October 1, 2023

Friends & Neighbors Edition

In this Edition

The first book I ever read was “Mary Poppins.” It was in the summer between first and second grade. I bought the old copy at a book fair in school at the end of the year in June. I needed a bit of help reading the book but somehow made my way through it.

Like many children, I had those “Golden Story Books” for a long time. They not only helped inspire a culture of reading, but they also served as building blocks for cities and forts for my tiny soldiers.

The second book I read was one about the U.S. presidents. I think Truman was the last one mentioned in that book though Eisenhower was just leaving the White House. I remember having a library card from the first grade on and even going to the place to check out books since it was only a few blocks from my home.

By the third grade, I had settled on history books as my prime subject. I would also read ahead in my readers, English books, and even geography book. Those were the days that the Smith Family took the year off and drove around the country with the parents introducing their boy and girl to America.

In 5th grade I was in the hospital for almost four weeks when I had my appendix removed and ended up with pneumonia. I began reading the Classic Illustrated comic books that were very abridged versions of classic novels (Cliff Notes for kids). Once I got back to school, I started reading the books themselves.

In high school we had summer reading lists, and had to turn in book reports. Each summer there were a half dozen books to read. One of the books was A.J. Cronyn’s “Keys of the Kingdom.” Cronyn was a Scottish physician and also wrote "The Citadel" which helped inspire the creation of the public health service. The book was a novel about the life of a Scottish priest in China. In it there were very mild depictions of sex and children being born out of wedlock. I still reread it every decade or so.

I went to an all-boys very small Catholic High School. Other books on the summer list were “Soul on Ice,” by Eldridge Cleaver, “The Once and Future King,” by T H White, Chaucer’s “Canterbury’s Tales,” and Melville’s “Moby Dick.”

Would any of these books be allowed today? I don’t know. If I can remember the titles and substance almost 60 years later, that is a strong indication of what literature instills in children.

During high school I read nearly all of George Orwell’s works…some as part of my Englich classes curriculum. We read most of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets. We had a passing relationship with Dickens, Thackery, Defoe, and even Fielding. I had an amazing education that I would probably not have had in 2023 in Martin County or much of Florida.

What is then a well-rounded educated individual today? We can’t bemoan the failure of our schools to give students a love of reading and the classics if we take the classics away.

The Franciscans, who were my teachers, were not exactly liberal communists. We said multiple prayers a day. We went to mass. I found some of my clerical and lay teachers to be inspirations. Something that probably does not happen anymore. 

We are saving our children from all we once considered our heritage. Another example of how politics has become so destructive to our society.


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Have a Good Sunday Morning.

Open Season

It is open season on shooting neighbors in Florida.

Brian Ford was trimming a tree that was overhanging onto his mother’s property when the next-door neighbor, Edward Druzolowski, shot him dead with his 357 Magnum. Druzolowski told deputies that he ordered Ford to get off his property. Ford refused. According to Ford’s mom, her son was standing on her property since the fence is situated 2 feet from the property line.

Ford never threatened Druzolowski except to tell him to mind his own business. Druzolowski said he feared for his life because a few years ago Ford told him that he had won fights while in prison. Druzolowski was arrested and remains in the Volusia County jail.

Druzolowski didn’t call 911 because he didn’t think law enforcement would respond to a tree dispute. They certainly do respond to someone who has been shot. This all took place in front of Ford’s 8-year-old son. Ford was 42 and Druzolowski is 78.

In Stuart last year, one neighbor shot another and his wife over a condo washing machine. All were senior citizens. It seems every week an older person is killing someone because they claim to be in fear for their life.

Is that what it means to grow older in America? We have such fear of those younger that we need a gun to protect ourselves. And what a gun Druzolowski had. A 357 magnum…the Dirty Harry kind.

If you fear for your life, then why are you going out to confront your neighbor over a tree? Sure, you have a right to protect your property. The police have a duty to come, and they will. We need to stop believing that guns are the only way to solve disputes.

No matter what right Druzolowski had, Ford is dead and with that all his rights are gone. And that included the right to see his son become a man. Ford’s son will be traumatized for life seeing his father killed. Druzolowski will either spend the rest of his life in prison or a good portion of it fighting to stay out. This is what happens when we think our arguments need to end by the use of guns. 

Train Travel

There is revised interest in train travel in the U.S.

Much depends on whether it is possible to really have affordable, reliable, high-speed rail going to where people want to go. That is a tall order, but it may be doable.

We know that the Amtrack model outside of the Northeast does not work. Two trains a day just doesn’t cut it especially on tracks that can use improvements. Slow trains are not going to get people out of cars. The only place Amtrack is successful is in the Northeast corridor where the trains are relatively fast.

Brightline may finally be the answer. If you have never taken the train, don’t dismiss it until you have. I’ve done so several times between West Palm and Miami, and it was superb.


For the leisure traveler, this is especially true if you are spending the weekend. Parking your car at a Miami hotel is going to cost you a minimum of $50 per day. The congestion once you get south of Palm Beach is a nightmare. We get around while there by Uber, and it is seamless.

I can also see that a businessperson would love to take the train and work while commuting instead of being caught in that traffic nightmare. That is exactly who takes Amtrack on the Northeast Corridor. And the West Palm Beach to Miami stretch is predominantly one economic entity with lawyers, accountants, and consultants going to several places in a day.

The Treasure Coast is a bit different. We will never have many people from here using the train to go north or south. But it would be great to have a station in Stuart for other reasons. A study done a few years ago found that credit card receipts in the city were primarily from local zip code users but secondly from the Miami area. This tells me we may have weekend visitors coming here to spend their dollars. We should have more.

A station will only help our economy. There is no downside. Brightline is here. We can watch as it speeds through, or we can have it stop. I would rather have it stop for any of us who wish to go south or north and not battle the traffic or for those wanting to come here and savor our town’s vibe.     

Stuart PD Makes Arrest In September 3rd Shooting

On the evening of September 3rd, a local kid who was doing no more than driving in his neighborhood became a victim of mistaken identity. Two other kids, one 16 and the other 17, from Port Salerno and Port St. Lucie decided that it was time to end a life apparently because of some slight.

The victim who is a good kid, never been in trouble, attends a local high school but became the latest victim of our shoot ’em up state inhabited by some who have no regard for human life. Driving down the street has become a dangerous pursuit for our youth. When you end up almost crashing your car into the Stuart Police Station to save your life after being shot, what has our society become.

Most of us had fights as kids. It usually meant at most a bloody nose or cut lip. Today’s youth go straight to guns to settle the score. It isn’t much different than what they see adults doing.

Stuart PD believes that incidents like this should not go unpunished. A good kid in the wrong place should not have his life snuffed out or have life threatening injuries because he was driving in his neighborhood. The department immediately began to investigate.

Investigative techniques today use not only technology but cop instincts still. That and knowing the players most likely to perform these types of acts. The perpetrators can turn a Sunday evening into a scene of carnage. I don’t know for sure, but I believe within 24 hours the police knew who these guys were. Knowing and proving are two different things.

There weren’t just one or two detectives involved but several: Sgt. Daniel Duran, Sgt. John Reddick, Detective David Jacobson, Reserve Officer David Schoonover, Detective Ken Leedham, and Detective Zach Pecci. Captain Flamur Zenelovic lent his experience having worked homicides in Rochester, NY for 20 years before assuming this post. They were backed up by the crime analysis team and had the cooperation of the Martin County Sheriff’s Department

They worked diligently to catch the juveniles that were ready to kill someone for nothing. I understand that they didn’t even care that they shot the wrong person. As Shakespeare’s Portia said, “The quality of mercy is not strained.” Maybe some day these two may earn a little.

Stuart PD made arrests on September 18th, 15 days after the incident occurred. The above-mentioned officers put in time to catch them. It isn’t only about knowing they are guilty but having enough evidence to prove it to a jury. While it may seem a long while based on what we are used to seeing on TV, this was done in record time in the real world of policing.

Good job to Stuart PD for protecting us from mayhem. I am glad that we have them as our first line of defense in this gun-crazy world…a place where a kid driving in his own neighborhood on a Sunday evening can be a victim of deadly violence.

As Published In Martin County Moments

VanRiper's Views

Darlene VanRiper

A Bully at the Door

A CPA told a story about a client who was a medical doctor.

He committed suicide because an IRS agent was harassing him.  There was another story about a “rogue” agent who unexpectedly showed up at a woman’s home, barged in and took her silverware and China.  He left with a comment akin to “good luck with dinner tonight.”  Yet another story about agents calling 3rd parties and disclosing confidential information. 

I told my story at the gathering.  My mother died 2 years ago.  My CPA calculated her final tax returns.  He overpaid $11,000. (Knowing him he was acting on the side of caution.)  I had no idea until the IRS sent me a letter stating that Mom had overpaid.  There was no check in the envelope.   I called and was told they’d be sending that separately.  About 4 months later I got a letter saying they needed more time.  For what?  Then 4 months later another letter …. They need more time.  For what? After the 3rd letter came, I called and was told it was being handled “manually”.  I said to the woman “Didn’t you guys just hire 87,000 more agents?  Can you give one of them a pen?”   It’s been nearly 2 years now. Still no check. 

All of these anecdotes were told at Florida’s CFO Jimmy Patronis’ round table “Fighting Back Against the IRS” in West Palm Beach on September 20th.  We who attended were told that since Florida’s fiscal house is in such good order with $22B in reserves, having paid off $1.3B in debt and having welcomed 400k net new taxpayers last year we are “where the fishing is good”. Gives new meaning to the phrase, doesn’t it?   Last year’s reoccurring new wealth in Florida (because of our new taxpayers) was a whopping $39B!  Patronis reasoned that the IRS isn’t going to try to find their goal of $200B in a state like California which lost $29B in revenue last year.  

Of course, we’ve been told that these agents are not coming after anyone who is not wealthy.  Well, big businesses already is audited every year.  Some have permanent offices in which the IRS agents can work. The IRS now targets businesses by using Obamacare regulations.  Health care costs have increased for business owners (who must offer medical coverage now) by 25% to 35% EVERY year according to the James Madison Institute representative there.  And JMI’s research shows that businesses have to employ approximately 3.1 million people to focus on compliance now.  They are so burdened with paperwork.

Attendees were assured that they will be coming after wait staff (92% of restaurant bills are now paid with a credit card…easy to track).  They are coming after the elderly.  And it will be a challenge for your college kid to report every $600 transaction. 

I hate writing scary stories.  But I thought what I heard at the round table was worth passing along.

