staff…at least for the evening.

Times have changed and so too is the way customers treat staff and staff treats customers. If I were to suggest anything for people considering work in the hospitality industry, it would be to remember what hospitality means. The evening should be special even if the customer eats out every night. And the customer should treat staff with respect and as professionals.

What Will The Answer Be

After the last Stuart Commission meeting, it is very understandable why city residents do not want a closed independent living facility transformed into a rehab/treatment facility.

I don’t believe it would have been as bad as some stated at the meeting. Like most things, after a few months, it would not even have been noticed…if there were no major problems. It would only take one incident to prove Sheriff Snyder correct and then what could be done? And it is not like the building couldn’t be repurposed to a use that everyone could embrace.

Cleveland Clinic has said that there is a critical shortage of housing for their staff. Why shouldn’t the hospital buy the place and rent it to their own employees as affordable housing. It was an independent living facility and could easily have studios and one-bedroom units available without much renovation.

If the hospital is serious about beginning to solve their recruitment problem caused by affordable housing options, this could be a great opportunity. A van service could bring the employees to and from the campuses at North Hospital, South Hospital, and their free-standing building on Kanner Highway. Isn’t that what employers like hospitals did in the past?

Of course, this isn’t necessary for every employee. Doctors and more senior staff should have the financial capacity to find other housing. To young nurses, this could be the thing that allows them to work at Cleveland Clinic.

Talk is cheap. It is easy for the hospital to complain about the lack of housing. They have the opportunity to do something about it. What will their answer be?

Too Intense

It is not often I take a stand against a development project that increases housing units. But the proposed project in front of Willoughby sandwiched between the Murgado car dealerships on Federal is one that I would be against.

Some residents of Willoughby fear that the proposed four-story residential buildings will end up overlooking the yards of the closest residents to the proposed projects. But that wouldn’t bother me too much because when a buyer purchases a house only one parcel away from Federal Highway, the buyer must know that at some point that vacant parcel is going to be developed. The second reason is Willoughby is not in the city.

Willoughby consciously decided not to become part of the City of Stuart when it was built. It uses the city as its own yet pays no taxes. The residents crowd city streets but contribute nothing for that use. So, the rich people of Willoughby don’t vote in city elections, and therefore if I were a commissioner, all their griping wouldn’t sway me at all.

In this case, the development planned is just too intense for the area. If it were two story townhomes or apartments, I could support it. But not this.

It is complicated but the developer is looking to change the deal that was made in the original development agreement. I am in favor of the car dealerships and of course housing. In this instance, the intensive housing being proposed is not in the right place.

The apartments cannot be built unless the commission approves a zoning change. This is time for the manager to find an alternative to what is being proposed with the commission’s ultimate blessing.

The Growth of Markets Depends On Free Trade

When people say there is no difference between the political parties, I usually disagree. However, when it comes to trade and economic policy, it seems that Biden and Trump are on the same page.

Both believe that tariffs are a viable way to keep American jobs. In very limited instances, that can be true. Tariffs should never be used to keep out foreign competition in a misguided effort to “save” domestic employment.


The only thing that tariffs accomplish is to not allow the best deal for American consumers. Innovation takes a back seat to preservation. In a capitalistic economy, both domestic and foreign companies need to duke it out in the market for survival. When the government puts its thumb on the scale in the misbegotten name of job preservation, it really means protectionism of inefficiency.

In some very limited circumstances such as the defense industry, there is a legitimate reason to have domestic sources. In general, if another country wants to sell goods below cost, then aren’t American’s benefitting? The preserved American jobs are subsidized by the American taxpayer at a much greater expense than offering a better social safety net until the displaced workers reimagine their careers.

Or is the point not American jobs but rather American companies surviving by the use of government corporate welfare? American industry is weaker not stronger because of these protectionist policies. Every industry and company should be able to compete in the global market not just in the U.S.

A recent example of the government’s pandering is in the dispute over Nippon Steel buying U.S. Steel. Nippon Steel, a Japanese firm, is trying to buy an American icon. U.S. Steel is the second largest steel producer in the U.S. but 24th in the world. Japan is our closest ally in Asia, and the economic ties between our countries are complex and beneficial to both.

If Nippon is successful, what does it really mean? Are they going to ship the current plants to Japan? Import workers to man the plant? None of that. What Nippon will do is infuse the company with billions of dollars to upgrade existing facilities in the U.S. and expand the market which will create more jobs.

China is a competitor where some caution should be heeded. While the U.S. and Japan are allies, that is not so with China where our relationship is adversarial. But even with China, we need to be cautious about having an economic war unless their market practices are intended to deny reciprocity.

Even then each action should be to thwart a direct threat. A 10% tariff across the board is neither wise nor helpful. Precise actions are what are called for in products from chips to EV technology.

The world is economically in good shape. We need to extend trade and industry to all of South and Central America and Africa to make the people living there better off. By doing so, we will help to stop the transmigration of the poor to the achieve better lives. International trade is not a zero sum game but should offer the expansion of wealth to all.

VanRiper's Views

Darlene VanRiper

Is it time to pull the plug on Bathtub Beach?

We all scratch our heads when we hear about a village rebuilding in the shadow of an active volcano. I’ve always wondered about those who build in the predictable path of the California wild fires.  I guess the view is worth it. 

We have our own active volcano of sorts here at Bathtub Beach.  Only it’s an issue of erosion.  A presentation on the latest erosion analysis of this complicated beach was made at a recent Board of County Commissioners meeting.  No good news here. 

The beach was stable in the ‘80s.   But after 2003 its erosion rate increased by 25 times!  Due to the effects of hurricanes and sea level rise, this beach has deteriorated by more in the last 35 years than in the entire century before. 

The beach is dubbed “iconic” due to a worm reef which traps water causing a bathtub effect.  That reef actually accelerates erosion.  Analysts have discovered that this system increases wave energy and water level.  Unfortunately, water return to the ocean is thwarted by the reef causing it to act more like a river therefore washing the sand south.

The Army Corps of Engineers built the north jetty for the inlet in 2009.  It only adds to the problem.  That jetty doesn’t allow the natural flow of sand south to replenish Bathtub Beach.   Each year it loses 87,000 cubic yards of sand. 

Sailfish Point, a community of wealthy residents adjacent to the Beach, have fully cooperated in sharing the financial responsibility of its endless refurbishment.  The County has a 50/50 agreement to share the expense with Sailfish Point.  At this juncture “co-dependent” might replace “co-operate” as an adequate description of this arrangement.  

Of course, money is usually available from the state and FEMA. And the County’s Public Works Department has done an extraordinary job procuring and stretching those dollars.  But, at what point will this dry up?  One day some bureaucrat without an emotional attachment to this beach will ask why we are throwing more money at this only to see it wash away?

A suggestion was made to build some sort of underwater retraining wall to interrupt the system of erosion.  Is this a realistic or sensible solution? Is it a permanent solution?   Will there be damage to the worm reef?  How much will it cost?  How long will it last before needing to be replaced?   The thing we do know is that Bathtub Beach has become a money sucking vortex.  Commissioner Ciampi commented that we have put in “more dollars than sand.” 

What if we do nothing?  The beach erodes, Sailfish Point will have to armor its shoreline.  That community could use the money it now wastes on retention efforts.  Why can’t grants be obtained to build a causeway which would replace the doomed MacArthur Blvd.? If we can build a bridge over San Fransico Bay, we can build a bridge to Sailfish Point.  It works for Captiva/Sanibel and Treasure Island.

The time has come to think sensibly instead of emotionally about this beach.  As Commissioner Ciampi so aptly put it “If you’re in a tug of war with Mother Nature, she always wins.”

Darlene VanRiper’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Nicki's Place

Nicki van Vonno
van Vonno Consulting, Owner

Barbie Mania

I went to the storage unit and retrieved seven boxes of dolls. I opened the first one and found the very first dolls I bought. At a craft show I bought a wall hanging  fabric African Holy Family set, a father, and mother holding their child.

I discovered the two Dutch dolls, a boy and a girl; my second set of paired dolls.

I found my first Asian doll.  She is porcelain and one of her legs is broken. She has a box. The label indicates that it was shipped to Ralph Evinrude, Chairman of the Board of Outboard Marine Corp in Jensen Beach FL. I acquired her in a Martin County thrift store.

 She was next to Olympic athlete Barbie and now here we are,  less than a hundred days before a Parisian Olympics in the middle of wars in Europe and in the middle East.

The point of this walk down seven boxy lanes was to find Barbies to send to a friend in New York. She collects Barbies and posted some on Instagram.  I believe I responded to “Luke, I am your mother.”

I opened the oldest box and am so entranced by it, that the others may get put back in the garage for now, until I have time to do them justice.

I will photograph the Barbies and will see what I might send my friend. Some I will give to  friends for their favorite fan, and the rest to Toys for Tots Christmas collections.

What a lovely way to declutter.

Nicki van Vonno’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Hafner's Corner

David Hafner
UF/IFAS, 4-H Youth Development Agent

My final word on The Ranch, Martin County’s newest planned unit development (PUD).

On Tuesday, the Martin County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) approved the development known as The Ranch, which will be located on Kanner Highway west of Bridge Road. Many people came before the commissioners to share their thoughts on the project and to ask the commissioners for their support with an up or down vote depending on which side of the issue they were on.

Here is my perspective on the project: I do not want to see development. I love driving through our country roads and seeing cattle grazing, crops growing, and wildlife thriving. I want the environment protected and green spaces preserved. And I believe that is what we are getting with The Ranch.

From those who spoke at the Martin County Local Planning Agency and the BOCC, I heard similar sentiments, but I also heard what I believe is misunderstanding. Many who spoke against the project sited congested roads, overwhelmed health care systems, polluting the river, and disdain for another golf course in Martin County. But what was missing from those sentiments is the fact that even without the commissioners’ approval yesterday, the landowner by right could have built a golf course, that land was by right developable in 20-acre tracks, and those homes would have been built with septic tanks. The commissioners were not voting to or not to allow development, that right already existed.

Instead, the commissioners were voting to allow the landowner to build fewer homes than he could have built by right, to cluster the homes leaving a larger amount of land in contiguous open space, and to extend sewer and septic to the property, which the landowner is funding. For those questioning the pollution from the golf courses, golf courses have best management practices (BMPs) that help store and clean water on the course which better protects the nature around them. Plus, from a sustainability and business perspective, who can afford to waste fertilizer and other inputs- have you seen how much they cost now?

