January 7, 2024

Friends & Neighbors Edition

In this Edition

The New Year celebration is behind us, and last week shook us from our vacation mode and back to reality.

This may be the most controversial year for the country in quite some time. Putting aside the presidential election, we are in for our own political electioneering and perhaps turmoil in Florida and Martin County. It may become quite contentious locally as we elect school board members, county commissioners, and a few municipal positions.

I attended a preview of the King Tut Exhibition at the Elliott. Rob Steele, the director, has done amazing things there. And for a museum of our size to be able to have such an exhibition is wonderful. What is great to see is all the space that is now dedicated to local artists at the Elliott.

I mention the museum to show how Martin County is developing as a showcase for different artists. The Martin County Artisans Guild has many local artists that are showing their works at the Cultural Courthouse, the museum, and now a gallery at the Treasure Coast Mall.

I would love to have someone from our artist community become a regular contributor to Friends & Neighbors. Use the publication to show off our diverse arts scene.

There were few government meetings in the last weeks of 2023. Beginning with this coming week that will change as we return to our normal volume. Friends & Neighbors will continue reporting on local issues.

Welcome to 2024!

The Holiday

I had Christmas in Connecticut.

Besides telegraphing where I was, Christmas in Connecticut is an old Barbara Stanwick movie that has a snow laden New England farm as the setting. It is often played at this time of the year on TCM. I guess it harks back to a simpler time when you went home for the holiday to be with family and friends.

In my 2023 version, it was seasonably cold, yet mostly sunny during the days for the first half of the time and then the clouds rolled in for the second half. There was no snow. And I was glad of it.

One day we walked around Tod’s Point, one of the town’s beaches. When we lived there, we would do it quite regularly all year round. It is completely different than Martin County beaches.

Tod’s Point is a Long Island Sound Beach. There are stretches of sandy beach but most of the park is rocky with trees, a marina, kayaks, sailing center, oyster and clam beds, and a glorious view of Manhattan. It is where we came after September 11, 2001, to witness the still smoldering ruin of the World Trade Center.  It was where we brought our granddaughter this summer to play in the sand.

When I hear people complaining about traffic around Stuart, I must smile. The roads here are so jammed that rush hour lasts literally for hours. I-95, the main highway, has daily 30-mile backups from the New York State line stretching to Bridgeport at times and visa-versa.

My wife, daughter, and granddaughter ventured into New York one afternoon by train to see the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, walk around Fifth Avenue, visit the sites, and have dinner. While they were walking back to Grand Central to catch the train home around 8 pm, they passed the old Roosevelt Hotel. There were lines of immigrants waiting to go inside and be processed. A reminder that even on a holiday week, our national problems persist.

We had feasts for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Family and friends joined us around our dining room table. I read The Night Before Christmas as I have been doing for over 40 years. In the last few years, I have dressed as an elf for my granddaughter’s benefit.

As I grow older, these days mean more to me than in the past. Preparing and eating with those close is really very important. When we have spent Christmas or Thanksgiving in Florida or travelling, it hasn’t been the same. With each passing year, I cherish these get-togethers more and more.

I hope your holiday was as full as mine. Family and friends are what really count. The older I become, the more I believe that. 

A New Stuart Train Bridge

Congressman Brian Mast announced that all the funding needed for the new railroad bridge over the St. Lucie in downtown Stuart is much closer to reality thanks to a $130,500,000.00 USDOT-MPDG grant.

The final price tag of the now $218,000,000 bridge finally has all the elements they will need to have the nearly 100-year-old structure replaced. Stuart and the Florida Inland Navigational District applied for the federal portion along with a state grant of 25,500,000 that Florida East Coast Railway (FECR) applied for. The combined grants will be 72% of the total cost. The rest of the cost may have additional grants and will be picked up by FECR.

The marine industry and boaters will be large beneficiaries of the new bridge since at least 80% of boats will be able to navigate through the closed bridge. The horizontal span will increase to 90 feet from its current 50 feet. The height will be the same as the existing “old” Rosevelt Bridge on Dixie Highway.

Brightline and FECR will now have a dependable operating system. It will also be double tracked which will alleviate stacking. The new bridge will take until the end of 2027 to construct and demolition of the old one will begin as soon as construction is finished.

The real winners are Martin County residents…especially those living in Stuart. When completed, the fear of trains blocking road crossings throughout Stuart because of the old bridge’s failure to close will be greatly reduced. Emergency vehicles will be able to deliver patients to the emergency room, answer fire calls, and have police respond in a timely manner.

Everyone deserves some praise. Congressman Mast for championing the grant. Our Florida legislative delegation (Senator Harrell, Representatives John Snyder, and Toby Overdorf) for bringing the state grant to fruition. Past City Manager, David Dyess, for doing the preliminary work. The city commission for helping champion the cause.

The real unsung hero is current City Manager Mike Mortell for his tireless devotion to bringing it all together. He worked the phones and his personal contacts ceaselessly to make this happen. Stuart is in a much better place to go on another hundred years because of the new rail infrastructure. Now for the prize of having a rail station.  

As it appeared in Martin County Moments December 20, 2023

The Economy Is Humming Along

I think it is quite clear that the U.S. economy will almost certainly not be in a recession in 2024.

The New York Federal Reserve Bank

We have dodged that bullet. Inflation has come down to 3.1% for the year as reported in November. At the same time, real wages have outperformed inflation, which means that people have a bit more money in their pockets. The stock market is at an almost all-time high. And the outlook for 2024 has lower growth expectations than what has occurred in 2023, but it is still in a growth mode.

The Conference Board’s Consumer Index has consumers upbeat about the economy in 2024. Holiday spending increased by 3.1% over last year. All in all, Americans are beginning to think positively about the U.S. economy once more.

As price increases have moderated, consumers will begin to think that runaway inflation is under control. Most people who experienced the recent run up were not familiar with what went on in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the last time inflation was so high. Consumers think in year-over-year increases. And in 2021 and 2022, the cost of living certainly did jump over 2019.

There is a lag time in our wanting to accept what we paid for a product this year over last.  As 2024 rolls around most of us will compare prices based on what we paid in 2023 not 2019. For instance, in 1975 a dozen eggs cost 77 cents. No one expects that is what eggs should cost today. However, we remember quite vividly paying aproximately $2 a dozen in 2019 and now it is about $4 today.

Prices will not return to pre-covid times, but how we look at prices will be more in line with the increase in the price of a product year over year. By the end of 2024, I believe that consumer sentiment will have had a chance to absorb the data and conclude that the country has a fairly robust economy and that individuals are doing better than in the immediate past.

Support Libraries

I received an email as did several others from Becky Scheelk, the Family Outreach Specialist for the Martin County Library System (MCLS).

In January MCLS, will participate in “Libraries Step Up” which is sponsored by SEFLIN (Southeast Florida Library Information Network) to bring attention to the importance of libraries in our communities.  To help get the campaign off the ground, there will be “Libraries Step Up” post cards in every branch. The purpose of the campaign is to make sure that the word goes out describing how libraries impact our everyday lives.

Depending on our ages, all of us can remember our first experience with libraries. As a small child, you could find a world of books that in many homes were in short supply. I know that you can still explore a time or place that would never be available except through the prism of books. Checking out books at the local public library was a rite of passage for me.

Today, it isn’t only physical books that can be looked at and borrowed. Libraries are now so much more. But basically, they serve the same purpose as they did for me as a child and for countless generations before and since. Libraries can be a refuge from the chaos that some children confront daily.

Libraries with computers and internet connections allow those who do not have access at home to search for jobs. Libraries are places for people of all ages to find peace and tranquility from the daily blabber. It can be a place to read a newspaper, magazine, or book in a comfortable chair…a source of information in an increasingly divided world. A place to search out facts at a time when many have a hard time discerning them.

So, take a moment to stop in one of our libraries, pick up a “Libraries Step Up” card and fill it out with your story. We need to make sure our elected officials know why libraries are important to us, and why they need to exist in our fragmented world.

For more information, contact Becky at rscheel@martin.fl.us. Or go to any library and speak to the librarians.

VanRiper's Views

Darlene VanRiper

My New Year Resolutions…How are you doing on yours?

I am NOT going to get angry with the young guard at the next gated community who asks for my name FIVE times. 

I am NOT going to get angry with the next person who interrupts me (again and again) when I’m trying to read off an account number. 

I AM going to read “Great ABS for Women” which I purchased in 2001. 

I am NOT going to get frustrated over the fact that the speed limit has been reduced to 45 mph or less in nearly the entire county.  

I am NOT going to question why my grandchildren don’t seem to be familiar with the words “please”, “thank you” or “excuse me” when I am ABSOLUTELY sure that I drilled those words into their father’s head. 

I will stop speeding to make it to a pedicure appointment.

I will stop thinking “Everyone thinks I have COVID” every time I cough in public.

I will fight the urge to say, “Of course I want a receipt” with that condescending look in my eye.

I will stop thinking I am the only one in the world who can drive, especially during November to April.

I will stop hoping gas will EVER again go below $2.00 per gallon.

I am NEVER EVER no matter what, going to eat cheesecake again for the rest of my life.  Even though I love New York.  Manhattan especially.  Or maybe its Manhattans.  Yes, I’m sure its Manhattans.  My friends assure me its Manhattans. 

I’m going to stop asking myself what Jesus would do when I can’t even make it out of the church parking lot without cursing.  Under my breath of course and with an immediate apology.  BUT THEY CAN’T DRIVE EITHER!

I am going to stop thinking that Campenni will ever be optimistic about ANYTHING!

I do hope you are doing better than I am. 

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

Nicki's Place

Nicki van Vonno
van Vonno Consulting, Owner

The King

Lewis Black was at the Lyric Theatre recently. An award-winning comedian, playwright, and author who is retiring from touring, Lewis comes here every year.  He was annoyed that we had taken in the sun, and that the trains still hoot going through our confusing corner.  The angry truth sayer regaled us with stories of his elderly parents, his aging, and the current state of the world. Many of us were there, chuckling along as we laughed at our aging and being the sandwiched sandwich. The world is grumpy but I did put my in-your-face snarky t-shirts aside for more festive positive messages. I did buy Lewis’s snarky Christmas shirt.

Most poignant to me was when he talked about Elvis Presley being Jewish. He noted that the audience grew hushed at this comment, but we did not recoil when he warned that the two political parties ignore the voters who don’t want either incumbent on the ballot. The politicians don’t care what the voters want. They  want their 15 seconds of fame to parade their blow it all up disfunction. Is it any wonder that the world is a mess? 

I was not surprised by the news. I have lived with Elvis all my life. My sister rejected “Meet the Beatles” and gave it to me. She remained true to the King. I have seen all his movies and can sing some of the soundtracks.  I am partial to “Viva Las Vegas” and “G.I. Blues“ mostly because of his co-stars, Ann Margaret, and Juliet Prowse. Elvis was a twin and his twin Aaron died at birth. No mistaking the lineage of the King.

