September 3, 2023

Friends & Neighbors Edition

In this Edition

While I am on my daily morning walk, I have time to think. I encourage my mind to roam and see what pops into it. I like going at about 5am which is well before sun-up.

The main reason I go so early is the solitude. Around Stuart, I may pass a few others. This week I am at my Connecticut apartment, and there was only one person this morning. Perfect for contemplation.

Before I do walk, I have my first mug of coffee and read the Stuart News and The Times. I have some knowledge of what happened overnight before I set off.

This morning I was thinking about the Jacksonville shooting. Here is a guy that seems to have had some screws loose. The shooter had even been “Baker Acted” but there was no further adjudication, so he was allowed to buy at least two weapons…a Glock and an AR-15 type rifle. Nothing showed up on the background check which would have prevented a sale.

The next thing that popped in my mind was the killing of the college student in Columbia, South Carolina. Here is a kid who lived on that block but went to the wrong door. He could have been high or inebriated. I don’t know whether he had just moved in or had been there for a while already and was known to his neighbors. While he didn’t have a legitimate reason for being on someone else’s front porch…should it have cost him his life?

The three dead in Jacksonville were killed for being Black. One more crazy disenfranchised White dude in some delusional state wanted to take out people whose only difference from him was skin color. He hated people he had never even met and probably had only limited interaction with Blacks in his daily life. Perhaps he feared having his mythical world changed.

Maybe the same can be said for the guy that pulled the trigger in Columbia. The student was someone attempting to get into a home he thought was his. Was there any interaction between the parties or just a few shots ending a life?

Perhaps there are many home invasions on South Holley Street that would make the person who killed Nicholas Anthony Donofrio fearful. But I am going to submit that this killing and that of the three people in Jacksonville are the result of a fear that is a myth. It is ginned up by politicians and media people who portray our nation as a hot bed of murder, crime and anarchy. That is simply not true.

For some reason, we have concluded that thousands of deaths per year is the price of freedom in the United States. The only way to protect the Second Amendment is to allow anyone regardless of mental acuity or fitness to buy and own firearms. It is not.

I believe the right to own a firearm for no reason at all is in the Constitution. That doesn’t mean I should have a right to shoot a person that has a different skin color or a kid that made a mistake. The guy in Jacksonville needed to be screened much better after being detained for a mental health problem.

The person in South Carolina who killed a kid for being on the wrong porch does not have the temperament to own a firearm. Whatever happened to someone asking what a person is doing on their porch before blowing someone’s head off? If a police officer did that he would be tried for murder or manslaughter.

I am sometimes asked whether I am afraid to be walking on a dark street. I am not. Whether in Stuart or in Greenwich I have no qualms. Maybe it is because I am neither Black nor young that I can feel that way. And if that is the reason for my security, then something is wrong with our society.


This has been a quiet period of the last few weeks on the local government front. Hurricane Idalia is pounding Florida but as I write this the Treasure Coast is in no danger. Good for us but Northwest Florida is taking a pounding. And our insurance rates or even the ability to obtain insurance will be facing even worse prospects.

Friends & Neighbors has a great lineup of columnists. Matt Theobald, president of MCEA, joins our roster with his first column. There are also several guest writers that will share their viewpoints besides our regulars. We are always looking for more.

I would love to have someone write about food and restaurants for you. If interested in that subject or any other let me know. It is easy by using the columnist button on the website.

I hope you are checking our Facebook page for updates in between editions. That is where we first posted 2 articles about the turmoil on Jupiter Island with another commissioner resigning. That is also where you can find articles I have written on Medium and Martin Moments. You can have my articles as they are posted be delivered to your mailbox by signing up here 

And don’t forget to go to our Facebook page and follow us here 

Have a Great Sunday Morning and Happy Labor Day!



Local government needs to be saved from local career politicians.

Pols will remain in office for as long as they can. The original concept of spending a few years performing your civic duty is no longer desired by the men and women who stay in office year after year and term after term. They never leave. And that is true from the federal to the local levels of government.

Only a change in the U.S. Constitution can make people like Chuck Grassley and Diane Feinstein step down. But on the local level, the state legislature can step in and require term limits. They did it just recently for school boards.

Take our current county commission. While no one has declared yet, I will bet dollars to donuts that the three incumbents up for re-election next year (Doug Smith, Ed Ciampi, and Harold Jenkins) will stand for re-election. There is a good chance that at least two will not even have token opposition. That is not the way it was supposed to be.

A county commissioner is paid a little less than $75,000 and has health and retirement benefits. They are allowed to have other employment and own businesses. How many would walk away from extra money? There are no set hours or prescribed duties except to show up at commission meetings.  Though some work at it continuously and others not so much.

In my opinion, the main reason no one leaves is that being called commissioner is intoxicating. They begin to believe their own publicity. Some go into the office thinking they will stay for one term then it becomes a second and then by the third time, they have just a little more to accomplish before hanging it up. At the completion of their terms, Commissioners Smith and Heard will have been around for 6 terms. That is 24 years.

Most people won’t run against an incumbent. Incumbency has huge advantages from having established campaign contributors to name recognition. Martin County does not have a very large media market, so getting your name out there is difficult and therefore expensive. Commissioners become beholden to special interests, and special interests would rather support the devil they know over an unknown.

And this goes for municipalities also. Stuart commissioners are making over $23,000 a year plus medical and retirement benefits. Last year, two new commissioners were elected. One ran because a commissioner left the office voluntarily to move away from the area. The second incumbent was beaten by less than 100 votes because of his stance on a very controversial development project. These were unusual circumstances.

Being in government at this level should be looked upon in the same manner as serving on a nonprofit board. They should not be paid (Sewall’s Point, Ocean Breeze, and Jupiter Island commissioners currently do not receive any compensation) to provide volunteer leadership. There should be a stipend for expenses.

Being in an office should not be a career. No one should go in as a young person and come out as a senior citizen. It isn’t a job.

Only the legislature can fix term limits and determine what the county commissioners receive for salary and benefits. City charters can be amended for municipal office holders. Yet when the charter review committee for Stuart recommended 8-year term limits, the commissioners bumped it up to 12 years. They can’t help themselves.

The legislature needs to step in and correct this. Sure, some will claim preemption, but it isn’t. It is restoring democracy by taking away financial incentives and the power of incumbency. Let’s give back local elected office to the people. Otherwise, it never will be the government closest to the people.

As Published In Martin Moments.



For years, we have tried to stop the use of illegal drugs by prosecuting addicts. This hasn’t worked any better than trying to end prostitution by locking up prostitutes and their johns.

The same can be said about curbing undocumented immigration by trying to stop migrants from being gainfully employed. In all three instances, those policies have met with abject failure. People want to get high, have sex, and a part of our economy needs migrants working to function.

DeSantis’ new anti-immigrant law will be one of those failures. Florida is not the only place in the U.S. where undocumented immigrants are flocking. They are settling and looking for work in every part of the nation. The same is true for those undocumented workers coming into Europe from the Mideast and Africa.

It may sound good to crackdown on “them foreigners” until we remember that we do not have enough Americans able or willing to do hard manual labor. For centuries, immigrants have come to our shores for a better life for themselves and their children. This is the same bargain that our ancestors made…the immigrant works hard, and their children reap the benefit of being called Americans.

For the past 40 years, our federal government has complained about the problem but has been unable to legislatively pass a comprehensive policy. So, because of a lack of policy, immigrants and their American employers make their own. It creates a society in the shadows without the normal access to the police, courts, or social services for millions. It becomes a portion of society open to exploitation. And ultimately, it is costly to society.

Make no mistake…undocumented immigrants won’t stop coming here because DeSantis doesn’t like it. Florida’s construction, hospitality, and farming industries desperately need those workers. Americans have stopped having babies. Immigration has always been our secret strength.

This is not a state issue but a federal one. We need to demand that it be tackled in Washington as free from political rancor as possible. It is time for a new immigration system based on the nation’s need for this labor.



In his recent TC Palm column, Ed Killer once again asked about Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch’s replacement on SFWMD Board. The governor hasn’t bothered to appoint anyone to that position. Martin County residents are very much in need of a voice on that board.

Rehashing what happened in the past with Jacqui’s reappointment won’t get us anywhere. She isn’t our voice there any longer. That, in and of itself, is a pity.

We have been very fortunate so far that the Army Corps is adhering to the LOSUM schedule even though it is not yet in effect instead of the old LORES one that still is. They would have been dumping millions of gallons from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie if that were the case. We would have had a summer to rival the lost one. But all good things must come to an end. I believe water with the green algae will be heading our way.

I don’t know what we can do to prevent it. If we were the only party, then it would be easy, but the Corps is mandated to balance many different users of the lake’s water including agriculture and drinking water. That is why someone like Jacqui was ideal. She knew the issues and most of the players.

Thurlow-Lippisch had no input into Lake Okeechobee’s management and wouldn’t be able to stop the discharges that are likely to come our way. However, she could have raised our voice to be heard outside the area.

As we wait for the appointment of the person representing our area to be made, we can hope it is someone that has the respect of the many players in our water game. I guess the biggest players, the governor and state senate, didn’t want Thurlow-Lippisch to continue…and that was that.

VanRiper's Views

Darlene VanRiper

Why Don’t the Commissioners Control this Growth?

I hear it ALL the time.   “There is too much growth in Martin County.”  Followed by “How could those commissioners let this happen?” 

I spoke with several authorities including prominent land use attorney, Bob Raynes, about just what the County and City Commissioners can and can NOT control regarding growth.  Mr. Raynes has been a fixture at Board of County and City of Stuart Commission meetings for many, many years.  He explained that it’s really pretty simple.  If the project is consistent with the zoning and land use designated for that particular parcel of land (by the sacrosanct Comprehensive Growth Management Plan aka COMP), the developer has the “by right” authority to build the project.  The case is open and shut. 