I really like the clustering of homes over dividing the land into 20-acre ranchettes.  The truth is, if the land were divided into 20-acre farms, wildlife would be displaced. On a farm wildlife is a nuisance. Racoons, deer, predatory animals like foxes, bobcats, and coyotes, they would not be welcome on those parcels. But with The Ranch, there is 91% open space which is complete of a wildlife greenbelt that stretches from the north boarder of Martin County to the south boarder.

Because I have already seen remarks concerning me supporting this project and me being a faculty member of UF IFAS Extension Martin County which is benefitting from the generous dedication of 20 acres for a new facility site- which, mind you, will benefit the entire community- let me say this: I made similar positive remarks concerning Newfield. There were no benefits for me there, other than making sure we are approving smart projects that preserve agriculture and the environment. I was in support of this project before the 20 acres was added.

I do not want to see development, but if we are going to have it let’s make sure it is a project that is better than what we would have as the land sits now. That is what we are getting with The Ranch. We can’t be no-growth, and we surely don’t want pro-growth, so let’s make sure we have smart-growth.

I look forward to partnering with other organizations, like the Boys and Girls Clubs of Martin County, Martin County Police Athletic League, and South Fork High School as we use this land to create opportunities for our youth and guide them towards productive lives.

David Hafner’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Non-Profit Perspective

Carol Houwaart-Diez
United Way of Martin County, President & CEO

I have worked in the United Way movement for over 37 years.  It has truly been my life’s mission - but more importantly, my passion.  Working on behalf of a local community to improve the quality of life is incredibly rewarding.  What I love the most is that each local United Way is reflective of the community in which it serves.

Throughout my career, I have heard people refer to United Ways as ‘chapters’.  For those of you who know me, my blood boils when I hear the word. I must calmly take a deep breath before I explain, “United Ways across the globe are not chapters. Each United Way is a separate 501c3 with its own EIN number, governing body, and staff.”

A chapter by definition is  a local branch of a society (i.e. "The local chapter of the American Cancer Society.").  This means a nonprofit chapter is a separate entity that operates under the umbrella of a larger nonprofit organization, often with its own board of directors and staff.  Chapters are typically formed to serve a specific geographic area or to focus on a particular program or initiative.  But the main difference is that chapters do not have independent legal status and are accountable to the parent organization for financial and operational matters.

United Way works independently on issues affecting their local community with the local board of directors and staff in control of the organizational direction.  To me, that is key!  The community’s needs and issues in Stuart, FL, most likely vary from other regions.  In fact, they even vary from our neighboring counties (Palm Beach and St. Lucie).  I can tell you that many issues are the same such as basic needs; however, in our community, English as a second language is adversely affecting kindergarten readiness and employment opportunities much more than my previous United Way in Niagara Falls, New York.  Conversely, cold weather shelters for homeless individuals in Niagara are much more likely to happen there than here.  So much so that when I tell my family that we are opening cold weather shelters here in Florida they laugh!

I think that is why I love the United Way movement so much!  We have a global brand with local control.  It gives us the opportunity to work on issues in our community that will make the most impact.  This is why having a strong, healthy, local United Way is critical to the well-being of a community.  We can only be that organization due to the generosity of the donors in Martin County. If you are currently not supporting United Way, please consider doing so.  It is our community, and we all need to be a part of it.

For more information on United Way of Martin County, please go to our website  As always, if you have any questions, please reach out to me at or call me at 772-283-4800. 

Carol Houwaart-Diez’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Contemplative Christian

Chad Fair
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Pastor

Church Math

I’ve never been confused with a math whizz.  I didn’t fail, but I hated algebra, geometry, trig, calculus, and even accounting (although I blame that mostly on some dreadfully boring professors).  Church math is even more confusing.  God + Jesus + the Holy Spirit = the Trinity, ok 1 thing, plus 1 thing, plus 1 thing = three things. 

Except the trinity is three individual things and one thing at the same time.  So, does that equal one or three?  The answer is…yes.  I don’t even know how that math works.  Seven is known to be the number of completeness or perfection in the Bible.  I don’t understand that AT ALL.  Seven is neither complete nor perfect in my estimation.  First off, it’s an odd number, and odd numbers never seem complete to me.  I can’t even leave the volume on the TV at an odd number, unless it’s a 5.  Somehow the number 5 seems to be ok for TV volume but admittedly that’s halfway to ten and halfway is not complete.   

Wait, am I the only one that does that?  It’s not just me, right?  How ‘bout Skittles or M&M’s, you sort and eat those by color right?  Now I’m really wondering, how ‘bout French fries, does anybody else pair them up by length and eat two at a time?

Now that I’m completely self-conscious of my idiosyncrasies, back to church math, more specifically division.  I have no clue how many churches we have on the Treasure Coast.  Safe to say a lot!!!  Yet we do very few things together.  Trust me, I know how busy it gets.  And maybe what’s worse, is how often people of different denominational backgrounds tear each other down.  The reality is we have more in common than not, although I admit it sometimes doesn’t feel that way.  Simply put, we are great at dividing ourselves.

But what if we just focused on the things we agree on?  I THINK we can all agree that Jesus cared for the poor and vulnerable.  He restored sight, healed the lame, cured the lepper, and cared for people in other ways. 

What if churches just agreed, to focus on ending homelessness, or eradicating hunger?  Those things seem like big issues, but with a centralized faith-based focus, we could solve those issues in a heartbeat.  I truly believe that.  If faith can move mountains and I believe it can, then I’m sure faith could also move piles of money. 

Chad Fair's opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Walter's Corner

Walter Deemer
Martin County League of Women Voters, Co-Chair

There’s not much to report from the April 25 Rivers Coalition meeting. The main presentation was on the Right To Clean and Healthy Waters Amendment to the Florida Constitution, but since it won’t be on the ballot until 2026 I’ll defer until signature-gathering starts in earnest.  And the Army Corps of Engineers stopped discharging water our way a month ago.

Which gives me an opportunity to reflect a bit…

A few years ago a friend of mine, a member of the Martin County High School senior class in 1970, asked me “Do you know what we did for the first Earth Day back in 1970?”


“We staged a mock funeral for the river.”

My jaw dropped. Fifty long years had passed. We were STILL staging mock funerals for the river.

In spite of the strenuous efforts of a lot of extremely dedicated hard-working people during those five decades, nothing really changed.

Until it did.

The transformation was driven home by then-director of the South Florida Water Management District Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch a few years ago at a Rivers Coalition meeting. She told us “There has been a cultural shift at the SFWMD.”

And then she added something I never expected to hear.

“There has also been a cultural shift at the Corps of Engineers.”   

This was stunning. Both agencies were now categorically including both aquatic and human health as a major part of their decision-making process. It wasn’t just gallons of water any more.

An ongoing two-way dialog between parties who hadn’t really been on speaking terms began. The Executive Director of the SFWMD and high-ranking members of the Corps of Engineers now regularly attend our monthly Rivers Coalition meetings. They listen carefully to our concerns and address them directly and honestly. Their decisions don’t always go the way we’d like (they have other stakeholders to answer to) – but they’re definitely factoring human and aquatic health issues into their decision-making process now. 

So after fifty long years the pendulum has finally started to swing in the estuary’s favor. There’s a long, long way to go yet, and a lot of hard work still lies ahead of us. But as Col. Booth of the Corps of Engineers emphasized at a recent meeting: “Every year, things are getting better.”

Somewhere, I think Maggy may be starting to smile.


Walter Deemer's opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Business Development Board

Susan Rabinowitz
Business Development Board of Martin County, Board Chair

Bank of America has teamed up with Economic Council of Martin County, Economic Development Council of St. Lucie County and the Business Development Board of Martin County to present David H. Koh, senior investment strategist at Bank of America at an upcoming luncheon.

Koh will serve as the keynote speaker at “Opportunities and Risks on the Economic Horizon” which takes place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 3 at Hutchinson Shores Resort and Spa, 3793 NE Ocean Blvd., Jensen Beach.

Renowned for his ability to simplify complex economic concepts, Koh—who’s informed and inspired numerous economic development strategists and organizations—will share his insights on the opportunities and risks that will shape our financial future and guide our abilities to positively impact the Treasure Coast’s economy.

Presenting sponsor Bank of America, along with sponsor Cleveland Clinic Martin Health, is confident this event will provide insightful information to entrepreneurs, innovators, job creators and business leaders across industries gain advanced levels of knowledge that will empower them to excel individually as well as contribute collectively to the formation of a stronger regional economy.

It’s a professional point of pride that Bank of America—where I’m fortunate to regularly gain expert insights into the economy—teamed up with such distinguished partners and sponsors to bring in a speaker as esteemed as Koh.

I also have the privilege of joining a respected panel of experts at another event that business leaders will want to attend.

From 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. May 15, my colleagues Erin Mangs, market solutions advisor, Ming Chou, SVP leasing sales officer and Arami Jung, SVP Small Business Association business development officer, will take part in a discussion at Indian River State College’s Stuart campus.

“Fueling Success: Exploring Capital Solutions for Business Growth—also sponsored by Bank of America—informs business owners on how to effectively utilize working capital lines of credit, SBA lending, equipment financing and other tools to accelerate their business growth.

Through expert guidance—accompanied by the knowledge of how best to apply it to our unique situations—we can all better navigate the opportunities, uncertainties and yes, mysteries, of the economy and hopefully receive in return as much as we put in.

In addition to volunteering as chair of the Business Development Board of Martin County, Susan Rabinowitz is the Treasure Coast Market President and Business Banking Market Executive for the Palm Beach and Treasure Coast markets for Bank of America.

Susan Rabinowitz's opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Anne's Assessment

Anne Posey
Tykes & Teens, CEO

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and the aim during this month is to increase awareness about the vital role mental health plays in our overall well-being and engage in discussions about mental well-being.  Today, I want to focus on timely access to mental health care for our youth.

Statistics show that Florida ranks as one of the states with the lowest access to mental health care.  It has been shown that 1 in 3 young people do not receive the mental health care they need.  It has been suggested that the root cause of our mental health crisis is lack of access to care. 

Tykes & Teens understands this situation and in response, we applied and were awarded an Impact 100 Grant in Martin County to start a walk-in clinic for youth with urgent mental health needs.  This award of $100,000 by this generous group of philanthropic women will allow Tykes & Teens to improve access to services in Martin County.

We know that during the pandemic, rates of depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems skyrocketed.   Access to behavioral health professionals was the top resource young people requested to support their mental health.  Due to the lack of quick access to proper behavioral health care, many young people shy away from seeking care, feeling that their needs are immediate, but their access is not.  Imagine if one of our young people broke their arm but had to wait weeks or months to get that needed Xray.  Imagine the pain and secondary trauma that would occur.

Youth and their families call for an appointment when their pain is at a point that they know they need help.  If they must wait a week or a month to see someone, often the pain escalates into a crisis that could have been avoided. 

