April 7, 2024

Friends & Neighbors Edition

In this Edition

Election season is heating up.

Candidates are declaring for office and perhaps some office holders will not be running again.  Voters will be busy in August and November. Most local races will be decided in August. Most office seekers in Martin County are Republicans and usually Democrats don’t even run so the August primary decides the winner.


Once the qualifying period is over (June 14th) we will be asking all local candidates to write an essay on who they are and why they are running. We will probably run those self-profiles twice before election day. There are no endorsements on Friends & Neighbors unless a candidate does something egregious. In the past decade that has only happened once.

We believe you should decide. Most of our readers can make a choice that they believe would best serve the community’s interest.

This edition has our columnists, nonprofit segment, constitutional corner, meeting reports, and stories regarding our county. I think you will find it insightful. And perhaps even amusing in some instances.

Don’t forget to have your friends & neighbors sign up for their own copy. And if you want to become a columnist, just go to that tab on the website and let us know. We look forward to as many voices as possible being part of our family.

Have a good Sunday morning!

The Crowd Has Always Been With Us

I was having lunch with a friend. During the meal, he handed me a book by Gustave Le Bon titled The Crowd. He asked me to read it or at least skim it.

Le Bon wrote the short work in 1895. It was a time when the science of psychology was just beginning. His work on the psychology of crowds was the result of the writings of three earlier authors from that decade…Scipio Sighele, Henri Fournial, and Gabriel Tarde. But it was Le Bon’s book that became the best seller which influenced political science and leaders.

Le Bon’s work tries to explain crowd behavior and how it differs from individuals’ behaviors. Freud had already come up with his theory that crowds act differently and have their distinct characteristics and mind. Crowds become their own organism which are separate and apart from the individuals that comprise the mob.

Losing one’s identity can easily happen if we are part of a group. Usually, any group we belong to as adults is composed of like-minded individuals gathered for a particular purpose or around a particular idea. But I can remember as a kid being caught up in moments when I was no longer me but part of a gang doing something that I knew I shouldn’t do but unable to stop my action.

When I was about eight, my father took me to the racetrack. That wasn’t anything unusual in and of itself. I liked to look at the horses and being in the fresh air. I would pick up discarded betting tickets and take them home to become my different play soldiers organizing the slips by color.

However, this one day something went wrong. I don’t know whether a race was called wrong, or two guys were having a fight that got out of hand. But in rapid succession people started destroying things. Fires began in garbage cans. And everyone started running. It became a full-scale riot.

My father took my hand and I put up no resistance. Somehow, we moved to a stairwell and descended what seemed like the Empire State Building, but it was probably only five flights. We then made it to the street and walked to the subway and safety.

There is no doubt that crowds have their own personality and characteristics. They offer anonymity to the individual to allow him or her to do something they would never do on their own. A person thinks that no one will know if it was him or her doing the horrific act. The crowd cheers and jeers in one amplified voice.

A leader can whip their base to a frenzy over real or imagined circumstance. It can result in speaking in tongues or rampaging the U.S. Capitol. The crowd can permit acts that most individuals would never do.

We have seen this occur over and over through history. It helps explain the theory of the cultured and good German being subsumed by the ideology of Nazism. The crowd can hide and envelop a person so that most individuals cannot withstand the evil contained therein.

Le Bon and his contemporaries did not invent crowd psychology…they only gave it a name. It has been around forever …and still is.

Things Are Different Here

I was having dinner with a group of friends. The conversation usually turns to the subjects of growth, Martin County, and Stuart.

I am often surprised by the amount of disinformation that people have. Most of us are from somewhere else. It was no different with the group that evening. Our ideas about how government should operate are based on past experience. Then people come to Florida and wonder why this place doesn’t operate the same as up north.


One of the couples has been here for 6 years and the other for 8 years. They grew up in New York but have lived in Connecticut and New Jersey. One of the couples lived for many years in Wilton and Greenwich.

In Connecticut, there is no county government. There are municipalities and then state government. Even the schools, though they have independent boards, receive their funding from the municipalities. That is a big difference from here.

It is true that taxes are higher in northern states, but the government provides more services. One isn’t better than the other…it is just different. Greenwich, CT has per capita spending per student of $27,093. Here it is about $10,000.


Someone mentioned that while you can’t enter the school buildings when school is in session there either, you can walk on the school grounds, visit the playgrounds, and take advantage of the athletic fields. Even while the kids are in school. Occasionally, a police car will make a pass, but no one is assigned to a school as a Resource Officer there except at the high school where there are 2700 students.

In general, government is big business in Martin County. There are more levels of it than in other places. The best places for most locals to work here are in government or nonprofits as opposed to private industry. You are paid better.

Up north, most local elected officials are not paid or receive far less in compensation than here. For example, school board members in Connecticut are not paid. The average annual pay in Florida for board members is on par with the teachers. Since there are no county commissioners in Connecticut, they automatically save roughly $75,000 per commissioner plus their aide and benefits which are provided here. Don’t let anyone tell you that in rock-red Florida, big government doesn’t exist. It does and it is expensive.

So many transplants here really don’t take the time to find out how their adopted home’s governments function. There are more levels to unravel and far fewer opportunities to be involved. The Representative Town Meeting in Greenwich is composed of 230 citizens and is the legislative body for the town. They approve all expenditures over $5000 as one example of their duties. Here almost every decision rest with 5 commissioners.

For many transplants, if their country club and the course are open, they will leave the running of government to the locals while they tend their gated communities. It is unfortunate that though many will live here for 20 or 30 years after retiring, they will still never be considered a local. Martin County and Florida are worse for it.

"It" Is Here

The river is in my back yard. We live off the mooring field in Stuart. On Friday, my wife noticed that the green stuff had arrived.

The locks have been open for a while. Which means the waters of Lake “O” have been coming this way. This is the early stage when the green stuff can be seen, but it has no smell because it hasn’t fallen to the bottom yet where it decomposes.

Neither of us have noticed a bloom again, but nevertheless, it is here. It still is early and maybe we won’t have a hot wet summer, but how likely is that? Unless the locks close, this may be our worst summer yet. And what is the best course of action?

We know it is an election year, so the rhetoric is already heating up. Outside the River’s Coalition meeting, Congressman Mast had a press statement blaming “Big Sugar” and the Army Corps. It may be good politics, but nothing will change on the ground unless Mast can get his congressional colleagues to stop the subsidies for growing a crop that is in abundance worldwide and changing the Corps’ mandate.

We will probably have another awful summer on the river. Grasses, oysters, fish, and everything else will begin dying. Until we change the way we operate in Florida, we will continue to point fingers at each other and pray that we have another uneventful summer. No hurricanes, rain, or more releases.   

Brightline Yes Or No

How is it possible that there are two competing stories about Brightline. One day I read that the company is hemorrhaging money and ridership is below expectations.  The next day they are ordering more cars to fulfill demand.

On March 25th there was an article in The Capitolist titled “Brightline’s high speed hype machine hits another snag, slashes ridership forecasts (again).” While the very next day, a TCPalm headline read “Brightline orders more coaches as demand for seats increases on Miami-Orlando Trains.” I guess your facts and point of view depends on if you are pro or con train travel.

History would tell us that passenger rail loses money in the long run. Even at the height of train travel, railroads lost money on people but made it on freight. I doubt whether anything will change in the 21st century from the 19th and 20th centuries.

That isn’t the point though. Passenger rail is needed more today than at any time in history. Will Brightline end up making money as a strictly private company? I don’t know. Our roadways are overburdened and are only going to become worse. Passenger rail offers some hope to move people in the dense Miami-Orlando Corridor.

The number of people who will use Brightline will depend on ticket price and train schedule. Will it be commuters or someone trying to go to the airport or a basketball game in Miami? We don’t know right now.

Florida is creating its own Northeast Rail Corridor between Miami and Orlando. Regardless of what the non-growth people want the coasts are filling in fast. They will continue to do so.

While the five-day-a-week office routine is forever changed, there will continue to be times when face-to-face meetings are needed. Brightline will partially fill that need as white collar and tech workers move farther from their employment but will still need to go in from time to time.

As we become more crowded, some of us will prefer the train over the car. Brightline understands that because it is using tracks that are in a densely populated unsealed corridor, they will never be truly high speed. More stations like in Stuart won’t really impact their time between Miami and Orlando much.

If history repeats itself, we will see Brightline requiring subsidies to stay in business. History tells us that the government will bail out rail service, but the decision will depend on how widely Brightline is used. I have a feeling that in the next two decades, the Treasure Coast and the entire Miami to Orlando corridor will become dependent enough on the service for it to continue with government help regardless as to whether it remains private or public.

Our Woman In Tallahassee

Sometimes we forget that an elected official can be very effective and powerful in government without being loud and flashy.

Senator Gayle Harrell has remained remarkably out of the limelight for her entire time in the Florida House and Senate. Gayle has been a steady champion of healthcare for years. Her late husband, “Doc Harrell,” was a distinguished medical practitioner in Stuart for many decades. This is where the Senator became acquainted with healthcare and its needs.

This special affinity for the health of Florida culminated this year with having control of 40% of the total budget under the Appropriations Committee on Health and Human Services where she serves as Chair. Senate President Passidomo entrusted her with successfully passing her priority known as “Live Healthy”.

Harrell didn’t forget about her district either. Her budgeted projects include nearly $7.5 million in funding each for IRSC in Fort Pierce and the University of Florida Health-Biomedical Innovation & Technology in Palm Beach as well as almost $10 million statewide for Child Advocacy Centers.

Stuart received $500,000 for Sewer Connection Assistance, Sewall’s Point Road Phase 3 received $500,000, Indiantown Reverse Osmosis Water Treatment Plant got $10,652,220, Stuart’s Guy Davis Park got $500,000 and Martin County Gomez Community/Pettway Potable Water Service Main received $940,000. I have attached the list of all the budget items that Harrell sponsored awaiting the governor’s signature.

Senator Harrell told me that The 2024 Legislative Session was very successful! We passed significant legislation impacting healthcare, education, the environment and infrastructure, as well as a record budget of over $117 billion.  Not only did we make major investments for the future of Florida but as a fiscal conservative, I was very pleased that we put $10 billion in reserves to deal with what economic problems and emergencies come our way. “ 

We often hear that politicians are just like the rest of us. She is a mother, grandmother, was a wife, teacher, and healthcare executive. She continues to give her time to nonprofit organizations and is always willing to come to an event for the benefit of children. By the way did you know that she is fluent in Spanish and is always a great hit when she speaks to parents of children that have none or limited English.

As another session ends, Harrell has shown that she knows how to pass meaningful legislation and bring her district the money for needed projects especially for water and sewer. And isn’t that what a legislator is supposed to accomplish? No flash, no yelling, no calling attention to herself…but obtaining results for the voters who put her in office.

I have attached a list of all her budgeted projects and the bills she passed in the last session.  Here

VanRiper's Views

Darlene VanRiper

I have a friend who is a devout atheist.  He came over for Easter dinner.  No fireworks.  He was polite when my grandson said grace. 

But, knowing him as I do, he was thinking “they’re brainwashing the kid already”.   Aside from my personal reasons for believing in the undeserved gift given to mankind so long ago, I choose to urge the “brainwashing” of my son and grandchildren because I want them to have someone to reach out to when there is no one else. 

Everyone comes across those moments when no friend picks up the phone, when parents or siblings just aren’t the right people to whom you wish to divulge your dilemma.  In the darkest of nights and the loneliest of hours I want my kid and grandkids to be able to fall on their knees and truly believe that they are not alone. 

My dinner guest, the atheist, for as long as I have known him, has questioned his reason for being.  Always uncomfortable with his lot.  Even though his lot includes a good career and lots of money along with a 28 year relatively happy relationship.   By all measures, he has it made.   But his doubt and anxiety run high. 

I can’t help but think that if he believed something greater than he was there to listen, he would have comfort.  You may think that my friend is just a neurotic, but I’ve spoken with his atheist friends as well.  Now I can’t say that I’ve spoken to ALL atheists, so I won’t generalize.  The I will say that the atheists I did speak with just didn’t seem very happy. 

To say they were skeptical regarding life, its meaning, trappings, and brutality would be an understatement.  I know I wouldn’t, couldn’t be very happy with the weight of the world on my shoulders and nowhere to turn.  Just the thought that upon awakening every morning everything I did or didn’t do affected my destiny or someone else’s without any possibility of divine intervention would be enough to keep me under the covers.  Let alone the consideration that my friend’s belief or lack thereof offers little or nothing in the way of an explanation or any hope for this crazy world in which we struggle.

Finally, remember this is simply my opinion and in my world everyone, including me, is still entitled to one.  So, hold your angry responses.  I am not criticizing you in any way.  I’m simply happy that I have someone to talk to. 

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

Hafner's Corner

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

Where have the volunteers gone and how do we get them back?

23% of Florida’s residents made up our state’s volunteer force in 2017. It dropped to 16% of our residents in 2022. That is the sharpest decline of volunteers out of all the U.S. States.

Where have the volunteers gone, they haven’t gone anywhere. The programs through which they gave their time and knowledge, those are what stopped. In 2020, when we were told to stay home and to distance ourselves from each other, volunteering became nearly impossible. Over the course of that year and into the next our benched volunteers found other things to fill their time. Along with filling their volunteer time, Americans overall decreased their interactions with anyone outside their family and many dedicated more time to being alone altogether.

So how do we get our volunteers back? That is a question being asked right now by all the volunteer-dependent programs. I lead one such program- the Martin County 4-H Youth Development Program. In my program I have two paid employees, myself, and my program assistant. Together we are responsible for not only delivering educational programs to our current 400+ youth members, but also expanding our program to reach and include as many Martin County youth as we can.

Just delivering to our current members is more than the two of us can handle alone. Thankfully we have volunteers who fill the gap and help meet the need. Forty-Nine, that is the number of volunteers- club leaders, co-leaders, and parent volunteers- in my program. That sounds like an impressive number and believe when I tell you how much I appreciate every one of them, but still, it’s not enough. I need more volunteers so I can expand this program to communities where 4-H is currently missing.

National Volunteer Week will be celebrated April 21-27 this year. We of the Florida 4-H Youth Development Program have dedicated the entire month of April to show appreciation to our priceless volunteers. We are also using this month as a time to recruit new volunteers. So, here’s my pitch:

What better way to make sure your experiences, knowledge, and passions are preserved than to teach them to someone else. 4-H teaches using an informal, front porch sharing, hands-on style that comes naturally. The time commitment can be as little as a couple hours a month. I assure you if you have a passion or skill or hobby, there are youth in our community who share it with you but don’t know how to access it. The satisfaction that comes from teaching our youth skills and the excitement in seeing them excel is unparalleled. I know because for 7 years I was a Martin County 4-H Volunteer.