The commissioners can’t change the rules on the developer whether they like the project or not.  If they do, the county, that means “we the taxpayers” will most likely get sued.  Afterall, the developer has purchased the land, made a large investment and now rightfully, expects to reap the reward.  And keep in mind that our county has a professional growth management staff (I interviewed some of them also) which reviews all projects and makes recommendations to the commissioners. 

They are trained to know what is a “by right” project and what is not.  The commissioners have NO LEGAL AUTHORITY to vote against “by right” projects and county staff knows it.  The county attorney (spoke with her as well) has a duty to advise the commissioners what they can legally do and what they cannot. Period.

Most development projects fall into the “by right” category.   So, what about situations where the BOCC has some control?  They are called PUDs (Planned Unit Developments).  The developer asks for a PUD when the project doesn’t quite fit the zoning/land use regulations for the chosen parcel.   Now the Commissioners have some negotiating room.  That’s how Pomeroy Street in the Stuart city limit got built AT NO COST TO THE TAXPAYER.   Thank you, Walmart.  That’s how we got 1000 acres of trails and preserved land known as the Kiplinger Conservatory in Palm City AT NO COST TO THE TAXPAYER.  In these cases, our Board of County Commissioners has not been shy about asking for concessions. 

Here are some more examples offered by the Growth Management Dept.

Willoughby townhomes PUD: 117 townhomes

Install 3,600 linear feet of multi modal path connecting Salerno to Pinewood elementary school

Pay $100,000.00 towards safety improvements on Salerno Road.

 Preserve at Park Trace PUD: 114 single family homes

4.5 acres of additional preserves

Install 4,000 linear feet of 6’ wide sidewalk along Cove Road

Install 6’ privacy fence for neighboring lot, 300 liner feet

Provide and build access drive for neighbor and provide easement

 Discovery PUD: 317 single family units

Restore 125 acres to wetland and upland habitat

Relocate historic Hobe Sound Train Station to the Hobe Sound CRA

Donate 25+- acres and a 10,000+- sq ft stable and horse facility to the Atlantic Ridge State Park

Build an approximately 1.5-mile road for public access to the park.

Designate a perpetual agricultural easement on 800+- acres of existing agricultural land.

Zoning was first introduced to Martin County in 1967 and the Comprehensive Growth Management Plan in 1982.  And the county commissioners have been blamed for every house and road since. 

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

Nicki's Place

Nicki van Vonno
van Vonno Consulting, Owner


I received a bunch of family heirlooms. Some boxes and furniture: footstools, an old office chair, a foldable rocking chair, old Christmas trinkets; and  books,  because my in- laws were voracious readers.  My father in-law’s parents were English, so many of the books are English. There are several 1960s British humor books. One has Nancy Mitford (google her!)  as a contributor.

I am spell bound by  “Death of the President” by William Manchester. On the first page I had to look up a word.  It’s musty but fascinating to this Camelot lover. Thanks to an instant translator app on my phone, I can  read the back cover of  “Tony van Verre ontmoet Albert Mol,” two friends who hosted a Saturday morning radio show for a year, broadcasting  from Hilversum, where my mother-in-law was born. Every book has little treasures, a letter, a bookmark or a review.

I submitted a couple of  blog pieces for a writing contest. I was rejected and received  critiques. Many of the comments were spot on; Yes, I bury the lead. Yes, I bounce around.  One singled out a piece on my sister as very moving and relatable. Another suggested that in one of my history pieces I should balance my piece and express the opposing viewpoint. The writing critique was very helpful.  I can turn a pretty phrase and have a distinct voice.  My short creative non-fiction history blog entries, and personal essays blog posts about America history,  reading, and movies will improve as I learn from the full critique.

I am not a journalist. I often go to Reuters or Eurovision for good coverage of international stories since corporate news in America is entertainment now. I’m a columnist for Friends and Neighbors which is an online newspaper. I’m snarky,  and I hope thought-provoking and funny. The Palm Beach Post humor columnist Frank Cerabino is a role model; so is syndicated columnist and author David Brooks.

One of the critiques asked how I knew that John Adams said “Fact are stubborn things.”  My snarky response is how do you not know that? (Google it!)

John Adams defended the British soldiers who shot five colonists as they were being harangued by a crowd of several hundred people throwing objects at the soldiers. We know it as the “Boston Massacre” Eight soldiers, their commanding officer and four civilians were arrested and charged with murder. John Adams defended them. Six of the soldiers were acquitted; the other two were convicted of manslaughter and given reduced sentences because they had the right to defend themselves.

Another critique suggested I explain why I chose the books I placed on “Nicki’s Book List.” These books blew apart my head and broke my heart and then stitched me back anew. That’s the power of words. But don’t believe me. (Goggle the books!) It’s a great list of books, a librarian hero told me. I guess we don’t trust them anymore; there, that’s the opposing side. See.  I can be balanced.

Closure feels good. Thank you for reading, and no Google is not paying me. 


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

Hafner's Corner

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

Farmers are often in the crosshairs of groups who prey upon your emotions to boost fundraisers for their causes. They will say they love farmers out of one side of their mouth while from the other side they will blame agricultural practices for our environmental woes.

It is a smart- yet deceiving- move to separate farmers from their agricultural practices. Most people do not know a farmer or have firsthand knowledge of what happens on a farm. That lack of knowledge is used against you as they paint a picture that fits their narrative.

I actually know farmers so let me do some painting for you. To a farmer, what they do is who they are. When plowing a field, spraying the crops, tending to the livestock, whatever agricultural practice being performed, they are doing it based on the latest research available to them. They understand they will feed their family the same food being sold to you. Farmers grow and tend crops in a certain way because they know the best way to farm.

Farming is personal. It is a way of life. Though these fundraising groups try, there is no separating the farmer from the farming.

In national polls, farmers consistently rank high in their trustworthiness while questions about the safety and sustainability of the food they grow rank lower, more in the middle. This lower score, to me, means that while people trust the old, reliable farmer they do not know how their food is grown and that scares them a bit.

From that fear, doubts about their food have sprouted. I can understand that. In the last hundred years most, have delegated the responsibility of growing their own food to specialists…the farmer. Thanks to farmers we no longer need to think about from where our food will come, but a side effect is we have lost the knowledge of how our food is grown.

Contrary to Mike Bloomberg’s infamous quote from 2016, there is a lot more to farming than digging a hole, putting in a seed, putting dirt on top, adding water, and watching the crop grow. Farming is a blend of science and intuition gained from experience. As research from peers and universities continue to advance, farmers continue to increase their harvest yields using less land and fewer inputs. This is a benefit to the farmer and the environment.

Farmers are using every tool in their arsenal to feed us while protecting the environment around them. It is economically sound for farmers to protect the environment- a healthy environment is a productive one. It is also in farmers’ nature to leave things better than when they found them. Don’t let others deceive you with their painting of a farmer. Do some looking and see what the farmer looks like for yourself.

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

Carl's Conclusions

Carl Frost
Kai Kai Farms, Owner

Yard and Food Waste Recycling on local farms


Fertilizer powers crops and toxic algae in our lakes and ocean. How can we produce fertilizer from local ingredients and enhance the ecosystem?

Everyday excess vegetation commonly called yard trash or green waste is “harvested” and piled on roadsides or loaded into landscaper trucks. In 2020 of the 47.1 million tons of Florida municipal solid waste collected 12% was yard waste and 7% was food waste. These waste resources have the macro nutrients we buy in fertilizer products.

There are two commercial composting facilities in our region. One is Atlas Organics west of Vero Beach and the other is Amerigrow west of Delray Beach. If you are hauling large volumes of low-value yard waste in 50-yard trucks this is an expensive logistic constraint with questionable long-term sustainability. Why isn’t there a composting facility in Martin County? 

High land and startup costs combined with environmental and local regulations have diminished interest in local recycling of yard and food waste. If you want to build a Martin County composting (yard trash processing) facility, you will probably have to site it well west of I-95 and that adds mileage and cost for every haul from urban waste producers. Sec. 3.109.1 of MC Land Development Regulations (LDR) requires a minimum of 60 gross acres and it’s a “major development”. It’s cheaper to ship out our waste. Is that responsible or sustainable?

Composting technology has improved with the invention of aerated static piles which mitigate 95% of odors and accelerate waste recovery to less than 60 days. There is an alternative to expensive centralized compost processing: local farms can become decentralized micro-scale recyclers unencumbered by the constraints of LDRs.

Farms require carbon and nutrients for crop production. While farms are allowed by state statute to produce compost, they are not allowed to sell it. The local soil is so deficient in nutrients and organic matter that a significant amount of compost can be used on a farm. Small scale compost systems are available for under $150,000 not including the bio-digester for food waste.

In conclusion, for a modest investment several local farms can become recycling centers. While the upfront investment sounds high for a small farm that might be offset to a large degree by grants. The outcome would be better soil on the farm with better quality crops, less fertilizer runoff due to higher organic matter in farm soils and less transportation costs and emissions for waste hauling.

The day will come when mandatory food and yard waste recycling will need cost-effective environmentally efficient local solutions. Martin County should further its green image with comprehensive recycling options.

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

As we begin September, school aged children have been in school for almost a month and those that are in high school begin to realize they are getting closer to the end of their K - 12 public-school time.  

United Way of Martin County created a program for our high school student population to assist in their overall growth. If you know of a high school student eager to delve into community engagement, Students United is the perfect program for them! United Way of Martin County presents this philanthropic initiative to high school students who are ready to learn and serve their community.

Students United represents the next generation of leaders. The program offers members the opportunity to cultivate A Spirit of Service. Program highlights include attending nonprofit site visits while gaining an understanding of the profound work being accomplished at partner agencies. Members also contribute during United Way’s competitive grant process by reviewing applications and making funding recommendations.