CFO Patronus wants you to know that the administration will be attempting to pass legislation at the next session to help Floridians fight back.  The legislation was not defined at the roundtable.  He also wants you to go to https://fltreasurehunt.gov/ and look for money owed to you.  He reported that 1 in 4 Floridians has money in there. 

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

Nicki's Place

Nicki van Vonno
van Vonno Consulting, Owner


The Republicans are at it again. Let’s trash Joe Biden because his son is a drug addict. Geeze, that’s a winning strategy. 

I know several friends who have lost loved ones to opioid addiction: a brother and a nephew; a sister and a mother; a brother; a dear friend’s child. My millennial daughter tells me that she and her partner can’t count the number of friends and acquaintances who have been lost to addiction.

My own hometown, Huntington, WV is the poster child of opiate addiction. The best story about Huntington turned out to be my car book. You know, the book you keep in the car, so you have something to read when you are waiting somewhere. “Falls the Night” by Julia Keller followed me into the house. Her heroine, Bell Elkins, is the local  prosecutor desperate to find the new dealer selling heroin laced with a new and lethal tranquilizer.

I couldn’t put it down. Julia Keller, a Pulitzer Prize winning writer, is from Huntington too and she wrote this book after visiting in 2016. During her visit, Huntington suffered 28 heroin overdoses in 24 hours, two fatal. She wondered how her hometown had descended into this madness.  Her descriptions of addicts treating first responders with contempt for interrupting their high is chilling, but enlightening if you don’t have an addict in the closet.

Perhaps one of your children has an addiction, and you have begged, threatened, and paid big bucks, if you are lucky enough to have the money to do so, to get them into treatment. You have thrown them out and taken them back. You have raised their children and fought the system to protect your grandchildren. You tell the grandkids, “It’s not your fault.” You pray they believe you. You know how little ones think it is their fault, and a missing mommy or daddy is a gaping wound in that child’s heart.

You have prayed. Oh, how you have prayed.

And if you love an addict, you know they are not yours. They belong to that drug. They will do anything to get that drug. They will lie to you, they will swear on their children’s graves, they will bat their eyes and pinkie promise, and you know they are lying. But your heart is breaking.

Here are the Florida stats from the National Institute on Drug Abuse https://nida.nih.gov/

•              5,268 overdose deaths per year.

•              2.56% of all deaths are from drug overdose.

•              OD deaths decreased at an annual rate of 0.62% over the last 3 years.

•              The death rate is 25.5 deaths out of every 100,000 residents.

•              This is 23.19% above the national average death rate.

•              7.49% of nationwide OD deaths occur in Florida.

You can go to the link above to find the stats for your hometown.

So, Republicans, go ahead. Demonize a parent who loves his child. Let the Justice system hold Hunter Biden accountable, if proven guilty by a jury. But let’s stop using his addiction to ignore your addictions.

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

Happy National 4-H Week!

National 4-H Week, October 1-7 this year, began in 1945 with the purpose of (1) acquainting the public with the 4-H program and the many ways young people may take part, (2) encouraging more youth to join 4-H, (3) urging more adults to volunteer as 4-H leaders, (4) recognizing parents' contribution to 4-H, and (5) reporting the year's 4-H accomplishments and planning for the year ahead.

In a recent article that I wrote for this newsletter I share many of the accomplishments we have seen in Martin County 4-H, like having our first Florida 4-H State Officer in 40 years. To add to the accomplishments that I shared (see F&N August 20), it was recently announced that Martin County 4-H has three members who were selected to serve on the Florida 4-H Executive Board. These three members- Vera Howe, Ella Morey, and Haylee Luning- will each serve on statewide 4-H committees that will shape the direction of Florida 4-H for the next year.

With a great influx of our 4-H members looking to take on leadership roles and to make a difference in their community, we have decided to complete the Florida 4-H Community Pride Project (CPP). The CPP is a service-learning project where the members of a 4-H club- in this instance the Martin County 4-H County Council- access the needs in their community, select one need to address, create a plan to meet that need, seek funding to address the need, and implement the plan. By the way, it was our 4-H members who brought this forward and asked to complete this project. Now that is an accomplishment!

None of the accomplishments we see in 4-H can be attained without our volunteers and parents. Each club is organized by at least two volunteers and parents fill in as extra hands to support the clubs and their projects. The extra responsibility of teaching 4-H lessons, creating a safe space for our youth, and giving hours on hours every month to support their club members makes our 4-H volunteers the true strength of our program. Without them there is no 4-H program.

4-H is everything you see at the local fair- the livestock and ribbons- AND it is civics, leadership, healthy living, science, arts, technology, mathematics, and more. 4-H is all year long. You do not need to own animals or have any amount of land to be a 4-H member. You only need a head for clear thinking, a heart for greater loyalty, hands for larger service, and health for better living. We have a place for you, come join us. Email dhafner@ufl.edu to learn more about the 4-H program.

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

Carl's Conclusions

Carl Frost
Kai Kai Farms, Owner

Farms No More?

Farms (entities functioning with soil) will soon be made redundant.

The word farmer will disappear from our vocabulary. It’s happening right now. The trend over the past 100 years is self-evident… fewer farmers. But what of the (farm) land? As long as farms exist there will be farmers to manage that land. When farmland is no longer required, so will be the demise of the farmer.

A triad of forces are combining to end farming as we know it. First is intrinsic growth and urbanization. Second is technological development of controlled environment agriculture. Third is vertical integration of our food supply.

We witness the creep of urbanization with its insatiable need for square footage. When we insist on height limits that only accelerates the amoeba like spread of sprawl doesn’t it? Farmland is consumed making way for warehouses and planned unit developments.

Technology and especially the LED lighting which have enabled warehouses to become produce growing factories are beginning to appear. We have a prototype in Martin County called VibeWright Farms https://www.vibewrightfarms.com . This is a climate-controlled space, a “shipping container” or black box if you will, which has a growing system for leafy greens. It is not a farm as there is no land involved. Controlled environment agriculture has already been expanded to warehouse scale like Aero Farms https://www.aerofarms.com . If the public accepts this factory food and is willing to pay for it these largely automated facilities will proliferate just like online shopping has replaced shopping centers with warehouses and door delivery.

The third trend ushering in the demise of farms is vertical integration of food production and sale. I highly recommend watching the DW documentary “The Decline of Supermarkets-A Sector In Crisis”
The decline of supermarkets - A sector in crisis | DW Documentary

The point of this journalism is that large corporations with immense wealth will produce food in warehouses, sell it on their web platforms, and deliver it to your door. These business tycoons do not like independent farmers and the farmland they manage. Corporations specializing in vertical integration prefer a factory approach, an analog of their existing infrastructure model: highly automated with AI directed machines.

Government is an unwitting co-conspirator to these trends. The cost of Florida farmland is out of reach for average entrepreneur farmers. Intense regulation of surface waters and farm practices add more costs and complexity. Labor shortages, especially Americans willing to work outside, add more costs to typical farms. The Florida government does little to encourage conservation easements. There is minimal financial aid for beginning farmers. Our education system is more interested in self-serving curriculums than practical knowledge for hands on farm management.

The consumer will have the final say, but I’m not encouraged. The slippery slope of dumbing down our taste buds in exchange for convenience is well established. Do you know where your food comes from? Do you even care?

Carl Frost’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

In Martin County, a staggering 43% of our children are not prepared for kindergarten.

That places them on a challenging path from the very start. This month, I want to shed light on a transformative initiative we support, one that empowers these children to step confidently into their educational journey: the 'Getting Ready for Kindergarten Camp,' a remarkable collaboration between the United Way of Martin County and the Martin County School District.

Throughout the month of June, nearly 100 eager young minds, poised to enter kindergarten, immersed themselves in this camp. It was specifically tailored to those children who were testing below kindergarten readiness levels.

You might wonder, 'What does it mean to be kindergarten ready?'

Today, kindergarteners must possess the essential skills required for success in a structured learning environment, including language, cognitive, physical, and social-emotional development. In simpler terms, they must be able to recognize letters, shapes, numbers, and colors, among others.

Reflecting on my own kindergarten days, the only thing we needed to know was how to tie our shoes. However, our expectations for our little ones have evolved dramatically, and kindergarten readiness stands as a pivotal key to their future academic accomplishments.

The children who participated in this intensive 4-week camp initially scored an average of 3.8 on their pre-test assessments, with 5 representing mastery level. Upon the conclusion of the camp, we are proud to announce that these young learners averaged an outstanding score of 5.13!

These are the programs that are undeniably changing the landscape of Martin County. Programs that yield quantifiable results, take proactive steps, and provide our youngsters with the strongest possible foundation. This 'Getting Ready for Kindergarten Camp' is merely one of the 44 external programs we invest in, each of which is dedicated to making a tangible difference.

Many of these impactful programs fly under the radar, but they quietly touch the lives of people you may know. It's important to understand that United Way's support extends to 44 local programs, delivered by 32 diverse partners. While not all these partners may be household names, they all play a significant role in impacting someone within our community.

For more insights about the United Way of Martin County and the transformative programs we champion, please visit our website at www.unitedwaymartin.org or reach out to me directly at chdiez@unitedwaymartin.org. Together, we can continue to create lasting change for the children and families in Martin County.

P.S. I recently had the opportunity to unplug for 2 weeks with no cell service or Wi-Fi to communicate with the outside world.  What I learned is that I needed that time to recharge my batteries.  I learned that I have amazing co-workers who were able to navigate anything that arose, and I learned that the world keeps going on whether you are in the thick of it or not.  While I did come back with the dreaded covid and a staff resignation due to re-location, I am grateful for the time I was able to disconnect.  I highly recommend it. 

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

Contemplative Christian

Chad Fair
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Pastor

I grew up dreaming of playing professional baseball.

I was good...but not good enough.  After college I continued to play in our local summer league but I never really lingered on the fact that major league baseball was an unrealized dream.  I played because I loved the game.  Recently I came across a stat that placed my childhood dream into perspective. Major League Baseball has been around for 147 years and there have been about 23,000 players who played professional baseball.

The smallest stadium by capacity is Progressive Field with a seating capacity of 37,830 people.  That means that everyone who has ever played professional baseball would fit in one stadium with room for about 14,000 more people.  Over time I have learned to appreciate all the life lessons baseball provided.

In MLB history there have been 24 perfect games pitched (no batter gets on base via hit, walk, error or hitting a batter), 322 no hitters, 968 1 hitters (twice the first hit was surrender with 2 outs in the ninth inning).  Digging deeper into the stats it gets more interesting.

