November 19, 2023

Friends & Neighbors Edition

In this Edition

Friends & Neighbors has put another issue to bed.

We have two more to go before closing out 2023. It has been an exciting year with our new format, new and more columnists, and bringing you up to date government news which we release on our Facebook page between issues. 

You should be reading our entire edition. However, we can be enjoyed in sections, easily by clicking one of our tabs on the website or directly from the cover page. You can also easily find our back issues on our website if you want to check out what was reported earlier.

Remember we are always looking for more contributors. If you want to be a columnist there is an easy way for you to let me know from the tab on the website. Just want to write a letter, there is a place to do so also.  

If your nonprofit has an event or wants to let Martin County know about exciting news, please contact us. Anyone reading this that works for one of Martin County’s nonprofits, and is not being notified of deadlines, send me an email so I can make sure your event is being publicized.

Please share us with your friends and make sure that they too are on our email list to receive their own copy. We make a great Holiday gift, and we are free. If you have a business become one of our sponsors in 2024.

I, our columnists, or our occasional reporter receive no compensation for bringing you the news. Any gift is used to keep the wheels turning so we can continue with real community journalism.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Forgotten Holiday

I have written some variations on this theme many times through the years. Yet still for most Americans, Thanksgiving remains more of an afterthought between Halloween and a gateway to Christmas than the truly great holiday it is.

In childhood, the day began for me with watching the Macy’s parade and the “March of the Wooden Soldiers” with Laurel & Hardy. The only way to see that movie was to tune into it at the time it was played by a local station, WPIX, Channel 11 in New York. They never ran it at any other time of the year but Thanksgiving morning.

Since most of my family worked in restaurants and hospitality, it was a day of work for them though we still had turkey, etc. I must have been about 14 when I joined in the family tradition of providing others with their Thanksgiving dinner by working in a relatives restaurant.

The last Thanksgiving I worked was when I was at the Hotel Dorset on West 54th Street off of 6th Avenue in Manhattan. The site is now part of the Museum of Modern Art. I remember my shift was from 6:30 am to 3:30 pm. The dining room wasn’t busy. Most of the customers were those that lived in the hotel.  Our most prominent resident was Eddie Rickenbacker, the World War I ace and retired president of Eastern Airlines.

It was a very cold day, but I decided to walk home to save the $.35 fare. Dinner was at my almost in-laws. My apartment was in the same building on 9th Avenue and West 18th Street. I took the same route as the parade on purpose which in those days was south on Broadway to 34th Street. I remember seeing a Sizzler Steakhouse or another cheap restaurant like it open and thought where is the turkey?

This was 1972 and not even the peep shows or porn houses were open in Times Square. The streets were completely empty. It was like a science fiction movie where I was the only one left in New York. I made it to dinner which was always buffet style so you could continuously graze. The turkey and stuffing were there, but since they were Puerto Rican, there was arroz con gandules, pernil, and platanos. I missed my meatballs and lasagna.

A couple of years later when we had our own home in Queens, I always wanted Thanksgiving in our house. We faithfully made traditional fixings, Puerto Rican, and Italian dishes because in most cultures being thankful means sharing an abundance of foods with family and friends.


That is what America is…one big melting pot coming together to share our bounty. That is why Thanksgiving is the greatest of American holidays because whether your forebearers came on the Mayflower or through Ellis Island or across the Rio Grande, we are all part of the great experiment known as the United States. 

Golf Cottages Or Hotels

When is a golf cottage the equivalent of a hotel?

Golf cottages are an amenity provided on high end golf courses for members and guests to spend a weekend playing golf without ever leaving the premises. By code, every golf hole can have a cottage with a maximum of 54. (That is 3 18-hole golf courses.)

With the Rural Life Style designation, each cottage can include 6 bedrooms. With any other land use, there is no limitation. 54 cottages would equate to 324 bedrooms or a good-sized hotel. In other areas of the county, the sky is the limit on the number of bedrooms.

Is this what the commission had in mind when it approved golf cottages? I know I never thought that is what was approved. I believe there needs to be some discussion as to whether this was intended.

Golf courses such as Three Lakes will save open land in the western part of the county. The alternative is sprawl. The use could be 20-acre ranchettes or a changed land use designation to more homes in higher densities. We have had the idea of these ranchettes in the land development regulations for years. There are very few of those currently because of the cost of land and the desire of most people to be in a community.

None of that changes whether an unlimited or almost an unlimited number of golf cottages are appropriate either. I understand the concept of members of these elite golf courses, I assume some with reciprocal agreements, to spend some time and have a great golf weekend. But does the commission believe that the equivalent of large hotels on these courses is appropriate?

I do not think 324-bedrooms spread over 54 cottages is. Further if those numbers are what is contemplated then they should be part of the original development application. That is why I believe the commission should weigh in and not let the outcome be one where it is allowed because no one thought about the concept and approved of it.


Service fees for using credit cards anywhere infuriates me. As if it hasn’t been a cost of doing business forever.

Then I hear some people claim it is to keep costs down, so they don’t have to raise the menu price. How does it keep costs down if the customer is paying for it anyway? Like with all the fees and extra charges it is a bit deceitful. It is certainly true that the cost of food, labor, and most things have risen in the last three years. There is no getting around it.

If the cost of a steak is now 25% higher to serve it, the percentage of the credit card fee has stayed the same for the restaurant. If they were charging the customer $38.00 for the menu item before and the fee was 3%, the credit card use cost to them would be $1.14 for a net of $36.86. The item now with a 25% increase would be $47.50 resulting in a $1.43 fee to them or a net $46.07. The ratio of the menu item to the fee for the restaurateur is 25% higher. The credit card fee is proportionally the same.  

If the restaurant owner no longer pays the $1.43 but adds it to your check as a fee, the ratio is no longer 25% but 33% more of a markup. ({$47.5 +1.43 = 48.93}/36.83=33%) The restaurant owner should embed all costs into the price the customer sees on the menu. It shouldn’t be up to the customer to have to figure percentages, so he knows what he is paying when he is ordering.

I don’t even mind the service charge that is now included at some places if I know what it is ahead of time and the tax isn’t part of it. When I see the service charge, I no longer leave extra since I assume the server accepts that as their tip.

While we are at it, a couple of other pet peeves. Don’t charge me for ice in a drink or bread and butter. I would rather not be nickeled and dimed to death during what is supposed to be a pleasant experience dining out.

Holiday Blend

I ordered several bags of Starbucks’ “Holiday Blend” coffee online.

I searched all the usual outlets such as Amazon and Target, but Walmart had the quantity and size that I wanted for the right price. So, I ordered it. I was told to expect it November 13th. I received a text message on November 13th that it had been delivered. When I looked out the front door, the coffee had not been delivered.

When I went online to the Walmart site, I was advised to check with my neighbors and to wait two more days. I did and when I still hadn’t received the coffee, I once again went onto the site where I made an appointment to speak with a person. When I succeeded in speaking to a real-live human being, I was asked had I contacted the merchant yet? I said “Yes, I am speaking to you now.”

That is when I received the surprise. Though I had ordered through the Walmart site, the merchandise was coming from a third party, Zillappu Goods LLC. And I should be getting an email from them within 48 hours regarding my case.

I told the customer service rep that I ordered from Walmart not their suppliers and suggested that they should be contacting the third party not me. I went on to say that I thought I was dealing with Walmart not some fly by night company. I asked if Walmart was going to make sure I received my order or a complete credit. I was assured yes.

I will be thinking twice about ordering from Walmart again. A few times, my wife ordered cat food and pet supplies through them because they were cheaper. The stuff came in dribs and drabs a few cans at a time. After those experiences I should have remembered what could happen using Walmart. If I ever have a problem with an order from Amazon, it has been resolved quickly.

I will give it a few more days, and then if I am billed, I’ll let the credit card company deal with it when I receive the charge on my statement. I am sort of disappointed with the world’s largest retailer. And will be very careful in the future.

Fletch's Perspective

Keith Fletcher
Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County, President & CEO

Positive peer pressure—especially when employed by young women leaders—just might be the most powerful force in the world.

Well, technically speaking, that title already belongs to “Strong Nuclear Force,” a power six-thousand-trillion-trillion-trillion (six followed by 39 zeroes) times stronger than gravity.

I picked up this scientific tidbit courtesy of HyperPhysics website. That’s appropriate considering the positive peer pressure in question radiates from a new program Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County proudly hosted where elementary and middle-school girls learned about STEM through the instruction of teenaged girl mentors.

The goal is straightforward: Girls introducing girls to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) projects and possibly sparking a career interest, resulting in more young women entering and contributing their ideas and innovations to these traditionally male-dominated fields.  

We partnered on this initiative with The Kovner Foundation—which seeks to create a world-class education for every child, emphasizes expanded opportunities especially for the underprivileged, and incorporates the power of arts and culture in the process. Thanks to this incredible organization, three wonderful young women from Dreyfoos School of the Arts served as mentors to our club members.

BGCMC girls ages 9 to 11 learned coding and web creation thanks to instruction from Lydia Park, a junior in high school, Albertina Abrate and Hope Lou, both seniors.

The lessons took place in a unique environment—a BGCMC school bus retrofitted with desks and equipped for academic presentations. Although it remained stationary, this unusual classroom setting really mobilized our members’ creativity. That’s particularly impressive considering that the STEM exercise entailed actual computer coding rather than simpler (and less-frustrating) plug-and-play website design template.

“It’s been a really fun experience and a very unique setting,” says Albertina, who aspires to a career as a software engineer. “We wanted to make it as a coding-focused as possible so we chose HTML. The girls coded everything pretty much from scratch.”

Expecting the level of hesitancy that she encountered from the girls early on, Lydia—who plans to be an engineer and serves on her school robotics team—rightly recognized that the creativity STEM requires would quickly capture the girls’ attention and coax out their confidence.

“The first day, a lot of the girls were unsure of the class,” she recalls. “But upon creating something, it gave them a lot of motivation. They’re building something from scratch and importing images and it gave them a good sense of worth and value and gave them the motivation to do more.”

We recently celebrated the culmination of the project with a graduation ceremony in which the girls showcased their websites—based on their interests and personality—to a roomful of proud parents and family members. 