Walk-in clinics are valuable because of accessibility.  Walk-in clinics aren’t long-term solutions, but they can open the door to mental health care and if done correctly, can network with other agencies so that youth can access services quickly and efficiently. 

Having open access to behavioral health services has been shown to lead to greater patient satisfaction and treatment engagement.


Tykes and Teens is excited to respond to the youth in Martin County in a timely fashion by offering a walk-in clinic. Youth would get an appointment when they think they need it, rather than when we have the time.

We are proud to partner with Impact 100 Martin County, a group of amazing philanthropic women, to start this important initiative.  Over the coming months, we will be sharing more information about this new service.

Take time this month to check in with your friends and family about their mental health needs.  Remember, MEntal health starts with me.


Anne Posey's opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Humane Society of the Treasure Coast

Frank Valente
Humane Society of the Treasure Coast, President & CEO

Benefits of Spaying and Neutering Your Pets

Spaying and neutering your pets provide significant behavior and health benefits for your furry friends at home. Did you know that our shelter at the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast provides low-cost spay and neuter services to dogs, cats, and rabbits every single day? These services are available for our in-house animals as well as to the public, making it as accessible as possible for pet owners to ensure their animals are sterilized.

One of the most obvious reasons for spaying or neutering your pet is to prevent unwanted litter. According to Best Friends Animal Society, 4.76 million pets entered America's shelters in 2023. If everybody spayed or neutered their pets, this number would reduce significantly.

This is one of the main reasons why our shelter provides this very crucial service to the community. Not only does spaying and neutering your pet have a positive impact on your pet’s health, but it helps animal welfare and the environment.

Sterilizing your pet can also significantly reduce the risk of certain health issues. We all want our pets to live long and healthy lives, and this is a big part of accomplishing that. Best Friends Animal Society provides a comprehensive list of health benefits for pets who are spayed/neutered. Some of the many benefits include reducing the risk of cancer and infections. You can see all the benefits by visiting their website at

Our shelter is one of the few shelters in the area that offers these services to rabbits, along with cats and dogs. Even for rabbits, spaying and neutering are highly recommended. Unaltered rabbits can be prone to reproductive cancers and other health problems, according to The House Rabbit Society. Spaying and neutering your rabbit can help them live longer, healthier lives.

Our shelter recently added extra low-cost benefits to spaying and neutering your pets. Each surgery includes a Rabies vaccination and Microchip in the package if the owner chooses to accept it. We now offer extra options to have your pet receive additional vaccines to ensure your pet has the best care.

Dr. Erin Arruda

Our veterinarians, led by our lead vet, Dr. Erin Arruda, are highly trained and experienced in performing spay and neuter surgeries, ensuring the well-being of your pets throughout the procedure. They successfully perform these surgeries every single day!

To get on our surgery wait list, please visit or call 772-600-3203. By taking advantage of our surgery services here at the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast, you will not only protect the health and behavior of your pets, but also help end pet homelessness in our community.

Frank Valente's opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

One Life At A Time

Suzy Hutcheson
Helping People Succeed, CEO

Child Abuse Prevention is Year Long

April 30, 2024 was the last day of National Child Abuse Prevention month—a month we celebrate every year hoping to work together to support and strengthen families and prevention child maltreatment. While April brings to light the need to eradicate child abuse, on May 1st and ongoing children continue to be neglected and abused. We need to be aware of and willing to help end child abuse all year long.

Helping People Succeed’s Healthy Families exists just for that purpose. We serve 500+ families in Martin and Okeechobee counties. We have a 100% success rate of these families never entering the child welfare program. We have the privilege and honor of having two prominent members of Healthy Families Florida visiting with us this week—Antigene Anderson, Program Specialist and Bekkah Sheetz, Executive Director.

Their mission for the next few days is to review our Healthy Families program for consistency and achievement of the standard of Healthy Families.

Let’s share a bit more information about the purpose and outcomes of this program. Healthy Families Florida is a nationally accredited home visiting program for expectant parents and parents of newborns experiencing stressful life situations. The program improves childhood outcomes and increases family self-sufficiency by empowering parents through education and community support. Parents voluntarily participate in Healthy Families so they can learn how to recognize and respond to their babies' changing developmental needs, use positive discipline techniques, cope with the day-to-day stress of parenting in healthy ways, and set and achieve short- and long-term goals.

Children's earliest experiences shape their lives. At Healthy Families Florida, we focus on relationships and family-centered practice, building trusting bonds with families to help them set and achieve their goals. Expertly trained home visitors help families mitigate life challenges, address trauma, and become the best parents they can be. Healthy Families is free and always voluntary.

Healthy Families Florida (HFF) prevents abuse by empowering families to create safe, stable, nurturing homes where their children thrive. Ongoing evaluation of the program shows that:

  • 99% of children participating in HFF are free of verified maltreatment during services,
  • One year after completing the program 99% of children remain free of verified maltreatment, and
  • Three years later, 95% continue to be free of verified maltreatment.

Last year, Healthy Families Florida's 38 community-based sites served 9,444 families and their 17,265 children with state funding and local contributions. Parents and children who participate in the program show positive outcomes in many domains, including family self-sufficiency, health, mental health and child development.

  • 85% of participants improved their self-sufficiency by gaining employment, enrolling in job training, furthering their education, securing stable housing or obtaining a driver’s license
  • 98% of children and participants were connected to a primary health care professional
  • 87% of children up to date with immunizations at 24 months
  • 91% of children received age-appropriate developmental screening
  • 82% of participants who were low on one or more parenting inventory subscale showed improvement from baseline to six months

Decades of research on Healthy Families (in Florida and nationally) shows evidence of effectiveness. Engaging families early promotes healthy child development, increases family stability, and avoids the high human and financial cost of adverse childhood experiences.

The Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida administers Healthy Families Florida through service contracts with 35 community-based agencies in 67 counties (45 counties in their entirety and 22 counties in the highest-risk ZIP codes).

Helping People Succeed’s Healthy Families Martin/Okeechobee program meets and exceeds all that you read above. We take the job seriously and help create healthy, happy families. 

At Helping People Succeed we focus on prevention. You will see pinwheels outside our office symbolizing playfulness, joy and childhood. It’s a reminder that this is what we want for all children all year long!

Suzy Hutcheson's opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Keep Martin Beautiful

Tiffany Kincaid
Keep Martin Beautiful, Executive Director

Keep Martin Beautiful Talks Turtle!

It’s Turtle Nesting Season on the Treasure Coast! From March through October, our beaches welcome green turtles, leatherbacks, and loggerheads that will lay their eggs and produce the next generation of sea turtles.

Keep Martin Beautiful volunteers care deeply about our beaches and are diligent about picking up litter to keep them pristine. Now that we’re coming into the height of the season – May through August, we all have a part to play in keeping turtles safe and making sure our beaches are welcoming:

  • Lights off! Artificial light can disorient turtles as they come from the water and return to the water. Lights could make them head the wrong way. Anyone who lives on the beach should keep lights off and curtains closed from 9 pm to 7 am. Lights off, too, for anyone walking on the beach in the evening. Please, no flashlights!
  • Keep it flat! Holes in the sand can be a trap for nesting mothers and hatchling babies. If you take your kids or grandkids to the beach and they’re having fun digging in the sand, be sure to fill the holes in when they’re done.
  • Stay back and Don’t Touch! Mother turtles need and deserve a respectful space as they lay their eggs. Stay back, or better yet, stay away. And when those cute baby turtles leave the nest and head for the ocean, don’t touch them. These little hatchlings have a natural instinct to head toward the brightest horizon, typically the ocean. If we interfere by handling them, it can disrupt this natural behavior, causing confusion and potentially leading them away from the sea. And if those aren’t enough reasons for you to stay away, remember that these creatures are a protected species so it’s also against the law!

Photo contributed by Samantha Baysinger.

There’s lots to know about turtles and the intricate process that brings them to our beaches every year. Fortunately, we have terrific experts in our area who willingly share their knowledge. Some of these organizations host turtle watches – the best way to see the awe-inspiring sight of mother turtles lay eggs without disturbing them. Here are a few of our partners in Keeping Martin Beautiful – for us and for turtles.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Service tracks turtle nesting and makes their charts available on their website. You can see how the turtle nesting season is going and compare it with other years.

Ecological Associates Inc. staff scan our beaches daily and mark turtle nests with protective tape to keep beachgoers from accidentally disturbing a nest. These professional turtle watchers and protectors provide information and welcome questions at their website.

Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center, located on Hutchinson Island, invites visitors to meet Turt, Lily, Hank and Anna Belle – the turtles housed in its rehabilitation pond – and learn more about the three turtle species that nest on local beaches. The friendly and knowledgeable staff at FOS also conduct turtle watches and offer a coastal lecture series.

Environmental Studies Center in Jensen Beach has been educating generations of students about the local environment. It now features a new Sea Turtle Exhibit, which can easily accommodate an entire class as they gather around a sea turtle tank and learn more about these amazing creatures.

For more information, contact Keep Martin Beautiful at 772-781-1222 or

Tiffany Kincaid's opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Art of Business

Chriss David
Founder, Chriss David and Associates

Use of Video is Imperative to be Noticed Today

Welcome back to our series on leveraging video content to grow your business. In Part One, we discussed the importance of video in today's digital landscape. Now, let's dive into how you can produce quality videos at a cost-effective rate, covering equipment, techniques, and the use of outside businesses for editing and polishing.

What Equipment is Needed?


You don't need a Hollywood budget to create great videos. Start with what you have; even smartphones nowadays come equipped with high-quality cameras. Invest in a good tripod to keep your shots steady, and consider a microphone to improve audio quality, as clear sound is crucial for keeping your audience engaged.

For lighting, natural light can work wonders, but if you're filming indoors, a basic ring light or softbox can help eliminate shadows and improve the visual quality without breaking the bank.

Looking For Easy Techniques?

Plan your video content in advance to save time and resources. A script or storyboard can guide your shooting process, ensuring you cover all necessary points efficiently. Practice makes perfect, so rehearse your delivery to appear more natural and confident on camera.

Editing is where you can really polish your video. Free or low-cost editing software like DaVinci Resolve, iMovie, or Adobe Premiere Rush offers ample features for cutting clips, adding transitions, and inserting text overlays.



Want Someone Else to Do It?

If editing isn't your forte, consider outsourcing to a freelancer or a video production service. Websites like Fiverr, Upwork, or local production companies offer various options to fit your budget. They can enhance your video with professional edits, animations, and effects that make your content stand out.