Black’s comments  about Elvis kindled memories of my Aunt Josephine. She loved Elvis. At some point she managed to be at Graceland. She didn’t have the money to enter or buy a souvenir. She prayed that God might provide her with something. Lingering under a tree, a bird nest dropped from a branch.

This story is likely just that, a story. Is Elvis the King?  To my aunt, he was a son of God.

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

New Year, New Me. That’s a cliché that we all hear repeatedly as each new year begins. But what is the significance of changing the calendar from December 31st of one year to January 1st of the next? How does that simple change of one second, technically, bring about a “new me.”

If you had asked me a year ago what my New Year’s resolutions are I would have told you I don’t have any. The changing of dates was trivial to me and held no meaning. I put no stock in declaring what I would do differently in the new year. Though I still feel similar about making resolutions on New Year’s Eve, my feelings towards the tradition have relaxed and I now have a different perspective to this time-honored tradition.

I have come to realize we need to set challenging goals for ourselves. It is easy to become complacent. It is inviting to just move along in life when we find a comfortable groove. But when we do that, we limit ourselves and our potential. I believe we all are capable of great things, but I also believe we must work to achieve that greatness. Setting goals is a way to measure our moves and to make sure we are still moving towards greatness.

These goals, they don’t have to be mountain moving. Small steps are ok if they are moving you forward. Sometimes you will move backwards, that’s ok, too, as long as your eyes are looking forward.

That reminds me of my time as a horse trainer. When a horse doesn’t want to move in the direction you are instructing there is not much you can do to stop the horse from moving its body in a different direction. Horses are much larger and more powerful than we are. However, if you control the head of the horse and keep it turned in the direction you want it to go the body will eventually follow. Keep your head and eyes on the goal and the rest will follow.

So, though I do not believe the starting of a new year is reason to set new goals or resolutions, if that is the time you have set aside to reflect on your accomplishments and shortfalls, to examine your path, and to set goals that will lead you toward your greatness, then I fully support that. If you do not partake in this tradition, set another time when you will examine where you are and where you’re headed. Set goals. Accomplish the goals. Set new goals. Rinse. Set. Repeat.

I wish you a happy, healthy New Year. May your goals be met, and your greatness be bright.

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

Carl's Conclusions

Carl Frost
Kai Kai Farms, Owner

Climate, Weather, And Vegetable Growing

Happy New Year from Kai-Kai Farm where we grow vegetables for local consumption. With the chill in the air this is the best time to discuss the influence of climate and weather on vegetable growth, development, and flavor profile. Our vegetable growing season is quite different than the summer season of sites as close as Jacksonville or as distant as Maine. One prerequisite for quality is growing temperatures, especially night temperatures.

Good flavor development, complemented by sugars and absence of bitterness begins with cool nights. Leafy greens, especially lettuce, require cool soil. Johnny’s Selected Seed sums it up best: “It grows best at (soil temperature) 60–65° F (16–18° C) and germinates best below 70° F (21° C), so careful variety selection is key for success in hotter weather”. And ‘hotter’ is not a Florida summer. We are talking about warmer than the 60s here.

A string of warm nights elevates the soil temperature and for lettuce the first thing a grower notices is visual. We call it ‘bolting’: a central stalk develops much like a miniature Christmas tree. This is where the grower’s local knowledge comes into play. Peruse the Johnny’s Selected Seed catalog lettuce section and you will find 11 types and within each type are many varieties. FYI there are no GMO lettuces. Let us start with the Bibb type. There are 5 green and 3 red varieties.

Our grower observes climate, we are in USDA Zone 10 A--subtropical, and the weather during the growing season. For cauliflower and brussels sprouts Zone 10A is on the margin of productivity. The grower, Diane Cordeau, must choose seeds which make a profitable crop whose outcome is based on crispness, taste, storage, disease resistance and yield. If it is not sweet you may tolerate it but if it is bitter that is a turn-off.

Diane relies upon years of trial and error relating to the time of the season and the weather conditions during that season.  Diane’s years of site experience guides seed variety selection. Consider the Treasure Coast’s variable weather combined with warming temperatures of climate change.

When we started growing lettuce in 2006 a winter with a freeze was a strong possibility. I recall how WPTV news would roll their truck out to Kai-Kai and ask how much damage our crops sustained after a freeze. We explained that lettuce tolerates freezing temperatures, and these low temperatures were beneficial. Conversely if we get a string of hot days in January no reporters show up because they cannot relate to our problem. Hot temperatures in winter can be big trouble for a lettuce grower.

Climate change is the new variable to consider for growers of all plants, especially vegetables.

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

Non-Profit Perspective

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

Milestones and Momentum: United Way's Year in Review

As we start a new year, let's take a reflective journey through the impactful chapters of 2023 – a year marked by triumphs, challenges and unwavering commitment at United Way of Martin County.

United Way Campaign:

We take pride in currently funding 44 programs provided by 32 agencies. Four of these programs are new to the United Way partnership; however, there were a few programs that either did not reapply for funding or the volunteers did not choose to approve their funding. While there are many quality programs out there, not every program that applies for United Way funding receives it. Our competitive grant process prioritizes programs with measurable impact, addressing critical needs within our community.

Although the United Way campaign continues until June 30, 2024, the landscape has evolved. Historically reliant on employee payroll deductions, the campaign now faces changes with third-party processors and limited access to employees. As the CEO of United Way, my primary concern lies not in the processing entity but in the absence of a local advocate educating employees about our community's needs. I encourage businesses to conduct workplace campaigns with United Way as the champion, fostering community impact.

The End of the American Rescue Plan Act Funding:

The American Rescue Plan Act funding came to an end in 2023. These invaluable funds, granted by the Martin County Board of County Commissioners, played a pivotal role in capital projects, mental health program expansion, and workforce development grants. United Way is deeply grateful for our partnership with the Martin County Board of County Commissioners in administering these crucial grants.

Paint the Town Read – Born Learning Trails:

This year also witnessed the installation of two more Born Learning Trails in Martin County, located in Stuart and Indiantown. Another trail is set to be installed in the first quarter of 2024, bringing the total to seven Born Learning Trails established in the past two years. These interactive trails are strategically designed to promote communication between parents/guardians and their children.

United Way of Martin County Foundation:

Our United Way of Martin County Foundation celebrated notable commitments and gifts throughout the past year. Our Foundation aims to reach $13 million in assets. Once achieved, the interest generated from this principal amount will provide $500,000 annually and will be available to fund various programs. We are getting closer and closer to our goal.

Need a Ride? Ride United:

Our Ride United program, launched at the end of 2022, has made a substantial impact in Martin County by addressing transportation barriers. Over 400 rides have been provided for doctor appointments, legal matters, employment opportunities, and educational pursuits, benefiting individuals of all ages, particularly our senior population and those without personal transportation.

United Way Holiday Project:

In December, we had the privilege of assisting more than 950 families through the United Way Holiday Project. Serving as the local coordinating organization for the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program, the distinctive boxes you encounter throughout Martin County serve as collection points for the toys we distribute to pre-registered families. Yes, I said pre-registered. Just like Santa, our process involves making a list and checking it twice. Referrals are submitted through the Martin County School District or select partner agencies who identify families in need of support during the festive season. Then, we collaborate with The Salvation Army and House of Hope to ensure each family receives assistance exclusively from one of our agencies. We encourage you to join us and thank those who helped make this season magical for many. 

When I look back at 2023, we faced many changes and challenges but overcame them with strength and dignity. I look forward to working with and serving our community in 2024. As always, if you have questions or concerns about United Way of Martin County, you can reach me via email chdiez@unitedwaymartin.org or call me at work, 772-283-4800. #LIVEUNITED

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

Business Development Board

Susan Rabinowitz
Business Development Board of Martin County, Board Chair

Happy 2024! A new year, new goals, and new opportunities to help others achieve theirs.

As the Treasure Coast Market President and Business Banking Market Executive for the Palm Beach and Treasure Coast markets, I lead a team that specializes in engaging with the community, listening closely to local business leaders, and empowering overall economic success.

The Business Development Board (BDB) of Martin County serves an essential role in this effort and I’m inspired to serve as the volunteer chair of the board of this esteemed organization. We have some great things in store in our ongoing commitment to strengthening Martin County’s economy.

Of course, the best way to reach your goals is to remember your roots and remain focused on your mission. Founded in 1991, the BDB acts as a key connection between the public and private sectors. Thanks to funding primarily from Martin County, as well as the City of Stuart, Village of Indiantown, and a variety of other local businesses, the BDB is tasked with:

  • Assisting the retention and expansion efforts of existing businesses (particularly those that attract out-of-area dollars into our local economy);
  • Helping the county create and refine incentive programs to attract targeted industries and businesses;
  • Acting as the primary liaison for the county’s economic development with the state;
  • Providing administrative services to the Martin County Industrial Development Authority;
  • Promoting Martin County as a great place to do business.

Economic development is a team sport. That’s reflected in our array of existing nonprofit and community partners, our various councils, and the makeup of our board. Our directors include representatives from the Economic Council, the five chambers of commerce, Marine Industries of the Treasure Coast, Martin County REALTORS of the Treasure Coast, and more.

We recently drew upon the talent and experience of our board members and key partners to further pinpoint our future areas of emphasis. Marketing the ideal business climate of Martin County—including its prime location between Miami and Orlando, ease of access by air, water and rail, permit-ready sites, top-rated schools and high quality of life—remains a preeminent priority.

We’re also focusing on developing and advancing the local workforce as well as identifying and pursuing key action items from our Pulse visits.

Over recent years we’ve conducted nearly 150 Pulse visits with local businesses, learning more about their challenges and concerns and availing our services and expertise. Armed with data and insights collected from recent years, we’ll conduct this year’s Pulse visits with an eye toward identifying reoccurring themes and persistent needs. This will enable us to sharpen our advocacy efforts and inform county decisions about investments in infrastructure, connectivity and more.

Business owners know all-too-well that every day is filled with both expected and unforeseen obstacles and opportunities—and sometimes the former can obscure the latter. But thanks to every insight provided by local business leaders, the BDB heightens its vantage point, helping all of us see a little clearer, prepare a little better—and move us ever closer toward a more resilient and prosperous economy.

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

Contemplative Christian

Chad Fair
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Pastor

It’s like magic every year, the ball drops, the champagne pops, and the fireworks explode as we launch ourselves into a new year, just so we can all sign up for gym memberships, start healthy diets, quit whatever vices we have and whatever else we might resolve to do in this new year.

It always struck me as odd that simply cracking open a new calendar and starting a new year meant everything was suddenly going to change.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the concept of wiping the slate clean and starting a new. I’m just not buying that changing calendars is the mechanism for fresh starts.

If only we as society had a mechanism, a blue print for what that might look like.  Can you imagine a world that granted fresh starts and new beginnings?  Oh wait, wait a minute!!!  What about confession, repentance, and forgiveness?

 Forgive me for being all Jesus-like for a minute, but the church actually has, built into its faith, a mechanism for new beginnings.  Yes, I understand the world doesn’t work like that entirely and we never get a TRULY fresh start, but it could be a starting point. 