It was a reminder that girls leading and inspiring other girls to pursue their passions through STEM—or any arena where their presence is underrepresented—is akin to a Strong Nuclear Force Multiplier. The positive chain reaction results in a figure too vast to calculate—and a number where the subsequent zeroes are as endless as the possibilities for all involved.

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

VanRiper's Views

Darlene VanRiper

Has The CRA Passed Its Time

I was always a believer in the Community Redevelopment Agency.  I reasoned that it is government closest to the people.  In case you are new to this, the CRA is the county agency to which six Neighborhood Advisory Committees (NACs) are tasked to submit ideas for local improvements.  The operative word here is “advisory”.   The six are areas, meaning not all of, the following:  Hobe Sound, Golden Gate, Rio, Jensen Beach, Palm City and Port Salerno.  The areas are the downtown areas or wanna be downtown areas mostly. 

Some of the projects which have finally been completed have been in the making or on the wish list of the NACs for 20 years!  Have you driven down Mapp Road in Palm City lately?  There have been remarkable improvements including lighting, sidewalks and even a walking path around a pond.  

Great improvement for Rio now with benches and roundabouts.  Street lights and pedestrian crosswalks on the Golden Gate area of A1A just south of the Indian Street intersection.   I don’t know how much more you could improve downtown Jensen Beach. 

Where I live Commissioner Jenkins has finally realized his dream of a walkable and inviting, totally refurbished Bridge Road in Hobe Sound.  In my opinion, Port Salerno is really the only one left that could use much more improvement. 

Recently there has been so much fighting amongst neighbors regarding proposed developments in the Port Salerno and Jensen Beach NACs that I’m not sure that the system is working the way it was intended.  For one thing, it seems to me that the CRA often makes the recommendations to the NAC boards.  That’s top down and not how it was intended to work.  The NAC board members seem almost intimidated at times by the knowledge of the professional staff.  Maybe my imagination.  But I have attended a number of these meetings.

Then there is the NIMBY affect to which the NACs seem to fall victim.  Projects that are viable and could be considered win/win by someone looking in from outside the CRA area are vehemently protested by crowds who attend the NAC wielding verbal pitchforks and torches.  A good rumor can incense a crowd and turn them from rational discussion of a plan from which all may have prospered. 

Unfortunately, a cloud of distrust hangs over these meetings.  Times change, neighborhoods change whether we like it or not.  At the end of the day, what really needs to change is the distrust the community has for government.  That can only be accomplished with an informed citizenry and honest politicians. 

Darlene VanRiper’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors nor the Martin County Taxpayers Association's viewpoint.

Nicki's Place

Nicki van Vonno
van Vonno Consulting, Owner

Streaming Screams


Ever since Halloween, the terror emanating from our screens has run amuck.  I hear parents are concerned that their kids’ screens are filled with horror images. I must turn it off; the Thanksgiving horror film trailer competing with grisly battles in frantic rolling live updates from the worlds’ hot spots.

Real people are hoping the government shutdown does not interrupt our Thanksgivings, that we can afford to pay our insurance and food bills, and that the food bank and toy for tots’ bins fill up.  The New York Times did an article about the image that terrorizes you and causes your head to spin or your hand to shield your eyes.

Is it Carrie drenched in blood; severed horse heads, Jack Nicholson as a possessed caretaker, Jason or Freddie or a White Walker?

Mine is a robot.

Released in the early 1950’s, “The Day the Earth Stood Still” depicts the United States emerged from its victory dance in Europe, now ordained to rebuild and stabilize the world. A vaccine eliminating a global disease had been distributed worldwide, and prosperity seems as endless as our highways.  But the Cold War stirs, and the military industrial complex built to defeat nazis now builds arms to sell.

In the opening scenes, a spaceship arrives in Washington, D.C. and a man and a robot emerge with a message for Earth.  Robert Wise directed and produced movies across all genres of film. He won awards for directing and producing “West Side Story” and “The Sound of Music.” He also directed a cat people horror flick and a Star Trek movie.

Marketeers found a new tool, too.

In the early 60s, NBC began broadcasting movies on tv.  In March 1962 I cowered behind my dad’s chair as the family watched, my fingers webbed to cover my eyes except to stare at the robot and see Patricia Neal save us all.  It comforted me: we weren’t alone and we could be redeemed, and all it took was a smart compassionate woman who recognized that earth has many monsters.

Happy Belated World Kindness Day.

Let’s turn World Kindness Day into world kindness and watch more Patricia Neal movies. It couldn’t hurt.

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

Farm-City Week is a celebration of the partnership between rural and urban communities and recognizes those who grow, prepare, transport, market, and retail our food. Since 1955, Farm-City Week has taken place during the seven days leading up to Thanksgiving. This year’s Farm-City Week is November 15-22.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), agriculture, food, and related industries contributed 5.4% [2021] to the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) and provided 10.4% of U.S. employment [2022].

To put it in perspective, 5.4% of the GDP is roughly $1.264 trillion. The sectors contributing to this figure include food and beverage manufacturing, food and beverage stores, food services and eating/drinking places, textiles, apparel, and leather products, and forestry and fishing. If we were to separate out the contributions from America’s farms alone, that is .7% of the GDP or $164.7 billion.

Going back to the statement from the USDA, 10.4% of U.S. employment is 22.1 million jobs. 2.6 million of those jobs are direct on-farm employment while the other 19.6 million are in the agriculture- and food-related industries. Eating and drinking places and food services accounted for the largest share of the related industries employment with 12.7 million jobs.

The relationship between farms, farm related industries, and consumers is very symbiotic. Without the farm products there is no food to process, transport, or sell and serve. Without the related industries the farm products have limited uses, markets and shelf life. Without the consumers the farms and related industries have no customers and no one to drive the demand for specialized products and services.

Thanks to a broad, collaborative partnership of farmers, ranchers, processors, brokers, truckers, shippers, scientists, wholesalers, and retailers, our standard of living is maintained; clothing, housing, medicines, fuel, and other products we use daily are readily available; and members of our community can focus on specialized efforts, like furthering science, education, and the arts, because they do not need to give their time each day to milk the cow or plow the fields.

As we give thanks this season let us take time to thank those who are part of the intricate farm-city relationship of which we are all a part.

I would like to close with this quote from USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, “Every one of us that's not a farmer, is not a farmer because we have farmers. We delegate the responsibility of feeding our families to a relatively small percentage of this country. If you look at 85% of what is grown in this country, it’s raised by 200-300 thousand people. That’s less than 1% of America. But the other 99% of us can be lawyers and doctors and Peace Corps volunteers and economists and people who work for government, and all the other occupations because we never think about ‘well geeze, do I actually have to grow the food for my family?’ No, I go to the grocery store and get it. So, I’m free to do whatever I want to do with my life. That is an incredible freedom that we take for granted in this country.”

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

Carl's Conclusions

Carl Frost
Kai Kai Farms, Owner

The holiday season is approaching. The menus are planned. The preorders for specialty meats are in. The abundance and variety of food in our culture is amazing; we have much to be thankful for. Yet some things don’t seem quite right.  “The Florida fresh produce industry is in deep crisis” Mike Joyner, President of Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association testified before the FL Senate Agriculture Committee November 7, 2023. Federal government food policy combined with the NAFTA agreement of 1994 has dramatically altered our food supply and where food comes from.

Who were the winners of NAFTA? The highly mechanized and efficient corn and soybean growers of our Midwest states benefitted from the low tariff barriers for selling to Mexico and Canada. The Mexican government responded with subsidies to farmers to the tune of 200 million dollars per year for fifteen years. This “seed money” built a massive greenhouse-based vegetable industry which covers over 126,000 acres. Mexican produce is pouring into South Florida. Our pepper growers have seen boxes of Mexican peppers selling for less than it costs to purchase the box alone in Florida. What did Florida growers receive? More regulations, restrictive labor policies and with skyrocketing land values: strong incentives to sell up.

Here is Mr. Joyner’s slide showing fresh produce sales in Florida. Mexico is red. Florida is blue. If the data were inflation adjusted the results would be far worse.

When was the last time you purchased some fresh produce at the grocery store and exclaimed how fresh and nutritious it was? I rarely bother with imported blueberries as the flavor has disappeared during their journey north. What of their nutritional value? Nobody wants to talk about this.

When I entered farming twenty years ago the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences urged farmers to purchase their low chill blueberry cultivars and jump into this terrific opportunity. Floridians could grow blueberries which normally required chilling hours found in northern states. What we got was a disaster. Latin American growers purchased those same blueberry cultivars and with their labor costs about 85% less the outcome on this slide tells the story. The Florida blueberry industry just never had a chance. Many good Florida farmers along with investors got thrown into the NAFTA crusher.

The irony of my personal experience is when my spouse and vegetable grower Diane Cordeau brought home from Walmart an attractive package of colored bell peppers. Country of origin: Mexico. I cannot grow competitive bell peppers.

Martin County still has agriculture. The majority of the food crop acres are in sugar cane. It’s highly mechanized and there are government subsidies. But specialty growers of your fresh fruit and vegetables are challenged right now.

So, when you are thinking about how important fresh local food is for your holiday meals think about what you buy and where it comes from. Grass roots support is necessary if we want to keep our farmers around for generations.

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

Hope in Our Community

Rob Ranieri
House of Hope, CEO

House of Hope was founded in 1984 with the mission to empower Martin County residents to overcome hunger and hardship.

We recently closed out our fiscal year and we are proud and grateful to share our incredible results. Through all of our programs and services, House of Hope now reaches over 21,000 people each month. Our clients are typically lower income residents, including seniors, veterans, single-parent households, individuals experiencing homelessness, teens recently aged out of foster care, and many others.

House of Hope provided nearly 1.3 million pounds of food to our clients through our four food pantries and our food bank partners. Driven by a desire to use food to influence the health and success of those we serve, we distributed over 500,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables. Our Elisabeth Lahti Nutrition Center produced over 41,000 meals, including fresh salads, sandwiches, and pre-cooked frozen meals, to help feed our most vulnerable neighbors. Growing Hope Farm expanded to over 65,000 cubic feet of hydroponic greenhouse growing space, a grove of over 70 fruit trees, and our new packing house facility. At peak production, the farm produces over 1,500 packages of fresh produce weekly.