If I have at least piqued your interest, please contact me. There will be no sales pitches, just information. Email: dhafner@ufl.edu Phone: 772-419-6965. Let 4-H be the conduit through which you transfer your knowledge to the next generation.

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

Carl's Conclusions

Carl Frost
Kai Kai Farms, Owner

Compost Call to Action by University of Florida

I have been a small-scale commercial vegetable grower since 2006. I grow on what is commonly known in these parts as flatwoods soils.

They are poor in nutrients and the sandy nature not much improved over our beaches. Farming is hard on soils. Farming practices remove the overstory like trees and native grasses followed by successive rounds of tilling or discing between cash crop and cover crop rotations.  The concept of “no-till” is not widely used here because of the cultural practices needed for vegetable production.

Compost as a soil enhancement brings multiple benefits including better water holding capacity, nutrient retention, and enhanced ecology like microbial and faunal life. Unfortunately compost as an enhancement requires large volumes which creates significant costs. These costs can be mitigated if compost manufacturing is decentralized.

On March 27, the University of Florida hosted its first Compost Consortium at the Gulf Coast Research & Education Center found east of Tampa at Wimauma. The full day event featured keynote speakers and poster sessions by about a dozen UF County extension offices around Florida. Sadly, Martin County did not send an official representative which makes me wonder where our county priorities lie.

I discovered a dirty little secret at this conference. It was made clear to me that the Florida Legislature some years ago prioritized water quality to the detriment of solid waste recycling research. The either/or proposition we currently exist under with solid waste recycling research and development getting minimal attention was short sighted.

Compost as a soil amendment reduces runoff by retaining water. This enhances water quality. Compost recycles waste and this is incredibly positive for landfills which are rapidly filling. Our county governments cannot afford to delay organic recycling. New residents add more organic waste to the existing burden. 

Another conclusion I made at the conference was the fragmented approach to solid waste recycling with each county doing their own thing. My second conclusion was the necessity for local research about solid waste recycling. The diversity of waste juxtaposed with numerous recycling options requires cost/benefit analysis. My third take home was the need for compost quality control and certification. I can personally attest to that!

Growing sod, ornamentals, or vegetables all share the same need for quality organics in the soil media. Martin County Government should lobby our state representatives for more funding directed toward organic waste recycling research, particularly compost.

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

It’s hard to believe that in a few short days, people across America will be filing their taxes. In our community, United Way of Martin County, in conjunction with AmeriCorps Seniors, hosts the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program.

This program provides tax preparation from IRS Certified Preparers and is designed to assist individuals and families in our community that have an annual income of less than $63,000. 

The unique thing about this program is that it is FREE to anyone in Martin County that qualifies by their income. Annually, we prepare and electronically file over 350 returns for residents of our community. These individuals and families come from all walks of life and are so grateful for this service.

The site coordinator, Debbie C., is a former IRS employee and has been volunteering her expertise and professionalism to this program for over 18 years. In fact, all the individuals involved in preparing taxes are volunteers who undergo a rigorous training process. The United Way team provides oversight, in-kind office space, and all the administrative work behind the scenes such as managing client appointments, fielding phone calls, and assisting every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evening during tax season. Yes, just like paid tax services, we schedule appointments for our clients so we can dedicate the time and volunteers needed to assist.

This program saves Martin County residents, on average, $248 in tax preparation fees and a total of about $86,800 for all the returns. The saved cost allows clients to use the money to pay bills or for other basic needs.

This year, we have had a diverse range of working individuals, families, and seniors who have benefited from our program. The VITA service has also been complimented with Ride United for those seniors who no longer feel comfortable driving at nighttime or who are recovering from surgeries.

We are so proud of this service and the collaboration it takes to make the program available to and for our community. So here is my ask of you… If you are number savvy and want to give 3 hours (or up to 9 hours) a week, consider becoming a tax preparer! We're limited in how many people we can assist due to the high volume of calls we receive. By expanding our team of volunteer tax preparers, we can serve more individuals in need of assistance.

If you are interested in receiving this service next year, please call starting January 15, 2025, to schedule your appointment. Appointments book up quickly and are on a first call, first serve basis.

For further information about the United Way of Martin County, please visit our website at www.unitedwaymartin.org or contact our office at 772-283-4800.

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

Contemplative Christian

Chad Fair
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Pastor

Unfolding of Holy Week

Easter has come and gone, the tomb is empty, and Jesus is on the loose.  I love Holy Week and Easter.  Its a week that fully frames Jesusministry and his sacrifice. It brings to the forefront all the players involved and Jesusinteraction with them.  It displays who Jesus is and who we are.  

Judas betrayed Jesus, handing him over to be crucified.  Peter denied even knowing Jesus and, along with other disciples, fell asleep in the garden of Gethsemane.  Then you have the power structure, the Roman Empire, and the religious leaders, together they formed a dangerous tandem leading to the execution of Jesus.  And still, despite the failures of his disciples and the sheer power of empire, Jesus over came all that and death.     

How do we fit into this story?  Do we have a place in it at all?  Well, the first chapter, first verse of Marks gospel says, This is the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ.”  That beginning means that when Marks gospel ends, the good news does not.  The story of Jesus lives on today.  That means we still have the opportunity to participate in it.  Thats both good and bad news. 

How many times have we been Judas?  No, not handing Jesus over to be crucified, but betraying our faith.  How many times have we been Peter denying Jesus when we have the opportunity to talk about our own personal faith or just plain fallen asleep.  Have we scattered like the disciples?  Have we, like the religious leaders of the time, sided with the power of empire in order to intermingle power and religion.


The beauty of Holy Week is that you see all of these things unfold and exactly how Jesus responds.  Jesus calls Judas friend and shares a meal with Peter and the disciples.  Then He meets them in Galilee before ascending to heaven. 

Despite all their failures along the way, denial, betrayal, falling asleep, Jesus stayed steadfast to His word.  So why would He not keep the promise made to us in our baptism?  Not only did Jesus not use the power of the empire, He pushed back against the system, so much so that it led to His death.  If we are going to spread the good news of the resurrected Christ we should do so as Jesus intended, not with a marriage of church and state, but with a marriage of love, grace, mercy, peace forgiveness and service.

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

Walter's Corner

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

The March 28 Rivers Coalition meeting featured presentations by Col. Booth (Army Corps of Engineers) and Drew Bartlett (Executive Director, South Florida Water Management District) on the effects from the discharges of water for the last month from Lake Okeechobee down the St. Lucie Canal into our estuary -- and the outlook going forward.

Col. Booth reported that six weeks ago the lake stood at 16.4 feet. It has now dropped to 15.4 feet – which is still quite a bit higher than they’d like. The Corps has been following a cycle of discharging water for two weeks and pausing for two weeks in order to give salinity levels a chance to recover a bit. The latest pause began March 30, and the big question everyone had was what happens two weeks after that. Col. Booth said given the current too-high lake level the Corps has been forced to prioritize their flood control mandate over their health issues and environmental mandates. He will make his decision Thursday, April 4, with a major factor being how much rain falls – or is forecast to fall – on the lake and the watershed north of it.

Col. Booth responded to Congressman Mast’s month-ago question on how the now-completed dike reconstruction impacted their management of the lake. The answer: Not at all; the multi-billion dollar project was to repair, not reconstruct, the dike. This means the main environmental threat is no longer erosion (dirt leaking out of the lake and eventually into our estuary) but an overflow from a heavy rain event; water comes into the lake 3-4 times faster than it can be taken out. The bottom line, though, is that the lake management levels haven’t changed.

Col. Booth noted the frustration in the room, and wanted to leave us with this final thought: “Every year, things are getting better.”

[Note: The Florida Department of Health issued a health alert the day after the meeting; toxin microcystin was present at harmful levels in two locations in the South Fork: the 96th Street Bridge and Four Rivers. Other locations are still in the testing process.]

Drew Bartlett said the SFWMD recommends that there be NO discharges to the east and only beneficial discharges to the west during the dry season (which ends June 1.) This would mean that the only harmful discharges into the St. Lucie Estuary would be from local runoff, which all parties are working to lessen.

The ideal solution is still to send the water south, as Mother Nature did before humans started messing with her. The biggest problem is that water sent south must first be filtered through Storm Treatment Areas; 1) they are currently pretty full, and 2) only 10% of the water in them comes from the lake; the other 90% comes from the Everglades Agricultural Area – Big Sugar. Mr. Bartlett said he is well aware of this discrepancy and the District is working to lower that 90% number.

Congressman Mast told Col. Booth and Mr. Bartlett that from a legislative standpoint it was very important for them to say, specifically, the lake and the estuary were “meaningfully distinct bodies of water” and the discharges were “polluting the estuary”. Both men agreed this was the case, but neither one was willing to speak the magic words. 

The never-ending battle for clean water and no discharges continues…

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

Business Development Board

Susan Rabinowitz
Business Development Board of Martin County, Board Chair

Since serving as volunteer chair of the Business Development Board of Martin County BDB), I’ve had more than a handful of people ask me about the organization’s roles and responsibilities.

It’s easy to fall back on industry jargon when explaining our key services such as business retention and attraction, site selection, market intelligence, and continual community engagement and advocacy—all intent on creating a more resilient business climate.

But like most people, I prefer stories. And thanks to the recent work by Pierre Taschereau, our business development executive, here’s one about a local business where the services of the BDB are (pardon the pun) baked right in.

Many of us love Importico’s Bakery and Café. And why wouldn’t we? The Stuart-based business (with retail spaces in Fort Pierce) specializes in delicious fine breads, pastries, muffins, sandwiches, quiches, and coffees. Operating in Martin County for two decades, it’s currently under the sole ownership of Stephanie Blankenship and overseen by a general manager who trained at Four Seasons and Whole Foods. The atmosphere is warm, inviting, and—as you might imagine—aromatic.

While the BDB works with expanding and existing businesses, we tend to focus on companies that attract money from outside the local economy into our own. Manufacturers naturally fit the bill. Retail operations, less so. 

But there’s a lot more to Importico’s than meets the nose. In addition to high-end local restaurants and neighboring coffee shops, the company’s wholesale clients also include out-of-area hotels and two Indian River State College campuses, increasing that portion of its output by as much as 30 percent over the last two years. In fact, its locally manufactured goods comprise as much as 50 percent of its total business.

So, how did we gain such insights into its operations? Through a Pulse visit. The BDB reaches out to local businesses, tours the location, meets the owner and leadership team, and learns about their achievements and challenges. From there, we go to work availing our host of resources and connections on their behalf.

As with so many growing small businesses, Importico’s seeks to attract additional qualified personnel. We guided them on advertising their open positions through Employ Florida and CareerSource, whose job fair they’ll take part on Wednesday at IRSC’s Stuart campus. 

We also connected them with the head of the culinary program for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County; Lana Barros, director of the Career Technical Education program for Martin County School District, and Deborah Midkiff, department chair and instructor of Culinary Hospitality & Tourism Management at IRSC.

This dual path enables them to discover and cultivate talents for current and future hirings.

The BDB often concentrates on our most enduring industries—marine, aviation, agricultural, technology, clean energy and manufacturing. But Importico’s success reminds us that dedication and talent—just like dough—expands and rises, making big things possible for small businesses.

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

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

Anne's Assessment

Anne Posey
Tykes & Teens, CEO

Acceptance Saves Lives

Jessie Adamson, MS

Trauma Informed Care Specialist

“I can still hear my [caregiver’s] voice in my head even though she is not here anymore.

It is exhausting because sometimes I can’t tell where her voice ends,

and my own thoughts begin.”

 – A Survivor of Trauma

The delicate relationship between our mental health and the dynamics of acceptance, autonomy, and self-compassion underscores the complex nature of our psychological well-being. According to The Trevor Project, “LGBTQ youth who report having at least one accepting adult were 40% less likely to report a suicide attempt in the past year.” In order for this next generation to thrive, we must set down our judgment and consider: Do we want to be right or do we want to be effective in saving lives and healing broken brains?

Acceptance from others deeply influences our self-perception and overall mental health. Embracing others fully, regardless of differences, is essential. It becomes challenging when we assume the role of an 'older and wiser' authority figure. This may potentially create barriers to true empathy and understanding, harming the relationship, and breaking down trust.

Autonomy’s absence can severely undermine self-esteem through learned helplessness. Guiding, rather than leading, someone through new tasks or problems can be extremely beneficial to a person’s self-esteem. This requires acceptance. The task may take longer and be less convenient, but doing so will aid in brain architecture become stronger in the young people we serve. This is key to our success as a society.

Self-compassion is the nurturing inner voice that promotes healing and comfort during times of distress. Although self-compassion comes from within, children are taught how to show themselves compassion through modeling and observing how adults treat themselves in times of hardship. Showing ourselves grace as a modeling tool is key. Show children extreme grace will help them learn how to have internal scripts that will gently guide them as they grow.

By embracing a radical acceptance of each other's unique identities, fostering autonomy, and nurturing self-compassion, we lay a powerful groundwork for improved mental health and the development of stronger, more supportive communities.

The Trevor Project. (2020). Saving Young LGBTQ Lives. The Trevor Project. https://www.thetrevorproject.org/

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

Humane Society of the Treasure Coast

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

Kitten Season is Here

Kitten season is here, and animal shelters often find themselves over capacity with adorable, tiny felines in need of support. At the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast (HSTC), we often times find ourselves with over 200 cats and kittens in our care during this season.

You can make a huge difference during kitten season by becoming a foster parent for kittens in need. Fostering provides temporary care and socialization for kittens until they are ready for adoption. It's a rewarding experience that helps save lives and gives these little ones a chance at finding their forever homes. Students can even earn hours for school for fostering animals through our shelter.

Additionally, you can support our shelter by donating supplies such as food, blankets, and crates or making monetary contributions to help cover medical expenses for kittens in need. We rely on these donations to continue to be able to provide medical care, food, shelter, and other necessities for the animals in our community. We even have an Amazon Wish List that can be found on our website with our greatest needs. Once purchased, those items are shipped directly to our shelter.

It’s also very important to know what to do if you happen to come across a lone kitten outside. It's best not to take them away from where you found them right away unless they are in immediate danger. Mother cats are usually the best caregivers for their young ones and may be out searching for food, which is most often the case. If the kitten looks healthy, it’s most likely that the mama cat will be returning soon.

If you do find an abandoned kitten and are unsure of its age or health status, there are a few things you can do to help determine the best course of action. You can try to assess the kitten's age by looking at physical characteristics such as their eyes, ears, teeth, and overall size. We have a guide on our website that can help you visualize these characteristics at https://hstc1.org/Kitten-Season.  