Today, we are so quick to make judgements, lob insults and hold grudges.  But what if in this new year we actually tried to wipe the slate clean?  What if we tried to reconcile relationships with those whom with, we have become estranged? 

Trust me, I know it’s not always easy. I’m not suggesting we reengage in relationships that are harmful or unhealthy but a few years ago I read “The Book of Forgiving” by Desmond Tutu.  It is one of those books that has the ability to transform our lives and our world, if we are bold enough to engage it. 

I don’t want to give away the book but so many of the stories of tragedy and heartbreak were turned into radiant beams of life-giving light because people and families were able to commit to confessing their wrongs, repenting, and doing a new thing … forgiving those who hurt them.  Their world and the world as a whole was transformed because of it.

If by the time this is published you are still sweating it out on the treadmill, congratulations, you’ve lasted longer than many.  But maybe, while you run, we can all pick at least one strained relationship and commit to the act of reconciliation through confession, repentance, and forgiveness. 

I pray you all have a safe, happy and blessed 2024.

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

Anne's Assessment

Anne Posey
Tykes & Teens, CEO

New Year, New Resolutions?

As we enter 2024, many people create “resolutions” for the New Year to improve themselves.  We know that many people set very lofty goals and then often end up “failing” in the first month.

First, anytime we try, we succeed.  Our downfall may be in setting goals that are vague and non-specific, such as “lose 30 pounds” rather than a more achievable and specific goal such as “walk 30 minutes three times a week.”  We need to focus on an intention and celebrate our successes rather than focusing on what we haven’t achieved.

Look back at your past resolutions.  Have you set the same goal for the last 10 years?  If so, it may be time to focus on something different.  Ask yourself why you set that goal every year.  Is it really something that is important to you or are you trying to meet someone else’s expectations?

In mental health we set SMART goals.  SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time Bound.  This helps us to actually have a plan and to be able to check in on progress.  Checking in with a buddy on a regular basis to ensure we are working toward those goals and to define barriers that may be preventing us from achieving them can be helpful to achieving these goals.

Some strategies that can help achieve those goals for the new year include:

Get a buddy that you can check in with on a regular basis and can help hold you accountable.

Set a SMART goal.Instead of losing 30 pounds, consider breaking that goal down into more achievable steps:

  • Eat 30 grams of protein 4 out of 7 days for the next 30 days.
  • Walk 30 minutes 3 times per week for the next 30 days.
  • Perform 10 bicep curls 3 days per week for the next 30 days.

Celebrate successes by letting others know your progress.  Posting on social media or calling a friend.

Remember that you are striving for progress - not perfection.  Even if you don’t achieve 100% of the goal, you haven’t failed.  Give yourself grace for the struggle but celebrate even the smallest success. 

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

Helping Hand

Suzy Hutcheson
Helping People Succeed, CEO

When was your last Mental Health Check Up?

As we ring in the New Year, most of us tend to make resolutions that will benefit our physical well-being.  

Granted – we know that is important for the lively hood of our physical presence. Let me ask the question. What about your mental health presence? Mental health refers to our emotional and social well-being and impacts how we think, feel, and behave. It plays a role in connecting with others, making decisions, handling stress, and many other aspects of daily life. Everyone has mental health, and it deserves your attention just as much as your physical health does.

Whether you realize it or not, mental health plays a big role in your overall well-being.

When you’re mentally healthy, you are able to enjoy your life and the people in it, feel positive about yourself, maintain key relationships and deal with stress. It’s normal for your mental health to shift over time – we all face difficult situations in our lives. Creating positive habits is a great way to support your mental health when you’re doing well and helps you build skills to use if you do face symptoms of a mental health condition.

Some positive habits include:

  • Good food choices and nutrition
  • Exercise
  • Good quality sleep
  • Stress Management
  • Identify Coping Skills
  • Build a Support System

Supporting our mental health is so important and, in many cases, critical to our well-being. Let’s look at some facts. About one in four American adults suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year, and one in 10 will suffer from a depressive illness, such as major depression or bipolar disorder (Johns Hopkins). Mental health crises account for 60 million visits to primary care and six million ER visits annually. Six million ER visits! That number certainly made me take a deeper look at this issue.

Helping People Succeed is now a major player, right here in our community, making a difference when it comes to the matter of mental health. We offer specialized outpatient mental health counseling, targeted case management and psychiatric services for adults, children, and adolescents.  When was your last Mental Health Check Up? Give us a call

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

Keep Martin Beautiful

Tiffany Kincaid
Keep Martin Beautiful, Executive Director

Keep Martin Beautiful: Going Strong at 30!

Happy New Year to you and happy 30th anniversary to Keep Martin Beautiful. Since 1994, our mission-driven nonprofit has been working with civic and school groups, government agencies, environmental organization, businesses, families and individuals to improve our neighborhoods, remove litter and debris from our streets, parks, beaches and waterways, and develop a deeper connection to and respect for our natural environment.

Our organization thrives thanks to thousands of volunteers who join in community improvement efforts. They enhance neighborhoods each spring during the Great American Cleanup, clean up beaches and waterways in the fall during the International Coastal Cleanup, and regularly remove litter through our Adopt-a-Road program.   

While their work might go unnoticed, their dedication results in a cleaner, safer, more beautiful Martin County. And it’s not just litter prevention and removal. It’s also their passionate dedication to proper recycling, upcycling, living with a smaller carbon footprint and more.

As we begin our year of celebration, we invite you to become more involved in Keep Martin Beautiful activities. But first, how about taking an old-fashioned quiz where the answer key can be found upside down at the end of this article! Let’s see how much you already know about litter and recycling.

If you don’t know whether an item is recyclable, it’s better to put it in the recycling bin.




Which of the following items are not recyclable in your curbside bin?

A.   Plastic bottles

B.   Mail

C.   Plastic bags and wrap      

D.   All of the above

E.   None of the above


How many years does it take for an aluminum can to fully decompose in a landfill.

A.   50

B.   100

C.   500


4. How long before a used aluminum has gone through the recycling process and is back on the shelves?

A.    60 days

B.    4 months

C.    1 year


5. Recycling one glass bottle saves enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for how long?

A.   4 minutes

B.   4 hours

C.   4 days       


6. How many times can a glass bottle be recycled?

A.    5 times

B.    20 times   

C.    Indefinitely


7. Along with plastic grocery bags, which of the following can be recycled at retailers with plastic recycling bins?

A.   Bags from dry cleaning

B.   Bags from bread

C.   Bags from newspapers

D.   All of the above    

E.   None of the above


8. How many pounds of waste does the average American generate in a day?

A. Between 1 and 2   

B. Between 4 and 5

C. Between 10 and 11


Interested in learning more and joining the corps of volunteers who keep Martin beautiful? Visit our website and make Keep Martin Beautiful a part of your new year.

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

Art of Business

Chriss David
Founder, Chriss David and Associates

What Is Your Online Reputation?

Many business owners ask how they build their reputation and monitor it, so I thought I would cover this topic, keeping it short, easy to digest, and implement.

Why Online Reputation Rocks

Your online reputation is like your business's digital handshake—it's the first and lasting impression you make. When folks see good things about you online, they're more likely to pop into your store/office or click 'buy/book' on your website. It's all about making sure that when people search for you, they see many great reviews, your brand name has a widespread positive digital footprint, and you are seen as an experienced expert who is trustworthy and an authority in your industry. (This is called E.E.A.T)

Dealing with the Oopsies

Everyone has off days, and so do businesses. Don't sweat it if a customer isn't thrilled and posts a negative review. You can show off excellent customer service by responding quickly and kindly.

Your Online Reputation To-Do List

1. Watch What's Being Said: Use tools like Google Alerts to know when your business is mentioned online. It's like being a fly on the wall everywhere at once.

2. Answer Back: Got a less-than-stellar review? Reply to it—nicely, of course. It shows you care and value feedback.

3. High-Five the Happy Customers: When customers are happy, nudge them to share their joy online. Simple thank-yous or an easy review process can go a long way.

4. Create Informative Content: Share tips, how-tos, or FAQs related to your biz. It helps people see you as the go-to expert.

5. Get Social: Have honest conversations with customers on social media. It's all about building relationships, and this shows you are approachable.

6. Link Up: Encourage other sites to link back to yours to boost your street cred online.

7. Video: Use your smartphone to create short videos/reels that are educational and help people make decisions or answer pain point questions. Video generates a psychological bond with your potential client. The more you make, the more they begin to feel as if they know, like, and trust you.

8. Press Release: When you do something for the community, win an award, create a new product, and so on, write a press release and send it out to all the local news.

Where To Start

Before diving in, search your business name. What do you see? This will show you what you're doing right and what you might need to work on.

Spread Positive Vibes

Good reviews and happy customer stories are gold. Showcase them! It's like having a crowd of people cheering for you online.

Handle Hiccups Like a Boss

When negative feedback shows up, use it as a chance to improve and demonstrate your commitment to customer satisfaction.

In a Nutshell

Your business is more than just a name—it's a story that's told online. By staying connected, responding with care, and sharing positive experiences, you're making sure it’s a bestseller. Keep your online rep shining bright, and watch your business grow!

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

President of the Martin County Teachers Association

Matt Theobold
President of the Martin County Teachers Association

As we begin 2024, many of us are contemplating the ways we can better ourselves in the year ahead. From diets and exercise, to reading more, we often see those around us actively working to improve their situations so they can feel better, enjoy life, and take care of themselves and the ones they care about. With so much improvement going on around us, its easy for us to want to join in the fun, and I for one am all for it.

The MCEA has resolved to continue taking positive steps forward in 2024, and we are inviting the School Board of Martin County to join with us and do the same.

According to the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE), Martin County currently ranks as the seventh most expensive district in the state in terms of cost of living. However, when it comes to salary, Martin County ranks 46th.

Similarly, when Martin County is compared to similar counties in terms of size and location, over the past seven years, the district has dropped from the fourth highest salary (among comparables) to the seventh, ranking us dead last compared to Palm Beach, St Lucie, Okeechobee, and Indian River Counties. At $49,220, the average teacher salary in Martin County is nearly $4000 less than the state average. In contrast, Charlotte County, which was ranked sixth (among comparables) has jumped all the way to number one with an average salary of $58,146.

Clearly, the School Boards of Charlotte and our surrounding counties have figured out a way to increase salaries and pay their teachers a competitive wage. Since the district’s own data indicates that the turnover rate for instructional staff in Martin County is an astonishing 42% over the past four years, it would behoove our School Board to take a page from the playbooks of our neighbors and other comparable districts if they want to remain competitive and retain our quality educators.

Given that our Superintendent recently praised instructional staff for increasing Martin County’s ranking in the state accountability system to 9th place out of 67 counties, its safe to say that our educators have earned a raise.

Any teacher will tell you they don’t educate children for the income, but instead, they do it for the outcome. Asking for a living wage isn’t greedy; it’s a necessity for us to do what we love and continue to serve the students and the community we care so much about. Hopefully, our School Board will adopt a New Year’s resolution that shows teachers how much they care about them, that values them as professionals, and pays them the living wage they deserve.