Our case management team remains at the center of our client universe. Using a comprehensive assessment tool, they assist clients in developing their personal improvement plans. They also assisted over 190 individuals with financial assistance, keeping clients housed, healthy and safe. Over 1,200 referrals were provided each month connecting clients to valuable resources throughout the community. Through our workforce and career support program, over 100 individuals received assistance in resume writing, interview skills, job readiness and job placement.

With the addition of the KinDoo Family Center in Indiantown, we now have three enrichment centers. 625 individuals received over 3,300 services through dozens of programs including kindergarten readiness, English as a second language, computer access, smoking cessation, health and wellness and more. Our Gardening to Grow Healthy Communities program reached over 4,700 people with gardening and nutrition education, using our four nutrition gardens and our innovative traveling garden.

In addition to playing a vital role in generating revenue, our thrift stores also distributed nearly 132,000 items at no cost to job seekers, newly housed families, children starting school, agency partners and many others. The heart and soul of House of Hope is our passionate and dedicated volunteers. Last year, 876 volunteers donated 37,822 hours of service in our pantries, thrift stores, farm, gardens, nutrition center, gleaning program and more.

We are so grateful for the opportunity to serve our community. Our success is made possible through the trust of our clients, generous donors, community partners, amazing volunteers and compassionate staff. To learn more, or to get involved, please visit our website at Thank you to everyone who connected with us this past year, and Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Rob Ranieri’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Michele's Medical Moment

Michelle Libman, M.D.
Treasure Coast Urgent Care, Physician

Medical Weight Loss

As I have discussed in previous articles, America has an obesity problem. 

Due to advances in technology, we have become a much more sedentary society and eat a diet deplete in nutrition affectionately known as the SAD diet (Standard American Diet). The latest data indicate that over 40% of Americans are obese. This gives us the unwanted title of being the fattest country in the developed world.

Anyone who has been paying attention to the news or is active on Social Media is aware the country has gone crazy for the injectable weight loss meds.  However they are very expensive and not readily available to people living outside the Hollywood bubble.   I want to let people know there are other medications out there that are also effective in combating weight loss.

To qualify for weight loss drugs you should have a body mass index greater than 30 or if you have other co morbid conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure or sleep apnea you would qualify with a lower BMI of 27.  Medication should only be prescribed if lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise are not effective.

There are currently 7 weight loss drugs that have been approved by the FDA for long term use.

Contrave is a combination pill made up of Naltrexone and Wellbutrin.  Naltrexone is a drug that has been used for years to treat alcohol and opiate addiction and Wellbutrin (buproprion) is an anti-depressant. It works by binding to the receptors in the brain that are responsible for cravings and hunger.  This is an especially good drug for people who are emotional eaters.  The typical cost is about $100/month.

Orlistat (Alli) is a drug that works by blocking the enzyme that breaks down fats in food.  It inhibits the absorption of dietary fats.  The undigested fat is then passed through the body.  Some patients may lose about 5% of their body weight.  You have to take a capsule with each meal (three times a day).  There is an over the counter version which is a lower dose.  It has some side effects including an oily discharge from the rectum, increased flatus, diarrhea and fecal incontinence.

Phentermine is one of the oldest and widely used weight loss medications. It is a stimulant medicine that works by curbing your appetite and increasing your metabolism.  In Florida the law only allows for this medication to be written short term, up to 3 months, however there is a combination pill called Qsymia which is an extended-release version of Phentermine combined with Topiramate (a migraine medicine) that helps decrease appetite and cravings.  The combination of the two drugs is more efficacious.  Side effects include dizziness, altered taste, constipation and dry mouth.  If you have high blood pressure or heart disease you should be careful about taking this class of medication.

Plenity is actually classified as a device and not a drug.  It is a capsule filled with a plant based absorbent hydrogel.  Each grain swells to 100 times its size, so taking 3 capsules will fill about 25% of your stomach causing you to feel full which results in you eating less.   The gel is not absorbed and will eventually exit the body in the stool. 

Liraglutide (Saxenda) was the first of the injectable diabetic meds that has been rebranded for weight loss purposes.  In addition to helping control blood sugar it also binds to the receptors in the brain that make you feel full.   However due to a high incidence of nausea (in 47% of patients) its use has fallen by the wayside.

We now have newer medications in this class including Semaglutide (Ozempic, Wegovy and Rybelsus) and Tirzepetide (Mounjaro) which was just given the green light to be used for weight loss by the FDA.  These drugs work by slowing down the passage of food through the GI tract which makes you feel full as well as binding to the receptor in your brain that also gives you a feeling of satiety.

Tirzepetide has the advantage of not causing muscle wasting which is commonly seen in patients taking Semaglutide.  In addition studies have shown that Tirzepetide causes a 20% weight loss as opposed to Semaglutide which causes an average weight loss of 10-15%.   If not covered by insurance these drugs are very expensive, costing up to $1300/month which takes it out of the reach of most hard working Americans.

There are also many drugs in the pipeline which we will hopefully see come to market in the next few years.  Please schedule an appointment to talk with your health care professional so you can determine if any of these medications would be a good fit for you.

Michele Libman’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Martin County Real Estate

John Gonzalez
Engel & Volkers, Managing Broker

You may have seen recent headlines about the National Association of Realtors (NAR) losing a lawsuit in Missouri. I am a Realtor, not a lawyer, and I will offer my opinion on the suit and the verdict. It should go without saying -- I do not have room in this column to give this topic justice.

The plaintiff attorneys filed a class action suit that inferred that the current Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and its policy of clear cooperation amongst Realtors is inherently unfair, confusing and expensive for the consumers (buyers and sellers). I would argue (and NAR argued) that the opposite is actually true.

A Realtor comes to a contractual agreement with a seller, to list the home. They agree that the home's value, including a commission - paid at closing, should be a certain amount. The agent agrees to take photos, add to their website, put the listing on MLS, and generally spread the news that the home is on the market. The listing agent will meet prospective buyers, buyer agents, field phone inquiries, write a contract, negotiate terms and shepherd the parties to the closing table.

In our town that post to MLS will be shared with nearly 40,000 Realtors - just in South Florida and countless others worldwide. All of those Realtors will know the price, terms and conditions and their commission - if they bring the buyer. Assuming they are a competent professional their buyer will be well represented and ultimately purchase their new home.




The Membership Card Of The Author's Father

The seller's broker will receive an agreed commission and will share that commission as stated in the MLS post. The MLS post will also be shared with many public sites (like Zillow and where a buyer can see the home and may call the listing agent directly.

Now you know how the system works. It seems transparent to me and my colleagues. The court jury found that the system is not fair, and the consumer pays a higher price for the home- statistics prove otherwise.

I see the points but argue that selling your home, or buying a home, without professional assistance may be much more expensive than the perceived savings. I believe that the system brings together buyers and sellers, represented by Realtors, in a highly organized marketplace. Without this system a buyer will be at a significant disadvantage and would have to contact countless brokers to look at homes or “hire” a buyer broker agent that will navigate the market.

The suits and arguments will continue for a long time. I do not believe the system will change much over the next few years, if ever. If you use a professional Realtor for your purchase or sale - you will be fairly represented.

John Gonzalez’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Palm City Highlights

Missi Campbell
Palm City Chamber of Commerce, Executive Director

As we approach Thanksgiving I decided to write about gratitude. I believe that often we are so focused on the negativity in our world that we forget all that we truly must be grateful for. We live in an amazing country with freedoms and liberties other people dream of. I am extremely grateful for my fabulous family and friends. There is no place better to live than in Martin County, in my opinion.

Then as I was scrolling through Facebook, I came upon this poem and realized that I must share it:









































































































This poem was written by a Marine. The following is his request.

PLEASE. Would you do me the kind favor of sending this to as many people as you can? Christmas will be coming soon, and some credit is due to our United States service men and women for our being able to celebrate these festivities. Let’s try in this small way to pay a tiny bit of what we owe. Make people stop and think of our heroes, living and dead, who sacrificed themselves for us. Please, do your small part to plant this small seed.

May God Bless You and Have a Great Day

The Palm City Chamber of Commerce will be sending CARE packages to our soldiers fighting for our freedoms. Please call us at 772-286-8121, if you would like to drop off any donations.

Missi Campbell’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Fishing Tips

Paul Sperco

It’s November 13 and we are rapidly approaching the holiday season.

Where the heck does the time go? Our hurricane season is in our rearview, Thanksgiving is only a week and a half away, and we will be doing our last column of the year next month - hard to believe. As far as the surf fishing along our local beaches goes it has been big waves, lots of wind, and unfishable conditions for the past month.

Mid-October usually kicks off our pompano season and there were some silver speedsters caught in the past thirty days, but the number of fishable days were far and few between. Some of our Martin County beaches like Bryn Mawr, Virginia Forrest, Tiger Shores, and Stuart beach have been giving up a lot of whiting and croaker this past week and that is a good sign. These species can be caught right in that first trough 5 to15 yards from the surfs edge. These are two of the best eating fish that our Florida beaches have to offer.

This is light tackle fishing with seven-foot spinning rods and 2000 to 4000 sized spinning reels. I always bring a couple of those setups to the beach during pompano season so after I throw out the 13 footers for the pompano, 75 to 100 yards off the beach, I bait the short rods up with a small piece of shrimp and a piece of Pink Shrimp Fishbites so I can bend a rod waiting for the pompano to show up. I also include an 8 foot spinner with a 5000 sized spinning reel and a 3/4 ounce spoon to cast to the migrating bluefish and spanish mackerel schools that are migrating down our coast.

The next 5 to 6 months are the most popular surf fishing months both in the different species that are available and participation. There will be lots of anglers hitting our beaches in the coming months as the folks head down from up north and our general population keeps growing. This is the time of year that I pinch myself when I see the temperatures up north dipping into the forties and we are waking up in the seventies!

Pompano, jacks, whiting, croaker, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish, and an occasional permit should all be on your targeted species list as we approach the start of our winter surf season.