If you notice any signs of illness or malnutrition, it's important to seek veterinary care right away. If the kitten is very underweight or looks ill, it’s most likely there’s no mother cat coming back for them. That’s when it’s important for humans to intervene.

The Humane Society of the Treasure Coast is an open access shelter, which means we never turn any homeless animal away within Martin County. If you find an abandoned kitten and are not sure what to do, please call our shelter at 772-223-8822 or visit https://hstc1.org/Kitten-Season. We are a resource to the homeless animals in our community and we will be here and ready to care for them if or when they need it the most.

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

Helping Hand

Suzy Hutcheson
Helping People Succeed, CEO

Acceptance vs. Awareness

Since 1972, we have celebrated April as National Autism Awareness Month designed to educate people about autism spectrum disorders and how to support children and adults who have autism.

In 2024, we are celebrating Autism Acceptance Month promoting action! Acceptance focuses on real people with and without autism recognizing their strengths, complexities and individuality. Acceptance doesn’t assume that a difference is a weakness. The purpose of Autism Awareness Month calls for autism acceptance and gives space to improve support and opportunities in education, employment, healthcare, social programs and more!

From a person living with autism--I wish to live in a world where acceptance is not just the goal, but the reality. I want to live in a world where someone talking in the deficit model of awareness is regarded as uncomfortably out of touch with how things should be. This is my world too, and I want it to be filled with people who know that I am autistic and fantastic, not that I “have autism” and that is tragic. In my ideal world, autism will be just another way that people are unique, and everyone will agree that diversity is part of what makes the world so beautiful. (Kassiane S. Autistic Self Advocacy Network).

Helping People Succeed strives to help children and adults with autism live in a world of acceptance and value. To achieve this goal, we offer a variety of opportunities including:

Individual and Family Therapy with Master’s level therapists working in home or at school promoting skills and strategies, with a strength-based approach.

Infant and Toddler Social-Communication helps families with young children ages two months and older, who may show decreased interest in eye contact, snuggling or responding to parent voice and facial expressions.

Steps to Success is a 12-week opportunity for high functioning individuals, ages 15 and above, who are on the Autism Spectrum. The goal is to empower individuals to live and work in the community as independently as possible.

One parent says—Helping People Succeed’s Skills for Success is built with a fantastic, compassionate and supportive group of people who know how to address profound life issues through fun and interactive activities that all kids enjoy. Our daughter has been in the program for two years now, and we’ve seen wonderful changes in her ability to relate to her peers and others, as well as, to interact more in her social life. Through Skills for Success she has become so confident in overcoming her challenges and in her life—she sees a future that she can choose for herself.

Our Mission--Helping People Succeed transforms lives by realizing potential, creating hope and building futures through education, counseling, training and employment. We invite you to come for a visit—have a cup of coffee with us and we’ll share out vision with you.

Helping People Succeed is a local nonprofit organization that has been serving the Treasure Coast for 60 years. Through its diversified, effective program services – Helping People Succeed serves, on average, 8000 children and adults per year.

Helping People Succeed is located at 1601 NE Braille Place in Jensen Beach Florida. Our website is hpsfl.org or call us at 772.320.0770.

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: Join The Great(est) American Cleanup

Mark your calendars from now through June 20 for the 2024 Great American Cleanup!

Spearheaded nationally by Keep America Beautiful, the Great American Cleanup® unifies and beautifies communities across the country in a grassroots spring-cleaning movement. Our local Great American Cleanup - Green Up & Clean Up offers many opportunities to organize groups and participate in activities to make tangible improvements in Martin County.

Martin County is a beautiful place, but it takes real effort by concerned citizens to keep it that way. You can help make 2024 the Great(est) American Cleanup! From community cleanups, to invasive plant removals, planting and gardening, and educational activities – we can help you coordinate an event of your own, spread the word, and provide cleanup supplies.

Or you can join a local event that’s already scheduled, like the Live.Love.Local Hobe Sound cleanup on April 20 or Downtown Stuart’s Sweeping the Streets cleanup on the same day or House of Hope’s Clear the Field, Grow the Future: Farm Weeding event on May 31.

During last year’s Great American cleanup, more than 300 volunteers removed about 2,500 pounds of debris from more than 30 miles of Martin County roadways, beaches, and parks. Those dedicated volunteers spent over 700 hours collecting enough debris to fill nearly 200 trash bags with the value of their time estimated at $18,000. Of course, the positive impact on our environment and our community was priceless!

To view a list of upcoming Great American Cleanup events and details go to keepmartinbeautiful.org/great-american-cleanup. Want to add your event to list of Great American Cleanup events? Send us the details.

As a reminder, Keep Martin Beautiful is hosting the Environmental Stewardship Awards on May 1 to honor the individuals, families, businesses and organizations that have shown their love for the environment over the past two years in creative and measurable ways. We look forward to sharing more information about them with you in our next column.

For more info contact Keep Martin Beautiful at 772-781-1222, email info@keepmartinbeautiful.org or visit keepmartinbeautiful.org.

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

President of the Martin County Education Association

Matt Theobold
President of the Martin County Teachers Association

On April 9th, MCEA will return to the table for its fourteenth (and hopefully final) round of negotiations with the school board this year. We are optimistic that we will reach an agreement at this session, but there is one problem… the contract we are negotiating is for THIS school year.

That’s right! With only eight weeks left, the educators of Martin County might finally find out what their raises and working conditions are going to look like for the 2023-2024 school year.

Meanwhile, all our neighbors in surrounding counties have settled contracts with their respective unions and all their employees are operating under current collective bargaining agreements. Okeechobee and Indian River Counties, for example, have had contracts settled since October.

Not only is this unfair, it presents a significant problem for a district that has already lost 456 teachers over the past four years. With Martin County consistently behind its neighbors, new recruits to the area are far more likely to accept jobs elsewhere that have a guaranteed salary that always appears to be ahead of ours. Under this current model, Martin County is constantly playing catch-up, and the allure of our beaches and our golf courses simply isn’t enough to close that gap.

You’re probably thinking that MCEA should hire the same negotiator that Okeechobee and Indian River use, and it may surprise you to know that the same individual already negotiates our contracts too. It may also be tempting to blame the union for the delay, but I can assure you that we are not the problem.

The issues that separate our county from the surrounding areas are the same issues that are responsible for the slow pace of negotiations. The foundation of good faith bargaining is that both parties come to the table with authority to make decisions, but the school board requires their team to bring proposals back to them for consideration. Typically, these proposals are reviewed the following week during an executive session, and their answer is given a week later, requiring two weeks in between each session and adding months to the process.

The other counties give their superintendents authority to make deals at the table, and the board only gets involved after negotiations have concluded. They also don’t hire outside counsel to conduct their negotiations either. Our school board, on the other hand, has an agreement with an outside law firm that charges nearly $200/hr to sit at the table and negotiate on their behalf. That’s a lot of money just to play catch-up.

Instead of trying to beat teachers at negotiations, this board should consider working with us. It would not only save time; it would save tax dollars as well.


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

Julia's Healthy Gems

Julia Chiappetta
Julia Chiappetta Consulting

Activated Charcoal – There Are So Many Benefits to Consider

Activated Charcoal has been in use since 1500 B.C, for medicinal purposes, such as wound care & soothing the intestinal tract. Hippocrates (circa 400 B.C.), and Pliny (50 A.D.), recorded its use for treating a range of other complaints including epilepsy, anemia & vertigo.

According to The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, “after the development of the charcoal activation process (1870- 1920), reports appeared in medical journals about activated charcoal as an antidote for poisoning, intestinal disorders & insect bites. By the end of the 20th century, it was in use at every modern hospital for wound dressings, drug overdose, kidney dialysis units, anemia and for breast cancer surgery. Activated Charcoal is created by burning all-natural, non-toxic woods, such as coconut, without the use of chemicals.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), lists these benefits:    

  • Heavy Metal Detoxification: By far the most common use today. In 2005, a study spearheaded in part by EWG, found “an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in umbilical cord blood from 10 babies born in 2004 from August to September, in U.S. hospitals. The umbilical cord blood of these 10 babies, cut & collected by The Red Cross, harbored pesticides, consumer product ingredients, and waste from burning coal, gasoline, and garbage.” The scary fact is that no matter how clean your diet & lifestyle is, we are all exposed to these environmental factors in our air, water, and soil.
  • Intestinal Health: Intestinal health is essential for the digestion process but mostly because the majority (60 to 80%) of the immune system cells live in our gut. Once inside our intestines, activated charcoal works through a process of adsorption (not absorption). Adsorption has to do with the electrical attraction of toxins to the surface area of negatively charged particles (in this case, fine particles of activated charcoal) in the intestinal tract. Charcoal is not absorbed by the body and will eventually exit through the bowels, along with the toxic substances it has attracted to it. If you use activated charcoal for intestinal detox, you may experience black stool. Do not be surprised, this is normal and shows you the speed at which toxins are eliminated.
  • Lowering Cholesterol: In a study conducted 30 years ago by The Lancet, patients with high cholesterol who took activated charcoal (8 gm) three times per day had a lowered LDL of 41% and a total lowered cholesterol level of 25%.

If you decide to use activated charcoal as part of your wellness protocol, please only purchase a quality organic source made with fine-grain wood, with coconut wood.

Cleansing the body, mind & soul brings joy!


  1. ^ Jump up to: a b c d e f "Charcoal, Activated". The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. Archived from the original on 21 December 2016. Retrieved 8 December 2016.
  2. ^ Jump up to: a b c WHO Model Formulary 2008 (PDF). World Health Organization. 2009. p. 57. ISBN 9789241547659. Archived (PDF) from the original on 13 December 2016. Retrieved 8 December 2016.

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

.A Quicker Path to Recovery with Ortho Express Care™ in Stuart

Is it a fracture or a sprain? You need a quick answer to pick the right path on your journey to recovery. That’s why Cleveland Clinic Martin Health recently opened the Ortho Express Care™ at the Patricia Lichtenberger Medical Plaza, 2150 SE Salerno Road in Stuart. Adult patients can now receive same-day appointments for common orthopaedic injuries such as simple fractures; sports or exercise-related injuries; sprains and strains; swollen or painful joints; and sudden joint, bone or muscle injuries.

“Ortho Express Care provides residents on the Treasure Coast with quick and convenient access to expert musculoskeletal diagnosis and treatment,” says Peter Evans, MD, PhD, Division Chair, Orthopaedic Surgery, Rehabilitation, and Sports Therapy at Cleveland Clinic Florida.

“As the newest outpatient orthopaedic program at Cleveland Clinic Martin Health, Ortho Express Care™ complements our orthopaedic services and multidisciplinary team of specialists who address a wide spectrum of conditions, from simple bone fractures to complex joint disorders.”

These are reasons why people go to Ortho Express CareTM:

  • Sudden joint, bone or muscle injuries
  • Swollen or painful joints
  • Sports or exercise-related injuries (no concussions)
  • Simple Fractures
  • Sprains & Strains
  • Other musculoskeletal injuries
  • All patients ages 18 and up are welcomed

Ortho Express CareTM is open Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. For details, visit clevelandclinicflorida.org/orthoexpress or Call 772.212.0732 to request an appointment or to learn more. Choose Ortho Express Care™ for quick and quality orthopaedic care.

Learn how orthopaedic surgery helped these patients stay active:   
ACL repair: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/patient-stories/705-acl-repair-surgery-helps-patient-make-strides-in-busy-life

Shoulder surgery: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/patient-stories/717-reverse-shoulder-replacement-gets-patient-back-to-enjoying-life

More info on Ortho Express Care: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/florida/patients/express-care-clinics#ortho-express-care-tab

Rishi P. Singh, MD, is a surgeon at Cleveland Clinic Florida, Professor of Ophthalmology at the Lerner College of Medicine, and Vice President/Chief Medical Officer of Cleveland Clinic Martin North and South Hospitals in Stuart. He specializes in the treatment of medical and surgical retinal disease such as diabetic retinopathy, retinal detachment, and age-related macular degeneration. Dr. Singh has authored more than 250 peer reviewed publications, books, and book chapters and serves as the principal investigator of numerous national clinical trials advancing the treatment of retinal disease.

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

IT Insight

Eric Kiehn
C&W Technologies, Owner & CEO

A Cybersecurity Economic Revolution Is Here, Are You Prepared?

I used to do seminars about cybersecurity for business. People would be shocked about the vulnerabilities but often would do nothing to improve their security. I never got that, not only from a national security standpoint but from the point of view that they didn’t seem to worry about losing their money.

This might all be changing not because they want to but because they will have to. Last December 15th, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s expanded cybersecurity rules went into effect. Public companies are now required to disclose incidents within four business days. If you wonder, why there have been so many more reported breaches as of late this is one reason. And these rules are only the beginning.

Unnoticed by the press, investors, or just about anyone else, the federal government is quietly directing a  shift in the economy by mandating stringent cybersecurity compliance across all 16 critical infrastructure sectors. Some might wonder what took them so long.

Sectors like the defense industrial base, financial services, and energy already had a tightening of mandates. Often overlooked are the subsectors beneath those 16 sectors, which essentially combine to comprise nearly every company and component of our economy. This means nearly every business is in scope for the emerging cybersecurity compliance regulations coming down from the federal government.

Think you might not be affected? Your business is too small. Well let’s use the commercial facilities sector as an example. It consists of eight subsectors, including real estate, retail, sports leagues, and entertainment venues. If you are in any of the above, then you will be mandated into making changes. Pretty soon there will be no place to hide from cybersecurity regulations.

Is this government overreach? I could argue if more businesses took cybersecurity seriously then yes. Too often it seems that security is at the bottom of the list of things to do and pay for. With nation threat actors and organized crime syndicates stepping up their activity there really isn’t much of a choice. If business won’t secure themselves then the government will force business to secure itself.

The government is pulling every regulatory lever available to quietly define and enforce mandatory cybersecurity minimums on the entire economy in the same way it mandates seatbelts, airbags, and other safety features in automobiles. 

When we say every lever, The Department of Justice is actively looking for fraud by using the False Claims Act by government contractors and grant recipients. Whistleblower employees come forward to collect large rewards. And the private sector is now being sued under the guise of failing to safeguard Controlled Unclassified Information or Personal Identifiable Information that might leak because of a failure to implement cybersecurity in a business.

Cybersecurity compliance isn’t just and I’ll get to it when I want to anymore, it has become a legal imperative.  

Where to start. You need to run an audit of your business, no matter what size, to know where you stand. Don’t wait till you are facing a lawsuit, a breach or both. Take action today.