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

Julia's Healthy Gems

Julia Chiappetta
Julia Chiappetta Consulting

What are polyphenols? Simply put, they are naturally occurring plant compounds found in fruits, vegetables, spices, nuts, and plants that play a significant role in maintaining wellness, by protecting the cells in our bodies from free radicals, which cause damage and risk for diseases.

Polyphenols are antioxidants found abundantly in natural plant food sources. There are over 8,000 identified polyphenols found in tea, wine, chocolates, fruits, vegetables, and extra virgin olive oil, to name a few. Please see below some polyphenol-rich foods to load into your shopping bags. Organic is essential, otherwise you are consuming calories & chemicals vs. calories & nutrients.






Olives (Black & Green)

Onion (Red & Yellow)

Red lettuce


Spinach Shallot






Black Currants



Grape (Concord)






Herbs & Seasonings:


Celery Seed


Common Sage



Lemon Verbena

Mexican Oregano




Sweet Basil


Other notables:  

Dark Cacao

Green Tea

Hazel Nuts


Red Wine

Some studies have shown that Polyphenols improve a variety of health issues, such as reducing inflammation, blood pressure & cholesterol. Here is a link that provides more data, that you may find of interest:  What Are Polyphenols? Types, Benefits, and Food Sources (healthline.com)         

My approach in taking many paths to wellness is that foods can function as useful information & natural medicine for our bodies. Think about your dinner tonight. Could your fork be the vehicle to send healthy signals to your cells to promote healing and determine how you may feel?

In closing, I wanted to share this simple quote by Michael Pollan, in his book In Defense of Food, as sage advice.  "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants."

Polyphenol-rich foods are like a pharmacy that enhances body performance, moves you into the inflammation-free zone, promotes vitality, and packs a powerful punch in your menu planning.

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

Cleveland Clinic Reports

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

Martin Health Celebrates Tradition Hospital’s 10th Anniversary

As Cleveland Clinic Traditional Hospital Turns 10, We Celebrate its Ability to Provide Outstanding Patient Care.

As the sun sets over the Florida skyline, the radiant glow of celebration filled the air, marking a decade of excellence in healthcare at Cleveland Clinic Tradition Hospital. The 10-year anniversary was a testament to physicians’ and caregivers’ unwavering commitment to compassionate care, innovation, and community well-being.

Located in Port St. Lucie, one of South Florida’s fastest growing communities, Tradition Hospital opened in 2013 as part of Martin Health System with 90 beds to provide emergency services, intensive care, labor and delivery, neonatal intensive care, general and specialized surgery, inpatient oncology, GI and endoscopy, diagnostic imaging, and clinical research.  

Tradition Hospital expanded to eight floors in 2017 and doubled its capacity to serve the needs of the ever-growing population.

Since Martin Health integrated with Cleveland Clinic in 2019, Tradition Hospital, along with Martin North and South hospitals and Cleveland Clinic Florida hospitals in Weston and Vero Beach, offers even more innovative technologies and procedures. Some of these include robotic lung biopsy and tumor removal, robotic total joint replacement, sleep apnea treatment, defibrillator removal and newborn retinal screenings.

In the last 10 years, Tradition Hospital caregivers have attended to more than 140,000 hospitalized patients, performed 47,000 surgeries, treated 342,000 emergency visits, and delivered 15,000 babies. And the hospital has added services to the community by doubling the number of physicians, tripling the number of advanced practice providers, and increasing the number of people seen by 20% since the integration with Cleveland Clinic in 2019. 

Cleveland Clinic Tradition Hospital’s dedicated caregivers are deeply rooted in this community, not only working here but also living here and fostering a profound connection as they tirelessly provide compassionate care to enhance the well-being of our neighbors. We are committed to transforming health care in our community and are proud to bring advanced care and innovative solutions to our own backyard, right here in Port St. Lucie.

A major focus on Tradition Hospital has been neurosciences (neurology, neurosurgery, stroke care), colorectal surgery, and maternity care. Tradition Hospital achieved a major milestone in 2023 by receiving the first Comprehensive Stroke Center designation in the Treasure Coast.

The hospital also excels in maternal care, earning high performance ratings in 2022 and 2023 in US News and World Report’s Best Hospitals for Maternity Care. It also serves as a center for those with gastrointestinal and colorectal issues by offering advanced robotic procedures. 

Growing with the Community
Longtime caregivers who witnessed the hospital’s significant growth shared their stories, including Bill Wright, Nurse Operations Manager, who recalls sneaking onto the private farmland that now holds Tradition Hospital to fish with his friends. A long-time resident of Port St. Lucie, he is thrilled to be working in a new, modern hospital serving his community. Since joining Martin Health System in 2005, Bill worked in various intensive care roles. Once he heard the health system would be building a new hospital in west Port St. Lucie, Bill knew that was where he wanted to be.

Reflecting on the past 10 years, Bill says the construction and growth have been “exciting.” He credits Cleveland Clinic with having the resources to pull the hospital through a very challenging pandemic. Bill says he could not be happier to be right where he is.

The 10-year milestone reminds us that the journey of healing and care is ongoing – evolving each day. Cleveland Clinic Tradition Hospital stands as a symbol of resilience, compassion, and a commitment to excellence. Like all of Martin Health, it sets the stage for a future filled with constant innovation and steadfast dedication to the communities we serve.

Congratulations to all Cleveland Clinic Tradition Hospital caregivers on this milestone anniversary! They are touching people’s lives in Port St. Lucie, Stuart and beyond!

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

Other Opinions


Martin County Property Appraiser

Jenny Fields
Martin County Property Appraiser

January 5, 2024 will mark my third (3rd) year as your Martin County Property Appraiser.  I maintain my commitment to Martin County residents and business owners that my Office will provide excellent customer service, educational-focused community outreach, and a highly efficient and productive office operation.

Our Office remains diligent in keeping pace with the ever-expanding technology within the appraisal industry. Advanced technologies and software applications continue to be incorporated into our workflow in order to increase productivity and accuracy, streamline processes, and allow electronic applications to complete tasks previously requiring manual entry and analysis.  Examples of applied technologies include the online homestead application, automatic uploads of property ownership changes and building permits, in-house property review using aerial photography (to offset field visits), and bulk property and building sketch validation.  As proof of LEAN process improvement, our staff has decreased by one (1) professional even during a period of increased sales, property development, and ownership transfers within our County. 

The Office continues to make powerful data driven, user-friendly improvements to our interactive website increasing overall favorable customer service.  In fact, the website saw healthy traffic receiving more than 3.5 million-page views in 2023!

Our robust Community Outreach Program continues to educate and inform Martin County residents and business owners, community leaders, civic organizations, real estate and title companies, homeowner associations, real estate and trust attorneys, non-profit organizations, chambers of commerce, and the local media.  The Office strives for residents to not only understand what goes into valuing their home and/or business, but also other topics which may in turn provide significant savings on annual property tax bills.  Our Community Outreach Program incorporates a variety of marketing methods including public relations, website, social media, printable handouts, educational videos, informational articles with eleven (11) print and digital affiliates, E-News blasts, and public speaking engagements.  In 2023, our Office presented to 38 diverse groups with a cumulative audience of nearly 1100 participants.   

None of this would be possible without my talented team of professionals.  Their hard work, dedication, unique knowledge, and accessibility is what makes the Office successful in its mission!  Thank you for the honor of serving as your Martin County Property Appraiser.  Happy new year and all the very best in 2024!

Jenny Field’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Article 5: Outreach and Support

Jim Snedeker & Merritt Matheson
Martin County Forever

Preserving Paradize: A Half Cent At  A Time

By: Jim Snedeker & Merritt Matheson, former Stuart Mayor







In our first four articles we discussed how Martin County is such a special place in part, because of how much of our land is still natural and undeveloped. We made the case for why acquiring and preserving more land can protect our quality of life and community character. We reviewed the Countys history of acquiring land and how it’s been very successful at receiving matching State and Federal funds. In our third article, we talked about the four areas targeted for purchase and how they can protect our water quality.

The devil is in the details, so in our last article, we dove into the “guardrails” we’re including in the proposed sales tax initiative to make it clear how funds would be used to give taxpayers confidence the money raised will be spent in the way it was intended. We encourage you to click on any or all of the links above to get caught up on what we’ve been working on.

This article explains our education and outreach efforts for the last year and the critical feedback we received that helped us refine the details of the initiative.

Citizens are Passionate and Deeply Involved in Martin County

Many of us are familiar with our county’s unofficial tagline, “Martin County: It’s Different Here.” Part of that difference is the diversity of interest groups, as well as their passion and advocacy. Last year, we met with dozens of groups and hundreds of people to seek their feedback and also conducted wider polling to collect data on voter preferences. We’ve made presentations to the leadership and membership of environmental groups including Florida Oceanographic, Indian Riverkeeper, Friends of the Everglades, VoteWater and the Rivers Coalition. They are fully supportive of our efforts, as this initiative dovetails perfectly with their roles in protecting our natural environment and water quality.  

We’ve also been encouraged by the support we received during presentation to the members of the Stuart/Martin County and Palm City Chambers of Commerce.  They have remarked on the importance of getting this sales tax initiative on the ballot in November 2024 and letting the voters decide.

There is consensus that one of the key advantages of a half-cent sales tax referendum is that an estimated 37.5% of the funds raised will be paid by tourists.

Much of the constructive criticism we received focused on the details of the wording of the referendum as well as the lengthier ordinance language which will ensure voters are comfortable and confident that the money raised will be used in the way it was promised.  Here are some important elements of the initiative: 

Lands will only be purchased from willing sellers.

Land to be purchased will be limited to four designated areas:

  • Blueways Beach areas
  • Pal-Mar
  • Indian River Lagoon Region
  • Loxahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers

The ability to purchase Conservation Easements will be included.

  • This allows for the purchase and removal of development rights off of agricultural lands while still allowing farming to continue.
  • No more than 5% of the annual revenue generated through the sales tax can be used to purchase conservation easements.

The following categories will be excluded from being taxed: groceries, pharmaceutical supplies and school supplies.  Only the first $5,000 of any purchase will be subject to the sales tax.

An independent Citizens Oversight Committee will be established and will include diverse volunteers from business, conservation, taxpayers, realtors, hospitality and other sectors.

An Annual Audit will be conducted of all monies obtained through the sales tax and how they are being spent.

Martin County Commissioners will hopefully be voting on this sales tax initiative within the next month or so.  We hope you will join our devoted group of volunteers who are focused on preserving what sets Martin County apart from areas to the north and south of us. 

Send us an email and let us know what you think. And if youd like to schedule a presentation to your group, contact us at martincoutnyforever@gmail.com.  

For more info visit www.martincountyforever.com, follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/martincountyforever or on Instagram at instagram.com/martincountyforever

Thank you!

Snedeker & Matheson's opinions are their own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors’ viewpoint.

Martin County Taxpayers Association

The Martin County Taxpayers Association wants to formally endorse Stuart’s and Martin County’s bid for a Brightline Station.