I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving. Good luck this month and catch em up. Feel free to contact me directly with any questions about tackle, baits, and locations if you are new this great fishery or just want some info. Text me at (609) 903-8243 or email me


Paul Sperco’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

On Education

Victoria Defenthaler
Retired Martin County Principal & School Board Member

As the Martin County School District begins the negotiations process with the Martin County Education Association (MCEA/the teachers' union) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (staff, excluding administrators), I am hoping that the district and unions work together in a collaborative and transparent manner, demonstrating respect and value for their employees.  

Salary will be a major focus for both sets of employees during these difficult economic times. Many of the district’s employees cannot afford to live in Martin County because their wages are not keeping up with the cost of living, especially home ownership. While health insurance rates and co-pays have increased and benefits have been hollowed out, the district's contribution has remained stagnant since 2014 which means employees have had to absorb the increases.  Many employees are forced to work more than one job to make ends meet.  Did you know that the paychecks of some AFSCME employees only covers the cost of their insurance? Yes...they net close to zero after all deductions. 

All districts have been receiving TSIA (Teacher Salary Increase Allocation) funds since 2020 yet many counties have passed millage referendums to enhance the inadequate salaries of teachers and staff. The teachers and support staff are extremely grateful for the generosity of Martin County taxpayers. However, the millage supplement was requested to help the school district recover from a period of time when state funding decreased. The intent was to supplement, not supplant salary raises provided by the employer. It was never meant to be an open-ended solution to rely on our residents who are also feeling the pinch of rising costs.

During negotiations between the school board and MCEA held on November 7th, the district presented a proposal that would mean $1,000 in total compensation for experienced teachers.  For comparison, teachers in St. Lucie County received a $3,000 raise AND a $1000 bonus. Palm Beach County teachers secured a 7% raise this year. Teachers at the top of their schedule are earning $104,000 compared to Martin County’s top salary of $67,600.  Martin County continues to lose qualified teachers to surrounding counties, and more are expected to leave by winter break.

Martin County taxpayers have demonstrated their respect and admiration for our educators by passing the millage supplement twice. It’s time the district step-up and do the same. Median home prices in Martin County have increased more than 50% since January 2020. With that, revenue from property taxes has increased substantially. The school board needs to leave no stone unturned in their search for ways to ensure salaries are competitive with surrounding counties. For example, the school board should reconsider the percentage of money allocated to be kept in the fund balance (an emergency reserve fund) which is currently more than double the required 3% and also consider the money saved by not filling vacant positions with full time qualified employees.

It sends a powerful message to the school board when the community shows up in support of teachers and staff. Dates and times for MCEA and AFSCME negotiation sessions can be found using this link: I am hopeful, with the community’s engagement and support, that the school board of Martin County will have an epiphany, recognize the urgency of the situation, and provide raises to retain and recruit the best teachers and staff for our students. 

Victoria Defenthaler’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Arati's Advice

Arati Hammond
Keller Williams, Senior Real Estate Specialist

Transfer of Financial Control When Loved Ones Face Cognitive Decline

The Center for Retirement Research researched the impact of cognitive decline on financial

decision-making in older Americans and the ideal time for a child or agent to take over day-to-

day financial management.

It surveyed participants in the Vanguard Research Initiative, a panel of account holders at the Vanguard Group, Inc., to get their opinions on the optimal time to transfer control once cognitive decline becomes a concern.

They could choose one of three options:

1. Immediately after the onset of cognitive decline

2. During further decline, but before completely losing the ability

3. When completely lose the ability

Most respondents (84%) prefer taking a middle ground, making the transfer after some cognitive decline but before completely losing their ability to manage money.

But by waiting too long, older people can make financial mistakes that endanger their long-term financial security.

Starting a money conversation is critical if you’re responsible for eventually taking over your

Parents’ finances.  It’s a touchy subject, and parents may resist giving up control, have trouble

accepting their cognitive decline, and fear a loss of independence.

Here are some other tips about raising the topic with parents and easing yourself into a new


Get an early start –To get a feel for their financial landscape, talk with your loved ones about

money before an emergency strikes or cognitive decline begins. Expect the process to take time and know that it won’t be a one-and-done conversation.

Offer your help – Make gradual changes and start by helping them open, review, and pay bills together. That way, they’ll get comfortable with your involvement.

Automate billing – Simplify the monthly bill paying by automating bill payments and switching income streams to direct deposit.

Inventory financial and legal papers – Start making a list of account numbers and legal documents (birth certificates, insurance policies, and wills, for example), and be sure all the

documents are in a secure spot.

Work with professionals – Work with an elder law attorney to be sure all the appropriate

paperwork—estate planning and a power of attorney, for example—is in place, up to date, and

fits the wishes and needs of your loved one. 

Arati Hammond is a Seniors Real Estate Specialist at Keller Williams Realty and Luxury

Home Specialist. 

Arati Hammond’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Legal Corner

Gene Zweben
Founding & Managing Partner at Zweben Law Group

Are You Texting While Driving in Florida?

All drivers share the responsibility of understanding and following road safety rules, especially as technology becomes more prevalent in everyday life. Knowing Florida's current laws regarding phone use while driving is important to avoid fines and prevent accidents. This overview highlights the evolution of texting and driving laws in Florida, reflecting adaptations to changing technology and its impact on road safety.

Texting and Driving in Florida

Once upon a time in Florida, texting while driving was considered a secondary offense, meaning you could only get ticketed for it if you were pulled over for a different reason first. However, times have changed, and the law has become stricter to ensure road safety for everyone. In 2019, Florida made texting and driving a primary offense, allowing law enforcement to stop drivers caught in the act. This law extends to any form of nonverbal communication on a device, such as emailing or online searches. Enacted to reduce accidents caused by mobile phone distractions, it emphasizes the importance of focusing on driving. It encourages pulling over for any text or non-voice communication to ensure road safety.

Exceptions to the Rule

Despite these strict laws, there are exceptions. Making calls or using your device for navigation is permissible, but it's best to do so before you start driving. Hands-free options like Bluetooth are encouraged to maintain focus on the road. However, in Florida's school and work zones, phone use of any kind, including calls and navigation, is strictly prohibited to ensure the safety of pedestrians and workers.

Staying updated with these laws is critical to safe driving in Florida. Texting and using your phone in designated zones can lead to severe consequences. Remember, your safety and that of others is paramount.

Located in historic downtown Stuart, Florida, Zweben Law Group has been dedicated to helping injured people since its founding in 2001.

Gene Zweben’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Martin County Taxpayers Association


The Martin County Taxpayers Association has decided to take a position on whether there should be term limits for county commissioners. The answer is a resounding yes.

We believe that every elected official should be required to step down from the commission after serving their communities for a period of eight years. The state legislature and governor have eight-year limits before being required to take a time out. Term limits of eight years for school board members were enacted last year. Miami-Dade and Palm Beach are charter counties that currently have eight-year term limits. Broward County has twelve years.

The argument that the voters should have the option to elect the same person term after term or vote them out was valid in the past. The power of incumbency and the financial contributions it brings makes challengers think twice about running against an entrenched politician. A race in Martin County may cost north of $100,000 or more. Serving on a local board was never meant to be a career with salaries, healthcare, and retirement benefits which all currently come along with the job. It was supposed to be a public service.

How often have we heard that people would continue to vote for someone election after election not because they believe that person is doing a good job but because the quality of the other candidates was not as good. The amount of money an incumbent can raise usually dwarfs those of a challenger. This makes it more unlikely that those most qualified to run will.

Commissioners often become enamored with the deference people afford them. The office should never become an exalted career but rather a temporary privilege. The notion of an entrenched governing class especially on the local level stymies an involved citizenry.

Many times, with incumbency comes the tendency for commissioners to believe they are essential for the continuance of local government. Their decisions are influenced by the next election more than what is good overall. The level of pandering goes up and their judgement goes down with each new election. They appropriate the people’s tax dollars without thinking through the ramifications of what is in the best interest of the public.

The most recent examples of this were when the commission approved a new allocation of $85,000 for a position for the Special Olympics at 10:30 am.  Then at the budget meeting at 5:00 pm on the same day, they were trying to cut millions from the following year’s budget to avoid having to raise taxes. A few weeks later, the commission approved buying land in Palm City slated for development for $4 million. That expense appeared nowhere in the budget.

We have witnessed that the Martin County commissioners don’t begin their budget deliberations working to keep the mileage rate the same as the previous year. MCTA has concluded that term limits are the only way to remind commissioners as to what their priorities should be. Therefore, the Martin County Taxpayers Association is fully on board with House Bill 57 which will limit commissioners to no more than two 4-year terms.

This Bill is sponsored by Representative Salzman from the Panhandle area.  We would like to know if you are on board with the MCTA’s position so we can pass that information on to Rep. Salzman as well as our own delegation.  MCTA representatives have visited and enlisted the support of our legislative delegation which is comprised of Representative John Snyder, Representative Toby Overdorff, and Senator Gayle Harrell.  All are on board with the passage of this bill.

We realize that budgets do not remain static. That doesn’t mean that they should be created to fulfill the dream projects of individual commissioners such as the Special Olympics staff position or buying land for no other reason than a few who did not want it developed. We would like to see a concrete fiscal plan from each candidate running for office And then MCTA and the voters can hold the commissioners to their announced plans. Pet projects, special interest groups, and lack of fiscal reliability are hallmarks of those remaining in office too long.

IF YOU SUPPORT THIS CONCEPT, PLEASE EMAIL TODAY so we can report that Martin County stands firm behind Representative Salzman’s bill. It would be fantastic if you could have your family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues to do so also.

Martin County Taxpayers Association's opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Constitutional Corner & Non Profit Notices


Supervisor of Elections

Tax Collector

Property Appraiser

Martin County Clerk & Comptroller

Non Profit Notices

Strengthening Attachment through Social Play

Like all childcare centers, Banner Lake Early Learning Center is a very busy place. Even with low student to teacher ratios, it is difficult to give each baby and young child the amount of one-on-one time and attention that they need and deserve. A caregiver must be intentional about providing an attuned presence during daily tasks and activities. This is difficult while caring for a class of children, even with multiple adults in the room. At our center one of the ways that we meet this challenge is through Baby Doll Circle Time, which is a part of our Conscious Discipline Curriculum. The goal is to increase the quality of the relationship between children and caregivers by strengthening attachment, attunement, and social play.