Who can participate: 9th – 11th grade Martin County students interested in developing leadership and community impact skills.

What is gained: Empowerment to mobilize community resources and make contributions through selfless volunteerism.

When do activities occur: Between October 2023 – May 2024 for monthly after school activities on the first Thursday of the month from 4:30 – 6:00pm. (There are 8-10 activities with one Saturday event)  

Where do members meet: At United Way of Martin County, 3-4 partner agencies, the Fairgrounds for the United Way Holiday Project, and a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant.

Why Students United:  It’s a great way to get involved and gain 20-30 certified volunteer hours while giving back to Martin County!


Deepen students' comprehension of our community's health, financial stability, and educational needs.

Educate students on the intricacies of how nonprofits seek and obtain financial support from the United Way.

Develop students’ evaluation skills to determine the impact of programs designed to address community challenges.

Foster a Spirit of Service through multiple volunteer opportunities at local organizations.

Nurture leadership proficiencies within a secure and supportive environment.


The program starts with an application submission which is available on the United Way of Martin County website from August 30, 2023, through September 29, 2023.

Applicants should verify their availability to ensure they can fully engage with the program schedule.  

Members are responsible for obtaining transportation to and from activities.


Once a member has completed their first year of the program, they are invited back as an Advisory Council Member (ACM) for the remainder of their high school education. Currently, there are 20 past members eager to welcome the 2023-2024 Students United group. These members also have an opportunity to continue their community efforts by volunteering, leading activities and serving as mentors

Application Submission:

To complete an application, visit our website or click  HERE

Students United enrollment is from August 30, 2023 through September 29, 2023.

For additional information, please contact

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

Contemplative Christian

Chad Fair
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Pastor

Strength in Weakness

“Jesus is too weak.”  That’s the quote I heard a few days ago.

Initially I just rolled my eyes and walked away.  Frankly, I didn’t have time for that brand of nonsense, but my curiosity got the best of me.  Multiple pastors reported essentially the same story about quoting the Sermon on the Mount parenthetically, in their preaching - “turn the other cheek.”  Parishioners questioned them, “Where did you get those liberal talking points? That doesn’t work anymore, that’s weak.”    

Yep, that’s where we are folks, the teachings of Jesus are liberal and weak.  For those not familiar with the Sermon on the Mount, it begins in Matthew chapter five and runs all the way through chapter seven.  (I don’t want to hear anyone say I preach too long.)  The more famous parts of Jesus’ sermon are a string of “Blessed are…” and the Golden Rule.  It’s three chapters so Jesus covers a lot more ground than I have space to cover here but I encourage you to crack open a Bible and read it but here’s a hint, if you read it and don’t feel uncomfortable you probably missed the point. 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Jesus was neither liberal nor conservative.  He doesn’t now and didn’t then fit into the political culture of the times.  It’s why they killed him.  So again, if you lean left and aren’t convicted by Jesus’ teachings, you probably missed the point.  If you lean right and aren’t convicted by Jesus’ teachings, you too probably missed the point.         

Honestly the idea of Jesus being too weak is coming full circle, some of his own disciples didn’t understand why Jesus wasn’t more aggressive or combative.  They didn’t understand why he went to the cross without a fight.  In the moment those disciples failed to see the totality of Jesus ministry. 

They only experienced Jesus in the flesh.  It wasn’t until they found the tomb empty that they began to understand who Jesus was and what his ministry was about.  It wasn’t about power.  It was never about power, at least not by our common definitions.  Yet in sacrifice, self-sacrifice, Jesus defeated the one thing that awaits all of us…death.            

Today we have the benefit of seeing the totality of Jesus, his life, death, and resurrection, which makes me wonder, what’s our excuse?  With Bible in hand how can we faithfully hold true to the teachings of Jesus and still hold on to values and principles of earthly power and domination? 

Jesus is the most transformative person in the history of the world, and he did it without a single weapon.  Rather than force, he used love, mercy, compassion, and grace.  So next time you want to grab your Bible or throw out some verses to try and belittle someone, remember how Jesus changed the world.  He loved it.

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

Business Development Board

Joan Goodrich
Business Development Board of Martin County, CEO

If you’ve been to Disney World (still one of my favorite places to visit) then I must ask your forgiveness in advance for an upcoming six-word sentence. That’s because the near-infamous song repeated throughout a certain theme park ride is sure to spring instantly to mind.

Here goes: It’s a small world after all. (It’s a small, small world.)

And, it is. I’ve reflected on this fact, and as the BDB team led by Pierre Taschereau, is planning another inaugural initiative - Export University 101. This “worldly" experience and certificate training is coming to Indian River State College’s Stuart campus from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 28. It is all but guaranteed to generate opportunity and success for many participating local businesses. Visit for tickets and sponsorship opportunities.

The suite of services the Business Development Board of Martin County offers unfolds in many forms but serves one overarching purpose—creating a stronger and more resilient local economy. Sometimes, that means enlarging markets. Other times, it means accessing new markets not just in Florida or across the country but around the world.

After all, Martin County is home to multiple talented manufacturers whose products would improve the lives of people everywhere if only the right connections would be made with them. We’re also blessed with ‘top of industry’ service providers who could do the same. Export University illustrates how to make these transactions possible and profitable.

The BDB teamed with esteemed economic powerhouses at the U.S. Department of Commerce and the South Florida District Export Council to bring the event to town.

“Companies looking to export their products and services,” says Eduardo Torress, a director with the U.S. Department of Commerce, “will have the opportunity to learn all aspects of the export process.”

Torres joins our speaker lineup, which includes local, state and national experts. Martin County Commission Chair Ed Ciampi is a speaker as well. In addition to elected office, he’s vice president of sales and international development for Chicago Stainless, a Palm City manufacturer of temperature gauges and pressure gauges for sanitary businesses.

Ciampi credits his exporting knowledge to the BDB and its state and federal partners with informing him on how to build the international aspect of Chicago Stainless. So far, he’s traveled to five continents and 46 states.

“There are so many resources that I learned initially from BDB staff and directors,” says Ciampi, who will discuss, among other items, how to build a service network overseas and managing relationships after the sale. “Once you realize these agencies at the federal and state levels are here for your assistance too, it helps.”

In addition to finding out how Florida Commerce and Select Florida (formerly Enterprise Florida) helps connect U.S. business owners to foreign markets and even prequalifies potential export partners, the array of speakers will address international law governing exports, sales insights, B2B partnerships, pricing, quotes, shipping costs, payment mechanics, logistics and more.

Export University 101 can be a business’ next step on the path for growth as it makes the global business world smaller and more connected. So, don’t miss out and register today!

Joan Goodrich’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Anne's Assessment

Anne Posey
Tykes & Teens, CEO

September in National Suicide Prevention Month.  As we enter September, Floridians have their eye on potential tropical storms, but we should also be aware of the storms that may be going on internally with our friends and families.  Everyone can play a role in preventing suicide by raising awareness of the warning signs and sharing resources on how to get help.

In 2022 deaths by suicide in Florida increased and in teenagers and millennials the rates were higher than any other demographic.  Mental health challenges are the leading cause of poor life outcomes in young people, according to the Surgeon General.

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, warning signs that someone is thinking about suicide include talking about wanting to die or being a burden to others.  People considering suicide may feel empty, hopeless, or trapped or express that they feel unbearable emotional pain.  They may experience changing behavior such as withdrawing from friends and family, giving away important items, or making a will.  They may eat or sleep more or less and may be using drugs and alcohol more often.

If someone you love is experiencing these symptoms or if you have concerns for their safety, encourage them to call the National Suicide Hotline at 988.  It is important to ask the person directly if they are thinking of ending their life – you will not put the idea in their head if it is already there.  People are much more likely to seek help if a friend or family member encourages and supports them.  Offer to sit with them while they call and offer a helping hand.

Mental Health First Aid is a great way for the community to learn about mental health challenges and how to address them with a loved one.  Go to to learn more about classes being offered in our area.

Awareness saves lives.

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

Pet Summer Safety Tips

The Florida summer heat is not something to take lightly, as it feels like temperatures can regularly reach over 100 degrees. It’s important to make sure that you keep your pets and loved ones safe from the dangers that are associated with the summer season.

The most common mistake pet parents make during summer is walking their dogs on hot surfaces like pavements and asphalt roads. An animal’s paws pads are extremely sensitive and can get burnt easily while out for a walk. To avoid this, it’s important to take your pet for walks early in the morning or late in the evening when the streets are cooler.  If you plan to take your pet for mid-afternoon walks, please be sure to use your hand to check the temperature of the ground first!

Heartworm and flea treatment are always an important preventative for pets, but it’s especially crucial during the summer when temperatures are high and mosquitoes, fleas and ticks are more active. These bugs carry heartworms and other diseases, which can be easily avoided by giving monthly preventatives to your pets.

The Florida season also has its fair share of thunderstorms. This can cause your pets to become spooked and attempt to run off or escape. It’s important to ensure that pets are microchipped and that the microchip is up to date with current information. Every one in three pets go missing, but pets that are microchipped have a significantly higher chance of being returned home. The Humane Society of the Treasure Coast offers low-cost microchipping for pets who need it. To make an appointment, please call 772-223-8822.

Most pets can tolerate alot and do not show discomfort until it’s usually too late. Make sure to know the signs of a heat stroke before it happens. When a pet’s temperature gets too high, it can be life threatening and their organs can begin to fail. Be mindful of signs like excessive panting, difficulty breathing, and drooling. These are primary indicators that your pet is starting to overheat and will need to be taken to a shady area and given water immediately. Seek veterinary assistance if symptoms worsen.