We have analyzed the economic benefit to the taxpayers and have concluded that a station will pay for itself. That is especially true given the likelihood of most of Martin County’s and Stuart’s costs being picked up by federal and state grants. The boom in tourist development should be substantial.

Even now, our largest number of visitors are from Miami-Broward followed by Orlando. If a station is in Stuart, tourism will only become a larger factor in our economy. The increased bed tax will go a long way for our beach renourishment program and inlet dredging.

Downtown Stuart will expand physically and economically as will the nearby Arts District. There will be opportunities for new and expanding businesses, especially restaurants and hotels. It will be possible to spend a delightful weekend of shopping, dining, and attending a Lyric performance without ever the need for a car.

A short Uber ride will take visitors to our beaches, Splash Water Park, or Halpatiokee Park. The federal government has designated passenger rail as a “back to the future” necessity. Stuart grew up with the old Flagler railroad. It is now here again under the auspices of Brightline.

There is also the ability for a Martin County resident to jump on the train and commute to West Palm or Broward instead of driving on congested highways. We will have the opportunity to take a train to Orlando or Miami for a couple of days to take advantage of what those cities offer. We also will have options for going to or coming from airports to our south and north. Those trips can be very challenging now.

Brightline going through Martin County 32 times a day is a reality. We can wave at the trains as they speed by or take the opportunity to have Brightline contribute to our coffers by doing nothing more than having a station in downtown Stuart which is the beating heart of the county. We wholeheartedly support a station in Martin County at this location.  

Constitutional Corner & Non Profit Notices


Supervisor of Elections

Tax Collector

Property Appraiser


Martin County Clerk & Comptroller

Non Profit Notices



Stuart, FL. – The ARC of the Treasure Coast is getting into the restaurant business. The organization acquired Alice’s Family Restaurant, A Caring Cafe at 2781 S.E. Ocean Blvd. in Stuart. A soft launch and ribbon cutting ceremony was held on Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023.

The fully operational restaurant will serve deli fare including sandwiches and salads and will train and employ individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities under the guidance of the ARC of the Treasure Coast. While the ARC offers similar job training opportunities, ACC will be a new expansion into food service training.

“The Caring Cafe program addresses the industry-wide staffing shortages, low incomes, and the unemployment rates of people with disabilities,” said Keith W. Muniz, President, and CEO of ARC of the Treasure Coast. “ARC is collaborating with Treasure Coast & Indian River Provisions, Boar's Head distributors, to hire experienced trainers and coaching staff for ACC.”

ACC uses the Boar's Head Corp. training module focusing on all aspects of working in food service, ranging from restaurant and deli to food distribution in an on-the-job environment.  Indian River Provisions will provide consulting, training, equipment, and product for the operations.

The intensive training of individuals with disabilities and low-income clientele is focused on employment preparedness. The goal is to develop successful candidates who can be employed by companies like Publix, restaurants, and other food providers including ACC.


Advocates for the Rights of the Challenged, is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization dedicated to assisting and supporting children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to achieve their fullest potential through residential, vocational, behavioral, and other related healthcare services


Save the Date!                                                               
The 3rd Annual Jensen Beach Garden Expo

Don’t miss this annual tradition in Jensen Beach
February 24, 2024 – 9AM to 3PM


The 2024 Jensen Beach Garden Expo will be held on Saturday, February 24, 2024, from 9-3 at Indian Riverside Park in front of the Dockside Pavilion. The event will be better than ever, with lots MORE PARKING, a parking shuttle, and more food trucks and door prizes.

The Expo is a specialty garden show featuring local vendors showcasing tropical plants, trees, native specimens, and exotic orchids. Shop for herbs, succulents, outdoor art, and gardening supplies for your backyard or patio. The show includes free educational presentations and demonstrations each hour on the half hour. Stroll through the park under the shady live oak trees, enjoy waterfront views of the Indian River, and check out this fun, educational plant and garden fair.

As in the past, net proceeds raised by the Expo will support our community. We are very excited to extend our giving this year through an annual scholarship to deserving local high school students pursuing a degree in horticulture, landscape design, environmental sciences, or other related subjects. The Expo will continue supporting those in need, including camp scholarships for children to attend the Florida Oceanographic Society and the Environmental Studies Center, the Junior Master Gardeners, and the Community Gardens of the House of Hope.

Brought to you in part by Circa69 American Gastropub our major event underwriter, and the many sponsors supporting the Expo. For more information, please visit our website: www.jensenbeachgardenclub.com
Follow us on Instagram and Facebook.


Available for Adoption from Caring Fields Felines

Sweet Glinda was dropped outside our gate in the middle of the summer heat at night…pregnant.  But she was not alone.  Sharing the box she was left in was another pregnant cat.  Both have raised their litters of kittens.  Glinda is a particularly nice cat with a quiet, appreciative manner who is surely under 5 years old.  Only 1 of her kittens remains for adoption, Gazpacho, who is featured below.


Born in late September, little Gazpacho has been described by his foster mom as the sweetest, most cuddly kitten she has ever fostered….and she has fostered LOTS of kittens! He is curious, playful, and funny, but when it comes time to take a rest, he just wants to be with his person and snuggle.  As a very young kitten, an issue developed with his 3rd lid which fused shut.  Our veterinarian opened it, and you may notice that his eyelid looks a little wonky.  But, it requires no additional medical attention and he has sight in the eye.  We like to think it gives him character!  His coat is developing a brownish hue adding to his unique style. 

These 2 can be adopted individually or together and would make fine additions to any home.

Caring Fields is a no-kill, nonprofit feline rescue and adoption organization located in Palm City. Adoption hours are from 11am to 3pm daily (closed on Sun) and is located at 6807 SW Wedelia Terrace. 772.463.7386



Pinot & Picasso: Unveiling the 2024 Art for Living Calendar

By Glenna Parris

Helping People Succeed’s Pinot & Picasso, An Evening of Fine Wine and Art, celebrated 10 years of distinction while unveiling the 2024 Art for Living Calendar at Harbour Ridge Yacht & Country Club on November 18.

Bill Lichtenberger with Linda and Randy Prange

Artists displayed their calendar pieces in addition to several other paintings available for purchase at the popular event.  Artists include Kirsty Smith Innis, Marian Vitale, Charles T. White, Susan Clifford, Stacy Weller Ranieri, Pat Hoshino, Dan Mackin, Patrice Scott, Don MacIntosh, Sharon Ferina, Pamela Patterson, Sue Ann Mosley-Saleeby, Holly Cannon and Laura DeBerard.

Darcy Weir, Bill and Susan Clifford

Fullhouse Entertainment livened up the room as nearly 200 guests were greeted with an extravagant silent auction while sipping cocktails. Guests were later seated in a formal setting for a delectable plated dinner served with wine pairings. Sponsors were recognized as well as event host, Bill Lichtenberger. Emcee Darcy Weir shared her personal volunteer experience with Helping People Succeed and noted that in the    end, as she learned from one the clients with disabilities, we are all winners.

Major sponsors included host Bill Lichtenberger, Celebrities Fore Kids sponsored by Marlene Filer, Allen Herskowitz, Bob Weissman, John and Dot Coblentz, Bob Crandall, Jack and Ginny Luther, Live Hearty, James and Jayne Mondello, The Silvester Foundation, Fred and Patty Pollak, Team Temara, and Treasure Coast Urgent Care.  

Dorothy Liddle, Melody and Bob (sitting) Floyd, Bill Crandall, and Suzy Hutcheson

A special highlight of the evening was the viewing of original Picasso pieces from a private collection. The works of art included the Tete de Femme – a linocut in color, a self-portrait, and three ceramics titled Esmeralda, Petit Hen and Masque. The owner of the pieces was in attendance of the event yet remained anonymous.

Auctioneer Drew Pittman donated his time and talent to auction live items to the top bidders in the room and led the audience into a Call to the Heart which raised over $20,000 to help families throughout the year who have emergent needs.

Ellyn Stevenson and Bob Crandall

Overall, Helping People Succeed raised a record-breaking amount of $150,000. Guests, sponsors, Art for Living Calendar artists and their underwriters, and auction contributors played a major role in contributing to the success of Pinot & Picasso!

Helping People Succeed has been serving the Treasure Coast for close to six decades. Through its diversified, effective program services and initiatives, hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable local children, families and adults have been able to transform their lives through education, counseling, training, and employment. For more information or to purchase a calendar contact Glenna Parris at 772-320-0778 or visit  www.hpsfl.org.

Photos By Liz  McKinley


ArtsFest 2024… What’s New?

By Jackie Holfelder

ArtsFest has been dazzling the Treasure Coast since 1988. The 2024 version promises to continue the tradition … with some special new twists to add to the excitement.

Set for February 10-11 at East Ocean Boulevard & Memorial Park in downtown Stuart, ArtsFest will run from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. both days.

Entertainers at 2023 ArtsFest

Born of a desire by MartinArts to promote and celebrate local arts and culture, ArtsFest brings the community together every year. The fine arts are the backbone of the event, thanks to the reputation of the participating artists. But it doesn’t end there. Music, kids’ activities presented by community organizations, student art, the CHOPPED competition, and other events will ensure that ArtsFest will maintain its award-winning image.

Southeast Tourism Society highlighted ArtsFest as one of 20 events not to be missed from across the entire Southeast U.S.

Watch talented students and professional artists create outstanding chalk art that is a part of a grant from the State of Florida, Division of Arts & Culture to bring new art educational experiences to middle school students, which expands MartinArts programming into this vital age range. Schools and community groups will compete for awards for works that will being created on Saturday morning and judged on Sunday afternoon.

Sunday will feature “Art Speaks,” in which a dozen-plus in-person competitors will be vying for the best-spoken word poetry award. Judges will be selected from the audience. Spoken word poet Stella B will organize the day’s activities and liven up the day. Registration is filled, but a wait list is being maintained.

Stilt Walkers at 2022 ArtsFest

ArtsFest’s perennial favorite CHOPPED takes place during the day on Saturday.

ArtsFest is travelling back to its traditional location in Memorial Park and along East Ocean Boulevard. For the past few years, it took up a little less space as the festival and event world recovered from the pandemic. Now it is back at full strength and MartinArts can’t wait to spread its wings again.

There are many ways to support ArtsFest.

·        Volunteers are the only way ArtsFest happens each and every year. The team planning the event is driven by volunteers. During the weekend, more than 100 people serve in roles that would have salaries of tens of thousands of dollars. Simply put, ArtsFest wouldn’t happen without volunteers. Find out what jobs and time slots are available at ArtsFestStuart.org and sign up today.

·        Be a sponsor. Spaces are limited, but with sponsorship you expose your business to thousands of visitors throughout the weekend and show them you value how the arts make our community a better place to live, work and play

·        Save the date and plan to attend. $5 admission provides a day full of entertainment, plus you support a nonprofit organization, MartinArts. Admission revenues are reinvested all year and support educational programming and community events in our vibrant arts community.