How many of you have heard of Bob Hendley?  With a career 48-52 record why would you have?

How about Sandy Koufax?  If you know anything about the history of baseball you likely have heard the name.  He’s a hall of famer and regarded as one of a handful of the best pictures ever.

On September 9th 1965 the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs by a score of 1-0.  That day Sandy Koufax threw a perfect game including 14 strike outs.  The losing pitcher that day gave up just one run in the fifth inning on a walk, a sacrifice, a stolen baes and error.  The first and only hit of the game came on a blooper over the first basemen’s head two innings later.

The pitcher that day...Bob Hendley.  Baseball, like life, can be a cruel.  A bad bounce, a broken bat, a bad throw and the chance at immortality is gone.  I can’t imagine the frustration of pitching the best game of your life and still losing.  In the moment, I can imagine the heart break.  But taking a step back, I also imagine the pride of competing toe to toe with one of the greatest of all time. 

The difference between moments of jubilee and heart break are sometimes miniscule.  Too often what is remembered during our time on earth is the snapshot of our best or worst moments.  But in reality, none of us should be defined by our best or our worst moments. 

That’s the beauty and importance of being rooted in our faith.  In Christ we aren’t defined by the snapshots of our life but rather by gracious acceptance as children of God.

One last baseball question.  Which MLB pitcher has the most career losses (316)?

Here’s a hint, the award for the best pitcher in each league every year is named after the guy who holds the record for the most losses.  Sounds crazy right?  Is it any crazier than God sending his Son to die for our failures.  No matter how many.  The answer to the question…Cy Young. 

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

Business Development Board

Joan Goodrich
Business Development Board of Martin County, CEO

When your motto proclaims that “A stronger economy is everyone’s business,” you must walk the talk and go the distance—as well as find smart ways to shorten it.

We got to help do both in what was an especially impactful September for the Business Development Board of Martin County.

We recently hosted the Export University Conference for its inaugural debut on the Treasure Coast. Teaming with U.S. Commercial Service, South Florida District Export Council and Flywire, we brought together an array of local, state, and federal experts to guide Martin County manufacturers and small businesses in the essentials of accessing foreign markets.

On another initiative, we helped welcome an Italian company to Jensen Beach, Martin County as a new home for its growing North American headquarters.

Recognized as one of the Top 10 paint “tech solution providers in Europe 2021,” IM GROUP is an international conglomerate that operates in 15 countries and on five continents. It works with Fortune 500 companies on “total process-engineering solutions” within the industries of paint, coatings, adhesives, and more.

Starting with its assembly operation, IM GROUP plans to later bring manufacturing operations to our community. We’re excited about the career prospects this future expansion should create. But we also keep an eye trained to the present.

During our ongoing Pulse visits with local businesses as well as at our annual Martin County Business Awards, we’re reminded of the ingenuity and innovation that animates our manufacturing community. We helped organize the Export University Conference to assist them and other businesses in accessing markets beyond our national border. Thanks to the generosity of sponsors, we were able to provide complimentary tickets to all attendees.

Some highlights of the marquis lineup of speakers included:

Eduardo Torres, director of the U.S. Department of Commerce. He provided sage insights on the importance of creating a thorough export strategy and marketing plan that anticipates the challenging realities of entering a wider pool of competitors.

Pete Quinter, an attorney with Gunster law firm specializing in international law, gave broad insights on U.S. regulations governing exports.

Emily McHugh, an international trade consultant for the Florida Small Business Development Center at the Indian River State College Entrepreneurship Development Institute, advised small-business owners on growing their companies to effectively serve larger markets.

And our own Ed Ciampi, chair of the Martin County Commission, shared more about his other job as vice president of sales and international development for the Palm City-based manufacturer, Chicago Stainless Equipment. He gave some useful tips on establishing an overseas infrastructure to build upon and solidify initial relationships that flourish well after the first sale. He also described how to manage the channels of distribution to ensure expected deliveries go through on time.

Such knowledge properly applied can help grow the bottom lines of our local businesses—especially when combined with the addition of new employers. With strategic partnerships, accurate information and the right opportunities, no distance—not even one as wide as an ocean—is too far to bridge in bringing back the benefits from exporting to our economy.

Joan Goodrich’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

What a year it has been for the HSTC!

We continue to meet any new challenges with the same commitment to lifesaving and quality of care for the animals that find their way to our shelter. This past year, intake for dogs has risen around the country, combined with a drop in adoption frequency. Here at the HSTC, we have seen the same trend. The result is that more dogs are staying longer at the shelter.

Although these dogs are safe and cared for every day by our veterinarians, shelter and clinic team, and volunteers, the fact is an animal shelter is never the best long term care solution for any animal. With new residents coming in every day, the chances for illness, parasites, and behavioral issues affecting some of our residents increase. Our staff is challenged with making sure every animal in our care is as safe as possible, but even their great work cannot totally prevent outbreaks or behavioral decline.

Our staff and volunteers at HSTC provide daily medical care and evaluations, enrichment activities, outdoor play time and so much more. We have trained employees on committees who discuss the best course of action for the dogs in our shelter.

We are fortunate to have the resources to continue to meet the gold standard as a no-kill shelter because of your continued support for the programs and services that we provide. Another way we work in this area is to prevent animals from coming into the shelter unnecessarily. We provide obedience training at discounted rates for people who may not realize that learning how to communicate with their dog can prevent them from having to be surrendered.

We also provide pet food to families in need through our partnership with the House of Hope, the Council on Aging and other organizations in our community. Additionally, we work with like-minded rescue groups and shelters through transfer programs that provide an alternative placement option for many of our dogs. We also foster hundreds of dogs out of the shelter into homes where they will thrive and recover much better than in the shelter environment.

These are just some of the ways we work toward ensuring that every animal that comes into our care is given the best chance possible to find a pathway forward to their forever homes. Thank you for helping us meet the challenge every day. We will continue to work on behalf of all the animals in our shelter and look for new and innovative programs to continue our lifesaving work.

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

Helping Hand

Suzy Hutcheson
Helping People Succeed, CEO

Hidden Gems—Helping Youth Succeed

As a community we know that there are many afterschool programs that provide homework help, supervised play time, and assistance for parents who must work but need to know their children are well taken care of.

Then there are programs that provide specialized training for various populations. Helping People Succeed’s Helping Youth Succeed is one of those programs—a true hidden gem.

Imagine you are 17 years old and still considered a freshman in high school or worse a middle schooler. These are students who usually drop out of school because they see no way to catch up. The very students who are very attractive to the various gangs in our communities who are always recruiting new members. The other alternative are low paying jobs without a future. A frightening fact is that children as young as eleven (11) are currently being recruited.  These are the students served by our Helping Youth Succeed program.

Helping Youth Succeed began in 2004 and is funded primarily through the Children’s Services Council of St. Lucie County. For the past 20 years, thousands of students have had successful outcomes of catching up, graduating and, in many cases, attending colleges/universities or found suitable employment.


Helping Youth Succeed is aimed at instilling protective factors leading to positive school and life outcomes for students at Dale Cassens Education Complex, the only alternative center for St. Lucie County

Deb Adamsky & Sean Boyle

Schools. The program encompasses middle and high school course retrieval and tutoring for reading, math, science, and history for grades 6-12.

Helping Youth Succeed services at the school include: Course credit retrieval, tutoring, assistance with homework and classroom assignments, projects, and test preparation for Florida State Assessment (FSA) Reading, Writing, Math, and Science. High school students would be preparing for the End of Course (EOC) exams for Algebra I, Geometry, Biology, U.S. History, and Reading. Mid-term and final exams for the middle school students.

The program also includes a collaboration with the St. Lucie County school district--two days a week the program welcomes an ELL (English Language Learners), it gives students the opportunity to complete reading and language arts assignments with the assistance of staff who are bilingual. Students are given one to one assistance with developing key reading skills, comprehension strategies, fluency, and vocabulary.

The program is staffed by a program manager. teachers, tutors, bus transportation and some supplies. The total cost for the program is $96,743 with 7 ½% administrative cost included.

We’d like to give a shout out to Debra Adamski who started the Helping Youth Succeed Afterschool program in 2004 and after nineteen (19) years of growing the program from initially only dealing with behavior issues to the current model of credit retrieval for students in danger of not graduating on time, is retiring. She was recognized in 2018 by receiving the Champion of Children Award from the Children’s Services Council of St. Lucie County.

We are welcoming DeRhonda Jackson as she takes over the leadership role at Helping Youth Succeed. DeRhonda Jackson is the former Dean of Dale Cassens and has been working as a tutor for the programs well as the former Dean of Sale Cassens.

Suzy Hutchenson’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 Seeks Environmental Stewards

Did you know there are people all over the world spearheading remarkable environmental initiatives? Everything from creating products out of seaweed and plant-based materials as alternatives to plastic, powering solar cells through the photosynthesis of succulent plants, and building houses using a 3D printer made entirely from the leftover wood fibers from sawmills.

Right here in Martin County, we are known for our commitment to protecting the environment. That’s why Keep Martin Beautiful is looking to the readers of Friends & Neighbors to help us identify people and projects in our community that are worthy of recognition. Is there a beautification or community improvement project your civic group, youth group, or government agency completed.

Has your company made improvements to be more energy efficient, use green technologies, or improve its recycling practices? Is there a nonprofit that has had success preserving our natural environment and educating the next generation? Now’s your chance to give them some kudos!

Keep Martin Beautiful is currently seeking nominations for these types of activities so we can shine a spotlight on outstanding people and projects during our Environmental Stewardship Awards event. Last year a few of our honorees included:

  • River Kidz for their dedication to advocacy, youth education and awareness for the health of the Indian River Lagoon and St Lucie River.
  • House of Hope for using the latest hydroponic and aeroponic techniques to grow 7,368 plants at its Growing Hope Farm to improve the quality of life for thousands of low-income residents in Martin County.
  • Project LIFT for keeping old cars out of the landfill and accepting them instead into its vocational training program, teaching students how to repair them, and then donating them back to community members in need or teens who have graduated from the program.

We’re always on the lookout for the next environmental stewardship award winners, but many of the people we recognize are unsung heroes that are busy making a difference without any fanfare. That’s why we need the help of the community to give these humble people the credit they deserve.

Nominations for the 2024 Environmental Stewardship Awards are now open. The application is simple – describe the project, who is doing it, and why it matters. An independent group of judges evaluates the entries and determines the winners. At our celebration in the spring, Keep Martin Beautiful will have the honor of introducing the awardees and their projects to the entire community.  For more information and to submit a nomination, visit keepmartinbeautiful.org/environmental-stewardship-awards.