Absolutely, integrating a section on using AI for video creation, especially for those uncomfortable being on camera, is a great idea. Here's how you can add this to the narrative:

Hate Being on Camera?

If the thought of being on camera sends shivers down your spine, you're not alone. Fortunately, advancements in AI technology have made it possible to create compelling video content without needing to step in front of the lens. AI-driven platforms can generate realistic animations, avatars, and even synthetic voices that can narrate your video content.

Incorporating AI into your video strategy offers a practical solution for those who prefer to stay behind the scenes while still leveraging the power of video to connect with their audience and grow their business.

Creating engaging video content doesn't have to drain your finances. With the right equipment, some planning, and either a do-it-yourself approach or a bit of help from professionals, you can produce videos that attract and retain clients. This visual medium allows you to showcase your business in a dynamic way, helping you build a stronger connection with your audience.

Stay tuned for more insights in our next segment, where we'll explore Ai and how to distribute and promote your videos effectively to maximize reach and engagement. Remember, the world of video is vast, but with the right approach, it's entirely within your grasp. So, gear up, start filming, and watch your business grow. "Lights, camera, action!"

Chriss David’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

President of the Martin County Education Association

Matt Theobold
President of the Martin County Teachers Association

Teacher Appreciation Week is fast-approaching, and from May 6-10, many teachers in Martin County, as well as those around the country, will be getting gifts, thank-you notes, and appreciation lunches from parents, students, and administrators alike, all showing their gratitude for the hard work and dedication displayed by our amazing educators on a daily basis.

While many will be celebrating, there are a few educators who aren’t feeling the same love as everyone else on campus, and for good reason. I’m talking about teachers who received non-renewal notices from their principals last week, informing them that they will not have a job next school year.

The conversations surrounding these notices are difficult, and there are many reasons why a teacher might not be asked to return the following school year. Unfortunately, many teachers don’t get to have those conversations, and few are given a reason for not receiving a contract renewal. Why are they being let go without explanation? The answer is simple… Administrators don’t have to provide one. A law passed by Tallahassee says administrators don’t have to provide an explanation for non-renewing a teacher on an annual contract.

Getting released from any job may be a tough pill to swallow, but to not be given a reason for termination just seems especially cruel. One of the teachers recently let go “without cause” happens to be bilingual with Highly Effective ratings on all their evaluations over the past five years. What’s more, this individual was even nominated by their peers as a candidate for Teacher of the Year THIS YEAR. In another instance, a five-year veteran with Highly Effective ratings was let go from their school after a recent change in leadership. In both cases, neither individual was given a reason for their termination.

These are just two examples in recent years of a growing trend where it seems as though principals are weaponizing this process to remove teachers they either don’t like or don’t get a long with. Personality conflicts are nothing new, but prior to 2011, teachers had tenure to protect themselves from circumstances outside their control.

At a time when teachers are under attack across the country, turnover in the teaching profession is at an all-time high, and the Martin County School District hosting a job fair to fill over 30 instructional vacancies, one can’t help but wonder if giving principals that kind of unbridled authority sets a dangerous precedent. There is no doubt that such actions are harmful to the employees being let go, but one must also ask if letting highly qualified teachers go for no reason is really what’s good for our students?

Matt Theobald's opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Cleveland Clinic Reports

Dr. Rishi P. Singh
Cleveland Clinic Martin Health, President

Time is Brain:
Delivering Accurate Diagnosis and Treatment during Stroke Emergencies

The type of stroke Rhonda Hodge survived has a 50 to 60% mortality rate. Fortunately for Rhonda, her husband’s quick action in calling 911, quick emergency response, and efficient treatment at Cleveland Clinic Tradition Hospital, meant that she could go home from the hospital three days later to resume a life of independence and good health.

Specialists at Tradition Hospital were ready to accurately diagnose the type of stroke and design an effective treatment plan within minutes. Rhonda received clot-busting IV medication within 28 minutes of arrival. The time from door to start of thrombectomy (removing the clot) was 71 minutes and her door to reperfusion (clot removed and blood flow restored to her brain) was 82 minutes.

People are overcoming conditions that used to be considered catastrophic in every instance, including stroke, and living with better quality of life after these life-changing medical emergencies.

At Cleveland Clinic Tradition Hospital, 623 people received treatment for stroke in 2023, making the Comprehensive Stroke Center at Tradition Hospital one of the busiest centers for emergency stroke treatment in the area – and the best equipped. New, state-of-the-art imaging and neuro endovascular operating rooms enhance the care stroke patients receive.

These new technologies equip surgeons with unparalleled precision and control during complex neurosurgical procedures, including stroke interventions.


“The collaborative environment of the hybrid OR allows our neurosurgeons, neuro endovascular surgeons, and vascular surgeons to work together in real-time,” said Oszkar Szentirmai, MD, Cleveland Clinic Martin Health Center Director Neuroscience Institute and Chief of Neurosurgery. “This improves patient outcomes through better communication and immediate decision-making.” 

With new capabilities, Cleveland Clinic Tradition Hospital, part of Martin Health, continues to demonstrate its commitment to delivering cutting-edge medical care to patients and become a leader in neurosurgical innovation.

“These are significant advancements in medical technology that allow for more precise and less invasive procedures,” said Jeffrey Miller, MD, Cleveland Clinic Martin Health Director of Endovascular Neurosurgery. “For our patients, it means less time spent in the hospital and an overall enhanced recovery process.”

In the last year, Cleveland Clinic Martin Health launched a number of acute interventional and preventive clinical trials in ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke, supported and funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“These clinical trials offer an opportunity for our Treasure Coast community to have access to the newest advances in science and protocols in the management of devastating neurological disease,” said Marc Babi, MD, Cleveland Clinic Florida, Section Chief of Neuro Intensive Care and Principal Investigator (PI) of those trials.

Residents of Stuart, Jensen Beach, Port St. Lucie and surrounding counties benefit from unparalleled precision during complex neurosurgical procedures; collaborative work in real-time; more precise and less invasive procedures; less time spent in the hospital and better recovery.

Because time is brain when it comes to stroke, Cleveland Clinic Tradition Hospital is contributing to both increased life expectancy and increased quality of life.

We are thankful for the first responders and medical providers who are dedicated to helping Tradition Hospital’s Comprehensive Stroke Center deliver cutting-edge neurosurgical treatment to patients like Rhonda. 

For more information about Cleveland Clinic Florida neurological services visit

Did you know?
In 2023, Cleveland Clinic Tradition Hospital received certification from DNV as a Comprehensive Stroke Center, reflecting the highest level of competence for treatment of serious stroke events. The certification means Tradition Hospital has not only the clinicians and resources, but also the ability to act organizationally with extreme efficiency because of the time-critical nature of stroke events. This certification from DNV validates all the effort we have put into this program and to ensuring the health and safety of our patients. The DNV Comprehensive Stroke Center Certification is based on standards set forth by the Brain Attack Coalition and the American Stroke Association and affirms that Tradition Hospital addresses the full spectrum of stroke care – diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and education – and establishes clear metrics to evaluate outcomes.  

What is a biplane suite?
Advanced biplane neuro-angiography enables surgical and interventional treatment for any number of neurovascular diseases, from carotid stenosis to stroke to brain aneurysms. It provides highly detailed 3-D views of blood vessels leading to the brain, as well as those deep within the brain, to assess blockages and other abnormalities. These views allow neuro endovascular surgeons and neurosurgeons to provide minimally invasive treatment for a wide range of conditions including brain aneurysms, acute stroke, carotid artery stenting and embolization of brain tumors and arteriovenous malformations (AVMs).

Imaging/procedures include:

  • Cerebral Angiogram
  • Endovascular Embolization
  • Endovascular Coiling (brain aneurysms)
  • Endovascular Thrombectomy (stroke caused by blockage)

Rishi P. Sing's opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

IT Insight

Eric Kiehn
C&W Technologies, Owner & CEO

AI for business

Have you ever thought about how AI can help your business? It's a game-changer, and it's transforming the way businesses operate. From improving customer service to enhancing marketing efforts, AI is making a big impact.

Let's start with customer service. It's a key factor in keeping your customers happy and loyal. With AI, you can provide 24/7 support through chatbots and virtual assistants. You can personalize the customer experience by analyzing their data and tailoring their journey. You can even predict their needs and provide proactive solutions. And you can monitor your online reputation on social media.

But that's just the beginning. AI can also help with marketing. It's a competitive field, and you need to stay ahead of the game. With AI, you can personalize your marketing efforts, analyze customer data, optimize campaigns, and even generate content. It's all about delivering the right message to the right person at the right time.

So how hard is it to implement AI in your business and what type of Return on Investment might you see…  Well, that’s still a little murky. We’ve made great strides in simplifying AI from the user’s perspective, but it still can be a little challenging to integrate into your environment.

Training is another aspect that is just beginning to take shape. As for ROI, we can see 20% return per user where AI is applicable… We expect much more as AI rolls out, it becomes simpler to use, and implementation becomes easier. Math just tells the story. A strategic report that might take hours to produce can be produced in minutes, edited, reviewed, and done 30 minutes later. That is time saving, productivity improving and can be turned into income generating actions. 

The bottom line is that AI can help your business in so many ways. It can automate tasks, analyze data, generate insights, and provide personalized solutions. It's a technology that can give you a competitive edge. So, the question is, how will you use AI in your business?

We’ve just touched the tip of the iceberg in demystifying AI. There is so much more to tell. If you want to know more reach out and we’ll help demystify your AI journey.

Eric Kiehn’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Martin County Taxpayers Association

The United Way of Martin County is on to something.  Something that could save the County big bucks.  I recently spoke with Carol Houwaart-Diez, President and CEO of the non-profit, regarding a program called Ride United.  This United Way program funds rides for people without a source of transportation.  Students, the elderly, the poor, the rich.  It doesn’t matter.  Currently the purpose for the ride is what matters.   And they operate on weekends and evenings as well as during the work week.   Carol hopes it will someday be funded by the County and supplement MARTY.

The Martin County Taxpayers Association has made a lot of commentary on MARTY and how it is a failed system.  Even those hired by the Board of County Commissioners to analyze it admit as much.   And their recommendations to fix the system are costly.  The suggestions are to improve the stops, add more routes, add more buses, add more hours (at this time MARTY doesn’t run on weekends or evenings) make it free! Throw more money at it!!!

Currently it costs the county $37 per trip on MARTY.  Ride United which uses LYFT averages $18 per trip.  Ride United runs on weekends and evenings.  Ride United is a door-to-door service.  MARTY’s stops are difficult for anyone further than walking distance to get to.  Sure, MARTY offers a pick up at your door service.  The cost to the county is astronomical. 