·        Find a Turtle. The beloved pre-ArtsFest scavenger hunt for glass turtles, made by Dot Galfond and included as a part of the Office of Tourism’s “Arts & Culture Trail” may get you a free entry or a VIP package.

Photos by Liz McKinley


Martin County Community Makes
Holidays Bright for Hibiscus Children

Martin County –  Our local community helped to make the holidays brighter this season for children living at the Tilton Family Children’s Shelter in Jensen Beach.   The Hibiscus “Santa’s Elves” Program partnered closely with our generous community to collect and organize toys and gifts.  Hibiscus Children’s Center provides safe haven to children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse.   Children living at the Hibiscus Shelter receive critical services including mental health counseling, education and literacy, medical and dental services. 

Santa’s Elves (AKA our wonderful Martin County Guild Members) coordinate, wrap gifts and ensure the children’s wish lists are filled!  The holiday spirit of giving and generosity was in the air as local businesses and individuals held toys drives and donated lots of toys, games, puzzles, dolls and much more!   In addition, the Santa’s Elves created a Life Enrichment Activities fund so children can enjoy special activities throughout the year.  These include museums, educational exhibits, fishing, sailing, art camp, and much more!  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.  

Hibiscus is grateful to our community, volunteers and staff for bringing joy and smiles to the children’s faces on Christmas morning!  Thank you to all who donated to the Santa’s Elves Program and Life Enrichment Activities.  Your generosity, caring spirit and kindness to the children have brightened their holiday season and given them special memories that will last a lifetime.   

For more information about Hibiscus Children’s Center and how you can get involved to help children, please visit us at HibiscusChildrensCenter.org.



Treasure Coast Hospice Foundation Recognizes 2023 Thanks for Giving Honoree

Long-time Supporters Richard and Denise Boyle and Philanthropist Susan King

Honored for Their Distinguished Service

(STUART, Fla. Dec. 19, 2023) – The Treasure Coast Hospice Foundation presented its 2023 Thanks for Giving Awards to two honorees during this year’s Jingle and Mingle reception. Long-time supporters Richard[1] and Denise Boyle and philanthropist Susan King were honored for their commitment to the Treasure Coast Hospice mission and distinguished service to philanthropy through time, talent and treasure.

“Thanks for Giving celebrates the incredible contributions that our honorees have made and how their generosity supports quality end-of-life care for our community,” said Treasure Coast Hospice CEO Jackie Kendrick, CHPCA. “Our honorees exemplify selfless service because they care deeply about providing compassionate care to the individuals and families we serve.”

A special Thanks for Giving honor, the Joan Hay-Madeira Award, was presented to Denise Boyle for the incredible support that she and her late husband Richard provided to the organization since 2004. The Boyle’s volunteerism and financial support have made a lasting impact on the patients and families served by Treasure Coast Hospice.

Richard served concurrently as the Treasurer on the Treasure Coast Hospice Board of Directors and as the Secretary/Treasurer on the Foundation Board of Trustees for eight years. During that time, he also chaired the Finance and the Investment Committees, served as a member on the Compensation Committee and both Executive Committees, providing the organization with immeasurable hours and business expertise.

Thanks for Giving Honorees Denise Boyle and Susan King

Denise has served as a volunteer with the Founding Friends of Treasure Coast Hospice for 24 years, helping to raise funds for Treasure Coast Hospice’s Youth and Family Grief Support Programs. For 20 of those years, Denise served as the publicity chair and also chaired the golf event held at Harbour Ridge for two years. Today, she remains actively involved with the Founding Friends, recently earning the position of Member Emeritus.

Thanks for Giving honoree Susan King, owner of Martin Funeral Home and Crematory, has supported Treasure Coast Hospice through her volunteer efforts and financial contributions since 2009. In 2019, Martin Funeral and Crematory became a member of the Treasure Coast Hospice President’s Circle, a group of business leaders who have made a substantial investment in the Treasure Coast Hospice Foundation.

Susan, a true advocate for the organization, is a lifetime member of the Founding Friends of Treasure Coast Hospice, a member of the Treasure Coast Hospice Individual and Business Giving Committee, and serves on several event committees.

While she supports every program at Treasure Coast Hospice, Susan has a special place in her heart for Veterans and children. She and her team have played Santa, Mrs. Claus and the elves at the annual children’s holiday party for several years, enthusiastically stepping into “character” to deliver smiles and holiday magic for the children and their families. Susan has also filled many of the needs of Camp Good Grief. Whenever she is asked to help, Susan’s response is, “As long as it’s helping the kiddos, I’m good with it.”

To learn how to support the Treasure Coast Hospice Foundation, visit www.TreasureHealth.org/Foundation.

About Treasure Coast Hospice Foundation

Treasure Coast Hospice Foundation is a nonprofit, community-based organization that raises funds to support hospice and grief support programs for patients and families in Martin, St. Lucie and Okeechobee counties. Since 1982, Treasure Coast Hospice has provided access to compassionate, caring, expert and professional hospice and grief support services to patients and families at the end of life. Thanks to the support of generous donors, the Treasure Coast Hospice Foundation is able to fund indigent hospice care, three Inpatient Units, a pediatric hospice program, music therapy, virtual reality experiences and comprehensive grief support programs, including individual and group bereavement services and Camp Good Grief for children who have experienced the loss of a loved one.




Unwrapping Smiles:

United Way's Holiday Project Sparks Festive Magic!

STUART, FL – In its 35th consecutive year of making Christmas dreams come true, United Way of Martin County once again orchestrated a heartwarming Holiday Project, ensuring that thousands of local children woke up to the joy of presents underneath the tree.

Thanks to the overwhelming generosity of local businesses, community organizations, individual donors, sponsors, devoted volunteers and Santa, of course, the United Way Holiday Project was a resounding success. The result? A magical Christmas morning for countless families in need.

Each fall, United Way collaborates with over 45 nonprofit agencies, faith-based organizations, and schools to screen and refer families in need. Rigorous checks are conducted to avoid duplication of services before referrals are approved. Serving as the local coordinating organization for the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program, United Way collects toys with the help of over 150 businesses and communities serving as official Toys for Tots drop-off locations.

True to tradition, United Way's volunteer elves worked tirelessly to transform the Martin County Fairgrounds into Santa's Workshop, where hundreds of volunteers spent weeks sorting and categorizing toys. Families had the opportunity to "shop" for toys tailored to their child's specific interests, ensuring a personalized and dignified experience. Participating families were not only treated to a festive array of toys but were also provided with the makings of a traditional holiday meal.

On December 13 and 14, the spirit of giving reached its peak as volunteers distributed nearly 15,000 toys and 20,000 pounds of food to more than 2,400 children and 950 families in need. This two-day distribution event was a testament to the community's commitment to making the holidays brighter for those facing financial hardships.

"We are so grateful for the support we received this year," said United Way of Martin County President & CEO Carol G. Houwaart-Diez. "Thanks to the kindness of our community, we were able to make a difference in the lives of so many children and their families. We couldn't have done it without them."

But that’s not all.

In a decade-long commitment to helping Martin County families, Zweben Law Group proudly coordinated the Zweben Law Group Bike Drive to make the holidays extra special by covering the cost of over 350 bikes so that children could experience the bliss of waking up on Christmas morning to find a shiny new bike.

Martin County Fire Rescue rallied to support the effort by assembling more than 300 bikes during their time off.

The Martin County Board of County Commissioners, Martin County Transit (Marty), MTM Transit and Walmart partnered with United Way of Martin County to hold the second annual “Stuff the Bus” toy drive, where residents had two opportunities to fill a Marty bus with new, unwrapped toys.

Altogether, there were more than 350 volunteers, including over 70 AmeriCorps Seniors, who donated nearly 2,000 hours during the project to make Christmas special for local children.

Thank you to Ashley Capital, Rubin & Rubin and STS Aviation Group for sponsoring the project.

“United Way dedicates an incredible amount of time and energy for this project, but it truly could not happen without the entire community uniting around the effort,” Houwaart-Diez said. “It’s a shining example that we all win when we Live United.”

About United Way of Martin County

United Way of Martin County’s mission is to improve lives by mobilizing the caring power of our community. United Way continues to create long-term social change and provide support to Martin County residents by investing in programs that strive to: enhance healthy living, improve education, and support financial stability. For more information about United Way of Martin County, please visit: unitedwaymartin.org.

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 Robert Hess:

Unbanning Books in Martin County

This is what we are dealing with in my Florida Martin County, almost ground zero for about 100 book bans, including the illustrated Diary of Anne Frank (line drawing of Michalangelo’s naked David). I want people to know what’s going on here. Although this woman is not on the school board, we have at least two others on the board who are Moms for Liberty, the same group that had an alleged sex offender leading the Philadelphia chapter and the Founder, who lives in Tampa and is allegedly involved in a menage a trois with the FL GOP leader and another woman. How smarmy!

This letter to me is so nasty and wrong, I couldn’t help but post this in its entirety. Please note that last Tuesday night was only my third time in front of this school board, that I have never publicly advocated for indiscriminate dissemination of any literature to all levels of children (I’m privately on the fence about this), and that I have only advocated for ONE of Jodi Picoult’s novels, Change of Heart (because that’s the only one I have actually read on the list, unlike this woman below who has publicly boasted that she has been recommending books to be banned that she has not read).

Nice to get fan mail from a hate group. I have not crafted a response yet, IF I do. Suggestions are appreciated.

“Dear Dr. Hess:

I have heard your many public comments during school board meetings in regard to the book removals in the MCSD and, in particular, books by Jodi Picoult. Since you are so openly against removing any books in public school libraries, no matter what the content, I challenge you to read the following excerpts from ‘Nineteen Minutes’ by Jodi Picoult which contains sexually explicit content at today’s school board meeting:


Once you have read these excerpts, I would request that you please defend your reasoning why students need to have this book available to them and what literary merit it offers to them.

Please do not use the argument that these excerpts are taken out of context because that is absurd. Pornography and sexually explicit content do not disappear if you read the entire book. For example, if you take a G-rated movie and add one sex scene to it, it will not remain a G-rated movie. It is exactly the same for books.

It would also benefit you to study Florida legislation that was passed in 2022 and 2023. The library book and curriculum reviews being done across the State of Florida come from the following:

HB 1467: https://www.flsenate.gov/.../Bill/2022/1467/BillText/er/PDF

HB 1557: https://www.flsenate.gov/.../Bill/2022/1557/BillText/er/PDF

HB 7: https://m.flsenate.gov/session/bill/2023/7/billtext/c1/pdf

HB 1069: https://www.flsenate.gov/.../Bill/2023/1069/BillText/er/PDF

From HB 1467, the Department of Education Training was developed for media center specialists across the state and teachers with classroom libraries (implemented 1/1/2023):


As for what other districts are doing or are not doing, is of no consequence or concern whatsoever to Martin County residents. The MCSD is following Florida laws and we, as law abiding citizens, are making sure that the MCSD remains in line with all current legislation. I suggest if you prefer how other districts are ‘interpreting’ the laws, then possibly move to that county where your misguided desires will be appreciated.