We know you have more columns to read, but we hope you’ll take a few minutes to think about a possible nomination.  If you have questions or want to email me your idea, send them to tiffany@keepmartinbeautiful.org.

Tiffany Kinkaid’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Art of Business

Chriss David
Founder, Chriss David and Associates

Opportunity Zones in Martin County, Florida: an Overview

Martin County, Florida, renowned for its scenic landscapes, golden beaches, and inviting communities, offers more than just picturesque views. The county has also embraced Opportunity Zones (OZs), a community development initiative encouraging long-term investments, job creation, and overall economic revitalization in low-income sectors.

What is an Opportunity Zone?

The core idea behind these zones is to incentivize private investment in these regions, offering potential tax benefits in return.

Specifically, in Martin County, Florida, there are two recognized Opportunity Zones. The benefits of investing in these zones are tangible. For instance, investors who commit their resources into an Opportunity Fund within these zones and retain it for a minimum of five years leading up to December 31, 2026, can see a reduction in their deferred capital gains tax liability by 10%.

The structure of the tax incentives is progressive: the longer the investment remains, the greater the benefits. Investors receive tax advantages at different commitment lengths - five, seven, and ten years. 

The Council of Economic Advisers elaborates on the objectives of OZs, highlighting their potential to:

  • Stimulate investment in areas that might have been previously overlooked.
  • Increase labor demand, leading to potential job creation and reduced unemployment.
  • Aid disadvantaged populations in achieving self-sufficiency by generating more local economic activity.

However, it's worth noting that empirical evidence on the effectiveness of Opportunity Zones is still a subject of study, after all, the zones are still in development and generating data. As with any program, it's essential to approach Opportunity Zones with a comprehensive understanding of both their potential benefits and limitations.

Where are Opportunity Zones Found within Martin County, Florida?

Martin County's Opportunity Zones, like others in the nation, are based on census tracts. Specific locations are typically identified by the state and then approved by the federal government. While the zones' boundaries may evolve, interested parties can refer to the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Opportunity Zone map for up-to-date locations within Martin County. The zones include Rio, a small area in Jensen Beach, and Indiantown. You can learn more about these tracts here: https://opportunitydb.com/counties/martin-county-florida/

Types of Opportunity Zones and Their Benefits for Various Businesses

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all "type" of Opportunity Zone. Instead, the zones provide benefits that can be tailored to various businesses. Here are a few ways in which they can be beneficial:

Real Estate Development: For developers, Opportunity Zones can serve as ideal locations for new projects, from housing complexes to shopping centers.

Start-ups and Entrepreneurs: New businesses can leverage the incentives of these zones to establish themselves, primarily if they serve or employ local residents.

Retail and Service Industry: Given the influx of investment and the focus on community development, retail and service industries can benefit from the anticipated growth in local customer bases.

Manufacturing: Companies looking to set up manufacturing units can benefit from potential tax incentives and the possibility of a revitalized local workforce.

Benefits of an Opportunity Zone

The Opportunity Zone program’s benefits can be significant for investors, businesses, and the communities they serve:

Deferred Capital Gains Tax: Investors can defer tax on any prior gains invested in a Qualified Opportunity Fund (a vehicle to invest in Opportunity Zones) until the investment is sold or until December 31, 2026.

Step-up in Basis: The basis of the original investment increases by 10% if it's held for at least 5 years and by an additional 5% if held for 7 years, thus excluding up to 15% of the original gain from taxation.

Permanent Exclusion: If investments in the Opportunity Funds are held for at least 10 years, investors are exempted from capital gains taxes on the growth of that investment.

Community Revitalization: More than just a financial incentive, Opportunity Zones can lead to the betterment of the communities themselves, fostering job creation and improving local infrastructure.

How Can Opportunity Zones Help a Small Business or Start-up?

For a small business or a start-up, Opportunity Zones can be a game-changer:

Capital Infusion: These zones can attract investors, meaning more potential capital for businesses located within them.

Reduced Overheads: Lower property values and potential local incentives can make setting up shop more affordable.

Growing Customer Base: As these areas develop, there's a higher likelihood of a growing local customer base.

Networking Opportunities: As more businesses move in or get established, there's an inherent opportunity for collaboration and mutual growth.

Martin County's embrace of Opportunity Zones presents a win-win scenario. Investors and businesses enjoy significant tax benefits, and the communities within these zones get the much-needed investments for development and growth. For small businesses and start-ups, it offers a promising land of opportunities, ripe for innovation and growth.

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

President of the Martin County Teachers Association

Matt Theobold
President of the Martin County Teachers Association

Growing up in Martin County, as the son of two parents in the medical field, I understood the importance of service to our community and the value of caring for those people who make this area so special. In many ways, it was this passion for helping others and the desire to make a difference in the world around me, that led me into the classroom, and it’s the same passion and desire that I see in my colleagues who dedicate their lives to the education of the nearly 18,000 students in our district.

My path to education wasn’t as straightforward as most. Before I started teaching, I spent some time in Tallahassee serving as a legislative aide in the State Capitol. It was during my time in the legislature that I learned the importance of working across the aisle to get things accomplished, a lesson that has proven invaluable. As my former boss used to recite, almost daily, the immortal words of Harry Truman, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” Using this approach, we were able to pass three pieces of legislation in our first year on the job. During this time, I also learned the value of the committee process as a method for ensuring the quality of the work being done.

In that spirit of cooperation, and through the use of the committee process, the Martin County Education Association and the Martin County School District have shared some success in the past that has proven itself beneficial for both teachers and their students. In 2017, my first year involved in the contract negotiations process, we made substantive changes that streamlined and improved the teacher evaluations. In the following year, through committees, we were able to make dramatic changes to the high school schedule. That made it more efficient, and easier for parents, students, and teachers to follow. As these issues were being hammered out in their respective committees, MCEA was also able to secure some of the largest raises for our teachers in the state.

None of this could have happened if the district or the union acted alone, and the success of both the evaluations process and the high school schedule are the direct result of breaking down the issues into digestible pieces so they can be looked at from all sides and tackled in a collaborative manner. While not always a perfect relationship, the district and the union have a history of working together to get things accomplished. I look forward to continuing that mutual success as we resume our upcoming contract negotiations.

Matt Theobold’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Martin County Taxpayer Association

MCTA examined Martin County’s proposed budget to ascertain what potential savings might be available.

 We wanted to have the county keep the tax rate at the current 6.5559 or the “rollback rate” of 5.9551 The “rollback rate” would collect the same amount of tax dollars as Fiscal Year Ending (FYE) 2023. Property values increased in Martin County by 12.8%. Though a significant number of the properties fall under the Homestead Exemption, the rise in property values generated an additional $19 million in tax revenue.

However, the Board of County Commissioners at their meeting on the 12th of September entertained a millage rate of 6.7615 which would have generated an additional $38.2 million dollars in tax revenue or been an effective tax increase over 12.8% over the prior year revenue for the General Operations of the County.

Unfortunately, the BOCC has a problem. The recent contract negotiated with the firefighters’ union and mirrored for the Sheriff’s office will cost approximately $20 million additional dollars.

Here is our analysis: 

1. The Fire Department and Sheriff’s office were not reviewed in depth due to the fact that these are mostly contractual obligations. However, it should be noted that the Sheriff does not provide a detailed budget as the other Constitutional Offices do. This should be corrected for transparency.        

2. Salaries: these varied from 3% for some departments to 32%. We suggest that the county adopt a standard percentage increase of 5%. The City of Stuart adopted a 4% increase of 2% COLA and 2% merit.        

3. Personnel: Unless a department is delivering essential direct services (Public Works), hiring should be frozen and no new positions added, unless contractually obligated.          

4. Adopt a policy that the county will not provide “Aid to Private Organizations” which currently totals $842,718. Each of these not-for-profit entities undertake fund raising efforts. MCTA believes the county should not be funding these organizations with your tax dollars.                  

5. The county, through the Parks and Recreation Department, run several restaurants (Sand Dune Cafe and Seaside Cafe), a campground (Phipps Park), a water park (Sailfish Splash) and a golf course (Sailfish Sands). The footnotes in the budget indicate that Phipps Park is losing money (page 350), Sailfish Splash Waterpark is receiving an allocation from the General Fund of approximately $208k for operating costs due to projected revenues and expenses for Fiscal Year 2024 (p355). Sailfish Sands Golf Course had a 100% cost overrun, the restaurant and hitting bay vendor left, and a footnote stating that " a budget amendment may be required to establish an operating budget if the Board directs the department to continue operating the hitting bay and restaurant.” MCTA believes that the county should not compete with private enterprise and these businesses should be exited.          

6. Each commissioner has a Municipal Services Taxing Unit which generates money for a commissioner to spend at their discretion, within certain constraints. There was approximately $2 million in unused funds as of June.  The BOCC should adopt a policy of not carrying forward unused amounts and should consider suspending the collection of these taxes until inflation abates and the economy improves.

By our analysis, there is nearly twenty million dollars that can be carved out of this budget. The staff can find the $8+ million to keep the tax rate at the current 6.5559

Martin County Taxpayer’s Association opinions are their own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

What I Learned From Breast Cancer

By: Julia Chiappetta

I never thought I’d get cancer. I was happy, ate a sensible Mediterranean diet, ran six miles a day, despite working long hours as a meeting planner. It was a great time in my life, I felt strong and healthy, achieving goals, and hopeful for the future.

Then, I felt the lump, on the outer edge of my right breast. I’d been doing self-exams for years, so I knew this was foreign. My doctor ordered a mammogram; it came back negative, but my gut said otherwise. I had to beg for a biopsy. The next day the surgeon phoned and began with, “I’m sorry, I should’ve listened more closely to you, I learned a lesson; you have Stage IIB Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma.”  Everything faded as I fell on my knees to pray.

I went through the motions of seeing an oncologist, who told me that I would die—if I didn’t have a double mastectomy followed by radiation & chemo. It was then that I recalled many relatives who suffered from these treatments, so I decided to embark on the road less traveled, with faith as my fuel. My training buddy/scientist, Mark offered to help me navigate the maze of alternative medicine. We pored over medical journals, videos and internet, where I became empowered to be a part of my own healing platform and eventually met my team of doctors/practitioners. Inspired by their direction, I chucked everything in my home to clean up my diet & environment like – parabens, heavy metals, sulfates, GMO’s, pesticides –food, makeup, body products & microwave. I then embarked on a 14-day juice cleanse to purge toxins and heal my gut with the likes of organic carrots, kale, spinach, cucumber, celery—with shots of wheat grass 3x per day (1oz. equals the vitamins, enzymes, minerals & superfoods found in 2.5lbs of greens). This along with hundreds of other protocols things became my norm, as I took on the role of CEO over my body.    