The summer season is also a great time to bond with your four-legged friends. There’s plenty of opportunities for dog-friendly events and outside water fun. If safety precautions are taken, summer can be an exciting time of year with your pets. It might even be a great time to get your furry friend a companion through the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast! If you think your pet would like a friend, please stop by and visit us at 4100 SW Leighton Farm Ave, Palm City, FL 34990.

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

Helping Hand

Suzy Hutcheson
Helping People Succeed, CEO

Baby Connections

For more than 20 years, the BRAIN (Building Readiness Among Infants Now) has been available to new parents as they began this new and exciting adventure of raising a child. I remember bringing my first daughter home and thinking OH NO! WHAT DO I DO NOW! The BRAIN program helped calm that lack of confidence for thousands of new parents.

Now it’s 2023 and Baby Connections (previously known as the BRAIN, Building Readiness Among Infants Now) has been birthed!  

Baby Connections is the beginning of Helping People Succeed’s recommitment to the whole family—a wealth of opportunities for the baby, siblings and parents! Baby Connections is a valuable resource available to all parents of newborns in Martin and St. Lucie counties.   

What does Baby Connections offer to the parents as they leave the hospital with their bundle of joy safely in a car seat going home to their life! Here’s a sampling--

  • Newborn Home Visit done by a hospital nurse, who conducts a comprehensive physical assessment of both mother and baby, gives breastfeeding support and education, explains the importance of immunizations, and makes home safety recommendations.  
  • After the nurse's home visit, Helping People Succeed offers a new home visit sharing invaluable information with our Infant Specialist that focuses on the importance of nurturing during the baby’s first few years of life. Research proves that the first three years of a baby’s life is critical to brain development.
  •  The Infant Specialist enrolls the parents in the Ages and Stages Questionnaire to ensure the baby is meeting all developmental milestones through age 5.
  •  A Baby Connections gift is presented to parents includes a “Welcome to the World” letter from the school superintendent, developmental toys and books that help build the relationship between the baby and parents; as well as a listing of community resources to ensure the parents feel supported and connected.  
  • These visits are provided in English and Spanish.

The visits from both the Hospital Nurses and Helping People Succeed Infant Specialists through this very early attention help children grow up to be healthy, happy and successful. You’ll be amazed at the changes you will see and your child will be ready for school. The entire family receives other benefits as well.

Research shows that—reading to your children face to face is critical important for their development; if you can’t read point out the pictures—however you do this, talk, talk, talk with your baby!

We thank the Children’s Services Council of Martin and St. Lucie counties for recognizing the importance of these types of services. Their guidance and funding have made a world of difference for children and families.

For more information or to make a referral, please call Marjorie Gittings at 772.320.0789 or email her at

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

Keep Martin Beautiful

Tiffany Kincaid
Keep Martin Beautiful, Executive Director

The 2023 Litter Index Results Are In---And Positive for Martin County


It takes a sharp eye and precise note-taking skills to conduct the Litter Index each year to help our community track how well – or how poorly – we’re keeping our roadways and streets free of litter.

This year Keep Martin Beautiful was fortunate to have several summer interns from the Firefly Group assist us in conducting our annual Litter Index. Also called the Community Appearance Index, it’s a comprehensive assessment of the overall appearance of a community using litter as a key indicator.

This committed group of young women dedicated two days to driving around Martin County, exploring the main roads, and venturing into areas off the beaten path. They traveled across the entirety of Martin County including parts of the City of Stuart and the Village of Indiantown with clipboards in hand and a heightened sense of the state of our environment.

The Litter Index team was impressed. A significant portion of the county exceeded their expectations, with minimal litter present in most assigned zones.

For Kenzie Kemerson, a high school senior, the experience was an opportunity to see areas that were totally unfamiliar. “It’s the first time I was ever in some of the neighborhoods we toured,” Kenzie told us. “I was surprised by the amount of litter - but in a good way! In most areas, there was really very little litter.”

When the team drove off major thoroughfares and into areas that are tucked away in neighborhoods, however, the results were different. “In one area,” Kenzie said, “we found a stack of mattresses, abandoned shopping carts, and enough beer cans to cover the ground like a carpet.”

The Litter Index runs on a scale of 1 to 4, with 1 being little to no litter, and 4 being very littered. The scale is used to record the extent of litter throughout Martin County street-by-street and the overall score is calculated by averaging the compiled scores. Despite some troubled areas, the results were good.  This year, the overall litter index was a commendable 1.439 which is very clean and even higher than last year’s score of 1.504.  While the difference may seem minimal, it is still a reassuring and positive trend in litter reduction in Martin County.

Still, litter is an ongoing battle and there are many hot spots throughout Martin County and always more work to be done. You can help maintain a litter-free Martin County by being a part of our Adopt-A-Road and Adopt-A-Street program. Volunteer groups commit to a one-year contract, pay an annual fee, and six times a year, pledge to clear litter and trash from their designated mile-long section of roadway.  

For more information about the events and programs that help to keep Martin County beautiful visit or email  And don’t forget there’s still time to volunteer for the International Coastal Cleanup on September 16. Click here to register.

For a copy of the most recent Keep America Beautiful national Litter Study, click here.

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

Art of Business

Chriss David
Founder, Chriss David and Associates

How Small Businesses Can Stand Out Amongst the Giants

In today's competitive market, small businesses aren't just going head-to-head with local competitors but also with the national giants. The big names have impressive marketing budgets and vast brand recognition, often overshadowing the local entrepreneurs. But there's good news! Small businesses can indeed stand out and thrive. Here are 12 strategies to help local businesses shine amidst the giants:

1. Digital Presence is Essential: The digital age offers ample avenues for advertising. Be it organic social media marketing, Facebook advertising, or PPC, the digital world is your oyster. Coupling modern strategies, like video marketing and local PR, with traditional print ads can maximize outreach.

2. Stay Updated with Marketing Trends: With a more streamlined decision-making process, small businesses can quickly adapt to new trends even before the big brands can finalize their marketing budgets.

3. Prioritize Your Business Reputation: Strive for a strong reputation in your local community. Encourage feedback, engage with reviews, and maintain a strong online presence.

4. Outstanding Customer Service: Personalized and attentive customer service can distinguish you from the giants. Most consumers value the relationship and experience over the end product.

5. Act on Customer Feedback: Regularly seek customer feedback and act on it. This proactive approach showcases your commitment to excellence.

6. Niche Marketing: Targeting a specific demographic allows more personalized marketing strategies, giving you an edge over the larger corporations.

7. Branded Content: Tell your business's story. By linking your brand with issues significant to your customers (especially if they are local), you can create a memorable impression.

8. Quality Design Matters: Your branding's visual aspect can make a big difference. A professional-looking website design boosts your brand's credibility and outreach.

9. Customer Loyalty Programs: Personalized loyalty programs can keep your customers coming back. They appreciate the mutual relationship.

10. Community Engagement: Engage with the local community. Volunteering, donating, or simply knowing your neighbors adds a personal touch that big brands can't replicate.

11. Local Promotions & Contests: Use your autonomy to run regular promotions, creating a buzz around your brand.

12. Hire the Best: Your employees represent your brand. Hiring the right team ensures the delivery of impeccable service.

While the giants might seem intimidating, small businesses possess unique strengths. By utilizing these strengths strategically, they can not only compete but potentially outshine the bigger players. 


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

Theobald's Teachers

By Matt Theobald

Pres. Martin County Education Association

The history of organized labor in North America dates all the way back to the 1600’s when Polish artisans went on strike in the colony of Jamestown, Virginia to demand the same right to vote as their English counterparts. The strike was successful, and thus began the longstanding tradition of labor unions protecting workers’ rights and standing up for democracy.

In the four hundred years since that first strike on American soil, labor unions have gone on to advocate for safe working conditions, fair wages, and reliable health and retirement benefits that have dramatically improved the quality of life for millions of workers and their families. In addition to the tangible benefits of membership, unions also remain true to their democratic roots by providing workers with a unified voice at their job site.

Here in Florida, during the Walkout of 1968, nearly 30,000 teachers resigned their positions in the classroom and used their collective voice to shed light on their concerns regarding poor funding, low pay, a lack of planning time, missing materials, and more. After several weeks, the standoff between the teachers and the state concluded when lawmakers agreed to an increase in public education funding and policy changes that empowered students. However, the most notable result of the walkout was an agreement embedded in the Florida Constitution that teachers and other public-sector employees in the state were prohibited from ever going on strike again.

Another result of the walkout that seemingly goes unnoticed is a provision in the Florida Constitution that reads, “The right of employees, by and through a labor organization, to bargain collectively shall not be denied or abridged.” This ensures that teachers, along with law enforcement, firefighters, and other public-sector employees, have the right to form a union and that union alone acts as the collective bargaining agent during contract negotiations.

When the teacher’s union, the Martin County Education Association (MCEA), meets with the Martin County School District, they are authorized to act on behalf of the nearly 1200 teachers of the district to serve as their collective voice, and as such, we are the only voice that teacher’s truly have. While the district must balance the needs of many constituents, the MCEA is the only organization dedicated exclusively to the needs of our teachers. Simply put, we are the organization that looks after the people you trust to look after your students.

The teachers in Martin County are a truly dedicated group, and while the community may not always see what happens in our schools, we look forward to sharing our efforts on behalf of our teachers and their students with you here on a monthly basis.

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

Other Opinions


ARC of The Treasure Coast

Keith Muniz

President & CEO

Hurricane Supplies Needed at Group Homes Along the Treasure Coast

An updated hurricane report from the experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration indicates the rest of the 2023 hurricane season will be active. So, we all need to be prepared. Most veteran Floridians already know the drill - make an emergency plan, locate your evacuation route, find, and safely store important papers, and build an emergency kit.