Attachment is a word used to describe the child’s emotional bond to their primary caregiver(s). If a child has a secure attachment, then they allow caregivers to comfort them and are comfortable exploring their environment. Children that do not have a secure attachment have trouble being comfortable and can become anxious or reluctant to explore and learn new things. Attunement is the act of being aware and responsive to another person. It is the conscious focus of attention; it is not something that can be done by accident. Social play is something that we can see even in young infants when they smile, coo, and imitate facial expressions, it includes games like peek a boo or pat-a-cake. These interactions give caregivers a way to sustain a child’s engagement in the activity which forms mental models of attention.

During a session of Baby Doll Circle Time, children interact with their baby dolls as a group. They will do songs, fingerplays, and rituals. These are the same interactions that are done by caregivers with each child as they can throughout the day. Every time they play with their babies, the children reexperience the connections made with their caregivers. This means that each interaction they have with a caregiver can be experienced multiple times, even in a class full of children.


CTWH is Educating the Treasure Coast About Human Trafficking

By Jackie Holfelder

The whirlwind schedule of Sarah Marie Henry, executive director of Catch the Wave of Hope (CTWH), continues to be filled with speaking engagements as residents of the Treasure Coast endeavor to learn all they can about this heinous crime happening right in local neighborhoods.

Often accompanied by Detective Brian Broughton, SVU Detective from the Martin County Sheriff Office, Henry gives sobering statistics about how much trafficking is taking place right in our backyards, often by people that your children know and trust. She shares what parents can do to help keep their children safe and what should be done if contact has already been established.

Among the recent groups she’s addressed are kindergarten-fifth grade students at St. Joseph’s Catholic School and Church; members and guests of Treasure Coast (FL) Chapter of the Links at its Princess Tiana in Sneakers Running to Stop Human Trafficking Tea; Christ the King Lutheran Church and Community; Indian River County Healthy Start Coalition; Treasure Coast Women’s Republican Club and Treasure Coast Classical Academy.                                                                                                                                         Tea – At Princess Tiana tea: Galean Stewart, WPTV News; Princess Tiana (aka Jean Laws-Scott); MCSO Detective Brian Broughton; Sarah Marie Henry, CTWH executive director; Nirlaine Smartt, Treasure Coast (FL) Chapter of the Links       

Catch the Wave of Hope can tailor its presentation to the youngest attendees. Since recent statistics have confirmed that the United States is the #1 country in the world for human trafficking, Florida is the #3 state for human trafficking and southeast Florida is the #1 region in the state for human trafficking, it’s never too early to raise awareness of how to protect yourself or your children. To plan a date for Henry and CTWH to speak with your organization, nonprofit or business about human trafficking, its myths and how to raise your awareness. Visit or email

TCCA – At Treasure Coast Classical Academy: Sarah Marie Henry, CTWH executive director; Kiley Baggett, TCCA; MCSO Detective Brian Broughton

Photos provided by CTWH



Helping People Succeed’s Holiday Ugly Sweater Run/Walk

By Jackie Holfelder

Everyone loves an ugly holiday sweater!  That’s why you’ll want to join in the fun that will abound at Helping People Succeed’s inaugural Holiday Ugly Sweater 5K Run/Walk on Saturday, December 9.

Bring the whole family, including your four-legged friends, to this joyful fundraiser that will start at Helping People Succeed’s headquarters, 1601 NE Braille Place, Jensen Beach at 8 a.m. (Registration is from 7-7:45 a.m.)

Rob Romano, Janet Cooper and Riley Rankin

Proceeds will benefit families most in need this holiday season served through Helping People Succeed’s Behavioral Health Services Program, which provides mental health support to children, families and adults.

Entry fee is $30 per runner/walker and $35 day of the race. Included in the price is a t-shirt, snacks and medal. The race is official and will be timed by Mike Melton of MCM Timing and Results.

Sponsorship opportunities at a variety of levels are available.

Helping People Succeed has been building successful families and futures on the Treasure Coast one life at a time for more than half a century.

For sponsorship and other information, contact Glenna Parris at 772-320-0778. To learn more about Helping People Succeed, visit


Zweben Law Group Embarks on a Decade of Generosity:

10th Annual Bike Drive to benefit United Way Holiday Project

In a remarkable milestone of a decade-long commitment to helping Martin County families, the Zweben Law Group proudly announces its 10th annual partnership with United Way of Martin County for the Zweben Law Group Bike Drive. This cherished initiative aims to bring extra holiday joy to local families facing financial challenges by gifting 300 brand-new bikes to children in need through the United Way Holiday Project.

Launch Event: Bike Drive Kickoff Party

To kick off this heartwarming endeavor, Zweben Law Group invites the community to join them at the Bike Drive Kickoff Party on Thursday, Nov. 16, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Dolphin Bar & Shrimp House in Jensen Beach. Tickets for this magical evening are $40 in advance and $50 at the door, covering one drink and delectable appetizers. Secure your tickets online at

Gene Zweben, Founder of Zweben Law Group, expressed the significance of this initiative, stating, "Every child remembers their first new bike because it represents more than just a gift – it embodies freedom, marks a rite of passage, and enables transportation to school for some children."

Supporting the Cause

The kickoff party serves as a vital fundraising event for the bike drive. Contributions, both big and small, can be made through ticket sales and direct donations until Monday, December 11 at One hundred percent of every dollar raised directly funds the purchase of bikes and helmets. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to our event sponsors: Zweben Law Group and Dolphin Bar & Shrimp House, and our early significant donors, Treasure Coast Running, and IBEW LOCAL 627.

United Way's Holiday Project: Spreading Joy Across Martin County

The United Way Holiday Project unites the community to provide toys for Martin County children in need, serving as the official coordinating organization for the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots in Martin County.

For more information or to make a donation, visit


It’ll be a dog day morning and afternoon at the humane society’s “Pooch Plunge”

STUART, Fla. — Each year, dogs look forward to the closing of the Sailfish Splash Waterpark for the winter. That’s because it gives them a chance to swim, splash and play in the park’s pool at the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast’s “Pooch Plunge.” The House of Hope and Sailfish Splash Waterpark are partnering with the humane society for this year’s 10th annual event, which will be held from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 9, at Sailfish Splash Waterpark, 931 SE Ruhnke St.

Sponsored by Camp Bow Wow of Stuart and Monterey Animal Clinic, the cost is a $10 donation per dog, which benefits the humane society’s shelter animals. The event is open to dogs of all sizes and breeds. Online pre-registration is highly recommended by going to this link:

Guests also are encouraged to bring dog or cat supplies to benefit the four-legged clients at the House of Hope. The nonprofit organization’s volunteers will be collecting essentials such as pet toys, dog leashes, cat litter, dog and cat treats and pet bedding — essentially any item that brings the creatures comfort.

In addition to the open swim for dogs, there will be pictures with Santa, music, a 50/50 raffle, food trucks and more.

For more information about this splash-tacular event, contact Community Events Specialist Alyssa Bean via email at or call 772-600-3215.

To sponsor the Pooch Plunge or any other Humane Society of the Treasure Coast event or program, contact Development Manager Ashton Standish at 772-600-3216.



Junior League of Martin County names news officers and plans year ahead

STUART, Fla. — The Junior League of Martin County (JLMC), which has a 35 year history of collaborating with other nonprofit organizations to better serve the local community, announces its 2023-2024 Board of Directors.

Taylor Gilmour will lead the group as president; Lara Bailey, vice president; Keri Gustafson and Charlene Lyons, co-treasurers; Julia Sansevere, sustaining member director; and Ashley Price Winchel, advisory-nominating chair.

They are joined by committee chairs Ashley Price Winchel, advisory-nominating chair; Lauren Aloia, community chair; Alyssa Regan and Heather Frady, fund development co-chairs; Laura Baird, membership chair; and Teena White, state public affairs committee chair.

“We started a new year this fall, with programming, workshops, service projects, public affairs activities, and more,” said Gilmour. “Our approach is simple. Through hands-on training and formal learning opportunities, we give women the skills they need to improve the quality of life in the communities we serve.”

Keri Gustafson, Charlene Lyons, Taylor Gilmour, Lara Bailey, Julia Sansevere

Photo by Doreen Poreba

The group aligns its initiatives within the three impact areas of women, children and civic leadership. These include human trafficking, domestic violence, women’s health, teen dating violence, child sex trafficking, nutrition and food insecurity, and poverty. Among the programs, JLMC offers two scholarships to graduating high school women in the Martin County School District and a scholarship for female students at Indian River State College.

The Junior League of Martin County is accepting new female members on a rolling admission. Women must be at least 22 years old and reside in Martin or St Lucie County. Membership benefits include improving the local community through organized and effective methods, building relationships with a diverse group of current and emerging women leaders, developing volunteer skills and leadership potential and sharing talents with a network of interesting women. Additionally, members benefit by becoming part of an international association of more than 196,000 women.

The Junior League of Martin County is a part of the Association of Junior Leagues International (AJLI) – a women’s organization whose mission is to advance women’s leadership for meaningful community impact through volunteer action, collaboration, and training. For those interested in learning more about the Junior League of Martin County, visit



Shoot For the Moon Shatters All Records

By Elizabeth Farrar


The Mark Garwood Foundation hosted its 7th Annual SHOOT FOR THE MOON Sporting Clays Charity Event, presented by Audi, Infiniti, Maserati, and Alfa Romeo of Stuart, on November 3 at the South Florida Shooting Club. 

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Mark Garwood Foundation and its Phoenix Scholarship program. 

Erica and John Garwood hosted 45 teams and over 70 guests for lunch at this year’s event, breaking all previous attendance records.

Representative Toby Overdorf and Martin County Chief Deputy Sheriff John Budensiek joined John Garwood in welcoming participants before they headed to the competition courses.

After a BBQ lunch expertly prepared by the Martin County Sheriff’s Grill Team, Phoenix Scholarship recipient, Alexandria Dennison told her story of overcoming substance misuse in preparation for Erica and John Garwood’s introduction of the nine 2024 Phoenix Scholarship recipients.