A few months later, I was so much stronger, it was hard to believe I had active cancer, as I arrived at MD Anderson Houston, for a lumpectomy & Sentinel node biopsy. There, I felt cared for by Dr. Merrick Ross & team. They asked, “Who was Julia before, who is Julia now and who does Julia want to be in the future?” As I flew home, these thought-provoking questions super-charged me to persevere in my commitment towards health. Now, 23 years later, I am grateful each day for this gift of healing, and so with Breast Cancer Awareness Month approaching, I thought it fitting to share a few nuggets that helped me, from my research:

• 85% of all breast cancers are NOT hereditary
• Mammography is ONLY 50% accurate
• Ultrasound is an essential COMPLEMENT for diagnosis (Dr. Robert Bard, NYC is the best with Dense Breast Scanning)    

Cancer didn’t kill me. It woke me up to be who I was born to be.

Julia Chiappetta is the Author, Breast Cancer-the notebook, Gemini Media 2004

Julia Chiapetta’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

One Martin

Join the Conversation at this November’s One Martin Farm-City Luncheon

Rick Hartman, President of One Martin


What could a lady who’s city born and bred find to talk about over lunch with a guy who’s a farmer through and through?

A lot, actually. Family, the environment, the economy, water issues, how Martin County is growing and changing.

Gloretta Hall is a practicing attorney in Stuart. Wes Carlton is a rancher from Indiantown. When they found themselves sitting at the same table at our Farm-City luncheon last fall, they started talking.  And talking. And talking.

And that’s the point of the Farm-City luncheon.

We’re all in this together, and the better we know and understand each other, the better for everybody and for our community.

Our local Farm City luncheon has been bringing together urban and rural residents of Martin County once a year since 2017. It’s main purpose is to celebrate the important relationship between farmers, consumers, community leaders and everyone in between who contribute to the community’s safe, abundant food supply. The farm to table menu always features items that are locally grown and sourced.

Importantly, it gives the several hundred attendees a chance to meet people they might not ever come across in the course of their daily lives – even though we live right here in the same small town.  It gives all of us a chance to share facts, opinions, and experiences.

That’s what happened to Gloretta and Wes. They’re both active in the community and, as Gloretta said, they each thought they knew Martin County. But there they were, sharing a meal and learning a lot about the different challenges faced on “the coast” versus “out west.”

They also learned a lot about how we’re all impacted by many of the same issues. Water quality is a big concern no matter where you live or how you make a living. The same goes for good schools, safe roads, planning for growth, the direction of the economy. And of course, we all share the same joys and worries about children and family.

Our Farm-City Luncheon also brings people together on a topic that affects everyone: agriculture. Farming and ranching are major economic drivers in our county. It’s been that way for generations. But it’s not a part of the community we hear about much, especially people who live along the coast, in our more urban areas, or who just moved here from a big city up north or from down south.

One Martin, with our mission to bring diverse groups of people together for thoughtful conversations about issues that affect us all, took on the national concept of the Farm-City get-together each November because we know how essential it is that we pay attention to the agricultural community and see the important connection it has to our quality of life.

Over the years, guests at the luncheon have been in awe about how much farming has become driven by technology, about the measures farmers are taking on conserving the land and protecting the environment, and about lesser known forms of agriculture such as aquaculture!

Gloretta and Wes will be at this year’s luncheon on Thursday, November 16 at 11:30 a.m. at The Rocking H Ranch on Boatramp Avenue in Palm City. They’ve got a lot of catching up to do!  We’d really like you to join us for a great meal and an enlightening conversation. This year’s luncheon features a panel of locals whose knowledge of the community goes back generations, when growing crops and driving cattle was what we talked about, instead of tourists and urban sprawl.

To purchase a ticket or to be a sponsor for the 2023 Farm City luncheon visit  https://www.onemartin.com/upcoming-events.html or email onemartincounty@gmail.com

Constitutional Corner & Non Profit Notices


Supervisor of Elections



The Martin County Supervisor of Elections Office was recently honored with two national awards. The Elections Center, located in Katy, Texas, and the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission recognized the elections office for a sensitivity training video for election workers.

Through a partnership established with Suzy Hutcheson, Executive Director of Helping People Succeed and client, Trisha Overton, an educational training video was created.  Suzy and Trisha shared useful tips and best practices for election workers to be aware of when interacting with voters with disabilities.  

Vicki Davis, Martin County Supervisor of Elections, commented: “It is an honor for the Martin County Elections Center to be recognized by national organizations such as The Election Center and the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission. We continue to strive for innovative and creative ways to train election workers. Staff and I look forward to continued partnerships with our community to provide positive voting experiences for all Martin County voters.”

Tax Collector

Property Appraiser

Each year the Property Appraisers Office makes decisions regarding your home or commercial property. Florida law grants you specific rights with the value placed on your property. Watch this video to learn more about that process.



Martin County Clerk & Comptroller

Other Government Notices

Sewall’s Point Commissioner Kaija Mayfield Appointed to Statewide Committee

Kaija Mayfield, Commissioner for the Town of Sewall’s Point, has been appointed to serve on the Florida League of Cities’ 2023-2024 Finance, Taxation & Personnel Committee. This is one of the League’s five Legislative Policy Committees, which help develop the League’s Legislative Platform.

Mayfield was first elected to the Town of Sewall’s Point Commission in June 2019 to fill a vacant seat, was re-elected in 2020, and served as Mayor in 2021.She is the Town’s representative on the Florida League of Cities Board and is Secretary of the Treasure Coast Regional League of Cities Board of Directors. She also serves locally on the board of the Environmental Studies Center.

For her work on behalf of the Town and its residents, Mayfield was recognized by the Florida League of Cities as a Hometown Hero in August 2023.


As a committee member, Mayfield will help to identify priority issues that are most likely to affect daily municipal governance and local decision-making during the upcoming legislative

session and help the League staff understand the real-world implications of proposed legislation.

“Kaiji understands the challenges and opportunities that local officials face every day,” Town Manager Robert Daniels said. ”Thanks to her appointment by the Florida League of Cities, all of Florida is going to benefit from her common sense approach to complicated issues.”


Non Profit Notices

CCKids Looks for Sponsors for 2023 Christmas Drive

Port St. Lucie – Communities Connected for Kids is looking for sponsors for this year's holiday collection, a joint project of the local foster-care community and Guardians for New Futures.

Guardians for New Futures is a nonprofit organization that helps meet the unfunded needs of children in foster care.

Together with sponsors in the community, the organization has brought more than 70,000 gifts to children in the dependency system of Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee and St. Lucie counties.

Participation is simple: 

  • Let us know how many children you can help by filling out the online form at cckids.net, located on the banner - we'll get you a list by October
  • Organize a toy drive with your employees or members
  • Call us when you're ready for a pick up - we'll come to you!

For more information, email Jordan.bebout@cckids.net or christina.kaiser@cckids.net.


Discover Your Dreams, Unleash Your Potential: Future Me Fair - Where Kids Shape Tomorrow!

The Children's Museum of the Treasure Coast presents an exciting event for young dreamers and aspiring professionals: the Future Me Fair! This career day extravaganza will take place on Saturday, September 30th, from 10am to 2pm at our museum located at 1707 NE Indian River Drive, Jensen Beach, FL. We are thrilled to announce that this event is sponsored by the prestigious Cleveland Clinic.

During the Future Me Fair, children and their families will embark on a captivating journey of exploration, where they can meet career professionals, participate in engaging activities in each of our exhibits, and gain invaluable insights into various professions. This event aims to inspire and empower young minds, providing them with the tools and inspiration to shape their own futures.

As part of the day's festivities, the Future Me Fair will feature an exciting outdoor "Touch a Truck" section, featuring an ambulance generously provided by Cleveland Clinic. Kids will have the unique opportunity to get up close and personal with these vehicles, fostering a sense of curiosity and appreciation for the vital role they play in our communities.

One of the highlights of the event is our fantastic photo booth, where children can indulge their imaginations and dress up in a wide array of fun uniforms representing different professions. From doctors and firefighters to astronauts and chefs, the possibilities are endless! This interactive experience allows kids to visualize themselves in these roles and ignites their passion for the future.

To make this event accessible to all, we are offering discounted admission for the day, with tickets priced at just $6 per person, one and older. As always, museum members enjoy free entry. It's an opportunity you won't want to miss!

Future Me Fair:

Date: Saturday, September 30th

Time: 10:00 am - 2:00 pm

Location: The Children's Museum of the Treasure Coast, 1707 NE Indian River Drive, Jensen Beach

Admission: $6 (Discounted rate) | Free for Museum Members

The Children's Museum of the Treasure Coast is dedicated to providing engaging and educational experiences for children, fostering a love for learning, and nurturing their potential. We extend our gratitude to Cleveland Clinic for their generous support in making the Future Me Fair a reality.

For more information, please visit our website at www.childrensmuseumtc.org or contact us at 772.225.7575 ext 205.

About The Children's Museum of the Treasure Coast:

The Children's Museum of the Treasure Coast is a vibrant learning center dedicated to stimulating the minds and imaginations of children through interactive exhibits, educational programs, and hands-on activities. Located in Indian Riverside Park, our museum serves as a catalyst for discovery, creativity, and lifelong learning for children of all ages. To learn more, visit www.childrensmuseumtc.org.



Healthy Start’s Maternal Health Conference Welcomes National Health Advocate Jennie Joseph

Stuart, Fla. - Jennie Joseph, certified midwife and founder of Common Sense Childbirth Inc., is celebrated for her advocacy and common sense on issues affecting healthy pregnancies,

healthy deliveries and healthy babies. In 2022, she earned a spot as one of TIME Magazine’s top 12 women of the year for her work around the world.

Joseph addressed the Healthy Start Maternal Safety Team members and community advocates as the guest of the Martin County Healthy Start Coalition on September 8 at the Children’s Services Council of Martin County. She brought her vision for a systemic reform of maternal health services that puts women and babies first - before profit, convenience or any of the reasons America trails other developed nations in healthy births.