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

Martin County Taxpayers Association

Understanding Martin County Debt

When you consider that the per capita net debt of the Federal government is, as of Jan. 6, 2024, $102,409.00, Martin County is a bargain at $835.37 per capita. It did not happen by accident. The county adopted “a conscious effort to maintain a strong pay-as-you- go financing philosophy “

Still $133,610,903 seemed like a lot of money so the MCTA sat down with Don Donaldson, the County Administrator, and Stephanie Merle, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, to gain an understanding of the ins and outs of the debt. We appreciated the time, knowledge and insight which they shared with us.

Revenue Sources: Before the county borrows, you need a source of income and collateral. The various sources of revenue for the county were explored.

Ad Valorem Tax Revenue: or property taxes Each property owner receives a TRIM notice in the fall outlining their tax liability. This revenue must be voter approved and the upper limit is set by the state at 10 mils.

Fees: Various fees are collected by the county.

Utility Fees: These fees are non-voter approved and are used to support the water, sewer, and waste disposal infrastructure of the county.

Ambulance Fees: These are used for capital leases to lease/purchase fire rescue equipment.

Permit Fees: Anyone who has built or remodeled is familiar with these fees.

Franchise Fees: These are collected from entities which are given an exclusive to provide services in an area. An example might be a fee collected from a cable company.

Gas Taxes: The county receives revenue for all gasoline sold in the county. The revenue is designated for road maintenance, staff salaries and capital improvements.

Municipal Services Benefit Unit (MSBU): A special district created to provide for projects and/or services to a specifically defined area of the County and financed by a special assessment to only those citizens receiving the benefits of those projects or services. Chapter 125.01(q) 1 of the Florida Statutes authorizes the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) to create or abolish a MSBU. The law permits such districts to be created for the purpose of providing and maintaining facilities or services which specifically benefit property owners in a particular area. For example, an MSBU was established to assess the property owners and to provide sewer services to North River Shores.

Municipal Services Taxing Units (MSTU): Section 125.01(1)(q), Florida Statutes, allows a county to create municipal service taxing or benefit units for the provision of enumerated services and “other essential facilities and municipal service[s].” They have a 10-mil cap and require a 4/5 majority of the Board of County Commissioners to establish an MSTU. Examples of MSTU’s in the county are Hutchinson Island Beach Renourishment, Stormwater, Fire Services and Parks and Recreation. These are reflected on the property owner’s TRIM notice.

Development Districts: Florida statutes provide for this vehicle to fund infrastructure in areas to be developed. Martin County has not used this as a revenue source, but St. Lucie County has.

Borrowing Avenues:

Bonds: The county currently has approximately $75 million outstanding in bonds, notes and capital leases. None of the bonds are General Obligation Bonds which are typically pledged against Ad Valorem Taxes and require voter approval. Rather, the county chooses to issue bonds for larger projects.  These bonds are guaranteed by fees generated or assessments and do not require voter approval. There is another $56.6 million outstanding in Utility Revenue Bonds and notes. These bonds are collateralized by the revenue from utility fees.

State Revolving Fund: The county has the ability to borrow from the State of Florida for special needs, which are typically for public works and utilities. The interest rate can vary from 0-2.5%

Bank Loans: Occasionally, the county will secure a loan from a bank as opposed to accessing other vehicles.

Interfund Loans: As an example, the Landfill Fund has $50 million set aside for environmental cleanup. A percentage of this can be used by the county to fund other projects. An example is that the Orchid Bay Septic to Sewer project borrowed $1 million from the Solid Waste Fund for the project. The Board of County Commissioners sets the interest rate.

TRICO: Trico is a self-insurance vehicle set up by Martin County, The City of Stuart, Port St. Lucie and St. Lucie County. A percentage of the reserve funds can be loaned to the participants in Trico.


Overall Status: By most metrics which one would use, Martin County is in excellent shape. Net Debt to Assessed Property Value is a ratio of tax supported debt to assessed taxable property values. Since the county forgoes General Obligation Bonds, the ratio is zero (0). Bonded Debt Per Capita is also zero because the county has sufficient reserves to pay off the general obligation debt. When you look at the metric of net debt per capita, an acceptable range is $300-500, and the county is above that range.

When you consider the net debt of $133,610,903 divided into a population of 159,942, you have each resident responsible for $835.37.  The fiscal policy for the county recommends holding the debt level per resident to less than $900.

It should be noted that Standard and Poors recently upgraded the county’s credit rating from AA to AA+. Kudos to Mr. Donaldson, Mrs. Merle and their staff. The Board of Commissioners should also be commended for maintaining a strong pay-as-you- go financing philosophy.

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

Martin County Property Appraiser

Jenny Fields
Martin County Property Appraiser

There is more significance to “January 1” than

celebrating New Year’s Day!

When it comes to ad valorem property taxes in Florida, everything revolves around a date of assessment of January 1.  When you receive your tax bill in November, those taxes are based on a snapshot of your property valuation which took place eleven months prior on January 1. As a result, the Property Appraiser studies the previous year’s real estate market activities and transactions to establish the current year values.

The illustration below shows this sequence, where 2024 property valuation, notification, and billing tie back to January 1, and in essence market activity taking place in 2023.

Florida law goes on to say that the taxability of newly constructed improvements is determined based on whether they were substantially complete as of January 1. For example, if you are putting in a new swimming pool that is not complete until February 2024, then the tax bill you receive in November 2024 would not reflect the additional taxes for your pool because the pool wasn’t done by January 1, 2024. The value of the pool would be added the following year and the additional taxes would be reflected on your November 2025 tax bill.

The eligibility of all property tax exemptions is also determined based on whether you qualify on or before January 1. To qualify for the Homestead Exemption, you would have to own the home and make it your primary residence as of January 1 of the tax year that you apply. Likewise, if you apply for the Limited Income Senior Exemption, which has an age requirement of 65 years old, you will have to be age 65 on or before January 1 of the year you apply.

Agricultural classification is a tax savings benefit for property owners that use their land primarily for bona fide commercial agricultural use. This benefit results in the land being valued based on the probable income, which is often substantially less than market value. But to qualify for this benefit, the agricultural use must be in place on or before January 1 of the year you apply.

The January 1 date of assessment greatly affects new homebuyers. The reason is that the property tax estimate shown on real estate listing sites are misused to calculate the closing costs and the tax escrow portion of mortgage payments.

When a buyer purchases a home after January 1, they will receive a first-year tax bill that is based on the previous owners’ exemptions and Save Our Homes benefits. This can lead to a significant discrepancy in the escrow payment and not necessarily what the new buyer may expect to pay in taxes the following year, which will be based on market sales prices.

The Property Tax Estimator, New Homebuyer Timeline handout, and the New Homebuyer educational video are resources available to educate and assist new homebuyers when estimating their own property taxes before they make the purchase, so they may prepare for the financial impact.

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

Indiantown Developments

By Taryn Kryzda

Indiantown Village Manager

Timing, as they say, is everything. And Indiantown’s time has arrived.

The possibilities and opportunities are abundant in Florida’s youngest municipality. That’s why I was so excited for the privilege of serving as the village manager following my retirement after 11 years as administrator of Martin County.

Incorporated in 2017, the Village of Indiantown continues to strengthen its core infrastructure, sharpen its services, and attract investment that will result in additional job creation and a variety of housing options.

Water: Hopeful news to report on our No. 1 priority—protecting and improving our drinking water supply. We’re appreciative of the leadership of our state delegates Sen. Gayle Harrell and Rep. John Snyder.

Thanks to their advocacy, we hope to receive an appropriation that will enable us to upgrade our water treatment and distribution center. This would position us to invest in the creation of a reserve osmosis plant that can treat enough gallons per day to ensure residents and businesses receive safe, reliable water service. Our completion date is aiming for the last quarter of 2027—depending of course on funding.

Innovation: Sedron Technologies specializes in the creation and operation of biosolids processing plants that transform treated human waste into fertilizer, irrigation-quality water—even materials essential in the manufacturing of cement.

Representatives from the Washington-based company recently drew praise from our village council members after presenting their plans to create such an operation in Indiantown.

The plant could process hundreds of thousands of tons of varying class levels of biosolids—which are currently burned, unloaded in landfills, or used in various farming operations. A better way to dispose of and repurpose biosolids—which Sedron Technologies has pioneered—poses countless environmental sustainability benefits, including diminishing levels of nitrogen and phosphorus that have cause so many challenges across Martin County.

Advantage: As a rural community, Indiantown encompasses certain designations—such as federal opportunity and foreign trade zones—that incentivize investment and enable forgiveness on capital gains tax.

Thanks to approved projects such as Terra Lago and River Oaks, a variety of housing stock and commercial activity will soon be coming online.

For decades, only a fortunate few fully appreciated the beauty and character of Indiantown. Agricultural leaders, equine experts—a few Kentucky Debry finalists trained at nearby Payson Park—and savvy mariners who know what safe harbor Indiantown Marina provides during storm season.

Steadily, the secret is seeping out. The majority of residents I get the pleasure of interacting with remain intent on safeguarding its rich history, small-town pride and neighborly values while welcoming the promise of a brighter future for Indiantown.

That’s a promise long deferred. I recently came across a newspaper article about a five-year plan proposed to “attract more middle-income residents to Indiantown, leading to a stronger tax base and a more stable pattern of growth.” It was dated Oct. 9, 1976. It’s nice to see that promise finally coming to fruition.

Taryn Kryzda’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Constitutional Corner & Non Profit Notices


Supervisor of Elections

Tax Collector

Property Appraiser

Martin County Clerk & Comptroller

Martin County

Non Profit Notices

Paws & Claws Gala raises impressive amount for shelter animals

PALM CITY, Fla. — The Humane Society of the Treasure Coast’s annual Paws & Claws Gala raised more than a quarter million dollars with more donations still coming in. The $275,000 in donations directly benefit the care of the shelter animals. Paws and Claws is the largest event of its kind along the Treasure Coast.

Presented by the Catsman Foundation and held at The Cape Club of Palm City, Fire & Ice was the gala’s theme. The Humane Society welcomed 178 guests, who were greeted by Misty’s Pals, the shelter’s pet therapy dogs and their owners. Upon entering the clubhouse, attendees were immediately drawn into the Fire & Ice theme. The entire bar was illuminated in red hues with images of fire being projected throughout the room. As the event kicked off indoors, attendees were captivated by a grand reveal to showcase the Ice room with all blue, silver and white hues. This was all due to the imagination and creation of Eventmakers International.

Glenn & Eilleen Dempsey of the Catsman Foundation, presenting sponsor

Guests also were entertained by three dancers with the Preston Contemporary Dance Theatre who performed on elevated platforms representing the fire and ice elements.

Co-chairs Shaun Kelly and Kim Izzolo

Karen Lynch, The Cape Club’s executive chef, and her team served a varied array of hors d’oeuvres. Guests participated in a silent auction that included 98 packages featuring everything from art, jewelry and dining excursions to spa escapes, vacations and unique experiences. Other attendees participated in a snowball throwing contest to hit a target for a prize. That alone generated nearly $2,400. Musicians and vocalists with The Chase Band kept people dancing all night long!

Dana Coates, Eileen Morris, Paola Krakow and Barbara Colello

Volunteers Kimberly Izzolo and Shaun Kelly co-chaired the event and were supported by committee members Katie Astras, Jennifer Campbell, Dixie Church, Diane Coakley, Dana Coates, Carol Dippy, Cindy Greenspan, Kit Haas, Debbie Hansen, Michael Izzolo, Alison Kohloff, Allola McGraw, Monica Olsen, Sarah Ralicki, Alison Shade, Wendy Talbot, Karen Wilkens, Melony Zaravelis and Kay Ziegler.

Additional event support was provided by sponsors Apex Pavers & Pools, Integrity Garage Door Services, JetLoan Capital, Treasure Coast Urgent Care, Transmarine Chartering, The Eberst Law Firm, Stuart Magazine and TC Palm.

Pet therapists with their dogs: Sallie Snyder & Jessi Lou, Marsha Mallatt & Lucy Lu, JoanMorrow & Harry, Kristen Baltes & Cece, Janice Kean & Tuxedo, David Dees & Maisy

About the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast – The Humane Society of the Treasure Coast (HSTC) is a no-kill animal welfare organization located at 4100 SW Leighton Farm Ave. in Palm City, FL. Since 1955, it has been the leading advocate for animal protection and well-being in the Martin County area. A 501(c)3 private, nonprofit organization, the HSTC is independent and locally operated and relies on donations to support its programs and services. Follow the HSTC on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/humanesocietyTC and Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/hstc1. For more information, visit https://www.hstc1.org or call (772) 223-8822.



It is always an honor to be recognized for the differences that we strive to make in our community. For the second year in a row a member of our organization is receiving the Community Service Leadership Award from Hobe Sound Community Chest. The recipient of this award is chosen from a list of individuals who have made a significant contribution to the Hobe Sound community. The winner is awarded a gift and a $10,000 contribution to a charitable organization of their choice. The annual Hobe Sound Community Service Award was established in 1996 by an endowment from Robert McNeil’s family foundation.


Last year, Simone Scott, the director of the BLAST program (Banner Lake After School Time) was recognized for her dedication to the development of children and teens. This year we are so excited that our CEO Wendy Reynoso is also being recognized for her tireless efforts and loyalty to the Banner Lake Community. The recognition of two of our leaders in two years is an honor in its own right, but that is not all! The NAACP of Martin County has awarded Banner Lake Club Inc. with the Community Organization Award. This is the second time that we have received this honor, with our last award being in 2020. We are incredibly grateful for the recognition, and we will continue on in our service and commitment to the Banner Lake Community.


Community Hosts “April Showers” to Benefit Helping People Succeed

By Jackie Holfelder

For many years, Helping People Succeed has coordinated month-long “Baby Showers” during the month of April, seeking baby necessities for families in need.

“April Showers” collection boxes are placed in businesses throughout Martin, St. Lucie, and Okeechobee counties to be filled with such infant-related things as developmental toys, baby clothing, rattles, books, diapers, and wipes.

The contributed items will benefit children and families served through Helping People Succeed’s Healthy Families program and Baby Steps, which offers support and services to families who may be experiencing stress in their lives that makes parenting more challenging.

These services are offered through home visits with a Family Support Specialist which may start before or shortly after the birth of a baby, and can continue until the child’s fifth birthday.

Rob Whitlach of Thrivent, host of the April Showers Brunch on April 27

The “April Showers” drive allows the community to provide these much-needed items to families who, in many cases, won’t have a traditional baby shower.

As a special treat, Thrivent will host a brunch on April 27 from 10 a.m.-noon at Helping People Succeed headquarters, 1601 NE Braille Place, Jensen Beach, for anyone wishing to donate a shower gift for a newborn. RSVP at 772-408-0771.