If you plan to weather the storm in your home, gathering supplies is one of the most critical components of hurricane preparation. Consider all the people in your family and how much you will need for each of them for an extended amount of time.

Now think of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who live in group homes. Who takes care of them, where do they go, and who collects and purchases the supplies they need to survive a hurricane?

ARC of the Treasure Coast is one organization that makes sure these folks are safe and have what they need. But we cannot do it alone. We need the community’s help.

The organization operates sixteen community homes in Martin and St. Lucie counties where residents are provided an alternative to institutional living. When a hurricane is headed for Florida, residents of these group homes are evacuated to two special shelters also managed by ARC of the Treasure Coast.

These shelters have certain requirements including providing a week’s worth of supplies per person per shelter. As you can imagine, that’s a long list with a hefty price tag.

Packaged foods, water, and batteries are on every hurricane list. The ARC is no exception. So, when you’re buying your own hurricane supplies this year, consider helping these folks who can’t help themselves. Gift cards to Publix, Home Depot, and Lowe’s are also extremely helpful.

Hurricane preparedness is a necessity in Florida and in the case of these group homes, the expense is enormous. If you would like to help, please visit www. or call (772) 283-2525 for more information.

Keith Hernandez’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

One Florida Foundation

By Nyla Pipes

Executive Director

Focus Not Blame: Solving Florida’s Water Woes

Florida’s complex water issues are at the center of heated debate this summer. But let's face it, this isn't new; every summer, we witness this green menace resurfacing in our waterways. The blame game will not fix anything; it's high time we shift our focus toward real solutions.

For years, Lake Okeechobee releases were blamed for the blooms that scientists say can have public health impacts and negative effects on marine life and seagrass growth. Even though there haven’t been any major discharges from the lake this summer, the algae are spreading into the canals, which lead to estuaries on Florida’s East and West Coasts.

We all know hurricanes play a role in exacerbating the problem, stirring up sediments and flooding waterways with sewage and stormwater runoff. The heat of the summer brings massive blooms. It is basic science: sun, warmth, and nutrients create a perfect breeding ground.

What we are also seeing is a glimpse of what the new Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM) operation system is going to look like. We know under LOSOM that the lake will be too high, too often. When the lake is too high the result is an algae-filled lake. That’s exactly what’s happening.

Environmentalists point fingers at the usual suspects—the Army Corps of Engineers, South Florida Water Management District, and Lake Okeechobee. They claim that LOSOM could have prevented this. But Floridians need to know the state’s water system is complex.

It involves a combination of natural and engineered components, as well as the coordination of various stakeholders and agencies. The infrastructure includes canals, levees, and water control structures, which are designed to regulate water levels in the lake and prevent flooding in our communities.

Every drop of water that falls on Florida is managed through careful planning, monitoring, and decision-making by multiple entities making it a challenging and complex task. It’s a balancing act. 

So, it is dishonest that some environmental groups are complaining that not enough water was sent south during the dry season, and it's disingenuous for those same groups to complain about water releases when lake management capabilities were evident from the start. The governing board deserves credit for doing what it could under the limitations of the programs in place.

There is no one perfect solution. But we don’t need hypocrisy and lies to muddy the waters. Let’s work together to keep improving on this fluid situation.

Nyla Pipes' opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Martin County Property Appraiser

Jenny Fields
Martin County Property Appraiser

As Martin County Property Appraiser, one of my responsibilities is to steward the TRIM process, which stands for Truth In Millage. That means making sure you understand each component that determines your estimated property taxes.

The TRIM notice is made up of several parcel specific sections that include ownership, legal description, parcel ID number, property value, property tax exemptions, assessment limitations, and petition filing deadline.  The Taxing Authority section positioned in the middle of the TRIM notice provides important information about how local government budgets and millage rate decisions impact individual property taxes.  Taxing Authorities are a unit of government, governed by the Florida Constitution and Statutes, that can adopt a budget and levy a millage rate to fund the budget. Some examples of taxing authorities are county governments, school boards, water management districts, special districts, and municipalities within a county.

Ad valorem tax means “taxes derived from property value.”  Property Value and Millage Rates are two components necessary to determine your ad valorem property taxes.  The Property Appraiser is responsible for setting the property value and the Taxing Authorities are responsible for establishing the millage rate.

A common question our Office is asked this time of year is “If my homestead property is capped at 3%, why are my proposed taxes more than that? The answer is that your assessed value is capped, but that assessment limitation does not apply to millage rates or taxes.  To further explain how millage rates are derived, we have created a new educational video and a printable two-page handout titled “How Millage Rates Affect Your Taxes”. We hope these tools will help provide an understanding of how local government budget and millage rate decisions impact your property taxes.

To view the brief video, click here.

To view the printable handout including the Taxing Authorities 2023 Proposed Millage Rates, click here.

Anglers For Lake "O"

Peak Hurricane Season Will Likely Bring Lake O Water Releases

By Scott Martin

Co-Founder of Anglers For Lake Okeechobee

As summer winds down, peak hurricane season rushes in and so does heavy rain and winds. Both elements have a major impact on Lake Okeechobee water levels, and those levels are at the heart of a heated debate because they’re blamed for blue-green algae blooms along coastal waterways.

Currently, the lake levels are averaging about 15.35 feet. The increasing Lake O water levels and now we are in hurricane season raises the likelihood of releases to the coast.

Lake levels are a real concern because they affect the environment, specifically the submerged vegetation (SAV) which naturally filters marshes and grasses keeping the lake water clean.

Levels too high can destroy the vegetation and negatively impact the lake’s future.

Additionally, the spraying of chemicals used to control hyacinth and non-native grasses has an adverse effect. As Co-Founder of Anglers for Lake O, we support finding alternatives to

spraying, such as mechanical harvesting, and managing lake levels on a daily basis.

Water levels on Lake O also influence tourism and the fishing industry. Fishing Lake

Okeechobee is my lifeblood. When I say I’m ‘Going Fishin’ I’m actually going to work. I know, it’s a tough job.

During summers like this year when rising Lake Okeechobee water levels create complications everywhere downstream, we need additional storage options that will help slow the flow of water into the lake. The state of Florida has done a yeoman’s job of advancing the storage projects north of Lake O, such as, the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project (LOWRP), ASR wells and now it’s time for our federal partners to step up to help us get the projects finished. In every effort to slow the flow into Lake O, ASR wells would be the quickest way to do so. If we had additional storage north of the lake in place, we wouldn’t be as worried about rising lake levels or harmful impacts to the coastal estuaries.

But we know there are a lot of reasons for algae and increased water levels including the

weather, inflow north of the lake, fertilizers, and septic tank issues. Blue-green algae are part of the lake’s natural ecosystem and like to grow in the warm, summer months.

It’s a seasonal dance we’ve all come to recognize. But more importantly, it’s one we now prepare for with knowledge based on science. Years of gathering research studied by collective, competent minds have created the strategy currently driving lake releases.

The science of hurricane season is unpredictable and that can cause stress and anxiety. But it’s

reassuring to know the science surrounding Lake O has been proven year after year. The hope is the water release plan will stand up to the uncertainty of Mother Nature. So far, it’s been working.

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

Constitutional Corner & Non Profit Notices


Supervisor of Elections

Tax Collector

Property Appraiser


The Taxing Authorities which levy property taxes against your property will soon hold PUBLIC HEARINGS to adopt budgets and tax rates for the next year. The purpose of the PUBLIC HEARINGS is to receive opinions from the general public and to answer questions on the proposed tax changes and budgets PRIOR TO TAKING FINAL ACTION. Each Taxing Authority may AMEND OR ALTER its proposals at the hearing. You will find all taxing authority budget hearing dates, locations, times and contact phone numbers below.

Martin County Clerk & Comptroller

Martin County State Delegation Meeting


Businessowners eager to access foreign markets can attain expert’s edge when Export University 101 makes Treasure Coast debut in Martin County

STUART—It takes a lot of business to succeed in business, as any entrepreneur will attest. Doing so often means tapping new markets—even ones around the world. But how to do so and effectively navigate the logistics, language barriers and labyrinthine of legalities?

Those answers and more are coming—for the first time—to the Treasure Coast through the acclaimed Export University 101. Widely recognized as the premier resource for informing and equipping business owners on effectively accessing foreign markets, the event is taking place from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 28 at Indian River State College’s Chastain Campus in Stuart.

Export University 101 will feature leading local, regional, state, and federal experts for in-depth discussion on topics as essential as promotions, compliance, trade grants, risk management, pricing, payment, shipping and more. The event culminates with the issuance of a certificate to participants.

“We at the U.S. Commercial Service are very proud to be part of such a great initiative organized by the South Florida District Export Council in collaboration with the Business Development Board of Martin County,” says Eduardo Torres, director for South Florida U.S. Commercial Service, U.S. Department of Commerce. “Companies looking to export their products and services will have the opportunity to learn all aspects of the export process. Remember that exporting is not an event, it’s a process.”

Organized by U.S. Commercial Service, South Florida District Export Council and the Business Development Board of Martin County, Export University 101 will give local business owners invaluable insights into accessing international marketplaces to expand the impact and influence of their companies.

“We’re incredibly proud to participate in bringing this unparalleled resource to businesses in Martin County and across the Treasure Coast,” says Joan Goodrich, executive director of the BDB. “While we have a robust service sector, Martin County is also home to some remarkable manufacturing companies whose innovations deserve even greater exposure. Export University 101 is uniquely designed to empower them with the knowledge to integrate internationally and we’re so excited to see these principles put into practice in our community.”

Speakers and Topics

Eduardo Torres, director at the U.S. Department of Commerce, will kick things off with the “Basics of Exporting and Products and Services of the U.S. Commercial Service.” He’ll teach attendees, among others, key dynamics to anticipate when entering a wider pool of competitors as well as the importance of creating an export strategy and marketing plan, contemplating logistics and complying with regulations.