The popularity of Ride United which was only started in 2022 has grown extensively.  Their biggest problem is twofold.  Getting the word out and funding.  Ms. Houwaart-Diez has only 2 sources of funding thus far…Cleveland Clinic for $7,500 and an anonymous donor for $10,000.

The County has an objectional (in MCTA’s opinion) list of non-profits to which that they give our tax dollars.  MCTA could get behind putting this United Way project on that list and expanding the program.  At an average of $18 per ride vs. $37 per ride, the County would stand to save enough money so that it would in essence pay for itself. 

The MCTA is hoping that the Board of County Commissioners will give Ms. Houwaart-Diez some attention and at the very least try supplementing MARTY with Ride United before throwing a bunch more tax dollars out the tailpipes of MARTY.

MCTA's opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

The Ranch Retains Martin County's Essence

By Brandon Tucker

Executive Director, Florida Landowners Association 

As a third generation Floridian and long-time Martin County resident, I appreciate how parts of my state and hometown still retain that old Florida charm.

Preserving areas like our vast Wildlife Corridor is not only critical to the infrastructure of our state but should also be a component of development as Florida matures. That’s why I support the Calusa Creek Ranch development being considered in west Martin County.

The new owners of the land Ken and Suzanne Bakst, plan to preserve more than 91% of the natural habitat on the land located just 10 miles west of Hobe Sound. The Bakst’s built one of the most beautiful golf courses in America, the Friar’s Head Golf Course in Riverside, New York. That course is breathtaking and world-renowned for how it meticulously maintains the natural environment throughout the property.

It’s no secret that Martin County is known for being ultra conservative when it comes to growth. But it is inevitable that development will continue, and the best way to move forward is with visionaries who understand the value of preserving and enhancing the natural aesthetics of the area. The Ranch will help protect the agricultural areas, wetlands, and nearby waterways. 

This 4,000-acre development is being thoughtfully planned so its 175 homes, two golf courses, and cattle ranch maximize open space and create a buffer for those traveling past the community.

The Ranch has the potential of being the jewel of the Treasure Coast. The owners estimate the $25 million tax revenue Martin County will receive each year, will ultimately net the community billions of dollars in positive fiscal impact over three decades.

Now, money isn’t everything, but this kind of well-planned growth is smart business. Perhaps even more important is that it helps preserve the essence of old Florida for future generations.

Brandon Tucker's opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Constitutional Corner & Non Profit Notices


Supervisor of Elections

Tax Collector

Property Appraiser

Martin County Clerk & Comptroller

Non Profit Notices

Family STEM Night and VPK Prom 

One of our goals is to create opportunities for families to come together.  This is a consistent theme in our community outreach programs, Banner Lake Academy, and Banner Lake Early Learning Center. Recently we hosted our first ever Family STEM Night and VPK Prom. Both events were held in the evening so more parents could have quality time with their child. 

Family STEM Night gave families a chance to see and experience what our students learn and do in our new STEM program. The students showcased some of their engineering work. Parents also viewed displays for some of the units that have been covered so far this year, including microbiology, states of matter, and birds. These displays included photos, examples of the children’s work, their notes/plans, and even a live bird! Families also experienced STEM challenge stations. Including a STEM snack zone, creativity challenge, and a sink or float station. Parents also left with information and activities to extend STEM learning into the home! 

Our VPK students experienced a magical evening with their friends, families, and teachers during Prom. Some of our youngest students showed up with BIG style and fun dance moves. Each child brought at least 1 parent to be their date. The VPK class will be graduating in a couple of weeks, meaning that they will be leaving Banner Lake Early Learning Center. This is always a very bittersweet time of year as we see our little preschoolers become elementary students. Prom was such a special way to bring everyone together before graduation to celebrate this milestone. 

Organizing events like these is important to our staff. We are fortunate to be able to have events for our community and families thanks to our sponsors and volunteers. Banner Lake Inc is a 501c3 nonprofit organization. If you are interested in getting more information about becoming a sponsor or volunteer, please contact our office at 772-545-0953. 


#25by2025 Campaign to Recruit Foster Homes Kicks Off with a Story Stroll


Stuart – Communities Connected for Kids launched a community-wide foster-home recruitment campaign Saturday at its Third Annual 1K for Kids and Story Stroll.

Called #25by2025, the campaign's goal is to recruit and license a minimum of 25 foster homes by January 1, 2025 - homes that will help reverse a downward trend in the number of foster homes being licensed since the COVID pandemic.

Since 2020, the community has experienced a 58 percent decrease in homes in Okeechobee and the Treasure Coast, said Christina Kaiser, CCKids community relations director.

"We have many wonderful homes and nurturing caregivers, but it's not enough to keep up with the number of children coming into care or the number of homes closing," said Kaiser, adding that many caregivers close their homes after adopting or for related family reasons.


"We have too many children and teens in group care or placed in other parts of the state,” she said. "Twenty five new homes will be enough to start bringing them home.”

A more robust network of foster homes also makes it possible to keep siblings together and to keep children closer to their homes and schools while in foster care.


The #25by2025 campaign offers the community many opportunities to get involved in advocating for and recruiting homes, Kaiser said.

“We created a list of 25 ways to help – from sharing campaign information on social media to selecting foster-care themes for Book Club,” she said “Some of it might seem small, but one small act can make a huge difference—one connection can change the life of a child.”  


That was the message Saturday morning at Port St. Lucie’s Hillmoor Lake Park, where CCKids launched the campaign as part of its 1K for Kids & Story Stroll.

Nearly 200 people registered for the event, which included a 1K interactive trail where walkers could use QR codes to learn more about the foster-care community.

Also at the event were several foster-parent licensing agencies and a series of celebration stations where participants could join the #ManicureMovement to raise awareness for the prevention of child abuse or record a 3-second video to celebrate families being reunified this summer.

Walkers also had the opportunity to join the Starfish Society, a special tier of giving for those who elevate their commitment to the #25by2025 campaign.


For a complete list of ways to help, or to join the campaign’s Starfish Society. visit our campaign site at and then click the #25by2025 banner.


Martin Artisans Guild Tropical Temptations: Celebrates the Beauty of the Treasure Coast

By Jackie Holfelder

Join the talented members of Martin Artisans Guild at their next show -Tropical Temptations – which will celebrate the natural beauty of the area.

It launches May 1 with a delightful opening reception from 5:30-7:30 p.m. If you’re a regular attendee of these popular events, you know there will be live music, luscious liquid libations at a cash bar, and delectable appetizers.


There will be a second opportunity to mingle with Guild members at the “Meet the Artists” event on June 5 from 4-6 p.m.

Both events take place at The Palm Room Art Gallery and Artisans Boutique, 3746 SE Ocean Boulevard in Stuart’s Harbour Bay Plaza.

The exhibit closes June 29.



Mickey Rudolph

May and June bring a host of events that necessitate gift-giving: Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, graduations, weddings, bridal showers and more. Take the opportunity to check out the very special and one-of-a-kind items in the Artisans Boutique while attending Tropical Temptations.

Artists exhibiting include:

·        Michaelann Bellerjeau

·        Glen Allen

·        Mickey Rudolph

·        Mark Stall

·        Caryl Pomales

·        Kimberly Beltrame

·        Jane Lawton Baldridge

·        Curt Whiticar

·        Mallo Bisset

·        Dot Galfond

·        James J. DeMartis

Jane Baldridge     Photos Provided By Martin Artisan Guild

The Palm Room Gallery is open Tuesdays-Saturdays from noon - 6 p.m.

For more information, visit



Council on Aging Martin Starts New Mobile Service with Impact100 Martin Grant

STUART, FL - The Council on Aging’s Elder Care Mobile Outreach program will soon be available to help seniors throughout Martin County neighborhoods who need assistance with the challenges of aging.

Thanks to a $100,000 Impact Grant from the generous members of Impact100 Martin, Council on Aging will be able to hire a second Case Manager Navigator to  go directly to underserved seniors throughout Martin County who face social isolation and loneliness, and then connect them with essential services.

“The pandemic taught us that there is a reluctance among seniors to contact us to ask for help,” said Council on Aging Martin County CEO Karen Ripper. “Yet there are seniors in our affluent county who live in the shadows, possibly even in our own neighborhoods, who would benefit from our services. Now we will be able to go directly into the community to find them and offer the assistance they need.”

Funds from the Impact 100 grant will help to purchase a new high-top van, which will ultimately be converted into a mobile office.  A Case Manager Navigator will use this office to go into mobile home parks and various neighborhoods throughout Martin County to help seniors find ways to minimize expenses so they can better afford to remain living in their own homes for as long as possible. The navigator will help with securing affordable housing, make referrals to Meals on Wheels or the Adult Day Club located at the Kane Center, offer assistance with utility bills, link seniors for medical consultation and screening with the Day Medical primary care office, and provide support to caregivers.

Council on Aging President & CEO Karen Ripper, Chief Philanthropic Officer Michele Jacobs, Board Chair Nicki Schoonover, Case Manager Navigator Brian Sullivan, and Director of Case Management & Meal Services Annette Lopez received the check from Impact100 Martin that will help to fund a mobile office to take elder services directly to seniors in their own neighborhoods.

“By meeting people in their own neighborhoods,” Ripper said, “we will relieve some of the stigma of asking for help and overcome any transportation challenges. Our community will be healthier as we address problems before they become catastrophes for seniors and their families.” The Elder Care Mobile Outreach program will be operational by later this summer.

Impact100 Martin is a membership driven nonprofit organization that enables women to leverage their individual philanthropy and create positive, lasting change in the community. Each member contributes $1,000 a year and participates in choosing nonprofit projects to receive a $100,000 grant that will have true impact and sustainability. With 422 members in 2024, Impact100 Martin was able to award four $100,000 grants in April.

“The Council on Aging Martin and all of those we serve are grateful to Impact100 Martin,” Ripper said. “Everyone deserves a quality life at every age, and we’re eager to continue our mission to make this a reality for seniors in our community.”

About the Council on Aging of Martin County

The Council on Aging of Martin County is the community’s hub for senior resources and the county’s Lead Agency on Aging. Founded in 1974, the organization offers expertise, programming and support for older adults and their families to help seniors maintain lives of quality and purpose. Services include: Day Primary Care Center, Memory Enhancement Center, Adult Day Club, Meals on Wheels, care management, caregiver support, and a robust offering of educational, cultural, fitness and wellness programs.