Martin County locations for “April Showers” boxes are:

·        Beachcomber Hair Salon

·        Becker Insurance Company

·        Burn Boot Camp

·        Crafted the Store

·        Edward Jones – Financial Advisor

·        HairBabez Salon

·        Harbor Wear of Stuart

·        Helping People Succeed

·        Kinane Corporation Commercial Printing

·        Kimberly A. Dettori, DDS, MA, PA

·        Martin County Clerk of the Court

·        Miracles on 34th St. Salon

·        Palm City Cleaners

·        Realty ONE Group Engage

·        Sandhill Cove Retirement Living

·        Seacoast Bank ~ Jensen Beach

·        Seacoast Bank ~ Stuart

·        Thrivent

·        Tootsies

Okeechobee locations for “April Showers” boxes are:

·        Bad Apple Hair Salon

·        Okeechobee Chamber of Commerce

·        Our Village Okeechobee

·        Joani’s Exchange

·        Indian River State College - Dixon Hendry Campus

·        Philip DeBerard Injury Attorney

·        Sacred Heart Catholic Church

·        Seacoast Bank

In St. Lucie County, an  “April Showers” Box is located at:

·        Brightway Insurance, The Moody Agency

A wish list and a list of these businesses along with addresses, can be found at www.hpsfl.org.

April Showers will run through April 30th. The Thrivent event on April 27 is complimentary. Come join Helping People Succeed with your April Shower gift.

Helping People Succeed is celebrating 60 years of service to the community. 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, call Glenna Parris at 772-320-0778.


The Music of Dan Forrest

The Chamber Singers, the classical chorale of Treasure Coast Community Singers, will present the beautiful music of Dan Forrest’s Requiem for the Living on April 13-14, 2024.  Mr. Forrest is a highly regarded choral composer whose works are performed by professional ensembles and church choirs throughout the world.  Requiem for the Living ranges in musical color from aggressive rhythmic sections, heard in “Vanitas Vanitatum” especially, to lyrical and ethereal melodies which touch the heart and soul of the listener, heard in “Agnus Dei” and “Lux Aeterna.”  Four additional anthems by Mr. Forrest will be included in this program (“Be Thou My Vision,” Good Night, Dear Heart,” “Song of the Earth,” and “O God Beyond All Praising”). 

The Chamber Singers will be accompanied by extraordinary pianist, Carol Paul and  eight  piece Chamber orchestra. The soloists for this concert are Karen Barnes, Pat Miller and Mike Baruffi, all members of the Chamber Singers Chorale.

The concert on Saturday, April 13, will be held at Trinity United Methodist Church, 2221 NE Savannah Rd., Jensen Beach.  Sunday’s concert, April 14, will be presented at St. Bernadette’s Catholic Church, 350 NW California Blvd., Port St. Lucie.  The choral ensemble will be accompanied by a chamber orchestra of professional musicians under the direction of Dr. Douglas P. Jewett, recipient of the 2023 Council on Aging Sage Award.  Concert time is 3:00 p.m. both days.  To purchase tickets, visit www.tccsingers.org.

Concluding the season the Treasure Coast Community Singers will feature the music of Bacharach, Sondheim, and Webber on May 18-19, 2024.  Mark your calendars for these outstanding concerts.

TCCS is sponsored by The Arts Council of Martin County, Florida Department of State Division of Arts and Culture, St. Lucie Cultural Alliance, Women Supporting the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts.  TCCS is Gold Guide Star rated.  The organization is a 501(c)3, non-profit group.



Celebrate 30 Years of Environmental Excellence

at the 2024 Environmental Stewardship Awards

Local groups and individuals to be honored for their environmental leadership, innovation and dedication to Martin County


PALM CITY, Fla. – From composting food waste in the backyard to turning trash into art, restoring pine flatlands, creating an eco-tourism program, and shining a light on water quality issues that plague our river, Martin County citizens continue to serve as outstanding examples of environmental stewardship in action.

Keep Martin Beautiful will be honoring these individuals, businesses, civic and youth groups and government agencies during its 2024 Environmental Stewardship Awards ceremony on Wed., May 1 from 6 to 9 p.m. at Piper’s Landing Yacht & Country Club.

“We’ll also be celebrating Keep Martin Beautiful’s 30th anniversary and the longstanding dedication of our volunteers who are the driving force of our organization,” said Jennifer Stull-Wise, Board Chair of Keep Martin Beautiful. “We received 43 nominations, and they illustrate the many ways people can show their commitment to the environment and our community. I was especially pleased to see so many nominations focused on educational initiatives.”

The City of Stuart wins the 2022 Community Improvement Award (pictured, front row) Pinal Gandhi-Savdas, Jordan Pinkston, Merritt Matheson, Anne Ellig Hawkins, Eula Clarke, (back row) Ben Hogarth, Milton Leggett, and David Dyess.

Martin County Commissioner Ed Ciampi and Stacy Weller Ranieri, President of The Firefly Group are the emcees for the event.  “I’m a big fan of Keep Martin Beautiful and have really enjoyed emceeing the event in previous years. It’s an honor to be part of it,” said Ciampi. “My favorite part of the Environmental Stewardship Awards is that it brings together citizens from all walks of life in Martin County – civic and environmental leaders, schoolteachers, students, government employees, small business owners, and they’re all there together to celebrate the projects and activities that are helping to beautify and revitalize our community.”

Tickets are $150 per person and can be purchased online at www.KeepMartinBeautiful.org.  Sponsorship opportunities are still available and silent auction items are still being accepted. Call 772-781-1222 or email info@keepmartinbeautiful.org for more information.

The full list of this year’s nominations, as well as winners from previous years, is available online at keepmartinbeautiful.org.

Keep Martin Beautiful appreciates the generous support from sponsors and in-kind donors including: Champion Sponsor, Three Lakes; Steward Sponsors, Waste Management; FPL, Ashley Capital; Sustainer Sponsors, Family Lands Remembered; One Martin; Ram Realty; Supporter Sponsors, Camo Farms, City of Stuart; Continental Shelf Associates; Ecological Associates Inc.; Kolter Land Partners; Lucido & Associates; Shearwater Marine; In-Kind, The Art Department, Coastal Bohemian, Fetterman Law Team, The Firefly Group; and Jenkins Landscape.

About Keep Martin Beautiful

Keep Martin Beautiful (KMB) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit community organization founded in 1994 as an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful. Its mission is to preserve and enhance the quality of life in Martin County through litter prevention, the promotion of recycling, improvement of solid waste management practices, and beautification and community revitalization activities. KMB signature events and programs include the Environmental Stewardship Awards, the International Coastal Cleanup, the Great American Cleanup, the Adopt-A-Road and Adopt-A-Street programs, and other educational and outreach activities. Find KMB on Facebook at facebook.com/KeepMartinBeautiful, follow KMB on Instagram at instagram.com/KeepMartinBeautiful, visit KeepMartinBeautiful.org or call 772-781-1222.



The Sky’s the Limit for Students & Jobseekers

MARTIN COUNTY (March 22, 2024) — On April 17th, Tradewind Aviation will host an exciting fundraiser to support the Stuart/ Martin County Chamber’s workforce development and scholarship programs. The event named for its boundless prizes, Sky’s the Limit, is presented by Treasure Coast Toyota and is open to the public. Guests will enjoy a live auction with Elliot Paul & Company and jet planes, fast boats, and glamourous cars on exhibit. Tickets are $10 and include two drinks, appetizers from area restaurants, and entertainment.

Unlimited chances to win vacations, electronics, unique experiences, recreational land, and more are not the only benefits to attending this fabulous fundraiser at Witham Field. Supporting the event helps to strengthen and grow our local workforce.  Proceeds raised at Sky’s the Limit will benefit career coaching & skill training and scholarships for students seeking certifications in vocational careers. Hosting the event in a local aviation hangar makes for more than a thrilling backdrop. The location represents the aviation industry, just one of Martin County’s contributory industries with boundless high-paying career opportunities.

Sky’s the Limit is sponsored by Treasure Coast Toyota, Majesty Yachts, and Owen Insurance Group. There will be entertainment and many ways to contribute including a Live Auction, Reach for the Sky Raffle and Lucky Draw. Guest arrival begins at 5:00 PM and the fun ends at 8:00 PM. Purchase tickets online at www.stuartmartinchamber.org.

About the Stuart/Martin County Chamber of Commerce

As the largest chamber on the Treasure Coast, the Stuart/Martin County Chamber of Commerce plays a significant role in the business climate and economy of the area. The Mission of the Stuart/Martin County Chamber of Commerce is the voice of business in the community. The Chamber promotes a dynamic business environment. The Chamber acts as the steward to balance economic and environmental concerns in planning for the county’s future. For more information visit www.stuartmartinchamber.org.

About the Chamber’s Workforce Development Department

Career Connect Martin was established in January 2022, answering a call from the Martin County Board of County Commissioners to assist businesses recover from the COVID-19 Pandemic which left them with a reduced workforce. The goal is to attract, develop, and prepare local talent for positive impacts on the marketplace. The program, which has an 84% success rate, helps individuals pursue a path to higher earnings. For more information visit www.careerconnectmartin.org.



On Saturday, May 18th, Mary’s Home will hold our 1st Walk, Rock and Roll. Either walk 2.19 miles, rock (in a rocking chair at the registration site) or stroll with your child 2.19 miles over the Evans Crary Bridge and back.  See attachment for walk details and sponsorship information.

The bridge walk will give you a rewarding opportunity to introduce your business to many new faces. Our event sponsors continue to find it worthwhile to support us year after year. We ask that you consider a sponsorship.

We hope you will help us to support our mothers and their babies.




Stuart, FL – ARC of the Treasure Coast is proud to celebrate President & CEO, Keith Muniz, for marking his 20th anniversary with the organization. ARC Board Members recently honored Muniz at a luncheon and award ceremony.

ARC, which stands for Advocates for the Rights of the Challenged, is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to empowering children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to reach their full potential through residential, vocational, educational, behavioral, and other healthcare services.

“The board of directors greatly appreciates Keith’s 20 years of selfless service,” said ARC Board Chair Terry Eve. “We thank Keith for his leadership and recognize his impact over the past 20 years as we look forward to the future with great anticipation for continued growth and success.”

Since graduating from State University of New York College, Muniz has dedicated his career to helping people with disabilities and therefore committed himself to a lifetime of service. He has successfully assisted hundreds of people with disabilities to move out of state institutions and into small community-based homes and/or apartments where they are now thriving, working, and living with greater independence.

“Keith is celebrating two decades of dedication and commitment; reaching a 20th work anniversary marks an impressive milestone of loyalty and achievement within his professional journey, said ARC Board Member Ed Kemm. “It signifies not only longevity but also a profound depth of expertise, growth, and invaluable contributions to the organization and the community for which he serves so well.”

Over the years, Muniz has also developed collaborative partnerships within the private and public sectors that have helped to raise awareness about ARCTC and encourage community participation in events and fundraising efforts.

“I’m so proud to be a part of this organization,” said Muniz. “What makes it all worthwhile are the people, those we help on a daily basis and my co-workers who are dedicated to improving the lives of others.”

Congratulations Keith!


Helping People Succeed Receives Accreditation from CARF

By Jackie Holfelder

In 1966, the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities was founded. It is now known as CARF International.

The job of this accrediting body is to establish consumer-focused standards that help organizations measure and improve the quality of their programs and services. 

Recently, Helping People Succeed was issued a three-year accreditation by CARF for four of the programs it provides to the community. They are:

·        Case Management/Services Coordination: Mental Health (Adults)

·        Case Management/Services Coordination: Mental Health (Children and Adolescents)

·        Outpatient Treatment: Mental Health (Adults)

·        Outpatient Treatment: Mental Health (Children and Adolescents)

The CARF accreditation recognizes Helping People Succeed’s commitment to improving the quality of the lives of the individuals served. The accreditation goes through November 30, 2026.

In addition to serving children, Helping People Succeed began to serve adults during the midst of the pandemic when other community resources were overburdened and unable to accept any new clients. The programs fall under the umbrella of the Behavioral Services Department.

Other mental health services provided by Helping People Succeed include psychosocial rehabilitation services, therapeutic summer camps, after-school programs and a social skills group for children and young adults on the autism spectrum.

Helping People’s Succeed’s Targeted Case Managers meet on a weekly basis to ensure clients have the support they need to meet their goals. Pictured are Laura Leveille, Kim Cittadino, Brandi Ikner, Samantha Nesbitt

Helping People Succeed is celebrating 60 years of service to the community. 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, contact Glenna Parris at 772-320-0778.

Photo provided by Helping People Succeed.


LEADERship Martin County Alumni Flashes Back to the ’80s

to Support Youth Leadership Program

STUART, FL (March 19, 2024) — LEADERship Martin County Alumni Foundation for Youth is set to host its annual fundraiser, an ’80s Murder Mystery Dinner, on Thursday, April 25 at 5:30 p.m. at Aycock at Tradition in Port St. Lucie.

            The event is a “who done it in spandex.” Expect a hilarious evening dedicated to themes of the 1980s (think glam rock, pop icons, Rubik’s cubes and vampire bats) while trying to solve the “mystery” playing out around you.

            “This is the first signature fundraiser LEADERship Martin County Alumni has held since 2019,” said Cindy Groover, board chair. “We wanted to come back with something fun and different where we could have some laughs and support a great cause.”

            Tickets are $125 and include a three-course dinner and two drinks. Attendees are highly encouraged to come dressed for the 1980s theme. In addition to the show, there will be a 50/50 cash-only raffle and a silent auction.

            The event is hosted by Aycock Funeral Homes/Dignity Memorial at its Aycock at Tradition location, 12571 Tradition Parkway in Port St. Lucie.

            The LEADERship Martin County Alumni Foundation for Youth is a volunteer-run, 501(c)(3) organization that oversees and funds the Martin County Youth LEADERship program and an annual college scholarship for graduating seniors in Martin County. All net proceeds from this event will support these important educational enrichment initiatives to foster emerging leaders in the Martin County community.

            Sponsorship opportunities are available. To purchase tickets and sponsorships, visit leadershipmcalumni.com. For specific inquiries about the event, email info@leadershipmcalumni.com.

About LEADERship Martin County Alumni Foundation for Youth, Inc.: The LEADERship Martin County Alumni for Youth Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization established in 1991 to support the Stuart/Martin County Chamber of Commerces LEADERship Martin County program and to provide education and networking opportunities for its members; and to support the Martin County Youth LEADERship program. LEADERship Alumni members work year-round, volunteering in the community and raising funds to support the Martin County Youth LEADERship program and scholarships for local high school graduates. Members are comprised of graduates of the Stuart/Martin County Chamber of Commerces LEADERship Martin County program. For more information, visit leadershipmcalumni.com.