The Maternal Safety Team grew out of concern over alarming maternal health statistics. Dr. Jeffrey Chapa, Division Chair for OB/GYN at Cleveland Clinic Florida, noted that the UnitedStates spends more money than anyone else in the world on maternal health care and yet has the highest mortality rates of developed countries. Half of Black mothers, for example,experience morbidity – near death experiences – in giving birth.

“Money is being spent but not equally,” Chapa said. “We need to come together to look out for the best interests of our patients and the community.”

“Collaborative care saves lives” is one of Joseph’s main messages. “We need to eliminate racial disparities,” she said “but that doesn’t happen from blaming providers or caregivers and certainly not the expectant mothers themselves. The problems grow out of our acceptance of the system, even if it’s not working for the patient. We can only change that by coming together to change the system.”

                                                           Sam, Anastasia, JJ

Under the leadership of the Martin County Healthy Start Coalition and through funding from the Children’s Services Council of Martin County, that is exactly what the Maternal Safety Team is doing. “This came out of a lot of scary stories that we don’t want to ever happen again,” Healthy Start CEO Samantha Suffich said. “We have strong and committed community partners working with us to make sure that every baby is born healthy, every mother is supported, and every father is involved. The team members have taken Jennie Joseph’s work to heart and made it our own to make sure that moms are cared for as individuals and each woman is heard regardless of race, ethnicity, language or income.”

The Maternal Safety Team includes: Cleveland Clinic Martin, the Children’s Services Council of Martin County, the Martin County Health Department, and the Martin County Healthy Start Coalition.

Community members interested in the Maternal Safety Team can keep up with its work by subscribing to the Healthy Start newsletter at www.mchealthystart.org.

About Martin County Healthy Start

Martin County Healthy Start is a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring that every baby is born healthy. It provides educational and health services to pregnant women, new mothers and their families at no cost, particularly expectant mothers who are at risk for late or no prenatal care.


Hibiscus Children’s Center Announces 2023-24 Board of Directors

Treasure Coast, FL –  Hibiscus Children’s Center (HCC), a non-profit that provides life-saving services to children and youth from across the State of Florida, announces its 2023-24 Board of Directors, led by Chair Scott A. Roads.

For over 38 years, Hibiscus has never wavered from its mission to provide safe haven, mental health, preventative care and life skills for at-risk children and families.
Hibiscus serves close to 140 children annually in our residential programs and 1,700 children and families through our community outreach programs. 

For the past three years, Scott Roads has been a valued member of the HCC Board of Directors, lending his expertise and leadership in support of the organization’s mission. Scott Roads is Founder of Spectra Investment Management and is serving his third term as Board Chair. 

                                       Scott Roads      Photo by: Merry Time Photography 

Prior to joining the HCC Board, Roads served as Board Chair for Treasure Coast Hospice and Palliative Services, Inc. and served as a Trustee for Treasure Coast Hospice Foundation.  

“For over 20 years, I have watched the tremendous impact HCC has on children and families in need on the Treasure Coast” said Roads. “I am honored to serve as Board Chair and look forward to supporting the HCC mission and staff with this essential community service to children with great needs.”

HCC welcomes John Corbett and Joseph Trapani to the Board of Directors.  John Corbett is President and CEO of The Partnership, Inc., a non-profit charitable organization that owns and manages apartments in Florida and Georgia, and is President Emeritus of Community Partners of South Florida. He has served as a Commissioner on the Florida Commission on Human Relations and former Chair of the Economic Council of Palm Beach County.   Joseph Trapani was Executive Vice-President of Hartmarxx Corporation, one of the largest manufacturers of men’s suits in the world.  Prior to that, he was President of Woods and Gray. He has served on the JPS 911 Memorial Foundation, Beaufort Memorial Hospital Foundation and Oldfield Club Board of Directors. 

Board officers include: Matt Markley, CEO of HCC, Michael LaPorta – Vice Chair, Tracey Dexter – Treasurer, Mike Harrell – Secretary, and Frank Noonan - Past Chair. 

Hibiscus recognizes returning members: Dan Braden, Nicholas Ferraro, Beckett Horner, Esq., Deborah Kessler, Dr. Fernando Petry, Travis Walker, Esq., and Dave Wilson.  The Board of Directors is comprised of individuals from the medical, business, and volunteer communities. The Board oversees the operations, overall management, and fiscal responsibilities of Hibiscus Children’s Center.

About Hibiscus Children’s Center

Hibiscus is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization providing life-saving services to children and youth across the Treasure Coast and Okeechobee County since 1985.  The mission of Hibiscus is to provide safe haven, mental health, preventative care and life skills for at-risk children and families.


Whiskers for Whiskey to benefit humane society’s shelter animals

STUART, Fla. — The Humane Society of the Treasure Coast will once again partner with The Chef’s Table and Libations Mobile Catering Co. for a unique experience — a whiskey tasting, presented by Elite Glass Contractors. Whiskers for Whiskey will take place at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 27, at The Chef’s Table, 2313 SE Ocean Blvd.

Representatives from High West Distillery, located in Park City, Utah, will be on site to guide attendees through an aromatic, flavorful tour intended to unlock their senses. While attendees savor every sip, they also will enjoy chef-prepared cuisine to accompany each pour.

“Each mouth-watering dish will serve to complement the tasting while fully satisfying their appetites,” said Sarah Fisher, the humane society’s communications manager. “This four-course pairing is bound to leave a lasting impression on all who attend, so much so that we’re certain it will leave them wanting more when it ends!”

The cost is $150 per person. Ticket sales are now live and will close on September 20 or until the event sells out. The ticket purchase link is https://hstc1.org/WhiskersforWhiskeyTickets. Each guest will automatically be entered to win 'Dinner for Two' at The Chef’s Table, which will include a bottle of whiskey, courtesy of Libations Mobile Catering Co. This package, valued at $150, is only available to event attendees. Each attendee will receive one raffle ticket. To increase the chance of winning, guests may buy additional raffle tickets for $20/each, which further supports the shelter animals.

Humane Society of the Treasure Coast staff members Sarah Fisher, Courtney Zanetti and Ashton Standish stand with George Olsen from Libations Mobile Catering Co. at the Chef’s Table. (Photo by Doreen Poreba)

This event is generously sponsored by Elite Gas Contractors, Creative Insites and Stuart Magazine.

For more information, contact Community Events Specialist Alyssa Bean at 772-600-3215 or Events@hstc1.org. Or visit the website, https://hstc1.org/post/Whiskers-for-Whiskey

About the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast – The Humane Society of the Treasure Coast (HSTC) is a no-kill animal welfare organization located at 4100 SW Leighton Farm Ave. in Palm City, FL. Since 1955, it has been the leading advocate for animal protection and well-being in the Martin County area. A 501(c)3 private, nonprofit organization.



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.

Michael Syrkus:

Good afternoon Tom,

I just finished reading your newsletter for this Sunday and I must say that you hit the nail on the head regarding the budget meeting of 9/12. “Constituently inconsistent” the image read, and it is so true. We have begged for every new bell and whistle imaginable, and now that it’s time to pay the CC bill, we scoff. Constituents must recognize that every new toy is a raise in taxes, and commissioners must make clear the same. When people come to the chamber one question should be asked: Are you willing to dive into your pocket for this?

Great write up!

Martin County


The new manager of the Matin County Fair, KC Ingram Mullins presented the newest iteration of what the future fair will be.

They currently have 84 acres to use. The fair originally had more property but about 25 acres were sliced off for the new vocational high school in Indiantown. Mullins stated that the fair not only consists of a fairground but also is an Agriplex with a museum, arena, farm, track and so much more. The short and the long of it is they need more room for parking. About 5000 spaces for the 15,000 people expected daily for the fair which runs 2 weeks per year.

South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) has already said they can transfer some of their property for that purpose and provide a trailhead for their anticipated walking trails on their land adjacent to the current site. Since the land would be transferred to the county, the commission needs to become involved. Mullins also wants to have an RV park for vendors which requires land.

In order not to start from scratch with her preliminary drawings, they need to move the footprint which was designed before the high school was built. The current reduced site of 84 acres is not large enough. This necessitates additional property.

Why a county of 162,000 people which is projected to have only 22,000 more people by 2050 needs such an elaborate operation is that “Martin County Difference” …unreality. But never worry…in political campaign season, the commission wants to be all things to all people. Heard, one of the voices of reason, pointed out that the fair is no closer to fulfilling its obligations under the option to lease than it was a year ago.

Chair Ciampi had Mullin give this presentation in the morning. During commission comments at the end of the day, he brought it up for discussion especially about SFWMD. His fellow commissioners were correct in telling him that they were not ready to discuss anything further now. Staff need to have much more information and then bring it back as an agenda item.

The lot where the old fire house was on Ridgeway and Federal Highway that the county sold came back for the second time for a land use change and rezoning.

It may have helped (or not) that the owner would be using the existing structure for a tenant, World Wide Clean Water that makes portable drinking water systems for places that have PFA contaminations. That is considered a green company. It may have helped (for sure) that the owner was a resident of Jupiter Island.


Ridgeway resident Dan Quint, a community of 900 mobile homes, who raised objections also tried to buy the lot. He said that the Ridgeway community originally sold the lot to the county for $10. Quint also mentioned there could be covenants which the deed also cites. Senior County Attorney Denise Elder stated that most deeds in Martin County only have that $10 figure as the consideration paid and that any covenants mentioned is also standard language. There is no record of anything but a clean land sale between Ridgeway and the County.

Another stumbling block was the location of the Ridgeway sign since it is on the sold lot. There was nothing that the commission could do about that since this was not a PUD or a site plan approval. But it seems this will be worked out between the new lot owner and Ridgeway.

In my mind, the biggest question is why the county didn’t change the land use and rezone the property before placing it on the market. Nobody in their right mind would believe this should be a lot for two mobile homes. If it were, no one would have paid north of a million dollars for it.

The appraisal that was included in the marketing materials from the county even stated it should be given a different land use and rezoned to a commercial designation. It was pure negligence on the part of the county not to have done this. It probably resulted in less money on the sale’s price.

After hemming and hawing and ringing of hands by the commissioners, they changed the land use and zoned it community commercial. The vote was 4-1 with Heard dissenting.

There was a draft of a new impact fee study. It showed that Martin County is charging significantly less than it should. Because of state-imposed limitations, the fees cannot be raised to the amounts that are recommended and justified by the study.  What this should teach every jurisdiction that is allowed to charge these fees is the need to do studies more often.

You can see the study here https://acrobat.adobe.com/link/review?uri=urn:aaid:scds:US:da7401ba-3d61-3e53-b63a-27932c948d13



This was the second meeting conducted for next year’s budget.