Peter Quinter, who specializes in international law for Gunster law firm, will provide a deeper overview of U.S. regulations governing exports.

Emily McHugh, an international trade consultant for Florida Small Business Development Center at IRSC Entrepreneurship Development Institute, will better inform small business owners on how to effectively create, maintain and grow their companies to complement serving larger markets.

John Diep, director of international trade and development at Select Florida, will give insights on international sales and how best to access both risks and opportunities before making costly commitments.

Ed Ciampi, chair of the Martin County Commission as well as vice president of sales and international development for Chicago Stainless based in Palm City, will speak on establishing an overseas infrastructure to grow business internationally. Ciampi will discuss, among other topics, determining the viability to potential markets, building a service network dedicated to after-sales relationships and managing and motivating channels of distribution in overseas markets.

Elena Mendez, eastern regional director of small businesses for the Export-Import Bank, will share more about federal programs that support financing of international sales.

Hernan M. Mayol, export finance manager in the Office of International trade for the U.S. Small Business Administration, will discuss financing programs for small businesses seeking to provide exports overseas.

Tyler Myer, senior director of securities for Bank of America, and Brandon Haase, B2B sales and partnerships for Flywire, will speak on managing international sales orders. They’ll delve into pricing, quotes, and terms, how to factor shipping costs, payment mechanisms, credit insurance and financing export transactions.

Kathy Carlton, managing director at KCarlton International, will cover international logistics.

Afterwards, attendees can address their questions to a panel featuring Torres, Goodrich, Ralph MacNamara, South Florida District Export Council and Pierre Taschereau, business development executive for the BDB.

About the Business Development Board of Martin County

Strengthening and championing Martin County’s economy is the Business Development Board’s primary mission. Organized as a 501(c)6 not-for-profit public-private partnership, the BDB provides confidential, complimentary, professional services to job creators, investors, and their representatives with designs to launch and grow in Martin County.  Touting Martin County’s friendly business climate, fostering leading industries and good jobs; growing our own businesses, entrepreneurs, and talent; and promoting strategic economic development areas comprise the regular activities BDBMC is engaged in alongside the support of our executive leaders, investors and partners. To learn more, call 772.221.1380, visit or follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn.  

Non Profit Notices




Palm City, FL. – The ARC of the Treasure Coast is teeing up a weekend of fun on the links at the 15th Annual Swinging Fore the ARC Golf Tournament. All events will be held at the Harbour Ridge Yacht & Country Club in Palm City and proceeds go to ARC of the Treasure Coast, a local charity assisting and supporting children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.

Register for the tournament and score an invite to a pre-event Cocktail Par-tee which kicks off the festivities Friday, Sept. 29th at 6 p.m. The public and non-golfers are welcome.

The tournament takes place on Saturday, Sept. 30th, starting with late registration and breakfast at 7:30 a.m. The Four-Person Scramble Golf Tournament begins at 9 a.m. A gourmet BBQ awards luncheon, auction, and raffle follow the tournament.

Eight-time PGA Tour Winner, Fred Funk has committed to helping the ARC with their Golf Tournament this year.  Fred will be available on both Friday and Saturday’s tournament day and will demonstrate to attendees some of his best recommendations for overcoming potential challenges on the course.

Many of Funk’s playing competitors are now regarding Fred as perhaps the straightest driver to ever play golf; in a 14-year period, Funk achieved the highest driving accuracy on the PGA Tour seven times and was in the top five of this statistic for every year but one in that period.

Funk played on the PGA Tour, where he was an eight-time winner including his signature win in 2005 at the PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP when he prevailed in a four-way playoff.  Funk has had 17 wins altogether in his career. He is also the oldest player to make a cut on the PGA Tour. Funk currently plays on the PGA Tour Champions where he won the 2009 US Senior OPEN.

Your company or team can ‘iron’ out a sponsorship plan with prices ranging from $750 to $10,000. Golf entries and gift bags, tee signs, and tickets to the cocktail party and awards banquet are all ‘in the bag’ with your sponsorship purchase.

This event helps fund the services provided by ARC of the Treasure Coast including summer camps and After-School programs for children, day training programs, community inclusion services, transportation, intensive behavioral services, and Advanced Employment Services for adults.

ARC of the Treasure Coast is pleased to announce that Boars Head is the Tournament Sponsor, Sailfish Marina is the Awards Buffet Sponsor and CTS3 Solutions is the Beverage Sponsor. 

To learn more about how to register for the tournament visit:

We Look Forward to Another Great Year! Hope to See You on the Green!


ARC of the Treasure Coast: is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization dedicated to assisting and supporting children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to achieve their fullest potential through residential, educational, vocational, behavioral, and other related healthcare services.


Family Promise Revs up for 4th Annual Bed Race

By Jackie Holfelder

You can buy coffee mugs and t-shirts with this great anonymous quote, “They said follow your dreams, so I went back to bed.”

And you can make other people’s dreams come true when you participate in one of the most fun-raising events on the Treasure Coast: Family Promise of Martin County’s annual bed race.

On Saturday, October 14, the 4th Annual Family Promise Bed Races will take place from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. at 600 SE Flagler Avenue, Stuart.

The annual Bed Race is Family Promise’s premier fundraiser and monies raised will support its mission to keep families together through intensive case management and mentorship. Family Promise is part of a national organization with a proven model who uses an interfaith network and community-based approach to prevent childhood homelessness.

Although the Bed Race exudes fun and good times, it also exemplifies the hardship experienced by homeless families who often face the uncertainty of whether they will have a bed in which to sleep.

Don’t miss the creative and captivating creations on wheels that participating teams will build. Based on last year’s great participation and the current pre-event buzz, Family Promise is anticipating a record number of beds will take part. Florida Representative Toby Overdorf, American Legion Harold Johns Auxiliary Unit 62 and the Association of Christian Business Women are just a sampling of those whose teams have already signed on. 

Judges will include Florida State Senator Gayle Harrell, Florida Representative John Snyder, Martin County Commissioner Ed Ciampi, Stuart Police Chief Joe Tuminelli and Thelma Washington.

This free event for the whole family will offer a morning filled with bed races, vendors and food trucks, all in the comfortable shade of the Stuart Water Tower.  Flagler Avenue will be closed to road traffic between Ocean and MLK Boulevards so that everyone can enjoy the bed races racing down the street.

Each bed will have a team of five people, aged 10 and older. Cost to enter is $150 per team and each team member will receive an event t-shirt and swag bag.

There will be awards for Fastest Bed, Best Overall Theme, Best Construction and Design, People’s Choice and Top Fundraising Merit.

The schedule of events at the Family Promise Bed Race is:

·         8-9 a.m. Bed Race Dropoff and Race Registration

·         9-10 a.m. Bed Judging

·         10 a.m. - Parade of Beds and Race Kickoff

·         1 p.m. - Awards Ceremony

Please note that times are approximate. A more accurate schedule will be determined closer to the day of the event and communicated to Team Captains.

Deadline to enter is October 6, 2023 and space is limited. There are several options for sponsorship. Benefits include social media mentions, logos on website for several months and logo on race t-shirt with sponsorship of $1,000 or more.

For sponsorship information and to learn more, visit or contact CFisher@MCFamily To learn more about Family Promise of Martin County, visit


Get Ready to Glow: Neon Nights Party Celebrates 15 Years of The Children's Museum, Presented by Mr. & Mrs. Cetta

Jensen Beach, Aug 14, 2023 – The Children's Museum is turning up the neon for an epic celebration of 15 years, and you're invited! Join us at the Neon Nights Party for a night of vibrant fun, fantastic food, and non-stop beats, all happening at the Frances Langford Pavilion in Indian Riverside Park.

Event Details:

Date: Friday, September 15th

Time: 6:00 PM - 10:00 PM

Location: Frances Langford Pavilion, Indian Riverside Park

Get ready to be transported into a world of glowing colors and high-energy excitement. Our neon-inspired wonderland will take over the pavilion, mixing nostalgic vibes with a modern twist that'll have you partying all night long.

Highlights of the Night:

Glowing Vibes: Brace yourself for an immersive experience as the venue lights up with dazzling neon lights, creating a mesmerizing backdrop.

Delicious Bites: Treat your taste buds to a delectable dinner that'll make your mouth water, adding a touch of culinary delight to the festivities.

Cheers to Memories: We'll raise a toast to 15 incredible years with a complimentary drink, marking a milestone worth celebrating.

Dance Off Your Shoes: Our DJ will keep the energy alive, ensuring the dance floor stays hot with an eclectic mix of music.

Capture the Fun: Don't miss the chance to snap photos in our picture-perfect spots, capturing every unforgettable moment.

Presenting Sponsor: Mr. & Mrs. Cetta

We're beyond excited to have Mr. & Mrs. Cetta on board as the presenting sponsors of the Neon Nights Party. Their passion for community and education perfectly matches our values. Their support has made this bash possible, helping us create an event that celebrates not only our journey but also the joy of giving back.

Ticket Details:

Ready to light up the night? Tickets for the Neon Nights Party are just $50 per person, offering you a whole lot of bang for your buck. Snag your spot for this incredible event by purchasing tickets in advance at our official Children's Museum website:

Dress Code: Put on your best neon-inspired outfit and get ready to glow!

This isn't your average party; it's a neon-infused celebration that's all about fun, memories, and looking ahead to the bright future of The Children's Museum. Remember, this event is for ages 21 and above.

For more details about the Neon Nights Party and The Children's Museum, visit:


Social Media:

About The Children's Museum:

The mission of The Children’s Museum of the Treasure Coast is to offer children and families a place to explore and learn through hands on activities, educational programs and cultural experiences.