The fact that you come to meeting after meeting droning on with the same nonsense reminds me of the saying: ‘The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.’ The only way to get the changes you desire is to lobby for different legislation in Tallahassee. So I request that you please quit wasting the MCSB’s time along with all Martin County residents and just stop.


Julie Marshall

Moms for Liberty”

Whose liberty, I ask?

Robert Hess


From Thomas Ladomirak

Subject: Florida Bright Line High Speed Train Safety to all in Florida

As the Bright Line High Speed Train System is working its way north in Florida, I would like some more safety features added to all the tracks for the full route. To help reduce train track death, which has been almost 100. 

1) That the whole route of the High-Speed Train Track in Florida, have a 10-foot fence be placed along the whole route, on both sides of the tracks, in both the Rual and urban areas. To reduce illegal track crossings and lessen the chance of deaths on these Railroad Tracks. 

2) That an Audible alarm and Visual alarm system for any Car or Truck across the tracks for more than 5 seconds, that can be seen by the drivers, at all the Grade Crossings.

3)   That the Train Operator and Central Monitoring Site for the Train System, be notified that a Car or Truck is across the Tracks, before the Train gets to that crossing. So that the High-Speed Train will have enough time to stop, safely.

I heard on the news that some more safety features will be added, I hope these that I listed above can also be added, for the benefit to all of us here in Florida


Audrey Taggart

Reading and hearing - even seeing video clips the proud barbarians posted of their killing maiming, torturing of the mostly unarmed elderly, women and children, babies - of the sickening atrocities committed by Hamas thugs on October 7th, there was one piece of information missing.

It was not until the latest edition of the Epoch Times arrived at my home that I was in for another shock. We all know about the fighting, shooting, defense skills of the Israelis. And since everyone serves time in the army – men and women alike – I mistakenly assumed Israeli leaders in 1947-48 had the foresight of our Founding Fathers back in the 1700s and that some sort of 2nd Amendment (right to self defense) was in their repertoire.

But the Times reports how many Israelis are, since October 7th, now applying for pistol licenses! Vegetable Man is considering signing a provision from Agenda 30 to have the USA adhere to a kind of one world order, meaning we give up our right of self defense!

If anything, I would urge fellow US citizens to arm themselves even more. We recall Tienanmen Square in China which gave way to the Communist Party of China where relatives in the army were shooting at unarmed college students - possibly brother against brother, cousin, relative. The 2nd Amendment is what keeps us from invasion (unless you consider what Vegetable Man is doing at our border is an invasion). Hundreds, if not thousands, of college aged youth were asking for political ad economic reform – democracy. They were responded to by overwhelming force to repress the demonstration. In China, BTW, if is referred to as the “June 4th incident,” while we correctly identify it as “The Tienanmen Square Massacre.”

City of Stuart

We have all heard the nay sayers complaining that Brightline is dangerous.

It is an easy target to pick as being a “killer” company. The more trains that run along the tracks, both passenger and freight, the more opportunities there are for collisions. Realistically speaking, the same would be true when roads are more crowded. There is just increased opportunity for human error.

From what I see, it isn’t human error of the train operators that is causing these accidents. The trains are on predictable paths. Trains just don’t move when off the tracks. It isn’t as if they see a car or person and chase them down the road. Every interaction is because a motor vehicle or pedestrian was on the tracks and in the path of an oncoming trains.

Here are three examples of foolishness that I have observed in the past month. The first was at the crossing on Martin Luther King. I was in my car and, though the gate at the crossing was just beginning to come down for a Brightline train, a car coming from behind sped up and went around me just making it to the other side before the gate was in place.

Something similar happened one morning at Confusion Corner. At around 5:30 am, a car coming North on Colorado sped across the tracks as the arms were coming down and veered right onto Ocean. There were no other cars (I was on foot at Flagler.) I don’t think the Brightline train passing took more than 4 minutes from arm down to arm up.

Finally, at about the same time one morning I was waiting to walk across the tracks at Confusion Corner when a freight train was heading north. While the train was passing, a jogger went around the gate on the other side and then ran in place on the 2nd track as the train ambled through. He could have fallen and hit the train, or a southbound train could have come by.

I just wonder at the stupidity of these three people. There is no way that Brightline or FEC would have been at fault if someone was hurt or killed. Yet I am sure that Facebook and Next Door would have a hundred posts about the trains killing people.

It would be nice if we had sealed corridors as they do for Amtrack in the Northeast. We don’t… so stupidity can get stupid people killed. FEC would tell you they own the crossings not the government. They allow the roads to go through not the other way around, and they are correct.

More trains allow more opportunity for people to be impulsive or even want to commit suicide by train. None of this should stop Stuart and Martin County from going ahead with trying to secure a station. The trains are here and will continue to be. Having the station won’t have any effect on these incidents. How will we ever have “Quiet Zones” if the current bells, whistles, and gates are not a 100% deterrent?

Martin County School Board


Chair Russell has certainly hit the ground running to the way in which she has conducted the meetings. I just wanted to extend my congratulations to her for her tone and tenor during the meetings.

Superintendent Maine addressed the prices for athletic events. Apparently, prices to attend both middle and high school events have increased. He will look to see whether they can be reduced. Bringing the family to see someone play can become expensive and might stop people from attending.

The AFSCME contract will be brought to the board for ratification in January as soon as the rank-and-file members approve. More on the new contract when it comes before the board.

Maine spoke about the recent score for the district as compared to other Florida school districts. It was a “B” and ranked 9th out 67 school districts in the state. Some local schools did improve, and some achieved very high rankings as compared to other schools in the entire state. You can see his presentation here 

We did an article on the rankings and more in our last edition here 

During public comment, speakers returned to the book removal process. One of the speakers is often at the podium. He states that he is a “Gold Star” parent (a parent whose child died while in the armed forces during hostilities.) He is vehemently opposed to books being removed, especially author Jody Picoult’s novel Change of Heart.

The speaker went on to say that he had received an email with a sexually implicit passage from a book he had never read or advocated for. His main point was he wanted to have a way for books that had been removed to have another review. He ended by saying that the district had become a laughingstock.

Tony George, the board’s attorney, brought up the litigation between school boards and social media companies. There is mounting evidence of children’s loss of concentration because of the use of social media apps. These companies design algorithms to addict kids. The litigation is being brought on a national level. George likened it to the Juul Lawsuit. In that case, there were 2 settlements resulting in over $2 billion.

There are already 26 districts that have joined the lawsuit in Florida. A question was asked whether Martin would be a bell weather district in the litigation as Stuart was for the recent water contaminant settlement. The answer is no since a district similar to Martin County has already been chosen.

Board Member Powers then said that she didn’t believe it was a good idea to become a participant. Li Roberts stated it gives a false sense of security. The sentiment seems to be that every community should take care of the problem themselves. George then said that if any funds were recovered, they would be used for programs the district was implementing to stop the problem that our children have with social media that the board and district both acknowledge.

If the board had been a party to the Juul lawsuit, the board would have grossed $500,000 and netted $300,000. Chair Russell asked George what the downside would be. He replied none. Mike DiTerlizzi said it would give the district funds for programs. Amy Pritchett stated she did not want to sue. A motion was made by Powers and seconded by Pritchett to not move forward. It passed 5-0.

I must confess that I don’t understand. Why is the board passing up money to pay for programs that they will implement regardless? According to George, staff would have to spend 10 hours gathering statistics to be part of the class action suit. Even if it were 40 hours, that would be the total out-of-pocket expense. There are no legal payments or other expenses unless the plaintiffs prevail. Then they are paid out of the settlement funds.

There is no logical reason not to become one of hundreds, if not eventually thousands, seeking restitution for taxpayer funds that are needed for preventive programs caused directly by the actions of social media companies. Bewildering to say the least.

You can find the presentation and some of the backup information here 

Town of Sewalls Point

Sewall’s Point is having an election!

The election was precipitated by the resignation of James Campo. Two candidates have decided to run for the open seat. Newcomer Diane Kimes and past commissioner, Vincent Barile. The position is non-partisan and unpaid.

In the coming weeks I will ask both candidates to write something outlining who they are and why they are running. I will publish their responses in one of our editions before the election so that the voters of Sewall’s Point can have a better idea of who the candidates are and their positions on various issues.

It is unfortunate that Campo resigned in the middle of his term. I understand it was brought about by the new state requirement to file Form 6 which is a much more detailed financial disclosure form for those holding elected office after January 1st. It is the same form that has previously been required for the state legislators and county commissioners.

The new requirements have caused entire town boards in Florida to resign. While as far as I know this is the only resignation in Martin County, Form 6 is much more onerous than the prior disclosure form required. I would urge the two candidates for the Sewall’s Point position to look at the form now so that they are not surprised later.

Friends & Neighbors does not usually endorse candidates. We expect that we will not in this race either.

I have known Mr. Barile for some time and have served with him on the League of Treasure Coast Cities and the Council of Local Governments. He has proven himself to have been a dedicated public servant in the past. Ms. Kimes is a long-time resident of the town and has served on town boards. She has also been active in Martin County community affairs and been on several philanthropic boards.

Citizens should make it a point to meet both candidates and ask questions regarding their stance on the issues. Sewall’s Point is facing a rising lagoon that now regularly floods roadways. There is the conversion to sewers that the town continues to face and what to do about it. And there is always the strategic direction the town should take.

The election will be held on the same day as the Presidential Preference Primary, March 19th.  

Village of Indiantown


During the council comments, Council Member Dipaolo stated that the best thing to happen for the village this year was that Taryn Kryzda became village manager. She was a great negotiator with FPL for the extended tax agreement. She was also successful in having the county impact fees reduced and has set the village up for success. I can’t disagree with that statement.

Sedron Technologies, which will be opening a plant next to Indiantown Utility, is looking to move in an expediated way. Manager Kryzda was looking for a lead council member to be in the meetings with staff during negotiations. Dipaolo has been involved to some extent.

Mayor Gibbs-Thomas doesn’t want to have council involvement in the meetings. She believes staff should bring back terms to the council. Hernandez also wants the council to be the ones making the decisions and learning things together. Dipaolo is trying to learn things and advocate for the village. The mayor has said that they all do that.

It was definitive that no one council person will be one sitting in on meetings.

A special meeting was called for December 20th to send the mayor and/or the vice mayor to Washington State to visit Sedron. It seemed odd after the mayor took a stand against any one council member taking the lead. Nothing was discussed about doing this at this meeting. Whosever idea it was to have the special meeting it was called off by some behind-the-scenes maneuvering.

If no council member is going to be the lead, then the village should not then be paying for travel expenses of any council member to go to Sedron’s headquarters in Washington. However, what if a council member goes on their own dime, would that be construed as interfering or information gathering?

The council approved the bond for $1.6 million to buy the site where the current village hall is. They will close immediately on the property. It is a much better idea that creating the “Taj Mahal” as some wanted at alternate site.  