The Mark Garwood Foundation was founded in 2014 by Stuart residents Erica and John Garwood after they lost their 24-year-old son, Mark to complications of substance misuse and type 1 diabetes. 

Since 2015, the Mark Garwood Foundation Phoenix Scholarship program has awarded 67 scholarships and educational grants totaling more than $435,000 to adults in Florida who are in recovery, committed to long-term sobriety and ready to begin or continue their education.

2024 Phoenix Scholarship recipients (back) Alec Zenner, Jenna Stoddard, Alex Smith, Destiny Ferguson, Casey Cook, Nicole Blackburn, Molly Williams, (front) Walter Laseter, Heidi Zuckerman

The Mark Garwood Foundation will host its next fundraiser, Racquets for Recovery Tennis and Pickleball Tournament on January 27 at North River Shores Tennis Club in Stuart. For information, go to

To learn more about the Mark Garwood Foundation, visit

Photos provided by Mark Garwood Foundation



Hibiscus Children's Center and
Community Bring Holiday Joy to Children


Martin County, FL –   The holiday season is often considered a time for spreading love and joy.  This is just what our local community has been helping Hibiscus Children’s Center do since the Tilton Family Children’s Shelter opened its doors.   Hibiscus has provided safe haven to abused, abandoned and neglected children at the Shelter for almost four decades and each year, “Santa’s Elves” partner with the community to ensure the children have a joyful and memorable holiday season.  Santa’s Elves – aka our incredible Martin County Guild members – is led by co-chairs Ashley Braden-Knowles and George Ann Braden.  Along with the help of many elves, they collect and wrap donations of toys, games, books, dolls, trucks, and much more, all for the children to find under the tree on Christmas morning.  Just imagine their excitement and the smiles on their faces! 

Our hope is for the children to not only experience the magic of the season, but to enjoy it all year long.   One of the goals of the Santa’s Elves Program is to provide Life Enrichment Activities that the children can enjoy throughout the year, including museums, educational exhibits, sports and community activities, fishing, sailing and art camps, and much more.  These life experiences can provide a sense of normalcy to the children, help them heal from the trauma they have endured and give them positive childhood memories.

Several children shared that Christmas morning at Hibiscus is wonderful and they loved having adventures throughout the year.   Twelve year old Callie expressed, “Christmas is really fun at Hibiscus but it was even better that we could go on field trips during the year so the fun lasted longer!”

Hibiscus Children’s Center believes that every child deserves to experience the joy of the holiday season and the warmth of a caring community.  We aim to not only provide the children with presents but also with experiences that will enrich their lives and create lasting memories.   

If you would like to get involved and help brighten the holiday season for children, please visit us at or email us at   Thank you for making a difference in the lives of children at the holidays and all year long!  


Stuart/Martin Chamber simplifies staff training with Vubiz

Martin County, FL.— The Stuart/Martin County Chamber of Commerce has partnered with Vubiz to provide a powerful online training portal for our members, their staff, and Career Connect Martin clients. Members now have access to hundreds of online courses at a very low cost.

Vubiz courses will be available to you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The broad range of courses address your company’s needs, employee’s interests, and required compliance training. Vubiz provides real-time data and tracking for managers as well as certificates for completers. Courses, which range in pricing and time, are offered in several mediums from mobile friendly, audio, video and more.

Course Subjects:

  • Business
  • Compliance
  • Customer Service, Marketing & Sales
  • Diversity and Inclusion
  • Finance
  • Health & Safety
  • Human Resources
  • Information Technology
  • Personal Development & Wellness
  • Spanish Language Lessons

For more than 90 years, the Chamber has redefined the standards of service to meet the changing needs of our members. It is this extraordinary philosophy that launched Career Connect Martin, the Chamber’s workforce development program that helps underemployed residents sharpen their skills while accessing new career opportunities. We are now pleased to expand our professional training offerings with Vubiz. Not only are the courses available for Chamber Members at a discounted rate, but they will be available at no cost to Career Connect clients coupled with one-on-one coaching and other services.

To get started go to:  and click on Admin / Start Course. Choose any course for your employees using our simple e-commerce system. The course is available for viewing for an entire year. Each course has a final exam and reports data back to the admin/manager. This is a great way to invest in the growth and development of your most valuable assets: your employees. As a bonus, proceeds from your purchases help support Career Connect Martin programming. 

About the Stuart/Martin County Chamber of Commerce:
The Stuart/Martin County Chamber of Commerce is the voice of business in the community. Playing a significant role in the economic climate, the Chamber’s purpose is to inform, unite and promote the business. The Stuart/Martin Chamber acts as the front door to the community offering maps, welcome guides, visitor information and a community event calendar. For business members, the Chamber provides opportunities for leadership, networking, advertising, and essential advocacy locally, in Tallahassee and in D.C.  



Established in 2000, Caring Fields Felines is a no-kill cage-free feline rescue and adoption organization located in Palm City, FL.  Our mission is to reduce the overpopulation of homeless and abandoned cats and kittens in our local area through aggressive spay/neuter programs, weekly adoption events, and community education.

Each year, CFF finds homes for about 400 cats and kittens so we can take in another 400.  We receive no public funds of any kind and are able to support the organization through fundraising events such as Waikiki at Willoughby. Please take a look at the invitation below and consider joining us for an evening of fun in support of the animals in our care as they await adoption.


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.


From Audrey Taggart:

We are nearing the 60th anniversary of the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy which occurred on November 22, 1963. As most who were living at the time recall his extremely wealthy father, Joe Kennedy, was reported to have bought him the election. And Jupiter Island reportedly refused Joe's attempt to purchase property there.

(Remember “No Irish Need Apply? People did not want a reported rum running Irishman there, especially another anti-Semite like FDR.)

Once in office, after naming his younger brother, Bobby, as Attorney General (never mind nepotism) the two authorized a change in immigration law.

Who knows if the 'born with a silver spoon in their mouths' brothers felt guilty over their wealth or what their reasons were for basically ending European immigration and opening immigration to the third world? They did so in 1963 to be effective the following year.

And after all these years – although the reports on the assassination were to be publicized – they have not been. Did Lee H. Oswald do it alone? Where did Jack Ruby fit in?

And where does the Ku Klux Klan fit in? We know it was formed to resist the Republican Party's Reconstruction Era policies after the Civil War. The Republicans wanted Blacks to have political and economic equality. Southern Democrats did not - hence the 'Jim Crow laws' the Democrats passed in the South. We also know the KKK was formed to re-establish White Supremacy – no Jews, no Catholics (hence burning crosses), no immigrants, etc.

All this information is readily available on Britannica, Wikipedia, etc. if you have not learned it in government schools.


From Mike Bouse:

Tom, I agree with most of what you printed about the shooter. One thing I do take exception to is that the greatest killer of children is not firearms but abortion. If babies in the womb are not really "alive" then why are there federal and state laws protecting turtle eggs and eagle eggs? Fortunately for the baby eagle & the baby turtle, the mother eagle and the mother turtle do not want to kill their young.

I do enjoy your Sunday paper.

Martin County


Administrator Donaldson acknowledged a well-known secret at the end of the meeting regarding the tax collector and what had happened earlier.

In a presentation at the start of the meeting, Ruth Pietruszewski gave unused proceeds of $5,882,842.41 to the county. This represents the amount of her total 2023 budget ($8,654,267) that was not spent by her office. Through collection fees and efficiencies, she managed to return to the county more than 65% of the cost of running her office.

The Martin County Tax Collector has become so good at this that if you read the narrative in the budget book, the county anticipates this occurring. I guess Donaldson wanted to make sure that the commissioners realized that if not the exact amount returned mentioned in the book, it is a close enough guess. In other words, the money returned was already counted in the budget as a reliable revenue source. As he said, if the money was not there, he would have a large hole that would need to be filled somehow.

In 1987, the 95 Riverside PUD was approved. It may be better known as the place with the hotel, gas station, McDonald’s, and Cracker Barrell at Kanner and Lost River Road. There are also people living in residential dwellings as part of the PUD already. This undeveloped parcel is 12.4 acres sitting in the middle of commercial and residential it is a classic infill project.

The parcel was currently zoned for commercial or office use. A 4-story 130,000 sq foot building could be built there. Another hotel or restaurant could go there. What was being asked was a change of zoning and land use to allow 98 town homes. That was what the commission was asked to decide.

The HOA in the rear wanted the land use to remain the same. Did they believe that an office building, Burger King, or Knights Inn would be better? I don’t believe so. They were gambling that for almost 40 years nothing had happened, and it would remain that way.

But a look at a chart that was prepared shows why town homes are better than alternative uses for those residents. The current allowable maximum height is 40’ with the proposed designation asked it becomes 30’, minimum open space required is 20% going to 40%, and maximum building coverage goes from 60% to 40%. That means it is a much less intense project.

The neighbors mentioned that there would be more traffic. They are right that if you add 98 homes, more cars will be using Lost River Road to make the left or right on Kanner. At the corner of Lost River Road (like other roads feeding Kanner), the cars are meant to be stacked to allow Kanner to flow clear. Stacking is not a bad thing if the road can clear during one cycle. Tweaking the timing could solve any minor problem. Let’s face it, any kind of office or commercial use will result in more traffic than homes would. So that argument doesn’t ring true either.

Hetherington believes we should keep the commercial land use and not change it to residential. There needs to be a place for stores, etc. By building another 98 homes, those people will have to make trips to work or to shop. That is true and I would tend to agree with that if the parcel was on Kanner or Federal Highway. Lost River is a two-lane road. How would a Publix contribute to the road traffic at that spot?

A motion was made by Heard to change the zoning and seconded by Smith. It passed 4-1 with Hetherington dissenting. A motion was made by Smith with Jenkins seconding to approve the town homes with Hetherington voting yes now since Pulte builds a quality project she stated. It passed 5-0

Assistant County Administrator George Stokus gave a presentation regarding the 100th celebration of Martin County becoming a county. The commission tasked Commissioner Smith to be their liaison.

After speaking to stakeholders, Stokus and Smith came up with the following:


The commissioners all weighed in, but it was decided that Mr. Stokus would go back to the non-profits and see if more economical options could be found.