About Martin County Youth LEADERship: The Martin Youth LEADERship program began in 1995 as a LEADERship Martin County Alumni project to promote leadership development. The Martin Youth LEADERship program is operated in partnership with the Martin County School District as an opportunity for high school sophomores, juniors and seniors throughout Martin County to develop and enhance their leadership skills through a school-year-long program. Some of the key objectives of the program are to identify and nurture young leaders, promote their awareness and involvement as community citizens, and offer programs that will allow interaction with community leaders and decision-makers. Learn more at leadershipmcalumni.com/youth-leadership.



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 Julie Marshall

Dear Tom:

  I have been advised that a couple of your readers have submitted opinion pieces about myself.  

  First, as everyone should know and is stated on the forms, the information that anyone fills in on the public comment cards is public record and a simple Public Records Request will provide that information as I did (please see the following).  There was not any information given to me privately by anyone on the MCSB or in the MCSD as has been accused by Bill Smithson.  

In regard to the several people that I challenged to read book excerpts at a school board meeting and then justify why they believe children should have access to these types of books, please note that not a single one of them has taken me up on that very simple challenge.  

 Two of these people also sent you the book excerpts which you did not print in your newsletter because they were 'very graphic'.  You have proven my point that these books are not appropriate for children if they are not appropriate for your adult readers.    

 I would also like to set the record straight wherein Bill Smithson stated in his opinion piece on 1/21/24 the following:  Please note:  I did not respond to her text, hoping to do it through your newsletter.   I am uncertain why he felt the need to lie about responding directly to my text, but he did (please see the following).










  It is also very humorous how Smithson calls me a coward for not speaking to him directly.  This is the same person that has repeatedly blasted Moms for Liberty, myself and school board members at the meetings without discussing the issues with any of us personally.  Yet, a simple text has gotten so under his skin and in his head that he now wastes everyone's time whining about it at school board meetings.  His rants have zero to do with the education of MC students so again, why waste everyone's time about his personal issues.  Bill Smithson can certainly dish it out, but he obviously can't take it.


From Frank Tidikis

Comments to the Commissioners of The Town of Sewall’s Point

12 March 2024

Good Evening, Mayor Tompeck and Commissioners Fender, Kurzman and Mayfield.

My name is Frank Tidikis and I reside at 12 Cranes Nest.

I would like to comment on the Grant Approval Process or lack thereof.

Mr. Daniels has stated that, “The preference for that approval is to have the grant writer submit a draft of the application and have the Town Commission vote to approve the grant at that time. “I wholeheartedly endorse that policy as it allows the staff to do an in-depth review of the application and allows the public to review and comment on the application.

However, I disagree with the second part of the paragraph: “In the instances that the timeframe is short, the approval vote can be held when the Town is informed that we were awarded the grant in question.”  For the following reasons:

  1. Time frame should be defined. The Commission meets twice a month and the time between the identification of an available grant, the preparation of an application and submittal should be minimal and not become routine.
  2. The Grant Log is inaccurate. For example,
    1. Not reflected on the Grant Log and approved by the Commission at the 15 November 2022 meeting were grants to the Department of Emergency Management, Roads-South Sewall’s Point Road and Sewers for $2 Million each. Although the Commission approved submission, there are no copies nor are they reflected on the grant log.
    2. At the August 15, 2024 meeting, three grants were approved for submission, with the applications appended to the agenda, but the IRL Grant Program for the South River Road repaving was listed at $2.5 million with no application attached and is now reflected on the Grant Log as $4 million-if it is the same grant.

Why are there no dates of Due or Submittal for two grants?

  1. For the Legislative Appropriations Grant, there was no discussion or approval at either November meeting.
  1. The applications contain errors:
    1. The S2S grant application for $4M was rife with errors:
      1. It stated that all 706 homes would be connected. Whereas the Commission only authorized Option 1, Phase 1 of the Captec report.
      2. Total project cost for 706 connections is listed at $16.8M
      3. Nitrogen reductions are projected at 29/lbs./home/year which is in conflict with other submissions.
      4. It stated that 706 homes are within 200 meters of a water body; whereas from Hillcrest to Kingston, there is a strip of land between 113-193 meters wide that do not meet that assertion.
    2. The South River Road Stormwater Improvements application states:
      1.  That we are in the Central Indian River Lagoon BMAP. We have less than 15% of our homes in the St. Lucie River BMAP and we are in the clean north segment of the South Indian River Lagoon which is not in a BMAP.
      2. The projected nitrogen reductions do not match any other application and in addition, FDEP data reports that Sewall’s Point nutrient contribution is “minimal”.
    3. Arbor Day Grant: Bob’s memo says $20,000 whereas the grant log says $2,000.

Suggestion: Slow down the process, get it right the first time, allow time for citizen review and input and have the log be an accurate reflection of what you have approved and submitted/or withdrawn.


From Frank Warren

What happens to Stuart's Brightline station and parking garage if Brightline goes bust? And who will own that property?

My Answer

That is a good question.

At this point there is no lease or signed agreement between any of the parties. Nothing has been spelled out. The county and city have been chosen to negotiate with Brightline based on their initial proposal.

I would imagine that once one is created if Brightline was to go bust, since there is no sale of the properties contemplated, the station would revert to Martin County and the garage to Stuart. If, for example Tri-Rail were to assume Brightline’s routes and leases then that entity would assume the agreements.


From Mark Gotz

Question?  Should a state be allowed to certify a federal election if they do not follow federal law?  Seems like an easy answer.  Florida does not follow HAVA section 303 vote by mail law.  The HAVA (Help Americans Vote Act of 2002) requires that a current, valid photo ID be included with the vote by mail ballot.  This is not done in our state or for that matter any state.  A group of citizens have filed a complaint with the secretary of states office to rectify this matter.  So far, we have not heard back from their office.  This issue should be a complaint that goes to every election official.  We would have a more secure vote if they would follow the law.  IF they don't they should lose their electoral votes for president.

Martin County

Next Meeting Tuesday

Trailside Tales

By Kyla Shay

Trailside HOA President

Palmar… Not one thing has changed.

It is business as usual at PalMar. The ATV’s, side-by-sides and hunting buggies continue to race around the extensive wetland areas. No enforcement has been done. We listen to their activities daily. Weekends are especially bad. 24/7 there are vehicles tearing it up to our southern boundary. Many times, the dishes in our cabinets rattle from the vibrations. 

The shooting continues unabated. Yes, we call the Sheriff’s department. No nothing changes. We continue to be told there is nothing they can do. Even if one of us is shot by one of the persons shooting out there, there is nothing that can be done. They have a right to shoot.  It is the Sheriff’s department opinion, that they can even shoot at us. There is no enforcement of any State of Florida Statutes within PalMar. We have no rights. They have a right to terrorize our community. We do not have a right to the peaceful enjoyment of our extensive development. We live daily with a fear that one of us, our children and grandchildren or guests may leave here in a body bag. 

The PalMar Gate One is not locked.  A temporary court injunction due to a lawsuit stopped all protection of the wetlands and adjacent properties from any enforcement. 

Code enforcement of Martin County has not forced compliance on the illegal structures and campers within PalMar.  Our county commissioners assured us that they are very concerned about the activities within PalMar.  It sure doesn’t feel that way from where we live.   We pay property taxes for support from the Sheriff’s department to be told there is nothing they can or will do.  Even if one of us were shot from a bullet coming from PalMar, there is nothing they can do. They would have to put the gun in the hand of the person who shot that one bullet.  The Sheriff’s department is not patrolling PalMar. It was too onerous for the paid off duty enforcement.  FWC does not have the manpower to patrol PalMar.  PalMar Water Management District has monies to pay for patrols.  We have provided a security detail information to the PalMar Water Management District’s Board. Perhaps they will vote to hire the company. 

Over the past two weeks, all who drove on Pratt Whitney south of our development had a new view of an abandoned vehicle. The windows were broken out. It was spray painted with “Lock the Gate”.  Do the owners of the PalMar properties want the gate locked also? The Gate One on Pratt Whitney is not locked with the pending lawsuit. Anyone can go into PalMar, trespassing on private properties, SFWMD and PalMar Water Management District properties.  They can abandon vehicles there. The story I was told: “A vehicle was reported abandoned on a privately owned PalMar property. Law enforcement does not tow abandoned vehicles off private properties. It now is the property owner’s problem.  Someone in PalMar solved the problem by dragging the car to the county roadside easement of Pratt Whitney. There it sat for a week.  Allegedly, the vehicle owner was contacted. They denied the vehicle was stolen. This makes it the owners problem. The owner was informed they needed to plan to remove the vehicle. And there it sat for more days.  It has subsequently disappeared. Whether the owner had it towed or it fell to law enforcement to remove.  It still is cause for concern. So how does a vehicle end up abandoned in a remote area while not being stolen? I guess everyone abandons vehicles wherever they wish to for someone else to foot the bill on removal.  Do I believe the story??? Who knows what the truth of the entire situation is really.  Answers for the mess is not forthcoming on any of the issues.  There’s a lawsuit. The county cannot talk about any PalMar issue due to the lawsuit.  End of discussion.  No answers. No plans. Silence is deafening from all officials. It would be fabulous if the silence was deafening from the PalMar area.  No such luck.

At the Martin County Commission meeting on March 5, 2024, there was a concerning item listed.  It has to do with the PalMar East property also known as Nine Gems

 Maybe I am just confused by the wording County Staff decided to use. On the descriptor of the request, it states open/recreation. The land was already zoned open. Perhaps the county staff can explain all of the terms- open, agricultural, public conservation and institutional conservation. What I really don’t understand is why was the term recreation even included in the summary of the request? What exactly does the county seek to accomplish by this zoning change? Perhaps they will explain it to us before it is on a subsequent agenda to be voted on and ratified. 

I would like to see the powers that be take action on the activity in PalMar. Prove to us that you really care. We are used to the empty promises. I asked for a private meeting with staff and the commissioners. It has been a week; my phone has not rung nor have I received an email about a meeting for the county to update Trailside HOA. Informed property owners are happier residents of Martin County. 

Kyla Shay’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

New Fire Training Facility

Darlene VanRiper

This picture is what it’s all about according to Fire Chief Cinchilli speaking at the dedication of the new firefighter training facility located in Stuart. 

All these new recruits.   Retention has historically been a problem.  A firefighter is considered “senior” in Martin County at only 5-7 years!  If recruits can be assured of state of the art training, it is reasoned that they will quit transferring to other counties.  Since the evolution of firefighting incorporation with medical training is paramount. 

If you live in Martin County, you have noticed that ambulances don’t answer medical emergencies.  They are used for intra-hospital transport.  Firefighters answer medical emergencies.  They are trained as EMTs or Paramedics allowing victims to recover more quickly and without as much trauma in many cases.  Revenue comes from those ambulance calls.  Two new trucks, one pumper and one a ladder truck, will soon be funded with that revenue. 

The new training facility on Kingswood Terrace is only Phase 1 of a 3-part enhancement of the Martin County Fire Department.  It looks like a fire station so the trainees will get the feel and live the job throughout their training.

The 2nd Phase is a Burn Building which should break ground in about a month.  In the past the Fire /Rescue Department has had to rely on donated buildings for real life training.   Regular houses are not built to withstand several burnings a day.  Depending on where the donated residence is located and considerations of public and environmental safety, the firefighters may not be able to accept the donation.   So, for the experience new recruits had to go to a training facility in Ft. Pierce.

 A Training Tower, the 3rd phase, has yet to be funded.  It is needed, explained the Chief, in case of a commercial fire.  Think about a big box store ablaze.   It’s a different kind of fire requiring a different kind of training.

Commissioners Hetherington and Ciampi, both present, assured the audience that Phase 3 would be funded. 

City of Stuart


On the consent agenda, there was an item for a contractor to draft construction documents and provide management services for the undergrounding of the utilities downtown.

The CRA director believes it will be $30,000 to $50,000. The total cost for undergrounding is $12 million according to the last estimate she had. Commissioner Clarke removed it from consent to briefly discuss the item. That really is much more than the original estimate.

At $12 million, it would take almost 3 years of current TIF funding for the entire CRA to pay for that work. That is $4 million more than what the city paid for the Wells Fargo Building which will be the new city hall. Is it worth that amount so that new utility poles will not be used downtown?

The area comprises just three blocks (Seminole, Osceola, and Flagler bordered by Colorado and St. Lucie Avenue). With the new poles that FPL will install, much of the sidewalks will be obstructed. Why does it cost so much? Is it worth the expense? When the real estimate comes back, the decision will have to be made.

The remainder of the meeting was devoted to discussing a problem that turns out to be something that isn’t a problem.

Hudson’s on the River has a parking agreement with the city for 31 spaces adjacent to the restaurant at the end of the peninsula. They can have a parking valet service Monday-Saturday 5-10 pm and begin reserving empty spaces after 4 pm by placing out cones. The catch is the valet is free to everyone even those that are not patrons. The valet can stack cars within his area if necessary. Currently, the need as determined by Hudson’s is Thursday through Saturday.

Mrs. Helen McBride, a well-known local resident, stated at past meetings that the restaurant was putting out cones prior to the designated time. She also claimed that fishermen were hurt because the spaces originally provided for them were not available.

After nearly an hour of discussion it was decided that indeed no real problem existed since Hudson’s was following the agreement. But here is a problem…there is no sign posted that the parking valet is open and free to all.

I asked many people, all locals, did they know that. The answer was a universal no. On the valet stand there is a sign that reads complimentary parking. It is no secret that most people would assume that meant for the restaurant patrons only.

The city will be installing signs stating that it is open for all. The same is true at Sailor’s Return. They also must provide valet parking free of charge for all including patrons of Gibert’s. If the valet refuses in either location, please call the city manager’s office and complain. The restaurants may find themselves without parking if they are not following the rules.

Stuart’s dilemna is that it refuses to charge for parking anywhere. Everyone treats it as a right. It isn’t. There is value to it, and by not charging, the city is creating a parking problem. Everyone expects to find a free space in front of the store or restaurant they want to patronize.

How about trying a market approach, especially in the downtown corridor. Perhaps the money from parking and enforcement fines could go to paying off the undergrounding of utilities.

Update To Valet

On Saturday March 30th, I visited Hudson’s at 1:30 pm and what did I see but a sign posted that stated “Free Valet Parking” Thursday-Saturday 4:00 PM to 9:00 PM.

The city had quickly put up the sign after the last meeting. That is great. However, it isn’t exactly accurate. At 1:30 pm the cones were out blocking spaces, and the valet was already parking vehicles.