It was a 5-hour meeting. I could give you the blow-by-blow description about the many speakers that were opposed to any increase. The budget had proposed the tax rate to increase by 2.6 %. It should be noted that many of the speakers had at one time, or another, asked for something from the board.

There is nothing wrong with that. What is then ironic is to protest about paying an increase. It is trying to have your cake and eating it too as the saying goes.

Others asked that their favorite charity not be cut, their park not be cut, or their water quality not suffer. Interestingly, no one said a word about the $22 million that the fire and sheriff’s budgets were increased in this budget due to the new union contracts.

The finance director began by giving much the same presentation she did last time. While there are always some cuts that can be made, the budget was not full of unneeded expenses. So how does a budget get cut that is already operationally lean?

The budget before the final cuts can be found here 

At the last budget meeting two weeks ago, there were just as many people ready to speak. Then in full blown panic mode, the commissioners instructed the administrator to come up with a budget that did not have a rate increase. He did and it is attached here 

Except for fire and sheriff, operations didn’t go up very much. There were some very small payroll raises and basics like office supplies that cost more year over year. Donaldson, the county administrator, got down to it by cutting FARBs (fixed asset replacement budgets) and capital improvements. He also recommended changing the percentage of TIF (tax increment fund) amounts that the general fund pays the CRAs to 65% from 75%.

The commissioners made many suggestions from that list to achieve zero rate increase. However, Commissioner Jenkins really focused the others on a few key points. He narrowed it down to removing $3.5 million from the septic to sewer program which will take 3-5 years to make up. $500,000 from Coastal resources which is sand. And $1 million from the CRAs by reducing the TIF contribution to 65% for one year.

The rest of the commissioners except for Ciampi bought into that premise. Heard was on board. She would have toughed it out and voted for the entire 2.6%. However, if things had to have budget cuts, she was on board. So too was Hetherington who believed the $3.5 million would not hamper the septic to sewer program since there was so much state money available without a match she said.

Smith understood and was ready to vote for those cuts. This would have resulted in a .893% rate increase. The only one that refused to go along was Ciampi. This past year, Ciampi who has been in favor of spending more dollars of any other commissioner. He was holding firm at no rate increase. The vote was 4-1 with Ciampi dissenting for a .893% rate increase.

I hope that Hetherington is right about the availability of septic to sewer money without matches. We hold ourselves out to be an ecologically friendly county and then we abandon septic to sewer. The $500,000 budgeted for sand will be fine unless we are pounded by a hurricane. How many of those who complained about an increase will be complaining when there is no money for renourishment?

And finally, the deduction of $1 million in TIF that will remain in the general fund instead of going to the CRAs. CRAs are funded by taking the increase of value for the properties contained therein and plowing it back into the CRAs for improvements instead of those dollars going to the general fund. The savings in this case are just not transferred from one account to the other.

What do they do for an encore next year? Will they repeat this and hope that property values continue to rise? When are they going to look at the two main generators of tax increases, fire and sheriff, and address them?

The fire and sheriff budgets are unsustainable. You don’t have to be an economist to know that. It doesn’t matter whether the amount is deserved or not. It can’t be paid.

Among the explanations for those expenses is that employees are lost to St. Lucie or Palm Beach Counties, but it doesn’t matter. We all say there is a better quality of life here than in those places, and that factors into employment choices for those employees. The same holds true for the level of stress on the job. Our county has 162,000 people not 350,000 or 1.5 million.

There is a tradeoff for no population growth. The tax base is smaller. Our population is smaller. This is not an argument for more growth but rather an argument that we need to live within our means. It means we can’t have the same level of service as a county that has more money to spend.

The commissioners need to stop kowtowing to unions and begin to accept reality. Jupiter Island has the same attitude that the rest of Martin County has, which is, “we want the best.” The difference is they can pay for it and do. The other Martin County taxpayers do not want to pay for it. Commissioners need to tell people the truth.

Heard already does. She did it again that night. It is time that Jenkins and Hetherington embraced that approach fully. If a commissioner’s main goal is to be re-elected over everything else, then that is wrong. Re-elected for what purpose? Self-perpetuity!

City of Stuart

Stuart PD Makes Arrests In September 3rd Shooting

On the evening of September 3rd, a local kid who was doing no more than driving in his neighborhood became a victim of mistaken identity. Two other kids, one 16 and the other 17, from Port Salerno and Port St. Lucie decided that it was time to end a life apparently because of some slight.

The victim who is a good kid, never been in trouble, attends a local high school but became the latest victim of our shoot ‘em up state inhabited by some who have no regard for human life. Driving down the street has become a dangerous pursuit for our youth. When you end up almost crashing your car into the Stuart Police Station to save your life after being shot, what has our society become.

Most of us had fights as kids. It usually meant at most a bloody nose or cut lip. Today’s youth go straight to guns to settle the score. It isn’t much different than what they see adults doing.

Stuart PD believes that incidents like this should not go unpunished. A good kid in the wrong place should not have his life snuffed out or have life threatening injuries because he was driving in his neighborhood. The department immediately began to investigate.

Investigative techniques today use not only technology but cop instincts still. That and knowing the players most likely to perform these types of acts. The perpetrators can turn a Sunday evening into a scene of carnage. I don’t know for sure, but I believe within 24 hours the police knew who these guys were. Knowing and proving are two different things.

There weren’t just one or two detectives involved but several: Sgt. Daniel Duran, Sgt. John Reddick, Detective David Jacobson, Reserve Officer David Schoonover, Detective Ken Leedham, and Detective Zach Pecci. Captain Flamur Zenelovic lent his experience having worked homicides in Rochester, NY for 20 years before assuming this post. They were backed up by the crime analysis team and had the cooperation of the Martin County Sheriff’s Department

They worked diligently to catch the juveniles that were ready to kill someone for nothing. I understand that they didn’t even care that they shot the wrong person. As Shakespeare’s Portia said, “The quality of mercy is not strained.” Maybe some day these two may earn a little.

Stuart PD made arrests on September 18th, 15 days after the incident occurred. The above-mentioned officers put in time to catch them. It isn’t only about knowing they are guilty but having enough evidence to prove it to a jury. While it may seem a long while based on what we are used to seeing on TV, this was done in record time in the real world of policing.

Good job to Stuart PD for protecting us from mayhem. I am glad that we have them as our first line of defense in this gun-crazy world…a place where a kid driving in his own neighborhood on a Sunday evening can be a victim of deadly violence.

As Published In Martin County Moments 



There were two meetings before the regular commission meeting.

The first one was the CRA monthly meeting (I am on that board). The budget for the CRA was passed 7-0. You can see the budget here

There was also discussion of compensating the owners of the old Mulligan’s site because of perceived structural damage. It was carried over until the next meeting in order to obtain an engineering report and cost estimate.

The city budget was approved on 2nd reading. The millage rate will remain the same at 5%. You can see the budget here

At the commission meeting, the only thing of importance was the contract with the new city attorney, Lee Baggett, which was approved. His salary will be $190,000. He will begin October 9th which is the next commission meeting. You can see his contract here 

Martin County School Board

Martin County School Board


When public comment time came, there were once again speakers on both sides of the book removal issue. Fewer than in the past but still people on both sides gave their opinions.

The press has said that Martin County’s district has removed or restricted more books than any other district in Florida. Now that is definitely a mark of distinction! Some would call it infamous that we are known for that statistic. Others may delight in that fact. This tussle over appropriateness of reading material will not end soon.

Vaping has become a problem with kids in Martin County. We have made the age to buy these products to be 21 just like liquor. Kids are allowed to be prescribed cannabis and opioids by a medical professional. Those can be administered by school nurses. But vaping is strictly forbidden.

At Southfork, Timothy Aitken, the school’s principal, and another male staff member had three male students suspected of vaping strip down to their underwear. Aiken did find vaping materials with tobacco on the kids.

After complaints, the sheriff’s department investigated but found no crime had been committed. It was turned over to the school district where there is an ongoing investigation. Aitken has been reassigned to the district offices.

Several parents spoke in support of Tim Aitkens. The board had yet to become involved since the district has not finished its investigation. No matter the outcome, should Aitken have taken this step?

Sure, vaping is a serious violation of school policy today. Isn’t humiliating a student a violation too? And make no mistake, being made to strip is humiliating. I would understand if the kids were harboring weapons but not such a step to search for vaping material. Where is the proportionality of the action taken to the offense?

The board approved a contract with Kelly Education to use them to supply the district’s substitutes. The staff presently cannot fill all the vacancies. Currently less than 85% of the positions are filled. The estimate is that Kelly will fill 95% of the vacancies.

All substitutes become employees of Kelly. Those in the system now will become their employees. The contract is projected to cost $3,357,990.

Town of Sewalls Point


Mayor Tompeck pulled the proposed contract for communication services with Firefly from the consent agenda. There was a top number of $20,000. Tompeck wanted to know what the plan was for spending that figure.

It was obvious to me that the plan was outlined in the agreement. Most of what is agreed on would be up to Mr. Daniels to manage. It is not reasonable to expect them to have a prescribed time, for example to write a press release or do a Facebook post. They should be paid like an engineer or lawyer on a per hour basis depending on the assigned project. The assignment itself is outlined in the agreement.

If the commission did not want to do it that way, then they could have Daniels call Firefly with specific projects. But then instead of having someone regularly working on their communications projects, sporadic assignments would be handled if Firefly had time to do so when Daniels called. Commissioners cannot say they want to communicate better with the residents and the rest of the world and then not put someone on retainer to do so.

They pulled approval and are waiting for the item to come back. You can see the contract here 

An arborist came forward who had voluntarily looked at the trees on the town’s lot at 7 Heritage Way. That is the lot the commission is trying to sell. The arborist stated that the Banyon trees are not healthy. There is a high risk that they could fall, and the town has liability.

The commission wanted a deed restriction that none of these trees plus oak trees could be cut down. The real estate agent stated that the restriction was really preventing the lot from being actively marketed.

Commissioner Campo suggested that the lot would be sold more easily and for more money if that restriction did not go on the property. He wanted to take a percentage of the proceeds to plant new trees. Commissioner Mayfield said it was a good idea.

It was agreed 5-0 to not have the restriction. The manager will survey the town to see where new trees may be planted and what $100,000 could buy.  

Florida City Gas reported that about 90% of the residents are interested in natural gas hookups. They will now see what it will costs to bring in a pipeline from Jensen Beach which is estimated to be about $1 million. Once an agreement is reached with the town for installing the main line, they will then have a better idea what it will cost for individuals to hookup.