Brightline had asked for proposals for their Treasure Coast Station. The commission has authorized up to $125,000 for conceptual drawings. The Treasure Coast Planning Council will assist in preparing the proposals. They have done so for other municipalities.

The two locations that will be highlighted are the courthouse parking lot which will be a combined effort with Stuart and the Fairgrounds. It appeared all the commissioners were on board with the effort to obtain a station. The vote was 5-0 to proceed.

To see my take on the RFP go here

Business Development Our Way


Joan Goodrich has resigned as head of the Business Development Board. She cites family reasons for her move to the west coast of Florida.

At the last board meeting, it was mentioned that the organization had excess funds in its accounts, which could be a violation of their agreement with the county. Martin County provides $450,000 of the funding for their $724,600 budget. The agreement states that the BDB can have up to three months of operating cash on hand or $181,150.

However, like so many things when it comes to government funding, what exactly constitutes reserves. The BDB has three bank accounts totaling $430,792.35. The “Board Reserve Account” at Synovus Bank has $59,630.88. This would seem to suggest that they are compliant. There is also a Seacoast “Money Market Account” with $122,023,92. They would still be complying because even if you add both the Synovus and Seacoast money market account, it will total $181,654.80 which is barely over the reserve amount.

Their Seacoast checking account holds $249,137.55 which by itself is well over the reserve amount. If you add the other two accounts to that balance, then there is $430,792.35 which would leave the BDB out of compliance by $249,642.35.

Ms. Goodrich has been able to raise considerable funds from the private sector in the past year. That is admirable and should continue under the new director if this model remains unchanged. In fact, the organization should be raising all its funds that way. It has a board of directors that is mostly from the private sector, but the county, Stuart and Indiantown have appointees. The BDB is the type of organization that is very inefficient…a blend of private/public with a high emphasis on private involvement in the decision-making while overwhelmingly using public funds.

With Ms. Goodrich’s departure, this would be the perfect time to reorganize the organization. It should either be a privately driven and financed entity or one like the Tourism Development Council which is a government entity. This hybrid model is a recipe for unaccountability and wasting government largess.

Unlike St. Lucie County where their equivalent to the BDB is a powerhouse, Martin County has not committed to really wanting to be a business hub. We often hear from commissioners and others how they wish to develop this industry or that one, but the minute they contemplate opening a facility, we back pedal and decry development. If there is a disease named community schizophrenia, Martin County has it.

I personally am in favor of the county taking in the BDB and operating it the way they do the tourism council. Instead of seeking out companies to relocate, the county could then be helping existing firms grow. Red tape and delay are the biggest reasons most of our companies do not expand. This make-believe economic development world is just that…a fantasy. Companies need a friend in government not an organization that wants to perpetuate itself for jobs and board prestige…their own.

We keep saying that Martin County has its own way of doing things. Then we should allow ourselves to do economic development in a Martin County way. Our tax dollars would be better spent nourishing our business community. If we did, we would organically grow to create more jobs for our residents.

City of Stuart


Anne Ellig, the recycling coordinator for the city, gave a presentation about how Stuart’s recyclables are recycled. The process is the same for all of Martin County as well. It all begins at Martin County’s transfer facility in Palm City and ends up in St Lucie County’s landfill facility where it is sorted before going to different locations for recycling. You can see the presentation here 

Human Resource Director Roz Johnson Strong gave a presentation honoring the men and women who are city employees who are vets. Two continue to serve as reservists. Retired colonel Paul Nicoletti who was city manager, attorney, and current city magistrate was also on hand to receive a proclamation. Both he and Paula, his wife, have been deeply involved in helping veterans obtain civilian employment.  

There are 32 current employees in that category. You can see the presentation here 

Manager Mortell explained to the commission that the city and county will be entering into an agreement with the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council to help prepare the RFP for a Brightline station in Stuart. The county has already appropriated the money from the general fund which every taxpayer in the county pays into. There will not be any expenditure from the city at this point.

The two sites that Martin County is considering are the current fairgrounds and the courthouse parking lot. I believe the fairgrounds do not meet the qualifications outlined in the RFP. If that was the site chosen, the city would no longer be part of the discussions. There is still a long way to go.

The commission voted 5-0 to approve the agreement with Everglades Law Foundation to represent Stuart in an Amicus Brief on the side of the Army Corps of Engineers against “Big Sugar.” They also will donate $10,000 from the legal budget for this purpose.

Where Will The Train Station Be Located?

You don’t have to be a genius or a seer to know where the best spot for the Brightline station is. You just have to look at demographics and the company’s own RFP. It gives a clear picture of where the station will be…. which is in Stuart.

More than a decade ago Brightline’s predecessor, All Aboard Florida, emphatically stated that the Miami to Orlando passenger train was coming. Politicians at the time (me included) dismissed the idea and fought against it. The company was arrogant in their approach and said the Treasure Coast would not have a station if at all then years in the future. The animosity only grew worse from there.

Now named Brightline, they went through several iterations of what they were aiming to be. Originally, they were a real estate development company wanting to have mixed use dense development at their stations. That is something not very appealing to Martin County folks, but that corporate vision is no longer true.

There was finally a settlement with Martin County after a string of court losses for us. From the moment that happened, I knew the trains were coming and we had best make lemonade from the lemons we were given. If the train was coming, then we should have the benefit of a station.

For 20 years, Stuart’s comp plan has had a transit hub in the downtown area. Back in the 1990s, Amtrack or Tri-Rail was envisioned. It has now morphed into Brightline. There was a town hall meeting around the time of the settlement in 2018. Brightline and the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council made a presentation showing that the best location for a Treasure Coast station was in Stuart because of our demographics. We were also a hub for visitors from South Florida who come here for brief stays.

Like the Costco decision, St Lucie County did not have the resident income to support the store even with the incentives of free land and tax breaks. We in Stuart and Martin County did and still do. A product will not be sold if there is no market for it.

And here is why I know the first Treasure Coast station will be in Stuart. I read the RFP. here

The RFP site criteria wants it to be located where the courthouse parking lot is. It is a site owned by Martin County within a few steps of the courthouse and downtown. There is room to build a 200-car garage which is one of the criteria. The City of Stuart has a tram system that can meet every train and Martin County has the Marty bus system. Public transportation is another criterion. The site has more than the minimum land required for the train platform.

Florida East Coast Railroad already owns acres of vacant and minimally developed land in downtown Fort Pierce. They need nothing from that city if they want to develop a train depot. And I believe at some point in the future, Fort Pierce will become a city that can support Brightline. It isn’t there yet, but Stuart and Martin County are there now.

On November 7th staff is coming to the commission with a request to hire the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council to do a feasibility study. The Stuart City Commission will be asked to join in on November 13th. As predicted, the lemons have already arrived with the Brightline trains and their horns. It is time to finally have our lemonade.   

As Published In Martin County Moments

Martin County School Board


NOVEMBER 14, 2023

When evaluating the superintendent’s performance, the board will begin to do so using more data performance measures. Graduation rates with math and reading scores for all grades will be considered as will other factors. It was suggested that the superintendent work with individual board members to see what else they would like to see. The evaluation will be on or around September 1st when enough data has been collected for the past school year

The Martin County School District Retention Committee made its report on retaining teachers. Over the past 4 years, 456 teachers have left. The four-year average instructional total is 1087 positions. Of the 456 teachers who left, 122 left after their first year, 54 left sometime in their second year, and 44 departed during their third year.

Once retirements are excluded, more than half those who called it quits were in their first three years in teaching. 37% left because of inadequate systems of support, 28% because of pay and benefits and the remainder for personal and family reasons.

Many new teachers are coming into the profession without being education majors. While they may know their core subject matter, they may have no idea what it is like to be in a classroom. Continuous support is more necessary today than ever. Until they achieve at least three years in the classroom, a series of recommendations should be followed that are in the report referenced in the link.

The entire report can be found with the committee’s recommendations here

Just Like That

Just like that, the Martin County School District is no longer employing substitute teachers.

After December 11th, Kelly Services will be the district’s substitute teacher labor contractor. Kelly will hire the current substitutes, but instead of the district having those employees on their payroll, they will be outsourcing the function to a third party. The world of work, including being a teacher has, is, or will be changing.

According to the FAQ’s given out by Kelly, having the substitute teachers employed by Kelly, being their employee can’t be beat. It really can be a full-time gig or a part-time filler. One thing is for sure…the district is hoping that instead of them sourcing substitutes, this company will not only have former district employees for the slots but also teachers from many other districts that can be tapped.









I don’t know if anyone recognizes that Kelly has been around as a company for decades. Years ago, I knew them as “Kelly Girls” which was a way to hire temps for the office. They have evolved over the years to be an employee solution for different industries throughout the economy.

The district is outsourcing one of the hardest things they must do…staff classrooms when classroom teachers are absent. In many instances, the administration does not even know “Mr. Smith” won’t be in until that morning so trying to find a substitute is difficult. Kelly supposedly will make it easier.

The school district is moving ahead as 8,655 public and private schools have done in 41 states according to the FAQ sheet. As of December 12th, Kelly will have the headaches of that piece of the district’s employment. If it goes well, everyone will be happy.

I am just wondering about other departments like bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and custodians. Maybe Kelly will have other niches they can serve. If it saves the taxpayer money without affecting the level of service, then why not?

Town of Sewalls Point


The commission had determined earlier that the town lot at 7 Heritage Way should be sold. One Sotheby’s International Realty had been chosen to be the broker after successfully answering the RFP. A listing agreement was to be approved at this meeting.  

During public comment, Heritage Way resident and real estate broker Anne Schmidt claimed to have a buyer for the lot keeping the deed restriction originally sought by the town to build around the massive oak tree. She said she would be ready to produce the offer within 5 days.

Sotheby wanted to list the property for $600,000. It had been decided earlier that there would not be a deed restriction. Commissioners now were in not so much of a hurry. What is another week was the refrain?


If this person comes in and offers $450,000 with a restriction not to remove the oak tree, does the commission accept it? How much is preserving the tree worth? What about the Sotheby folks who answered the RFP…are they going to be left out without a commission?

It was tabled for one week.