Town of Jupiter Island

Ethan Loeb, the attorney representing the owners of 310 South Beach Road, has written a letter to town residents disputing the statements made by Commissioner Scott and others at the last commission meeting. During the meeting Scott stated in regard to an ongoing lawsuit about building a cottage on the ocean side of 310 South Beach Avenue that: “They lost bigtime.” This refers to Loeb’s client.

Loeb disagrees and has taken the time to send the letter below to the residents of Jupiter Island explaining how he sees the court’s decision.

Here is the letter in full:

Why are Adena Testa and Tyler Cain appealing a case that a Jupiter Island Town Commissioner says they won?

In response to a recent ruling from a Florida Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), the Town of Jupiter Island Town Commission (through some of its most biased and uninformed members), has indicated to citizens on Dec. 14 that Adena Testa and Tyler Cain won their challenge to the Coastal Construction Control Line Permit (“CCCL”) that the owners at 310 South Beach Road obtained from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (“FDEP”).

“They lost bigtime,” said Commissioner Anne Scott, “and we have been right all along.”

If that is true, then why are Mrs. Testa and Mr. Cain appealing the FDEP’s ruling to the Fourth District Court of Appeal?  That’s right… THE ONES WHO HAVE APPEALED THE FINAL ORDER ARE ADENA TESTA AND TYLER CAIN!

The owners at 310 South Beach Road are not taking any appeal.  Look up the case online. It’s styled Adena Testa and Tyler Cain, Appellants v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Jupiter Island Compound, LLC, Appellees, Case Number 4D23-3070. 

In any appeal, the parties who are appellants (here, Mrs. Testa and Mr. Cain) are the losers!  The appellees (the FDEP and the owners of 310 South Beach Road) are the winners!  But, before we talk about what actually happened with the CCCL permit (and who were the actual winners and losers), let’s cover some basic background on what happened with the application that the owners at 310 South Beach Road made to the FDEP.

After receiving the approval from the Town indicating that the proposed beach cottage was consistent with the Town’s comprehensive plan and the land development code, the owners of 310 South Beach Road applied to the FDEP for their CCCL permit.  A CCCL permit is required for any landowner who intends to build a structure located seaward of an imaginary line running along Florida’s coast called the “Coastal Construction Control Line.” Florida Statute §161.053 and Rule 62B-33 of the Florida Administrative Code outline a number of requirements for an applicant to obtain a CCCL permit.  

After reviewing the application materials, the FDEP issued the CCCL permit. However, before construction could begin, Mrs. Testa and Mr. Cain filed a petition with the Florida Department of Administrative Hearings, challenging the FDEP’s issuance of the Ronerts’ CCCL permit and arguing that the Ronerts failed to meet the requisite criteria.

The Department of Administrative Hearings held a final hearing in front of Administrative Law Judge Cathy Sellers (“ALJ”) on the issues raised in the Testa/Cain Petition, which began in January 2023.

At the final hearing, there were two primary issues for the ALJ’s consideration:

1. Whether the Ronerts’ proposed beach cottage would be landward of the FDEP’s “30-year erosion projection”;

2. Whether the Ronerts’ proposed beach cottage was sited “sufficiently landward” of the frontal dune.  There were other issues that Mrs. Testa and Mr. Cain raised—and lost—that we will cover below. 

30-Year Erosion Projection

          The owners at 310 South Beach Road were actually successful in the biggest (and most highly contested) issue in the administrative proceeding: the “30-year erosion projection.”  

In laymen’s terms, to obtain a CCCL permit, the owners of 310 South Beach Road had to show that in 30 years, the beach cottage will still be landward of the Atlantic Ocean. Utilizing the extensive criteria provided for in determining the 30-year erosion projection—and relying heavily on the Town’s robust beach renourishment program, which is fully funded, backed by the Florida Legislature, and shows no signs of slowing down—the ALJ ruled in favor of the owners of 310 South Beach Road by concluding that the proposed beach cottage would be landward of the water line in 30 years, and thus would not pose any significant adverse risk to the coastline if the Atlantic Ocean’s water line were to move landward.

          The 30-year erosion projection was not the only issue on which the owners at 310 South Beach Road prevailed. In fact, the ALJ ruled in the owners’ favor on a majority of the issues that Mrs. Testa and Mr. Cain raised in their challenge, including the ALJ’s finding that the proposed beach cottage:

  1. Will not cause direct adverse impacts to marine turtles and their nesting habitat (something that Mrs. Testa and others had long claimed to be a problem with the proposed beach house);
  2. Will not result in the discharge of stormwater in a seaward direction to result in a significant adverse impact to the beach;
  3. Will not cause an increase in structure-induced scour that would result in a significant adverse impact;
  4. Is designed to minimize the potential for wind or waterborne missiles during a storm event;
  5. In addition to other permitted beachfront projects on Jupiter Island, will not result in significant adverse cumulative impacts to the beach. 

Simply stated, the ALJ concluded that the beach cottage at 310 South Beach Road would not:

  • Be underwater in 30 years;
  • Harm or injure sea turtles and other sea life;
  • Adversely impact the beach (individually or cumulatively with other, pre-existing homes on the ocean of Jupiter Island);
  • Harm the sand of the beach;
  • Harm neighbors if a hurricane occurred. 

Siting of the Beach Cottage in Relation to the Frontal Dune

          The only issue on which the ALJ ruled against the owners of 310 South Beach Road was with regard to the survey (yes, just the survey) showing the proposed location of the beach cottage in relation to the frontal dune.

Pursuant to Rule 62B-33.005(9) of the Florida Administrative Code, all proposed structures seaward of the CCCL must be sited a “sufficient distance landward of the beach and frontal dune[.]” In order to determine the location of the frontal dune (and thus, the proposed structure’s location in relation thereto), each CCCL permit application must contain a field survey that meets the criteria set forth in Florida Administrative Code Rule 62B-33.0081(1), which requires three “transect lines” shown, with elevation points no more than 25 feet apart from each other.

          The survey that accompanied the CCCL permit application contained three “transect lines.” One—just one—of those lines was not perfectly straight.  This was not intentional; rather, the line was not straight because the surveyor could not obtain elevation points on some parts of the property.

The ALJ decided that the owners needed to submit a survey with a straighter line so that it could be compliant with the state rules. Because the ALJ determined that the survey was noncompliant, the ALJ ruled that she could not determine the actual location of the frontal dune in relation to the proposed beach cottage, and therefore could not say with certainty that the proposed beach cottage would indeed be sited “sufficiently landward” of the frontal dune.

As a result, the ALJ ultimately ruled that the owners of 310 South Beach Road had not met their burden of showing that the proposed beach cottage would not significantly impact the frontal dune and denied the CCCL permit. The ALJ did not conclude that the owners were going to build on the dune or that the proposed beach cottage would impact the dune. Rather, she indicated that more information was needed! The ALJ’s final ruling is not, in any way, an indication that beachfront structures cannot be built in the 300 block of Jupiter Island. 

These are the facts…plain and simple.  So, the next time Anne Scott or Penny Townsend tells you that Mrs. Testa and Mr. Cain won their appeal, you should respond with a very basic question: “If Adena and Tyler won their challenge, why are they the ones who are taking the appeal to the appellate courts?” 

I am sure you will find the answer fascinating, if not downright comical.  

Ethan J. Loeb 

Bartlett Loeb Hinds Thompson & Angelos

Editor’s Note: The next commission meeting will be January 9th. It should be a very interesting meeting.

Final Thoughts


I have read several articles lately regarding the return of the single-room-occupancy hotel (SRO).

At one point in the early and mid-20th centuries, there were hundreds of thousands of these units. They had communal bathrooms and kitchens. Usually, the rent was collected by the week and the rooms came with weekly laundry service for sheets and towels. They were furnished and utilities were provided.

In addition, there were rooming houses and boarding houses. While hotels were larger establishments, the rooming houses consisted of bedrooms rented out in people’s homes usually. Boarding houses provided meals to their customers. In the early 20th century, boarding houses would sometimes have people of a certain profession living there. At times, families would be tenants. Many famous performers in New York lived in the boarding houses that surrounded Times Square.

With the building of modern multi-family housing in the 1920s, studios and one-bedroom apartments were included in the mix for single and newly married couples. It was a real step up from sharing a communal kitchen and bathroom. Rents for most of the 20th century remained affordable for individuals and families, causing rental apartments to be the best option rather than ownership of a single-family home.

Today, apartment living is becoming harder and harder for many people to obtain. Rents have skyrocketed due to increased land and building costs. In some cities, governments killed off apartment construction by instituting rent controls.

As someone who owned and managed several SRO hotels in the 1970s in New York, those rooms were under what was known at the time as “hotel control.” The rooms were only allowed rent increases of a specific percentage amount each year. I had tenants paying less than $25 a week which included towels and sheets.

Rent control of apartments did the same thing in New York and many cities. Those that had been in their apartments for years had a great deal. Newer renters…not as much. The entire system encouraged people not to move. Many apartment buildings and hotels became run down and contributed to blight because building owners could not afford maintenance or improvements due to the below-market rents that were defined by the government.

Since owners could never force a tenant out except for non-payment (and even then, it could take many months or years to do so), old buildings that were well past their economic life remained. Developers thought in terms of decades not years to empty a building and demolish it to make way for a new one.


We haven’t had those problems in Martin County, but we do have the NIMBY contingent denouncing any change. Some of the same people who decry that there is no place for their children to live are many of those in favor of not building another multi-family or single-family home. How do they justify that stance?                                                 1970s Abandoned Bldg

I think most Americans now believe that healthcare and food security are rights that all of us should possess. It is now time to think of housing in the same way. We need to allow the building of enough units of all kinds to meet our needs. For those Americans who can’t afford the cost, government vouchers are the easiest and most market-oriented way to do so.

There is nothing wrong with any type of housing whether it be SROs or apartments or accessory dwelling units to fill the need. What we cannot have are a small minority of citizens who stop the building of enough housing to satisfy the needs of the county or the country. 

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

Tom Campenni 772-341-7455 (c) Email: thomasfcampenni@gmail.com


Tom’s Articles

From Medium

"The Importance Of Work & School"


"Haley Had An Opportunity To Speak Truth...And Blew It"


From Martin County Moments

"A New Stuart Train Bridge"


Other Articles

The Washington Post: “America has a life expectancy crisis. But it’s not a political priority.”


Florida Phoenix: “More Hispanic families are reaching the middle class”


The New York Times: “Are These Topics Too Adult for the Youngest Readers? Take a Look.”


The New York Times: “How College Football Is Clobbering Housing Markets Across the Country.”


The Washington Post: “TSA self-screening is the next big step for airport security”


The New York Times: “Pope Francis Allows Priests to Bless Same-Sex Couples”


The New York Times: “The Wildly Popular Police Scanner Goes Silent for Many”


The Washington Post: “U.S. oil production hit a record number under Biden. He seldom mentions it.”


Teatime History via Medium: By: Prateek Dasgupta “Who Were The Real Philistines That the Bible Talks About?”


Route Fifty: “Why 2023 emerged as a banner year for passenger rail”


The Washington Post: “Why are Americans getting shorter?”



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