The Kane Center located at 900 SE Salerno Road in Stuart is the Council on Aging of Martin County’s headquarters and is also an event venue available to the public. It serves as a special needs hurricane shelter when necessary. The Council on Aging of Martin County also operates senior outreach facilities in Hobe Sound, Jensen Beach, East Stuart and Indiantown. A 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, the Council on Aging receives funding from state and federal agencies and relies on philanthropic support from the community, including other agencies, private foundations and individual donors. For more information, visit


Project Graduation of Martin County, Inc. is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides a safe environment on the night of graduation to all seniors in Martin County.  Graduation Night is a special night in the life of a teenager but sometimes a night of celebration can have tragic results.  PGMCInc creates a lock-in at the YMCA for these students giving them entertainment, food, and social time with their friends from many years in school together.

After the night of each high school’s graduation, between 225 and 300 graduates from that high school will descend upon the YMCA on Monterey Road.  The excitement is notable so we need VOLUNTEERS to assist.  The big push occurs at 8:30 PM and continues until around 10:30 PM so we need most of the VOLUNTEERS then. The rest of the night is assisting and monitoring.

PLEASE go to our website and sign up to assist with this worthwhile event.  Feel free to email or call with any questions

May 16th (South Fork High School)

May 17th (Martin County High School)

May 20th (Jensen Beach High School)

Where needed/floater

ALL three nights

5:00 pm - 7:00 pm (unloading/receiving items)

7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

9:00 pm - 12:00 am

12:00 am - 3:00 am

3:00 am - 4:00 am (cleaning)

Call for more information 772-261-0779

Visit website

Email for more information.


The Project Graduation of Martin County, Inc. is a 501(c) 3 that is a locally operated, nationally designed for graduating seniors which encourages them to stay off the streets on the evening of their high school graduation.

During prom and graduation weekends, teen deaths from crashes and poor choices are higher than any other time of year. When a graduating senior attends Project Graduation, we can ensure a safe environment with no alcoholic beverages or illegal substances that could cause a child to harm themselves or others. With county, school, and parental support, this program is highly anticipated and successful with over 12,000 graduating seniors attending over the last 23 years. That accounts for nearly 75% of the graduating class at each school.

We rely completely on donations and items collected through fundraising efforts in our community to operate.  We have no paid positions-- every dollar donated goes to the event.  The Board collects and manages all Project Graduation funds for the three traditional public high schools in the county: Martin County, South Fork, and Jensen Beach, plus the others that include Spectrum Academy, Willoughby Learning Center, and Clark Advanced Learning Center

Parents and teachers chaperone the event for safety purposes.  Martin County has not had one alcohol or drug related death, car accident, injury or significant police stop for our graduates since the program’s inception 23 years ago.

Events, prizes, and entertainment keep seniors busy throughout the night which allows them to celebrate graduation in a safe environment.

Please feel free to contact us at for more information or details on how to donate.



Hibiscus Children’s Center Helping Families Heal

Through Mental Health Services

Treasure Coast - May is “Mental Health Awareness Month”.  Hibiscus Children’s Center provides Mental Health Services to over 550 children and families annually and specializes in the treatment of trauma-based disorders, behavioral health, and healing victims of sexual abuse. 

Hibiscus provides these critical services to children living at the Tilton Family Children’s Shelter and Hibiscus Village and to community children.  Master-licensed therapists provide services focused on decreasing emotional and behavioral issues and are trained in a variety of age appropriate and best practice treatment interventions. Hibiscus has a dedicated Sexual Abuse Treatment Program, only one of thirteen programs in the state.

Hibiscus Community Mental Health provides multi-dimensional services to help children heal and strengthen families. Counselors are flexible and go where the need is, meeting in offices or the family’s home so they feel comfortable in their own environment.  Therapists also provide intervention at school to help communicate the needs of the child and advocate for them by assisting with Individualized Education Programs (IEP) and mental health treatment plans.  Low self-esteem and trauma affects how kids think and focus and oftentimes causes failing grades and challenging behavior.  Therapists may suggest extra support needed such as a ‘time out’ so the child is removed from a situation and given a chance to calm down.  By providing this extra support, children learn coping skills and how to overcome the obstacles they are experiencing.

Therapists also testify for children in abuse court cases and engage in the adoption process by meeting with the new family to evaluate family dynamics, help the child adjust and anticipate any future issues that may arise. Additionally, support for parents is offered by linking them to community resources and providing family therapy. 

One of the most important tools Hibiscus uses is the Sanctuary Model – an evidenced-based trauma-informed care model that addresses the health and well-being of children and caregivers, including staff and volunteers.  One of the key elements to help minimize trauma symptoms is how we respond by asking, “What has happened to this person?” instead of “What’s wrong with this person?”.

Hibiscus therapists promote safety, build treatment plans and teach coping skills to children and families. Teaching kids how to advocate for themselves is an essential tool in helping them heal.  Therapists also promote safety and trust in our community so they know Hibiscus is here when they need us.  Robin Dankyi, LMHC, Sanctuary Training Specialist, shared, “Our therapists have had discharged families return for services when new issues arise.  This is a testament that they believe in what we are doing and evidence that what we do matters.  Families trust us with the most private matters in their lives.  It is rewarding to know we have helped them through some of these most difficult times. Hibiscus clients have shared that we go above and beyond in providing mental health services.”

For more information, please visit us at or call the Hibiscus Community Mental Health Program at (772) 340-5750, ext. 435.





Stuart, FL. – The Martin County Police Athletic League is proud to announce its first Florida State Junior Olympian, Fernando Gutierrez. Gutierrez, a 15-year-old freshman at Martin County High School, joined the Martin County PAL program in May 2023. Within a year, his unwavering dedication has propelled him to the national stage for the 2024 National Junior Olympics Tournament.

Fernando’s journey began with sparring sessions in the gym, ultimately leading him to join the Martin County Police Athletic League. Under the coaching of Tony Cardinale and John Ruiz, Gutierrez has developed his winning skills through guidance, hard work, and exceptional mentorship.

“This is the reason behind Martin County PAL to inspire young people through sports and encourage them to become the best they can be,” said Noel DelValle, Executive Director of Martin County Police Athletic League. “PAL provides them with the skills to improve their lives today and set attainable goals for the future.”

The 2024 National Junior Olympics Tournament is a steppingstone toward the ultimate dream, participating in the Olympic Games as a member of team USA. This year’s tournament will take place in June. Congratulations to the champions, both in and out of the ring.


About Martin County PAL: Martin County Police Athletic League is a 501 c3 charitable organization and crime prevention community program designed to provide alternatives to drugs, crime, delinquency and violence through sports and mentoring.  PAL inspires local youth and develops the bond between kids and the Sheriff’s Department of Martin County through fitness, friendly competition, and good sportsmanship.

Letters From Readers

I urge those who are reading this newsletter to send an email expressing their opinions on subjects. When a reader sends one, it will be included if I find it relevant and I have adequate space. I may edit the letter because of length and clarity. You don’t have to agree with me to have your letter in Friends & Neighbors. All you must do is send it to TOM CAMPENNI or fill out the form on the website.


Dan Deighan

brightline never wanted to come anywhere on the treasure slow down from 98 mph at indian street to pick up 4 people who want to stay overnight in orlando without a car??? they made the  offer to the treasure coast only to settle martin counties law suit.


Brandon Tucker


More than a year ago, I started the Florida Landowners Association (FLA) to help landowners protect and preserve their property rights. Now more than ever, conversation and education regarding this topic are critical to our state’s future development.

Recent action taken by a federal judge to paralyze the State of Florida’s 404 permitting program is a direct and deliberate assault on private property rights. The permitting process is part of the Clean Water Act with permits administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to regulate any activities affecting U.S. Waterways such as lakes and wetlands.

Florida’s 404 permitting program provides a streamlined procedure that allows both federal and state requirements to be covered within the state permits. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is more than capable of expediting this permitting process on behalf of state taxpayers and private landowners without unwanted interference from federal bureaucrats in Washington, DC.

So why should you care? Because numerous, much needed housing developments have now been placed on hold or at best delayed. The federal government claims this move was designed to protect Florida panthers. But this power play is doing nothing to further protect or preserve the environment or protected species.

Landowners caught in the political crossfire are being hurt along with those who are desperately striving to provide quality housing and other types of economic development opportunities for all Floridians. Many have followed the legal process for months, if not years, only to be told they cannot proceed due to this illegitimate action taken by the federal court.

FLA vehemently opposes this interference and calls on the federal court to immediately reverse this action. Unless and until a stay is requested and granted, all current and future 404 permit applications in Florida are immediately under Corps authority and will have to be processed under the federal 404 program.

In the meantime, Congress recently passed legislation that reforms the Clean Water Act. FLA fully supports and endorses H.R. 7023 the Creating Confidence in Clean Water Act passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and further amended by U.S. Rep. Aaron Bean of Florida late last month. This legislation supports clean water in our state and across the nation but also reduces regulatory burdens for the approval of infrastructure projects.

This bill modernizes the Clean Air Act, which has been weaponized over the years to block permits for critical development projects. It also codifies the EPA approval of Florida’s section 404 program. The move by lawmakers is a step in the right direction. The federal court’s decision will likely be headed to appeals court.

-Brandon Tucker/Executive Director/Florida Landowners Association

Martin County


There were three items on the agenda for Calusia Creek (now known as the Ranch PUD).

Legally and technically each of the items needs to be approved before the next one can be heard. The first has to do with an adoption of a text amendment to the Rural Lifestyle use in Chapter 4. It was already approved by the LPA, the BOCC voted to send it to the state for approval at an earlier commission meeting, and then back for today’s vote.

The second item was to change the specific Ranch 3900+ acre property on the Future Land Use Map from Agricultural (one unit per 20 acres) to Rural Lifestyle (one unit per 20 acres) which resulted in the same density. The change does not allow for one more house to be built.

The third item was to change the parcel for rezoning and adopt a PUD Agreement including a Master Site Plan. The only way to have the Rural Lifestyle is through the PUD process. There is no development as of right under that use. It becomes an individual negotiation between the county and property owner.

Three different votes were taken, and each had a 4-1 split with Commissioner Heard dissenting. One of the text amendment changes were how far a property must be from the USB to qualify for the Rural Lifestyle designation. After the adoption, it is now 6000 feet. Why that distance? That is where the nearest sewer main is to this property.

This change was the hardest one to support. That distance is over a mile. Yet in the end, it has the benefit of the new development being on sewer instead of septic…something that is important for our waterways.

The current property is only a ¼ square mile less than the size of the entire City of Stuart. It is not a small piece of property.  With only 10% of the total area used for golf and amenities, the rest will be either agricultural, upland preserve, or wetlands. There will be 175 homes, which is about 20 homes less than the Agricultural designation allows by right.