The parking agreement was part of the agenda at the last meeting and was explained to the commission. You can see the agreement here https://acrobat.adobe.com/id/urn:aaid:sc:US:9f44a756-59d1-482d-8b6b-e88ba7c9132e

The times, hours, and dates of the agreement state that Hudson’s is to provide valet service Monday-Saturday 5:00 pm to 10 pm. The Licensee shall be allowed to extend valet beyond 10 pm at its discretion but shall not be allowed to reserve spaces prior to 4:00 pm. At the discretion of Hudson’s, the service may be eliminated during any month of the off season described as June 1st to November 30th.

It looks to me the agreement does not say Thursday-Saturday as was described to the commission nor does it give Hudson’s the right to block off spaces before 4 pm or even have valet. The sign is obviously incorrect.


There should be no problem if Stuart and Hudson’s want to change the agreement because of circumstances. That means the agreement must be changed and approved by the commission. It can’t be left to the restaurant’s whims running the valet on any day. If I had given my keys to the valet at 1:30 Saturday and then valet stopped at 3:00, what am I supposed to do about getting my car?

The City of Stuart is fairly loose when it comes to enforcement. It is about time that what is said at a commission meeting actually happens and is carried out by the city staff. Commissioners cannot make good decisions without good and accurate information. The public has a right to expect rules and agreements to be followed. Otherwise, why have them.

An Update To An Update On The Valet

Last Tuesday morning I was walking past Hudson’s when I noticed another sign about forty feet away from the one described above. I don’t know whether it is a new sign or one I didn’t notice earlier. As you can see it has completely different times and days from the other posted sign which are Monday-Saturday 5-10pm.

Now I am totally confused. If I go on a Tuesday at 6 pm will there be a valet? How about at 1 pm on a Saturday? And there always is that 4-5 pm time period where is it just cones or valet?

Stuart As Elysian Fields

Did the City of Stuart dodge a bullet without any consequences from last year’s Live Local Act?

In brief, the act would have permitted industrial and commercially zoned parcels to be used for high density residential development without a public hearing and would only need an administrative approval. Like everything in hyperbolic Stuart, it seemed as if the world was coming to an end. Now we will never-never know.

SB 328, which was a glitch bill passed this session to correct Live Local, eliminates the opportunity for Stuart ever finding out what development looks like without politics.

And here is why...Stuart is relatively compact in size. One of our defining traits is the location of Witham Field smack dab in the middle of the city. I don’t know if the insertion of the exception outlined in the next paragraph was due to the city’s lobbyist or state representatives, but now almost every parcel south of the Roosevelt Bridge no longer qualifies under Live Local because of the proximity to the airport.

Under SB 328 the Live Local Act zoning benefits are not permitted in airport flight paths defined as areas extending ¼ mile wide from each lateral side of the runway and extending 10,000 feet long from the end of the runway. That takes care of most of the city. A few feet of Sunset Bay Marina and the end of Flagler Park would be eligible, but both will never be developed.

There are no vacant parcels north of the Roosevelt Bridge now that Avonlea is completed. For all intents and purposes, that area will be left unchanged. Though I wonder whether that is the best outcome for the city’s future.

To the west of Stuart, there is tremendous growth in Indiantown. Hundreds of homes will be built in the Terra Lago development. The creation of waterfront district along the St. Lucie Canal has been approved. There are other residential and commercial projects ready to happen which will make Indiantown a thriving small city.

Considering Newfield, the new city rising in Palm City, when it is built-out in 20 years, it will be the home of 15,000 new residents. There are also plans for industrial and commercial areas providing employment and business opportunity. We have already noticed an influx of traffic from Port St. Lucie where thousands of residents commute to and through Stuart every day for work, entertainment, shopping, and doctor’s appointments.

Stuart’s comprehensive plan has the city at 25,000 residents by 2030. Right now, even with the less than 2,000 apartments that have been approved, the city will fall far short of that population goal. In essence, one of our supposed traffic problems is caused by not enough housing and the need to commute into the city.

Stuart is built-out except for minor infill development. The commissioners have never had the political will to look to the future and the consequences of a tax base that is not growing. Live Local would have given the politicians a way to have development happen and keep their hands clean.

Now with the salvation Stuart was granted by the state, it can slowly wither like a character in a Tennessee Williams play.  In his famous play, A Streetcar Named Desire, the Kowalsky’s lived on a street named Elysian Fields in New Orleans. The name Elysian Fields is known as the land of the dead in Greek mythology. Perhaps because of our own actions, we may one day join Stanley, Stella, and Blanche Dubois there.

As Published In Martin County Moment

How To Kill A Project

A proposal for a restaurant at Seminole Street and Colorado seems to be dead. The owner, Aron Schamback, withdrew his proposal for a 150-seat venue because of opposition by the neighbors on Seminole Street.

Once again parking became an issue. There wasn’t the needed parking on site as per the code. Their solution was to have a lot a block a way and to use valet. The neighbors’ objection had to do with their concern that the valets would be racing cars down the block to the offsite parking.

To try and offset the need for valet, Schamback’s consultants tried to include the restaurant in the parking exempt district. That may have worked if they had kept the off-site parking site for people to use. Unfortunately, they saw an opportunity to jettison the expensive lot rental and valet which began to seal their fate.

They claimed that the lot without the valet would have insurance problems. Both the city manager and attorney thought a deal could be worked out where the city became the lessor, but the restaurant would pay the owner of the parking lot. That fell on deaf ears.

Then what was described as a sophisticated restaurant wanted to have the right to have music. That wouldn’t be bad if it were inside but there was a very small inside. Most of the 150 seats would be located outside. There was no operator attached yet for anyone to know what concept to envision. It began to look more like a place to grab a beer, enjoy the river, eat a taco, and listen to music. Not the best outcome for the neighbors in their condos.

The commissioners were not looking to approve something that would have angered the residents on Seminole Street. The project failed because the true nature of what would have been there was not adequately represented from the beginning.

By code on that property, they can put three apartments with parking for the cars underneath. The city made Seminole a predominantly residential block. That doesn’t mean there cannot be retail or even a restaurant, but parking must be available without disturbing people. Noise must also be contained inside the premises…which eliminates “sophisticated” restaurants with primarily outdoor seating.  

Martin County School Board

School Board Meeting March 19, 2024

Students and adults continue to come out and speak on the still unscheduled closing of the MCHS pool.

People’s reactions to this one issue would suggest that it is the single most important issue facing the board. It should not be this controversial. Unfortunately, the need for public pools throughout the county is now being laid at the feet of the Martin County School Board.

For the past decade I have been writing that the lack of public pools in Martin County is a disgrace. I can’t understand why a county in South Florida would not want to place a high priority on this need. Because of a lack of public pools, there are less opportunities here to swim than in most northern places even though they have a severely limited season as compared to us.

Yet the cost of this facility should not be borne by the school district alone. If there is a community need, and surely there is, then it should be at least partially shouldered by county government.

Carter Morrison, the Assistant Superintendent of Finance, gave a presentation about the wage offers with MCEA. There is a final offer on the table, and the union has until May 23rd to accept. It appears that with all the add ons, a teacher could make $90,149.93. That is taking advantage of the supplemental income such as advanced degrees and teaching in Indiantown.

It also assumes that the additional millage is renewed. The ½ mill adds $10,738.93 to a teacher’s pay across the board. You can see the presentation here 


It was time for the district to choose the medical benefits for the next year. This is a year-long endeavor to see which plans are best for the employees of the district.

Throughout the year, a committee, mostly comprised of school employees, meet monthly to go over the loss ratios of the plans in effect and to discuss what changes if any are needed for the following year. (I am on the committee as a resident.) The members take their responsibilities seriously.

However, the ultimate decision is up to the school board. The nature of what the plan contains, and the costs are not a negotiated item with the union. It is very much treated as the private sector would. The medical insurance costs $X and the employee contribution of the premium $Y.

I imagine the school board likes it because the outcome is in their hands alone. I don’t understand the unions’ point of view. Though they are represented on the committee by their leadership in most other places, the union membership’s health care is subject to collective bargaining.

The board chose Option 7 (the committee’s recommendation) with a few minor changes. They also froze participation in the PPO plan to the current participants. You can see the presentation with all 10 options here 

The board decided to sunset the additional sales tax at its expiration on December 31, 2025. The intended purpose of the sales tax was to make capital improvements and to build two new elementary schools. That will be completed by the end of the period. The board felt there was no need to continue. Bravo to the board.

They will be asking the voters to continue the additional ½ mill real estate tax through December 2030. This is the tax that goes toward paying teachers.      


During public comment, former superintendent, John Millay, may have made his first public address as a candidate. He did everything but say that he was a declared candidate as he spoke to the board about how great the district is. He had filed paperwork to run earlier in the day.

During the meeting, the first presentation was to reopen a bus depot in Indiantown. It would be based at the Adult Education Center. Six buses from the Stuart depot would be relocated there. The one new immediate employee would be that of Safety Specialist at $34,000 plus benefits.

The cost would be partially offset by a reduction in drivers’ pay. They would no longer be driving from Stuart to Indiantown to begin their routes and then back to Stuart again. It would save $8,000 per year. The other costs would be approximately $25,000 to seal the parking lot and install an above-ground diesel tank and pump. The Center already has the computers and other facilities needed.

The reason to move forward with this is so buses would already be out there with drivers in case of emergency or if an evacuation was needed. You can see the presentation here 

Carter Morrisson went over the investment policy of the district. Last year, Tallahassee made slight changes to what and how local governments can invest. You can see the presentation here 

He then gave another budget workshop. They are projecting 19,753.93 FTEs in October which is an increase of nearly 750 students in all categories. Remember this is still early in the process. The next workshop is in June when more will be known.

There was also a discussion about impact fees, property insurance (a slight decrease over last year,) and when to replace the district’s printers. The printers have been in all classrooms since 2013. They are approaching an end to their useful life. There is a complete presentation here 

The school superintendent announced last week that the district would keep the MCHS pool open through the end of next year. There is no word about how much it will cost. Apparently, the pool at Splash could not handle the increased demand.

A question must be asked except use by the MCHS swim team and other students, why should the pool be made available to non-students? The reason should be because regardless of if a facility is in a school or a park and regardless of if it is considered a county or a school asset, the taxpayers are paying for it.

This means the county should be building more public pools and the school district should be making their recreation facilities open after school and on weekends to all residents. When do you think either will ever occur?

John Millay Announces

Former school superintendent, Dr. John Millay, has announced his candidacy for school board. He will be running for the District 2 seat against incumbent Marsha Powers.

Dr. Millay was the first appointed superintendent in Martin County history after the voters decided to do away with having an elected superintendent in 2018. After an exhaustive search, he was chosen by the board in a 3-2 vote. One of the dissenting votes was Ms. Powers. He began as superintendent during covid, the effects of which are still being felt throughout the district. Millay resigned 2 ½ years into his 3-year contract. He then became senior vice president for Boys & Girls Club a few months later.

In his time in Martin County, Millay certainly made the county his home. He almost immediately became involved in different organizations. His announcement on his Facebook page stated that:

“In my heart of hearts, I believe there is unfinished business for me when it comes to the Martin County School District. The momentum we built has continued to grow and flourish under Superintendent Maine’s leadership. This opportunity to continue to serve this organization, these students and employees, and this community is one that I quite simply could not pass up—particularly in District 2.”

Millay will have his work cut out for him in this election. Powers is a lifelong Martin County native and has strong roots in the community. Along with her husband, Kevin Powers, they are well known in political circles in Martin County and Florida.

It should be an interesting race to watch as it unfolds. Powers has been on the board for the past 12 years and has been on various state boards. Millay, besides being the past superintendent, has a long career in education and administration.

Board members now have 8-year term limits which were imposed by the state last year. But because of a phasing out for existing board members, they didn’t apply in this election cycle for Powers.

We will be covering all the races and bringing you more information as time goes by.

Boys & Girls Club Press Release

As local election activity intensifies, Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County affirms nonpartisan position

HOBE SOUND—Following recent news reports of one of its senior staff members filing to run for the Martin County School Board, leadership of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County (BGCMC) clarified its nonpartisan position and affirmed its hope and commitment to continue working closely with all elected officials.

“Ensuring the safety, health and well being of the hundreds of local children entrusted to our care is the foremost responsibility and professional privilege of our organization,” says Kathryn Parsons, chair of the board of directors of BGCMC. “In the service of this essential cause we’ve enjoyed strong relationships with our elected leaders—particularly the members of the Martin County School Board. As an organization we do not endorse candidates nor engage in political activities. Our employee policies do not specifically prohibit a member of our staff from running for office. Nevertheless, we’re informing our entire staff that any political involvement they may choose to engage in must take place outside of work hours and refrain from incorporating BGC facilities, materials or anything that gives even the appearance of an endorsement."

“As the second-largest provider of youth services in Martin County, we’ve greatly appreciated our incredible working relationships with the Martin County School Board and our ongoing partnership with the Martin County School District,” says Keith “Fletch” Fletcher, president and CEO of BGCMC. “Together, we’ve produced amazing outcomes for thousands of local children—many burdened with significant needs and vulnerabilities. We’re speaking out today to stand on that history of collaboration and accomplishments—and firmly refute anything that seeks to insinuate otherwise. We believe the best way to apply our resources and energies is through our shared commitment to serving the kids in our community.”

Town of Sewalls Point


The charter review committee presented their findings. The members of the committee were H.B. Barrett, Frank Tidikis, Stephanie Nehme, and Chuck Farrow with Manager Daniels as facilitator. There were very few changes and recommendations to the charter.

Changes were as follows:

  1. No person shall be eligible for election or remain in office who has not been a qualified registered voter in the town for at least one year.
  2. A commissioner shall forfeit the office:
  1. Fails to meet the qualifications;
  2. Is convicted of a felony during the commissioner’s term in office;
  3. Is absent from three consecutive regular meetings unless excused by the commission.
  1. A vote of three members of the city commission is required for forfeiture of office.
  2. Under Article II remove the ability to tax wheelchairs and drays.
  3. Remove mention of the Town Planning Board.

The town attorney stated it could be changed by ordinance instead of having to go to referendum.

If they are going to do it by referendum, the commission must have two readings on the ballot questions. It then needs to be sent to the Supervisor of Elections by June 14th to be included on November’s ballot. After discussion, it was decided to change the charter by referendum.

Snyder Marketing Solutions was also hired to provide communication management for $21,000 and a communication plan for $12,500. For some time, the commission has been asking for a more formal way to connect with town residents. You can see the information here https://acrobat.adobe.com/id/urn:aaid:sc:US:b2f06b40-c18b-4e57-943f-8329eb53d440

Barile Wins Special Election

Sewall’s Point in a special election to fill the seat of James Campo who resigned has elected political veteran, Vinny Barile.