Hibiscus Children’s Center Receives Literacy Grant
from United Way of Martin County

Martin County, FL - Hibiscus Children’s Center is pleased to announce that it is the recipient of a $10,000 grant awarded by United Way of Martin County.  This generous grant was awarded for the Hibiscus Literacy Program at the Tilton Family Children’s Shelter and will help ensure children have the resources they need to learn to read and help foster a love of reading that will benefit their entire lives!

The Hibiscus Literacy Program provides individualized assistance and opportunities for the children to strengthen and enhance their academic and emotional development.  It also helps to foster a love for reading and provide a fundamental foundation for education.  The Literacy Coordinator assesses each child and determines his or her reading vocabulary and comprehension skills, learning styles, and current academic level, then an individual development strategy is implemented that will lead to success.  This includes collaboration with staff, therapists, and school personnel.  Last year, 100% of children who participated in the Literacy Program improved their reading proficiency.

Hibiscus Children’s Center was pleased to attend the Community Impact Grant Award Celebration and partner with our wonderful community to help improve and strengthen the lives of children and families in Martin County.  Hibiscus is grateful to the United Way of Martin County for their partnership and support of the educational needs of our children.  For more information about Hibiscus Children’s Center or how you can get involved, please visit us at or contact CDO Michelle King at


It’s all about cats and wine at the Humane Society’s Kitty Catalina

PALM CITY, Fla. — Calling all cat lovers and wine enthusiasts to the Kitty Catalina Wine Mixer! This sixth annual event will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 8, at the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast’s Memorial Garden, 4100 SW Leighton Farm Avenue, Palm City.

Supporters will have the opportunity to mingle with friends and adoptable felines. Cat adoption fees will be waived during the event. While strolling the gardens, guests also will hear live music while enjoying light bites and sampling a variety of wines from local Florida wineries. The pre-registration cost is $25 per person, which includes admission and one free raffle ticket, with all proceeds benefiting the shelter animals. Attendees must be 21 or older. The link to buy tickets is At the door, the cost is $30. Attendance is limited to 75 people.

Kitty Catalina is generously sponsored by Apex Pavers & Pools and O'Donnell Impact Windows & Storm Protection.

Learn more at or contact Alyssa Bean, community events specialist, at 772-600-3215, or

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 and Twitter at For more information, visit or call (772) 223-8822.




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.
First letter from Bill Addeo
Good article on restaurant service and policy.  I recently went to the new steak house on  confusion corner and the waitress said the tip policy was in the bill but I could give more if I wanted to.  This is ridiculous and rude to say the least.  The customer is being treated like a slave and has no choice if the service is bad?  Me? I would just leave the food bill and walk out if that happens or never go back again. 
Keep up the good work, I really enjoy your articles.
Blessings always,

2nd Letter from Bill Fisher
Safe Biking
I am a retiree who enjoys biking for exercise. However, I will never set any world land speed records. I see a number of bike lanes painted on the roads in the area. However, I bike on the sidewalks of Stuart to try to stay alive. Automobile traffic seems to be increasing noticeably in the area. Has there been any thought given to constructing bike paths off the roads in Stuart.? When I visit my three children in Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York, each of the towns in which they live have lengthy areas of these types of bike paths. These paths are much safer for bikers and provide less obstacles for drivers to content with.
Tom - thank you for all that you do with this informative publication.

3rd Letter from J. Paul Moore

Dear Tom,

Thank you for your Friends & Neighbors newsletter every Sunday.  I always read it with interest, but this is the first time I have written to share my perspective as a local real estate broker who resides in Martin County. 

Many times I agree with Commissioner Ciampi's approach to taxation, growth & governance, but I am not in support of the county's $4 million proposed acquisition of the Palm City parcel that is currently in play. 

I do, however, wish to add another consideration to the response by the Martin County Taxpayers Association in today's newsletter, August 20, 2023, a group that I will oftentimes agree with.

Not only does Ciampi's proposal put more and more land into government ownership, thereby eliminating prospective property tax revenues compared to a developed parcel, it also ELIMINATES JOBS in Martin County.  Though I am not familiar with the specific construction cost projections for the JAMSZ project of 90 units, it is likely $10 million to $20 million in lost income & jobs for local citizens. 

In fact, the deficit delta is more likely a loss of economic activity in the range of $15 million to $20 million. It should be emphasized that the cost to our local economy is far more than the $4 million price tag for the county government to acquire this parcel.  In my opinion, this is a very important consideration that should be addressed.

This said, I would ask if JAMSZ Development has been approached about scaling back the scope of the development to reduce the impact that 90 units will have?

Kind regards,


Our next letter from Beverly Spofford

Awesome copy.  Easy to access and extremely informative.  Thank you.

Great contributor articles 



Fifth Letter from Martin Moss

Regarding your article on Jaycee Dugart, I see nothing wrong with the regulation. If you saw “The Sound of Freedom” you would know that the message of the atrocities can be relayed very effectively without the graphic descriptions. You still have a choice for your children to read it you can. That is Choice!!!


Last from Audrey Taggart

You made a very valid point about the necessity of continuing to have county school boards in the state of Florida. Most of the curriculum decisions, policies, procedures, textbook selection, etc. are mandated by the state education department. Salaries, benefits, contracted calendar are removed from their purview. You are correct in questioning the need to continue such a redundant service.

I would take the appraisal one step further and question the need to have Boards of County Commissioners, as well. They have been placed in basically the same position as the school boards since the last meeting of the state legislature. County boards have been relegated to that of a rubber stamp on Florida's state laws which are more in keeping with the UN's Agenda 30. Live Local has removed their power. They still have a salary, offices, aides, expenses, allotted monies to be used at their discretion, and other perks. Taxpayers could reduce a major expense were we to disband BOCCs.

If the county board had been meeting after working hours there would be increased opportunity for participation. Were there term limits in place there would be more equity.

Our representatives to Tallahassee - both house and senate - apparently view the situation in a different light. More power for them? Promises made to them?

The old saying about “all politics being local” is dead in the water since
“Live Local” was thrust upon us by our elected officials.

Is there an option to make lemonade out of the lemons we have uncovered?

In liberty,

Martin County


For some reason, the renaming of Citrus Blvd to Newfield Parkway caused the commissioners to disagree.

With the written permission from the adjacent property holders, Mattamy Homes wanted to change the road’s name for a 5.5-mile stretch from the C-23 Canal to Martin Highway. Mattamy, who is now the owner of Newfield, bought the property from Knight Kiplinger with the intention of implementing his vision for the development. The street name change would be an introduction to Newfield.

Commissioner Hetherington was not in favor of the name change. At one time, the entire length of the roadway was citrus groves. She felt by the change of name, we would be losing Martin County’s cultural heritage. There are no citrus groves along that road today. I don’t think there is even a citrus tree bearing fruit anywhere along the road all the way to Indiantown. She also mentioned Citrus Grove Elementary being named for the defunct industry.

Commissioner Heard said it was poor public policy and would be confusing that half the road was Citrus and the other half Newfield Parkway. Yet Google Maps shows a portion of the present roadway named SW 48th Avenue and another portion named Loop Road.


Commissioner Smith mentioned two current roads with split names (Pomeroy becomes Market and Colorado becomes Kanner both in Stuart). He is supporting the request. Commissioner Jenkins agrees with Smith as does Commissioner Ciampi. A motion was made by Smith and seconded by Jenkins for the name change. It passed 3-2 with Hetherington and Heard dissenting.

Ali Soule, VP of Communications for Brightline, made a presentation regarding the St. Lucie Bridge.

It appears that the interested parties are working together to find funding for replacement of the 100-year-old span. Congressman Mast has now issued a letter of support. Stuart and the Florida Inland Navigation District (FIND) are the sponsoring agencies for the Mega Federal Grant of $130 million. There is also another FDOT grant that the railroad should hear from by the early part of next year.

Soule said that she believes it is a very strong project to obtain funding. There is an aggressive 51-month timeline to completion. The total cost of the new span is estimated to be $218 million. She acknowledged that Brightline and FECR will have a monetary contribution to construction as well as the State of Florida and Washington. They have already completed very preliminary plans and a scoping study that Brightline paid for.

The new bridge will be slightly to the south of the existing bridge. It will have a clearance of 16 feet when in the down position and a 90 feet horizontal clearance. According to Brightline 92% of the boat traffic could pass under the closed bridge.

The Marine Industries is on board with the caveat that they be a stakeholder at the table from the design phase going forward. There are now several major marinas and boat building facilities on the St Lucie River toward Indiantown. There are very big boats there. The river is also a transit point between the west coast and east coast. That is why the Coast Guard was such a player in setting the regulations for the opening of the bridge on a schedule.

The commission passed a resolution in support of the grants and to include the Marine Industries at the table. The vote was 5-0. You can see the presentation here 

The commission went into executive session to discuss the pending lawsuits with the two pet stores. They then came back into open session.

The commission asked the Animal Care and Control Oversight Board to look at this issue and recommend an ordinance. Their recommendation was to stop the sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits from pet stores. The commission then drafted an ordinance doing that and gave the two existing pet stores until this past June 30th.

The stores sued the county in federal court.  According to the agenda item: “The Plaintiffs raised Federal challenges under the 14th Amendment due process, the Dormant Commerce Clause, both Federal and state Contract Clause, and state preemption under Florida Statutes Chapter 828 (animal care and control).”

The commission has decided that this is not worth the fight. County Attorney Sarah Woods is drafting a settlement agreement grandfathering the sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits for both stores. It will come back in September for a vote.

At the time it was originally heard, a small minority claimed it was anti-business. Most of those who spoke wanted the ban. During this meeting, no one from either side was there to speak. Is the case winnable? Originally, we were told that it was a slam dunk. There had been similar suits and “no sale” ordinances had been upheld.