Those homes will be clustered instead of spreading out over the entire property in 20 acre homesites. A couple of beneficial outcomes occur by the clustering of homes. First and the most beneficial is no septic systems. No matter how good the septic system is it is no substitution for sewers that take away the waste instead of it going into the ground.

The sewer system is being paid for entirely by the developer. It doesn’t cost the taxpayer one dollar. And that includes the golf courses which before any change can be built as of right. With the number of homes or the allowance of golf courses with clubhouses and guest cottages, the county isn’t increasing anything the developer couldn’t build right now.

With 20-acre ranchettes more roads, culverts, drainage areas, and other infrastructure are needed simply because people and their homes are spread out. Further by breaking up a property the size of Stuart into 20-acre homesteads, there would be fragmenting of the wetlands and uplands into small areas instead of the wildlife corridors that will remain within the PUD.

Several speakers during public comment spoke about the Martin County difference. Yes, things are different here. In Martin County, we are debating 175 homes being clustered on a couple of hundred acres instead of being spread out over 3900+ acres. If this were in St. Lucie County and Port St. Lucie, they would be building thousands and thousands of homes on the same footprint.

A speaker said we would be the next Boca because of approval. The statement is so absurd that is even beyond hyperbole. When it is all built out, the population of Martin County will increase by about 500-600 people…no different than the 20-acre ranchettes designation it is replacing.

Many of the homes’ owners will probably have other residences where they spend some of their time. Schools and emergency services would be little impacted. And again, it would have the same impact as if ranchettes were built. Traffic has the same impacts. All because the number of people is the same.

There were some legitimate issues raised regarding water quality. The LPA (I am a member) recommended to the commission that the applicant and staff devise a method for testing the water for pollutants. Our vote for recommending approval of the project was 4-1 with that condition.

When I made the motion with that recommendation, I believed it would be a good safety measure to assuage the doubt of some of the residents. I am a little miffed that the commission did not at least discuss our recommendation and why it was made.

There was also some concern regarding an email sent from a South Florida Water Management District reviewer. She had objections based on several assumptions that do not apply to private lands. When I saw the email, I attempted to contact her but was unsuccessful. Tyson Waters, the applicant’s attorney addressed them in detail. Both are attached here. 

Drew Bartlett, the Executive Director of SFWMD, wrote an email to staff clarifying the district’s position. Interestingly, Bartlett did not copy his own reviewer which leads me to believe her comments were far from accurate. In the language of bureaucracy, he is saying ignore the reviewer’s email and rely on mine.

I am quoting from the entire body of Bartlett’s e-mail to county employee, John Maehl:

I am following up from our conversation this morning.

We appreciate the County recognizing that the subject property was part of a planning process for Natural Lands Restoration as part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.  The County has been a long-standing partner in Everglades Restoration.  The District recognizes that land use and comprehensive planning involves many factors of which the environment is one important piece.  

As the County considers the future of the parcel, the important part of the Natural Lands footprint is captured in wetland restoration which serves to retain water on the property instead of draining that water to the Central & South Florida Flood Control System.  The District, as an adjacent landowner, is also interested in how this comp plan amendment affects the larger Palmar hydrology as the headwaters to the Loxahatchee.  The District appreciates that the private landowner is using their project to improve ground and surface water hydrology on the site and in the wetlands, increase water retention on site, and create natural managed areas around the southern boundaries of the project and adjacent to the Districts.   

The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) does not impose restrictions on private property rights, or in local zoning or comprehensive plan decisions.   Therefore, the County is not legally constrained by CERP plans from making decisions regarding private property using their comprehensive planning process.  The District appreciates the County’s consideration of the improvement in hydrology and wetland habitat associated with this project and how that affects the larger surrounding ecosystems. 

Thank you,


In other words, forget the email that a low-level staffer sent who obviously doesn’t know what she is writing about.

Further, SFWMD and FDEP will be issuing permits for anything happening at the Ranch. If they violate the conditions of those permits, the work is stopped and thousands of dollars in fines can be levied.

Toward the end of the proceedings, one speaker commented that the USB is just a line on the map. There isn’t anything magical about it. It isn’t holding back the White Walkers (a little “Game of Thrones” reference) from invading the east. There is no Night’s Watch (another one) keeping guard over the western lands. The speaker also said that the state mandates a look at the comp plan every several years to address the changing needs of the county.  

The alternative to projects like The Ranch is not that the property will remain the same in perpetuity. It is private property with the right to develop within guidelines. If those guidelines are deemed too restrictive, the courts or Tallahassee may change them for us.

Projects that are coming in using this designation will have little impact and maximum benefit. The alternative is for the county to buy the thousands of acres that are currently privately owned to prevent any development. Further, it isn’t as if the land is now available to citizens to hunt or fish or take a hike. If you do it is trespassing.

This type of development is the best we can hope for.       

City of Stuart

COMMISSION MEETING APRIL 22, 2024---What Is All The Commotion?

What promised to be an overflow crowd in the chamber because of a possible large drug treatment facility locating to a closed assisted living one became just a full house.

The applicant sent an email to the city manager at about 3:30 asking to continue the item to the May 13th meeting. Sheriff Will Snyder has been a vocal opponent and had rallied several hundred followers by stating he would give a presentation in opposition. In his 12 years in office, Snyder has never done this before. 

A sign was posted on the front doors to Stuart City Hall telling people that the item would be continued. The sheriff will postpone his presentation until then. And the overflow crowd will be there for that meeting.

It doesn’t mean there were no speakers in opposition. Many of the ones who did speak were somehow connected to a much smaller Stuart facility, Coastal Detox. While the owners and employees stated they were not really in competition, they felt that the larger facility would pose a danger to the community.

I don’t know if I believe any of that argument since they hired a consultant to head up the campaign against the larger drug treatment operation. And the real issue is whether another facility of large size with clients from all over the U.S. belongs in Stuart? The question must be asked what is in it for Stuart? My answer is not much…if anything.

The commission is involved because the project would need a Land Use change and a change in zoning. It is not an “as right” development and therefore at the commission’s discretion whether to do it or not. It is currently zoned multi-family residential since it was an assisted living facility. 

Putting aside the other business’s campaign to derail the project, the commission must decide whether this is something the community wants or needs. The obvious answer is no. If the use and zoning were already there, I don’t believe the commission would have a choice. This is very different. You could even argue that it would go against the comp plan to change from multi-family.

If this item is heard on May 13th, it probably won’t even have a commissioner offer up a motion to go forward. It would be political suicide to go against the public advice of Sheriff Snyder. If one incident happened in a facility with 160 beds, the commissioners would be held responsible by the citizens.

The applicant needs to be looking for another use. We suggested a use in one of our essays above. One thing is for sure to this resident, this facility should not happen in Stuart.   



Development Director Jody Kugler gave a presentation regarding what has been approved in the 1st quarter of 2024.

There have been 2 minor development plan approvals. One is the Kiddie Academy Daycare in the former Construction Journal Building and the other is Silver Loch Studios on Ocean Avenue in the former Burger King which will be a Podcast Studio.

According to the City Manager the development department will be giving an update every month. You can see it here 

The Finance Director gave a midyear budget update. It was quite impressive especially the interest earned for only ½ the year. You can see that presentation here 

Heard This Before

I noticed a posting on social media from one of the people that was quite vocal in opposition to the Kanner LLC development. It showed water gushing down a swale in front of Riverland into a concrete flow way and then into the river. It would appear the purpose for both is to direct stormwater away from properties. All those improvements were permitted through Florida DEP and South Florida Water Management District.

I then asked the city manager for an explanation of what the person was complaining about. He sent me a string of emails between himself and the person with the issue regarding this subject. In his email response, the manager noted that the Kanner LLC (Costco) property was much cleaner now than when a relative of the email writer owned the property because of extensive cleanup of the debris left behind.

City Manager Mortell also wrote in his response that he asked the developer’s environmentalist for a statement and plans to send the building inspector back once more. Mortell wrote that “if there is a violation or activity that is not permitted, it will be addressed.”

It seems clear in Mortell’s email and my observation that a system exists to remove water from Kanner LLC, Lychee Tree Farms, and other properties and eventually send it into the river. The question is whether the water coming off the Kanner site is in violation of any federal, state, or local ordinance or regulation.

Mortell states in his email that he is attaching photos of the developer’s cleanup of the Kanner site. The photos are quite illustrative of the junk yard the old farm had become…a farm owned by the family of the person complaining about the quality of the runoff.

Linda K. Richards, one of the email authors, seems to be associated with Lychee Tree Farm now although during the extensive hearing process for the Kanner approval she claimed she was not. Whether she is or is not doesn’t really matter. And neither does Mortell’s claim that any discharges happening now have nothing to do with how much the property was cleaned up since the developer took over.

But both the extensive cleanup and not owning up to your relationship with Lychee goes to the validity of one’s argument.

Richards also mentioned South Florida Management District “being more responsive and forthcoming with factual information of what is currently happening.” I asked Mortell if he had been contacted by them and he said no. He called the district, and the developer is operating lawfully with permits supplied by them.  

To me, it looks like sour grapes because Richards failed to stop the project. In all likelihood, Costco will open by the end of the year followed by the apartments and other retail stores opening sometime in 2025. Both Martin County and Stuart will receive large tax increases to their base, hundreds of new jobs, and many pleased residents.

It also has crossed my mind that the owners of Lychee Tree Farms are now multi-millionaires. Not because of anything they have done. Like so many other families in Stuart and Martin County, their wealth accumulation wasn’t based on anything more than their forebears buying land that was cheap and abundant. It is now expensive and scarce.

Depending on whether Ms. Richards has an interest or inheritance, she too may have joined the multi-millionaires’ club. And the Kanner CPUD being built has a large role to play in that coming true.  

Attached are the emails, city photos, and her video here. 

Martin County School Board


Superintendent Michael Maine's Community Conversation

Darlene VanRiper

The United Way hosted a Community Conversation event with Martin County School Superintendent Michael Maine on April 24th.  With a year under his belt, he remains enthusiastic and optimistic regarding the direction the district is heading as well as the goals it has reached so far. 

Although the District maintained its “B” ranking in the new FLDOE state accountability system, it did earn enough points to have maintained an “A” under the previous system.  Over half of the County’s schools were able to increase a grade.  Martin County now has 5 “Schools of Excellence” which is a statewide competitive recognition.  That’s up from only 1 in previous years.

It was both refreshing and surprising to hear Superintendent Maine’s comments regarding charter schools.  (Charter schools are public schools and some believe that they siphon money from the other public schools as they are funded by the same tax dollars.)  Mr. Maine remarked that the three charter schools in Martin County are very cooperative with the district and their principals regularly attend the monthly district principal meetings.  He welcomes the friendly competition and feels that schools can learn from each other.  “Afterall”, he declared, “If they’re successful, we’re successful”.