The RFQ for continuing professional services for engineering will be awarded to Captech and CMA Engineering.

Village of Indiantown


Unfortunately, the audio was so bad I couldn’t hear the meeting.

In a vote of the council Susan Gibbs-Thomas was reelected as mayor. Angelina Perez became vice-mayor.

Hope it is fixed by the next meeting.

Town of Ocean Breeze


Ken De Angeles, the current president, has decided not to run for re-election. He had previously filed to run again.

Bill Arnold has resigned from the council over a budget dispute concerning the salary of an employee. The employee has also resigned.

There are now 4 candidates for three seats:

Kevin Docherty (incumbent)

Michael Heller

Peter Luther

Matthew Squires.

No matter what, after this election the Seawalk part of town will have if not every council seat, then everyone but one (Docherty) who lives in the resort. Every other incumbent or those running are from Seawalk.

There is a rumor that one of the candidates from Seawalk will drop out and then Docherty will automatically be reelected.

Town of Jupiter Island


Due to the resignations of Commissioners Moira Collins and Tim Smith, the three remaining commission members asked residents who were interested in serving on the town commission to send their information to the clerk and manager. The commission received three expressions of interest from Joe Taddeo, Maryann Wells, and Patricia Warner.

Warner was elected with all three votes. Taddeo received 2 votes from Mayor Townsend and Vice-Mayor Field while Wells received one vote from Commissioner Scott. Then Scott’s protests began.

She vehemently called Taddeo anti-Jupiter Island Club and a blatant rule breaker. He was not a good board member. She also mentioned his testimony before Congress. I would assume she meant when he testified as a tobacco executive.  

Scott challenged whether a majority was needed or a vote of all three was the deciding factor. Town Attorney Baird was called on to answer the parliamentary question, and he stated that Taddeo was duly appointed with 2 affirmative votes.

When Townsend passed the gavel to second Field’s motion for Taddeo’s appointment, Scott once again disagreed with Baird over the parliamentary point that all three existing commissioners had to vote for him. Scott, who was obviously opposed to Taddeo, kept harping on the fact that people were opposed to him being on the dais. Neither Townsend nor Field felt the same way.

Anytime Scott addressed Tom Baird, she dismissively referred to him as just Baird. He may be next on her list to be expunged from the premises. Townsend, in an attempt to calm Scott down, wondered if she had ever heard the saying “to keep your friends close but your enemies closer.” Does that mean that Townsend considers poor Joe an enemy too?

Those who do not live on Jupiter Island cannot imagine the influence that the Jupiter Island Club has on town governance. It was mentioned several times during the debate. Taddeo is apparently not a member, which in Scott’s eyes should disqualify him since he does not possess all the qualifications needed to be a commissioner. How many disagreements are settled over drinks and a setting sun within the confines of that inner sanctum.

I couldn’t find out the exact number of members, but I was told by one that wished to remain anonymous that the majority of residents are members. Membership though is not just one faction or the other of the pro or anti- development sentiments.  

The Jupiter Island Town Commission proceeded to swear in Warner, and she took her place on the dais. Taddeo was not present at the meeting so will be sworn in later.

The commission then tackled what to do about the fact that membership on all the other boards is shrinking. The commissioners believe it is because of the fear of being sued. They are waiting for passage of an indemnification ordinance. Baird, I believe if allowed to give an entire presentation on the subject, would say that commissioners and board members are already indemnified for their actions except if they act illegally. And the commission can authorize their defense to be paid for with town funds if not covered by the town’s or member’s insurance.

Scott wants these now independent boards to become advisory boards and then the commission would make the final decisions. This is the way it is done in every other government in Martin County. According to Field, current chairs and members do not want to have their authority impinged.

Townsend mentioned if the commission had “de novo” review that would give them the right to look at a matter from the beginning without having to defer to the board’s decision. New evidence could be introduced and added. It is kind of hard for a lay person to see a difference over serving as advisory or de novo.

Motions were made to have staff study both de novo review and advisory board options.



During the meeting, Commissioner Scott brought up an email that was sent to town residents from a “concerned town resident.”

I have had the email since before our last edition was published. I was debating whether to write about it since it was unsigned. It probably would not have made these pages except for Scott’s vehement thrashing of it during an open meeting. Mayor Townsend pleaded with Scott not to bring it up, but she spoke about it from the dais. She provided the reason to look at a very long email and write about it.

The anonymous writer claims to have been a resident and a member of the “club” for several decades. The person states not to have been involved in politics or town business. The reason the resident is writing anonymously is because of fear:

            “It has become common and even acceptable to some, for anyone in disagreement with the current forces now influencing and controlling the Town, to find themselves the objects of scorn. Outright lies and rumors, be they written, shouted, or whispered, are now the tools of control and manipulation. Mailings, emails, masquerading as urgent "reports" to friends and neighbors (sent to some residents but not all) and generally uninformed cocktail party chit chat have created a toxic mix.”

Even though Townsend begged Scott not to bring up the email, she just couldn’t keep quiet. Once mentioned in a government meeting, the email itself became relevant, including the charges it contained. Scott brought it up for discussion with her fellow commissioners, who said nothing.

It all has to do with the Testa lawsuit and trying to stop the owners of several beachfront properties from building in the 300 block of South Beach Road. There are accusations contained about the group known as “Jupiter Island Forever” and their accepting contributions to fund the Testa lawsuit. Former commissioners are named and how they became involved described.

Scott claimed that it was the work of more than one person. She stated that it was written from an overseas server to better mask the identity of the author or authors. Scott presented no proof. Like the email itself, these are just accusations.

That is the problem once a bunch of people with too much money and ego decide to go to war. Probably in any other community in Martin County, nothing of this magnitude would occur. A settlement of some sort would have been forced onto the parties. Here because of the wealth of the parties, lawsuits and their considerable expense can go on and on.

When Harold Jenkins beat Scott for county commissioner, many people were delighted by the result. I don’t think it was just about politics. We just wanted a more civil commissioner to sit on the dais. And the people of Martin County got one in Jenkins.

Political life doesn’t have to be about rage and grievance all the time. Even her colleagues on the Jupiter Island Commission, Townsend and Field have not diverged on interest but on tactics to achieving their goal. Going for the jugular does not always produce the best results.

You can see the email here 



This was a budget meeting to pass the tentative 2023/24 budget, but it turned into so much more. They did pass the budget.

Commissioner Scott apologized for her behavior at the last meeting (see above). She reiterated why she was shocked and surprised that two commission members out of the then three sitting could approve Joe Taddeo to the commission even though Scott was adamantly against his appointment. “It just doesn’t feel right,” she said.

Then it was time to pass the indemnification ordinance. Mayor Townsend stepped down from the dais. She currently has been sued for a public records violation in a civil suit.

Field made his case that a majority of residents wanted assurances before any of them served on a board that the town would indemnify them from defending lawsuits for their actions. By statute if anyone is sued personally for acting for the town, when they win the suit or are acquitted, they may be reimbursed for their attorneys’ fees. This ordinance would have allowed reimbursement during the legal matter up to $200,000. But it in no way capped the amount. The commission could have voted to allow more. It still would have not allowed for fees if the party was found guilty.

Commissioner Scott didn’t like that it seemed like a cap. She wanted an ordinance that would demonstrate that the town had the backs of board members. She refused to go along.

The two new commissioners, Joe Taddeo and Patricia Warner, seemed to want to please Field and Scott. The discussion went past reasonable. It was a matter of who was going to prevail, Field or Scott. Ultimately the $200,000 figure was removed, and the commission’s reasonableness was substituted.

They also passed the “Property Rights” Element to the town’s comp plan. Like almost every other municipality, the ordinance originally mimicked one from the Florida League of Cities. The ordinance that finally passed incorporated language drafted by the Guardians.

After the ordinance goes to the LPA and once more at the commission, the element will go to Tallahassee for approval.

Final Thoughts


Brightline Succeeded

It took more than a decade, Brightline had its inaugural run to Orlando.

So, after all the naysayers (I was one early on but then became a supporter), the ride from Miami to Orlando is a reality…a reality that some will never embrace. They will always say it is too expensive. They will never understand why some will take the train at $79 one way. Talk of a station in Stuart have some against it no matter what.

Even if we had a station, most of us would still drive to Orlando if we needed to be there. Two or three people in a car would be much cheaper. Brightline may be faster but not fast enough to entice us to abandon our cars.

Photo by  Jose Maria Aristimuno

As I have written, if I were going to Miami, I would take the train because of traffic congestion and lack of affordable parking at the destination. But there is no station in Martin County so none of us can take the train in either direction from our city.

I have also written that I drove to West Palm to take Brightline to Miami. I know of others from Martin County who have done so. It makes no sense for anyone in Martin to drive south to catch the train going north to Orlando.

If a station were in Fort Pierce, I wouldn’t drive there to park and take Brightline to Orlando either. Once I was in my car, I wouldn’t drive a half hour north to catch the train to go further north to Orlando. That doesn’t make much sense. Stuart and Fort Pierce are the two choices for a stop on the Treasure Coast.

There are a couple of reasons a station should be located here. First, Stuart and F.I.N.D. (Florida Inland Navigations District) are the local agencies signing the grant applications for the government regarding appropriations for a new bridge across the St. Lucie. Stuart will need to allow the train company to use Stuart right away for the new approach. Further the trains here must proceed slow already so boarding isn’t much of a time constraint.

The other good reason is Stuart has a median income of over $55,000 which is substantially higher than Fort Pierce at $37,600. We just have more disposable income here. People with higher incomes have relatives and friends who have higher incomes and more of them would use the train to come to Martin County.

Stuart is willing to go to bat for Brightline. Martin County will also be part of that equation for a station depending on where located. It is good business for Brightline to fulfill its obligation to locate a station on the Treasure Coast by doing so here.

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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: thomasfcampenni@gmail.com



Tom’s Articles

From Medium

"Taylor But Not Local Government"


"Economic Perception v. Reality"


From Martin County Moments

"Stuart PD Makes Arrests In September 3rd Shooting"


Other Articles

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The Washington Post: “A new Casual dress code doesn’t suit the U.S. Senate”


Florida Phoenix: “Gerontocracy in U.S. politics endangers the country”


The Washington Post: “New York’s rent laws are a gross violation of property rights”


The Washington Post: “After Florida restricts Black history, churches step up to teach it”


The Washington Post: “Most of the world’s wind is over deep water. Floating machines can harvest it”


Judge Engoron”s Opinion on NY v. Donald Trump etal:


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