Barile served on the town commission previously in the capacity of commissioner, vice-mayor, and mayor. He also was involved as Sewall’s Point’s representative on the Treasure Coast League of Cities in many capacities including president. His presence on many government committees and organizations during his last tenure allowed the town to be known in many parts of the state.

He won against his opponent, Diane Kimes with 60% of the vote. He is known as a fiscal conservative. While he is not against conversion to sewers, he believes it should be completely voluntary and up to the homeowner. He doesn’t believe that those that have not hooked up should have a fee from the utility.

Barile and his wife Denise have lived in the town for more than twenty years. He will be sworn into office on April 9th to fill out James Campo’s unexpired term.

Village of Indiantown

Council Meeting March 14, 2024

Indiantown is on the move.

And one of the biggest industries that is emerging is the marine industry. Indiantown will be a place to construct, repair and store boats. It might seem that being 25 miles from the inlet would be an obstacle, but far from it. According to Dan Romence who spoke at the meeting and is the president of Indiantown Marine Centers, insurance companies prefer to have the boats they insure farther from the inlets in case of hurricanes.

Joe Walsh, owner of Indiantown Marine Center, has wanted to develop a commercial waterfront but found it impossible to do so because of his location in unincorporated Martin County and challenges that posed. With the annexation of these 116 acres into the village, he is one step closer to his dream. 

The Marine Center will have the ability to attract other ancillary marine businesses into the area. The St. Lucie Canal connects the east coast to the west coast of Florida through Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee River. This may propel Indiantown and the county to be more than a dream for the marine industry.

The Center, Indiantown High School, and Indian River College will be working on forming a marine industries curriculum to train employees for the lucrative and well-paying jobs that will be created. As Indiantown begins to build developments such as Terra Lago, some of the residents will be able to work in local jobs.

Indiantown was incorporated because Martin County could not meet the needs of the community. The marine industry was stymied because of the urban service boundary issue. New developments like Terra Lago could not get approval. Finally, Indiantown is fulfilling its promise.

Mayor Gibbs-Thomas brought up having a charter provision regarding term limits. She will be resigning her seat in the next few months to run for county commissioner. I don’t know if she was speaking about term limits because she will no longer be on the council or if she really believes in them.

Earlier in the state legislative session, there was momentum in both the House and Senate to pass a bill for term limits for county commissioners. It died due to opposition from…county commissioners. I understand that it will be coming back next year. Indiantown’s proposed ordinance mirrors the state bills.


But if you ask someone whether they want to keep their job, what do you expect the answer to be?  Council Member Dipaolo doesn’t think there is a need. He said he beat an incumbent in a race because the people didn’t want him anymore. Perez, who came into office by beating an incumbent, also believes there is no need. Hernandez sees both sides and believes that 8 years is too short a time.

The only council member that mentioned the people was Gibbs-Thomas. She said she had heard from them on the issue. Why not allow a referendum and let the voters decide?

The only good reason to keep term limits off a ballot is because the council members that must approve putting it there need to make sure they don’t lose their jobs.

Council Meeting March 28, 2024

The council approved moving forward with the purchase of a trailer containing equipment from Beaver Ecoworks. Beaver Ecoworks is the company that is using advanced technology to clarify wastewater and water through an oxidation process.

It has been verified that the trailer and equipment can be bought using SRF (State Revolving Funds) which could be a low interest or no interest loan and or grant. The purchase price is $672,500. The village will receive a $95,422 credit from the company for lease payments it has already made as per an earlier agreement. The balance is $577,328. The motion passed unanimously.

The village is extending bus service on Sunday from Indiantown to the Walmart Center in Stuart. It is being done by using a FDOT grant. Currently, no village funds are needed.

Staff would like to increase Code Enforcement from one officer to two. There is currently an open budgeted position that the council agreed to allow for the 2nd code enforcement officer. The village will need to purchase a truck.

They would also like to be able to use a citation program because of the large number of rental properties. This will allow the tenant as well as the owner to be served and or cited. The program was not adopted at the meeting but will come back to the council once staff has fleshed it out.

Terra Lago Breaks Ground

A few years ago, Indiantown formed a municipality for a reason. Quite simply, it was tired of Martin County saying no to every development project. Now Indiantown is finally glad they became a village. A new development named Terra Lago had its groundbreaking.

Indiantown currently has 6700 people. When Terra Lago is built-out in ten years, the population will double. While Stuart and Martin County have essentially stopped providing new housing, Indiantown is raring to go.

The 2000 homes will be built in stages with the first 248 to be finished by the end of 2025. The homes are being targeted to sell in the $350,000 range, which is significantly lower than the cost of a new home in other parts of the county. There will also be townhouses, a 100,000 sq foot commercial space, and an assisted living facility.

What is really important is that Terra Lago will be adding tax revenue to the village. Now 85% of village taxes are paid by FPL. They badly need to diversify their tax base.

Indiantown will continue to add both residential and commercial properties. The village will also annex more property into their boundaries. I wonder how long it will be before some of the residents start to complain about the loss of their small town feel and the Browardization of Indiantown.

Stone Resigns

Another member of the original Indiantown Council is gone.

Guyton Stone has resigned from office and moved to Okeechobee. He was facing re-election, and as of now, 2 people have filed their intention to run, Karem O’Halloran Onsager and Vernestine Williams-Palmer. The qualifying period ends June 14, 2024.

Stone had been part of a solid majority on the council initially. The other members were Hernandez who is still a council member, Anthony Dowling, and Jackie Clarke. Gibbs-Thomas was the odd person out. After the last election, both Dowling and Clarke were defeated by Dipaolo and Perez. With the re-election of Gibbs-Thomas, a new majority was then formed.


I don’t know whether Stone would have been reelected, but for the last year or so, he saw the reversal of several projects he endorsed like the building of a new town hall. With the change in managers from Howard Brown to Taryn Kryzda, a different focus on what needed to be accomplished emerged.

Janet Hernandez is also up for election this year. Phyllis Waters Brown has filed to run against her. That may be a tough race for Hernandez.

Mayor Gibbs-Thomas, the other original council member, will be resigning to run for the county commission. By the end of the year, the council may have completely changed with all original members gone. The council as a group has already changed its perspective.

Guyton Stone stepped up and became one of the first elected officials of the Village of Indiantown. The residents owe him thanks for that. Good luck, Guyton.

Town of Jupiter Island


County Commissioner Harold Jenkins was summoned to the commission meeting…or at least that is how it sounded as I watched.

He was part of three presentations to the commission. The first was the plans for a new lifeguard facility, storage, and restrooms at the small beach parking lot at the foot of Bridge Road. Martin County Fire/Rescue and their architect presented their proposed plans and renderings.

250,000 people visited the beach last year. It is the only county beach in the south part of the county. The lifeguards’ facility requires that they share their toilet/shower with the staff kitchen. There is no separation. The public bathrooms and staff area are not ADA compliant.

All the equipment, including ATVs and boats, is stored under the tower itself. Exposure to the elements shortens the equipment’s life expectancy.

It seemed Commissioner Scott had a problem because the only person Jenkin’s briefed ahead of time was Vice-Mayor Field. She did her “everyone is equal speech” and no one can decide without all commissioners. Perhaps others would seek her out if she weren’t so obstreperous.

The real problem for Scott and the rest is that common people are coming to Jupiter Island (250,000 of them) to enjoy the beach. In the commissioners’ minds, they don’t belong. But the beach belongs to all. The trick of course is to access the beach. That is why the town hall parking lot is so important because it provides people with a place to park on weekends. The existing beach lot is small. And the town commission as a body is determined to end the agreement with Martin County for the town’s parking lot to limit access.

Each of the town commissioners would love to close the beach at sunset. All of Martin County’s beaches have two things in common…free parking and 24-hour access. Several years ago, the county commission contemplated charging for parking and closing at night. The reaction of the residents was swift and to the point. NO!

Jenkins warned against it, but I believe the island commissioners are going to make a try for closure of the beach. When and if the county or Jupiter Island discusses it, I hope that their rooms are filled with people asking why and demanding access remain.

The 250,000 people who visit Hobe Sound Beach are not Jupiter Island residents. They are the working stiffs of Hobe Sound. They don’t belong to the Jupiter Island Club nor have a home adjacent to the water. It is a public beach for not only Martin County residents but for every citizen because of federal funds that the county has taken.

If the wealthy succeed in closing the parking lot, the people should demand that a parking lot be made available on the other side of the bridge on weekends and the beach goers be ferried to their beach. Scott and others seemed to suggest that illicit activities were going on at night on the beach. If there are illicit activities going on, then the police and sheriff should intervene. But most people who go at night are just looking to have a beer and look at the water. While Island residents can do all these things from their homes, the rest of us cannot.

You can see the presentation here 

The second part of Jenkins’ presentation was his explanation of the county land trust. This is a pet project of his. While this will never result in much new housing, it will allow a few the opportunity to afford their own home. You can see the presentation here  

The last thing that Jenkins tackled was trying to explain why the western lands are not going to look like Broward. Jenkins was using a presentation that the Martin County Taxpayer’s Association prepared. The presentation was somewhat disjointed as he was having trouble with the power point.

In a nutshell, none of this dreaded Browardization can occur. Martin County’s population grew by .0107 or 1.07% last year. Since 1993 Martin County’s growth in any one year has never exceeded 2% and most years below that percentage.

37,000 resident autos leave Martin County daily. 46,900 cars of residents remain in Martin County who live and work here. 27,000 come from St. Lucie County to work here.

52% of the land in Martin County is owned by a government entity. There is a 4-story height limit that also limits density. Most of the lands in the secondary urban services area are wetlands which means they can’t be built upon. Even places that have been zoned rural lifestyle are not building more homes than they would be entitled to under the existing zoning. What they are doing is clustering and having the remainder be open space.

If Martin County residents believe more land needs to come into conservation or become government owned, then the ½ cent sales tax should be supported. Developments like Apogee, Discovery, and Calusa Creek will add millions of dollars to our tax base and not be a draw on services. You can see that presentation here 

I don’t know any other county commissioner who would have tried to do what Jenkins did. If anything, he should have had staff do all of it and, quite frankly, take the abuse from Scott. Instead, he is the one that ended up in what seemed like the principal’s office with Scott the dean of discipline.

The Jupiter Island Story

In a recent DEP decision on the fate of a house being built at 310 South Beach Road, it appeared that an administrative law judge entered a decision against the owner of the property.

in the Jupiter Island News, Town Attorney Thomas Baird explained how the litigants prevailed. Though the article is titled “Department Of Environmental Protection Denies Permit” the matter is far from over. The lot owners have appealed the decision to the appellate court.  Baird stated that the conclusions of law are settled, and the appeal is whether the 30 Year Erosion Projection (30YEP) was correctly calculated or not.  

The attorney for the 310 South Beach Road owners claims that there is more to it. According to the email I received from something called the Real Island News, the administrative law judge (ALJ) affirmed that the owners had six of the seven allegations dismissed. The email from info@realjupiterisland.news is without doubt somehow part of the 310 South Beach Road owner’s efforts to have the Waterfront Setback Line stay where the current code places it.

Did The Island News only present one side of the issue? It appears there are three sides from the court records. The Town of Jupiter Island, Adena Testa and Tyler Cain as intervenors, and 310 South Beach Road owners.

Recently we have seen ALJ decisions overturned in the Costco and Discovery cases. The possibility of the order being overturned is not out of the question. How far does one push principle over economics or over having a neighborly place to live?

The first article is from The Island News which you can see here 

The Second is from info@realjupiterisland.news    here

There are many issues involved. Some have to do with memories of the island when only a “certain” type had homes there. A bit has to do with the environment. The question is does moving the line matter. There is the property rights aspect. What all the combatants haven’t taken into consideration is the need to compromise to live in harmony with your neighbors. It may all be impossible for people with too much money and never wanting to be perceived as having lost.

I guess that is a sign of our times. The “my way or the highway” approach so prevalent in our politics. Tiny Jupiter Island, where the residents have all the money, use that money to fight in court with each other than actually live in peace.  

Final Thoughts


One of the governor’s priorities was achieved with the banning of social media accounts for those under 14. Children ages 14 or 15 must have a parent’s permission to possess their own account.

The governor vetoed a measure earlier that would have banned those under 16 from having an account and requiring parent’s permission for 16- and 17-year-olds. Both the vetoed legislation and the one signed may be unconstitutional. The bill will take effect in January 2025 to give the courts time to weigh in.

I am not a big fan of social media. In my private life, I seldom use or miss it. In Friends & Neighbors, previously in my business, and when I was a political figure, it was necessary. However, I limit my time online to a few minutes in the morning and evening.

I am a big believer in parental rights. I thought the governor was too. For certain things he is, but what is the need for the state to interfere in the case of Facebook and the rest? Either you believe in a family deciding or you are in favor of Big Brother. 

Vaccines that are a proven benefit to all of society have become something left to parents to decide. In the case of social media, any damage is going to affect the child and the family. The state should stay out.

I guess woke is in the eye of the beholder. Consistency of thought is a casualty to the forces of politics. Belief in a governing philosophy is not really part of today’s political discourse.

I don’t mind when people disagree with my beliefs, but it would be nice to know that they actually have something they believe in. That may be too much to ask for the governor and legislature today.      

IF YOU ARE NOT A SUBSCRIBER DO SO FOR FREE HERE www.friendsandneighborsofmartincounty.com


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 Rust Belt Needs What America Has Too Much Of"


"Government Control Of Markets Produce Bad Outcomes"


"Do You Have To Push A Broom To Be A Good State Representative"


"Charging The Government Way"



From Martin County Moments

"Relax, You Have This"


"Stuart As Elysian Fields"


"Florida Acknowledges Homeless & Provides No Funds"



Other Articles

Bloomberg: "Car Washes Are Taking Over the U.S. Here's Why"


The Washington Post: "Cats aren’t jerks. They’re just misunderstood."


The New York Times: "Could 'Mitchell-Lama 2.0' Help New York's Housing Crisis?


The Capitolist: "Federal government recommends $263 million in funding for Miami rail project" 


Grist: "Florida is about to erase climate change from most laws"


Route Fifty: "How New Jersey's new affordable housing law aims to ease the housing crisis"


The Capitolist: "Financial disclosure changes rejected"


The Washington Post: "Wealthy Sedona's answer to housing crisis: A paking lot to sleep in"


The Economist: "Why the French are drinking less wine"



Copyright ©  April 5, 2024 Friends & Neighbors of Martin County, LLC., All rights reserved.

Join Our Mailing List