In order to address teacher retention, Mr. Maine meets with teacher representatives from each school once a month for an entire day.  From those meetings come good ideas.  Mr. Maine would like to incorporate one such idea which is that the schools begin to diversify, each having their own niche. 

He wants educators to be able to answer, “What’s attracting students to your school?”  Each school would specialize in one of the following:  –Eco School, Cambridge AICE Elementary Program, Leader in Me Program, Communication Academy, Marine Industry/ Middle Years International Baccalaureate, Jensen Beach High– TE²AL (Tech, Engineering, Entrepreneurship, Arts, Learning).   This may help retain students who would otherwise move to programs outside the district or online homeschooling venues. 

To address the homeschooling issue, the Superintendent has instituted a virtual option.  Starting next year 3 courses will be offered and so the program will grow with use.  In this way he hopes to recapture some of the voucher money that has left the district.

Mr. Maine admitted that truancy must still be addressed and that the graduation rate, although at 90.3% needs to be higher. 

As far as the new law signed by Gov. DeSantis which will open schools to volunteer chaplains for counseling, Mr. Maine feels it could be handled as an after-school club arrangement.  He is in the process of formulating a policy which will go to the School Board for consideration.

Town of Sewalls Point


The commission spoke regarding the four charter questions that look like they will be on the November ballot.

Commissioner Fender wanted to know whether being a resident for one year was enough to run for commission (someone approached him with the question). A quick survey of other municipalities shows that Jupiter Island’s charter just had that a candidate should be a registered voter and resident of the town.

Stuart’s qualification is that the candidate should be a registered voter of the city, a permanent resident, and a continuous fulltime resident for the preceding year before qualification. Indiantown is similar with a one-year residency requirement before qualifying, a voter, and must be a resident during their time in office.

Most municipalities use a one-year standard. In Mogk v. City of Detroit, a district court invalidated a three-year residency requirement to serve on a charter review board. There is no one standard in my research but (I hate to use the phrase) I am not a lawyer. It seems though the courts are opening qualifications not narrowing them.

The year which is in line with other Martin County municipalities should be the standard used. To do something else would be exclusionary and not serve any real purpose but to keep people from running.

The other question is regarding having a planning board. Apparently, there has never been one constituted since the town was created though it is currently in the charter. The planning functions are performed by other boards. The argument for removal is it hasn’t been needed up to this point and an ad hoc committee (like the charter review board) could be formed in the future if necessary.

A motion was made by Kurzman and seconded by Mayfield to send the questions to the Supervisor of Elections for review. It passed 5-0. It will come for a final vote before the commission after that. The ballot language can be found here


There was a discussion as to how to maintain the millions of dollars in stormwater improvements the town has made.

The main question was whether the town institutes a fee or not. The manager wants to do a study to see if a stormwater utility fee is the best way to go. Currently the town spends $125,000 per year on maintenance but that will significantly increase as more improvements are made. Sewall’s Point has done a remarkable job of securing millions of dollars in grants to make the improvements.


According to the town engineer, Joe Capra, the granting agencies want to see a dedicated source for maintenance. They are taking away points if the government doesn’t have this source. And now that every municipality and the county are seeking the same grants then Sewall’s Point will be at a disadvantage going forward since, they all have fees.


Capra did a back of the envelope calculation. If there are 1500 parcels and the amount of maintenance is $125,000 per year the amount of the fee per month would be $6.94.  According to the manager there are no grants to pay for the monitoring that is required and the maintenance.

The reason why a fee is seen by the state as a better option than ad valorem taxes is because the cost of stormwater maintenance is paid by a dedicated fund and there must be a rational nexus to the amount charged. How the fee is structured can be by parcel, size of the parcel, pervious and impervious footprints, or a combined approach.

Tompeck wants to know the baseline amounts for maintenance. Mayfield believes a study should be done. Kurzman needs a budget. Barile doesn’t believe you can stop the storm water from flowing downhill and used his street as an example. He believes the county should maintain the baffle boxes on North Sewall’s Point Road since they own it. Fender thinks going through the budget process every year is a goal setting exercise. People demand fiscal integrity.

The manager will bring back the information requested. He will also see if he obtains a study for $1000 or less. A motion was made to proceed with a study for that amount or less. The vote was 3-2 with Barile and Fender dissenting.

You can see the manager’s request here 

Village of Indiantown


Most of our boards in Martin County use some version of Roberts Rules to conduct their meetings. By having a set of rules to follow, the council can maintain a semblance of order.

Because in the end, it is about making sure the majority’s idea is being correctly interpreted and followed. Indiantown doesn’t really follow a clear path in this regard. Robert Rules is intended to make sure there is no ambiguity about what the motion maker meant, and the council voted on when a motion is in front of the governing body.

To make a motion, the member must first be recognized by the chair. In Indiantown’s case, a simple “Madame Mayor” and her nod of recognition would suffice. Then the recognized council member would state his motion as simply as saying, “I move that we accept staff’s recommendation for approval.” Or “I move we recommend approval of the project with staff’s recommendation and the following condition of ‘a, b, c’.”


Then the chair calls for a second. The chair restates the motion to make sure all understand and then calls for a vote by either a roll call or an all-in-favor.

By a board member simply saying only the word “motion,” there is no duly constituted action to vote on. If it isn’t clearly addressed, then how will anyone know the intentions of the council in a week, a month, or 20 years from now? It is the responsibility of the chair to accept nothing less than a fully worded motion. The simple utterance of the word “motion” as a substitute is not enough.

Mayor Gibbs-Thomas hopes to be elected a county commissioner come November. She needs to act as if she is now in the big leagues and chairing the county commission. Manager Taryn Kryzda was the county administrator for a long time and knows better than to accept what is going on in meetings. The village clerk should be challenging that she cannot record the word “motion” when a council member says that and nothing else. As the chief legal advisor, the village attorney is not advising the council adequately on how they should conduct business.

No staff member likes to tell an elected official that they are doing something incorrectly. To some, this may seem like a small matter. At some point, the way motions are currently being made will result in the public believing something else was agreed to. The council needs to act more responsibly.

Guyton Stone resigned more than 6 months before the next election. Here is what the charter states:

Filling of vacancies.

  1. A vacancy on the Council shall be filled by a majority vote of the remaining members of the Council for the period of time until the next election, when a Council member shall be elected for the remainder of the term vacated. If more than six months remain in the unexpired term and a majority of the remaining Council members cannot reach a decision within 60 days after a vacancy occurs, the vacancy shall be filled by a special election.

I haven’t heard anything.

The sheriff’s deputy in charge of community affairs spoke to the council about the problems the department sees regarding special events. He wanted the council members to know that it was not Indiantown people but those from outside that had caused the problems in the past. They “piggyback” on the event and have a sub event. The later it becomes, the more outsiders there are and the greater the possibility of the event being hijacked.

Later in the agenda, there were items concerning special events. Currently, the council must approve them. A new ordinance would allow the village manager to do so. Attorney Vose wants to reduce the deadline that a special event permit needs to be submitted to the village offices to 30 days from a minimum of 60 days now.

There was a lengthy discussion on aspects of how to change the ordinance. Council Member Dipaolo wants to make sure a permit is not needed if it takes place on private land. Then the example of a concert came up like the Okeechobee Music Festival with thousands of people.

He will bring the revised ordinance back for further discussion.

There is a “trust fund” that the village inherited from the county set up by Co-Gen which was eventually sold to FPL. It was to disburse the proceeds from interest on the $1 million that constitutes the trust fund. There are 7 members of the committee…4 from the public, 2 from FPL and a council member representative.

It hasn’t met in several years because there wasn’t enough to disburse. It now has over $50,000 that can be distributed. However, except for one member of the public, there doesn’t seem to be any interest in being on the committee. The manager wanted to do it internally, and then the council would have the final word.

The council felt that there should be further attempts to solicit public participation. The staff will continue to find new committee members.  

Final Thoughts


Old Homes & Old Grievences Still Part Of America

I was reading about a festival that is held every year in Columbus, Mississippi. The town has the largest collection of restored antebellum homes in the U.S.

Owners dress in period costume and show off their properties to people from all over the U.S. and beyond. It is a celebration of the “Old South” with the graciousness and courtliness depicted in Gone With The Wind. It was a time when manners and customs were revered by White slaveholders while the slaves were in the fields with a small subset keeping the homes graciously run and an even smaller subset were the artisans who had learned the crafts necessary to build and maintain the homes.

I love to tour old homes, north or south. I owned a home in Connecticut built in 1859 that we restored and lived in for a decade. I would have a great time in Columbus.

A few months back, there was a controversy with a Republican primary candidate regarding what caused the Civil War. Was it slavery or something else? Most of us came down on the cause being slavery but others cited economics, states’ rights and I even heard someone say it was a misguided religious belief that perpetuated the institution.

Taking Columbus as an example, how were the original owners of the homes able to amass the wealth necessary to live in the opulence they did? It was without a doubt their ability to farm thousands of acres planted in cotton which they then sold to the mills of the North and England. If left there, those southern planters seem like any other farmers only much better off than those in other parts of the U.S.

Before the development of farm machinery, large tracts of land were tilled by hand. The crops of the North and Midwest were vegetables and grains, and farms were at best a couple of hundred acres. There weren’t enough hands to work the farm and make a profit if a farmer had thousands of acres.

In the South, pay wasn’t an issue. Slaves worked for room and board and not much of that because they had no choice. An economic class arose that had privilege and money, and it was all based on the enslavement of millions of people.

The argument is often made that the war was caused by the rural South conflicting with the industrialization taking place in the North. That is true. Further the North needed the raw materials the South produced for their mills. King Cotton was king because it put huge amounts of wealth into the pockets of White people in the North but nowhere near as much money as the slave-holding Southern landowners.

The argument about states’ rights was the constitutional hook that the South used in its battle against the elimination of slavery. Slavery was a right guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. A Black person was chattel and the only way that they were not is if their owner gave them their freedom.

It is easy to say that the Civil War was about economics or state sovereignty over the federal government. In the end, these arguments are nothing more than weak reasons for allowing one group of people to become and stay rich and powerful by keeping another group in bondage. Slavery was the root cause of the Civil War. The institution is America’s Original Sin.  




Friends and Neighbors of Martin County is your eyes and ears so that you know what is going on in Martin County’s municipal and county governments. I attempt to be informative and timely so that you may understand how your tax money is being spent. Though I go to the meetings and report back, I am no substitute for your attending meetings. Your elected officials should know what is on your mind.

Tom Campenni 772-341-7455 (c) Email:



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