There was some trouble finding the manager’s contract on the town’s website. They decided just to speak about the changes. The main changes were that the manager wanted $100 more for his car allowance raising it to $500 a month, 30-day notice if fired without cause with a super majority, 20 weeks of severance, and accrual of 200 hours of PTO at the beginning of the year.

Except for the car allowance, individual commissioners had a problem with the changes. The contract renewal was initiated by the commission to make Daniels feel better. It was decided to pick this up later.

They did have the 2nd reading of the special election ordinance to replace Commissioner Campo who resigned effective December 30th. The qualifying period will be December 11-15. The election will take place on March 19th.




It appears the potential buyer that Anne Schmidt had for 7 Heritage Way from last week did not materialize. So, this week Sotheby’s agreement will be signed

Commissioner Campo made a motion to go ahead with the listing agreement without any deed restrictions because of the oak that had been such a contentious argument in the past. The listing price is $599,999 with 15% of the proceeds going toward planting other trees in the town, size and type to be determined by the commission with a subsequent motion. It was seconded by Kurzman. The vote was 4-1 with Fender opposing.

Commissioner Fender motioned to keep John Tompeck as mayor for another year with himself as vice-mayor. It was seconded by Kurzman and passed 5-0. It is highly unusual for the same person to be mayor for two years never mind three.

Kim Delaney from the Treasure Coast Planning Council gave a strategic plan update. They discussed the capital improvement plan and how that is an important tool in planning. She mentioned it is amazing how the town has been able to use one grant as leverage for another in the road and septic area.


Delaney discussed how to increase revenue. One way is by initiating a storm water fee. Any money collected could only be used for that purpose. Another is by entering into voluntary annexation agreements with the Dolphin Bar owner and the development known as the Landings. Both of which are at the end of North Sewall’s Point Road.

Mr. Daniels has been fielding calls from Dolphin Bar. At some point that will be developed into something more than a restaurant. It could be a source of additional ad valorem. The same would go for the Landings. The difference, of course, is that you would have to get every owner of the Landings to agree and only the single landowner of the Dolphin Bar to agree.

A question was raised about what is in it for the landowners. Kurzman said they would have Sewall’s Point Police. They would also have cheaper taxes. Since Sewall’s Point has an interlocal agreement with Stuart for fire protection, the MSTU that they pay to the county would go away.

They also would have a top ISO rating which will provide savings on their fire insurance. That, along with an easier turn around for building permits, may make it very feasible.  

Village of Indiantown


Sedron Technologies will be leasing land at the water plant to set up a regional biosolid and sewage processing site.

It will be taking in biosolids from across Florida. Biosolids are what is left after wastewater is treated. They will be using something called the Varcor System which is their own technology.

The water that it produces is good enough to drink and is PFAS free. The dry solids will be used to fire cement kilns and another byproduct is for fertilizer from the captured nitrogen and phosphorous. You can see the presentation here 

The council has already approved buying the current city hall site. There were two appraisals done. One came in at $820,000 and the other at $1,200,000. The contract will be for $1,060,000. The manager wanted the council to know that she is finding funding to complete the purchase.

There will be an option contract prepared with a deposit. A more complete proposal will be brought back in December.



The council approved the Trim Notice again because of an error. They also adopted a resolution in support of the Martin County Fair moving to Indiantown on consent.

The village has worked very hard to pass their mobility fee in conjunction with an interlocal agreement with Martin County. Now the county will receive 30% of their road impact fee and the village will receive 70% on new construction with their mobility fee in the village. It was very encouraging that it was accomplished without the rancor that could have occurred with county government. Much of that was probably due to County Commissioner Harold Jenkins clearing obstacles.

Town of Ocean Breeze


Ron Rose, the executive director of the Jensen Beach Chamber of Commerce, gave a brief presentation. He reminded the audience that even though the town was separate from Jensen Beach, the two were linked. Council President Ken DeAngeles was once chair of the Jensen Beach Chamber, and Ann Kagdis is on the Jensen Beach Historical Board.







Seawalk’s HOA had their treasurer, Melissa Heller, speak on their behalf regarding the problems in their community with the developer, D.R. Horton. According to her, the HOA has spent out-of-pocket about $30,000. Most of their complaints have to do with common landscaping and other areas such as the gates not being programable.

Town Consultant, Terry O’Neill, stated that the PUD Agreement doesn’t go away. It is, in essence, the zoning document for Seawalk. Horton currently has a $4 million bond to ensure that the PUD Agreement is adhered to.

A resident spoke about his irrigation system being used to water common areas. The same resident complained about this 6 months ago. He wants re-imbursement for the consumption but, if anything, that is a matter between himself and the HOA which would be responsible for the common areas. Why doesn’t he or the HOA disconnect the irrigation lines being used for that purpose.

As was made clear by O’Neill and Rick Crary, the town’s legal counsel, the responsibilities of the town, HOA, and individual homeowners are not always the same. All inspections and sign offs were performed not by town officials but by independent engineers hired and paid for by the builder, which is perfectly legal under Florida statute. There is no check on sloppy workmanship.


The town will continue to work on things under the PUD Agreement, but the HOA and individuals need to protect their rights by hiring and working with their attorneys. Crary advises not to seek legal redress in the courts at this juncture. That gets very expensive very quickly. D.R. Horton probably has more attorneys than the town has residents.   

Town of Jupiter Island

On November 3rd, I and other media outlets received a copy of a letter to Town Manager Robert Garlo from Ethan Loeb.

Loeb is an attorney representing lot owners who have been in litigation with the town over the waterfront setback line. The letter accuses a town resident and town board member, Robert Geddes, of antisemitism as uncovered in text messages. The text messages were revealed during the discovery process.

I was not going to do anything further until the town responded. The town has been silent on the issue of antisemitism but did put out a town wide email notice from the town manager regarding the “Concerned Resident” emails that had been circulating about the discord brought on by the lawsuits. The lawsuits stemmed from the moving of the waterfront setback line. These court proceedings have been costing the Jupiter Island taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

This public notice is a plea for everyone to “Just Get Along” channeling Rodney King during the L.A. riots in the 1990s. There is a call to stop “the targeted harassment of our fellow residents.” It goes on to state, “As a neutral governing body, elected by the people, the Town Commission’s only goal is to effectively execute the will of those who have appointed its members to serve…”

Mr. Garlo continues, “the Jupiter Island Commission comprises a dedicated and decent group of individuals who love this community.” Did he feel the same about the former commission before this one that had instituted the changes to the setback line?

You can read the entire Public Notice here 

By Mr. Garlo signing this, I believe he has seriously compromised his position as a neutral administrator. He has in effect taken sides in an ongoing political argument between residents regarding the waterfront setback lines. Why didn’t the mayor sign the notice? It is her board that helped to create the problem by its stance. They are the policy deciders.

I am not going to get into who is right or wrong with the pro or anti property rights argument. That will play out in the courts with perhaps millions more spent in taxpayer funds. But if the town administration felt that the “Concerned Citizen” emails needed to be addressed, how about Loeb’s contention of antisemitism? To me that is a far more serious and disturbing problem.

If an influential resident is trying to thwart two realtors from representing clients because those realtors are Jewish, that goes much deeper into what is wrong than any argument over a setback line. This is one of the wealthiest communities in the U.S. Is it acceptable to even imply that because the brokers are Jewish, they don’t belong on the Island.

I reached out to Garlo, and he told me that Mr. Geddes had resigned so as not to be a distraction. That is a good thing, but it still begs the question of why Geddes felt that he could text antisemitic remarks to other islanders. If he had done so to me, I would have felt it was not acceptable and said something. Apparently, the others did not as is evident in their text responses.

Bob Garlo (and really the commission) needs to address Loeb’s letter in a more formal and comprehensive manner. The situation on the island is becoming more perilous by the day. This is not a matter for staff to handle. It is the commission’s responsibility. Garlo should tend to the business of the town’s administration and leave the rest where it belongs…with the commissioners.

You can see Loeb’s letter and the messages here 

Final Thoughts

Sale By Date

It seems that in the political world, if you aren’t at least 70, you have no place running for president.

That is what Trump’s opponents are finding out in the Republican primary races. In his 80s, Biden is in the prime of life according to Joe. What is wrong with this picture?

I read in the Washington Post that in the 1840 election, William Henry Harrison had to overcome ageism when the Whig nominee was 67. In 1840 life expectancy was 40 years old. Tippecanoe was already past his sale-by date in that election. He died a month after becoming president.

But it seems that is what the country wants in their leaders…possible senility. The 118th Congress is one of the oldest ever. Diane Feinstein was the dean at 90, but she has recently passed. Chuck Grassley assumed that role at age 89, soon to be 90. The new House Speaker, Mike Johnson, is 51. If the Dems take the House, then Hakim Jeffreys would become speaker and he is 53. That is more like it.

Yet here we are a nation of nearly 340 million people, and we will pick one of two guys that were born when the U.S. had a population of less than 140 million. Biden will be celebrating his 81st birthday next week and Trump, who is not far behind, will be 78 at his next birthday.

I guess poor Ron DeSantis was way too young at 45 to really be a contender. 70% of Republican voters were age 50 or above with 37% above 65 in 2022. The whipper snapper doesn’t stand a chance.                                                                                                   UPI

We have gotten ourselves into this pickle for a couple of reasons. Gerrymandering and an absence of term limits. New people don’t run for election because incumbents are so entrenched in office. They age in place making it almost impossible for new blood to enter the process.

Our system is badly broken. If we don’t correct it and fast, the United States, we know won’t exist. What we have now is giving us a poor result. It is time to fix it.



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:


Tom’s Articles

From Medium

"A Shakeup Is Coming"


From Martin County Moments

"Where will The Train Station Be Located"


"And Now Anti-Semitism Is Claimed On The Island"


Other Articles

The New York Times: “The Trap Of The Overprotected Childhood”


The New York Times: “Can Humanities Survive The Budget Cuts”


The Washington Post: “Think cats are aloof? They make nearly 300 facial expressions, study says.”


Route Fifty: “What’s driving post-pandemic downtown recoveries”


The Capitolist: “Sticker shock: New College business plan calls for $600k per student to implement conservative vision”


The New York Times: “A Grocery Chain Just Fired Its Self-Checkouts”


Join Our Mailing List