Let’s see who shows up to speak when this comes back for a vote on a curtailed ordinance. If it really wasn’t a winner, why did we go through the expense of a suit? An ordinance with a grandfather clause could have been done 2 years ago.

Dan's Commentary

A Lyric Explains My Perspectve

By Dan Romence

President of Indiantown Marine Center


“You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, well, you just might find, you get what you need.”

This familiar refrain from The Rolling Stones rang in my ears when considering Brightline’s move to pursue funding for a replacement of the St. Lucie rail bridge. Faithful readers of Friends & Neighbors may remember that we recently advocated for a span dedicated exclusively to passenger rail, ensuring all vessels that navigate the Okeechobee Waterway could do so without obstruction.

Instead, Brightline wants to doubletrack the rail bridge, which is understandable; increase the width of the opening from 40 to 90 feet, which is wonderful; and raise it by 10 feet, which is, well, questionable.

Brightline claims the new bridge will accommodate 90 percent of local boats. We doubt the accuracy of this figure as it relies on an older study and fails to factor in the more recent large-scale investment of facilities west of the bridge that cater to larger boaters. Also, we prefer a comprehensive solution for the entire boating community. After all, the new span is estimated to exceed $220 million, the lion’s share to be derived from federal and state tax dollars. To ensure the best value, the new bridge should endure at least as long as the current one—which is 98 years old.

Brightline’s pledge to create a new bridge represents progress in our long battle to secure unobstructed navigation of the waterway. Florida Inland Navigation District and the City of Stuart first supported the request for bridge funding. But the credit goes to you, the general public.

Your outpouring of input to the U.S. Coast Guard on the latest bridge schedule—amid minimal turnaround time—demonstrated your level of commitment to a solution. We also appreciate the Martin County Commission. In its proclamation favoring Brightline’s funding request, commissioners unanimously affirmed that the Marine Industries Association of the Treasure Coast and Marine Industries Association of Florida remain involved during the design, construction, and operations of the new bridge. 

We plan involvement during the:

  • Design phase, providing input and gathering data from boater experiences to better inform the final product.
  • Construction phase, coordinating with Brightline, FEC, USCG, Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission, Martin County, City of Stuart and their respective marine units to give boaters complete, accurate safety information.
  • Operations phase, advocating for scheduling that serves every vessel.

So, we’ll rely on the wisdom and experience of the boating community throughout this effort. Expect more updates from us as well as requests for input from you. Speaking up is the only thing that got us this far.

It’s no secret that Brightline is far more politically connected than us. Evidence of this fact abounds. Those high-level connections were on open display when Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas recently referenced the Stuart bridge in supporting Brightline’s position. Without the steadfast leadership of Congressman Brian Mast, we’d have virtually no allies at the federal level.

This effort is far from over. Remember, it took our recent lawsuit—supported by numerous local marine businesses, the Village of Indiantown, MIATC and Marine Industries Association of Southwest Florida—to prompt the latest test schedule from USCG. Although initially reluctant, Brightline agreed to comply.

It takes a strong, focused push by the people to balance the scales of power.

Thanks to all five Martin County Commissioners, we got what we needed—a seat at the table addressing the new bridge. With a unified, engaged, vigilant community, we may all also get what we want.

Dan Romence’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

City of Stuart



The Corradino Group has been holding workshops with residents and interested parties regarding the intersection of Federal Highway and Palm City Road and how to improve it.

Every few years there is a workshop, public meeting, or email campaign to do something about the excess speed or traffic on that roadway. Usually someone gets the ear of a newly elected commissioner (in truth, I was one of them) and a movement is born.

This time it was instituted by the MPO regarding the problem of the sharp right off Federal Highway onto Palm City Road. The consultant has been working with a group of government officials, business owners, and FDOT to come up with a solution. There were five alternatives in the presentation with that group preferring Alternatives 1 or 2.

Those who live on and right off Palm City Road had suggestions of their own mainly focusing on the Road itself after the Publix Center. They did not want Alternatives 1 or 2 but Alternative 5 instead. All the alternatives can be found in the attachment here 

The only thing different about this effort than the earlier efforts is that the MPO is involved and that means FDOT will be footing the bill if anything is done. If the full MPO adopts any plan, it goes on the priority list and will eventually be funded. It could take years.

Vice-Mayor Bruner made a motion to recommend Alternative 5 including the comments from residents. Clarke seconded and the vote was 5-0


The commission looked at the schedule for hiring a new attorney, The screening committee reviewed the qualifications of the 11 applicants and narrowed the field to four. Three of the four have municipal experience.

Commissioner Collins wanted to have only the three candidates with municipal experience interviewed. He mentioned several times that, in the past, people had been chosen because of who they knew instead of based on their credentials. He didn’t want to see it this time.

The rest wanted to follow through with the “process.” If the committee thought these four should be interviewed, the prevailing sentiment was that the four should be interviewed. Process is important, but it seems to me there is more at work here than that. Collins has rubbed the others the wrong way since being elected. In his fervor to prove he is right; he has alienated the rest. That doesn’t mean he is always wrong. I believe he has a very valid point this time.

Commissioner Rich said this was not the time to debate their qualification but proceed to interviews. A motion was made to interview the four semi-finalists. It passed 4-1 with Collins dissenting.

The commission will individually interview them on September 7th that will begin as an open meeting and then each commissioner will interview the candidates privately. They are to decide at the September 11th commission meeting to whom the job offer should be made.

There were no attachments to this agenda item. No resumes, reports, or even names. When the commissioners were speaking without using any names, I had no idea who they were speaking about. They mentioned one of the finalists who had no municipal experience but there were other things like lawsuits, bad credit, and unpaid bills that were uncovered by H.R. I am wondering why he is a finalist.

Why the secrecy? Is Collins right and the fix is in? Another applicant who had municipal experience didn’t make the cut because he did not have enough experience as opposed to none. There was no explanation for why these four were selected by this committee. The committee was comprised of Interim Attorney Nicoletti, Mayor McDonald, City of Stuart Paralegal Ryanne Cavo, Human Resource Director Roz Johnson Strong, and the only non-governmental member, Attorney Scott Konopka.  

This is anything but government in the sunshine. Did the committee meet at an open government meeting? And if so, was it advertised? Even if not required by “sunshine,” shouldn’t that meeting have been open to the public since this is such an important and critical position?

Both the manager and attorney report to the commission. We hear all the time that they can be terminated at any time, but how often does it happen? The demeanor and past conduct of the manager and attorney must be unimpeachable.

The resumes or even the spread sheet and Nicoletti’s memorandum were not part of the agenda item. Perhaps the public could offer insight into a candidate that would be important. Or would that negate the intended outcome?

At my request, the city manager forwarded to me a memorandum from the interim city attorney and the prepared flow sheet summations. Manager Mortell does not look to be involved at all in this process, and he should not be since the attorney reports to the commission.

I am not much for conspiracy theories, but I am not completely naïve either. Lack of sunshine will do that. And from what I see there are lots of clouds and even darkness here. Interestingly, the four commissioners that were not on the committee did not want to include any other candidate. Looking at past searches in Martin County, including other candidates have been done in the past.

Collins may be 100% right  here. The “Good Ole Boys” still want control. Will the commission be a compliant tool or independent? We will find out on September 11th.

You can find the memo and spread sheet here. 

Martin County School Board


Next meeting will be on September 4, 2023 in their new board room at scholl board headquarters.

Town of Sewalls Point


The next meeting will be September 6, 2023

Village of Indiantown


The next meetring will be Setember 14, 2023


Town of Ocean Breeze


There will be an election for three council seats on November 7, 2023. The council consists of six members that are elected to two-year terms. The mayor, who is not part of the council, is also elected by the voters separately. Mayor Karen Ostrand was unopposed last year.

There are six candidates that qualified. The three incumbents are all from the resort area and three others from Sea Walk. In the last election the three seats for the council went to three residents from Sea Walk. It will be interesting whether going forward the old section of town, now known as the resort area, will have any representation.

The six candidates are in alphabetical order:

William Arnold (incumbent)

Ken De Angeles (incumbent)

Kevin Docherty (incumbent)

Michael Heller

Peter Luther

Matthew Squires

Town of Jupiter Island


Moira Collins was the second Town of Jupiter Island Commissioner to resign since last March’s elections.

Newly elected commissioner Tim Smith resigned from the board in July. Mayor Townsend is involved in a civil suit with a private party over sunshine violations. Will she be the next one or will Scott and Field decide public service isn’t for them.

During a good portion of the last meeting, the commission discussed a proposed indemnification ordinance. I don’t know if that had anything to do with Collins’ resignation. She had served for about a decade as a commissioner without being sued for her actions in her public capacity.  

It is my understanding that state statute allows a commissioner to be reimbursed for legal fees if the charges are dropped or a suit is unsuccessful. I also understand that people doing their civic duty don’t want to go through the agony of being accused of wrongdoing even if they are eventually cleared.


With two seats now empty how does Jupiter Island govern itself? The charter allows for the remaining commissioners to appoint someone to each of the vacant seats. They did that when Commissioners Brooks and Heck resigned. Should they do it again or hold a special election?

Or they could appoint, if they are willing to serve, Joseph McChristian and Tucker Johnson who were on the last commission. Those two ran in the March election with the highest vote total behind Scott, Smith, and Field who won the election for the open seats. That probably won’t happen because McChristian and Johnson have different opinions on development.

A special election to fill the two seats would give the voters a chance to decide whether to continue with the current path or have a reset. This may not be the last of the resignations, and it is not clear how governance will continue with only two commissioners if another resignation happens.

The commission has sent out numerous ordinances in the past to the residents to gauge their opinion. They did this most recently on the indemnification ordinance. Perhaps it is time to do a poll on whether a special election should be held.



Earlier, I reported that Maura Collins resigned from the Jupiter Island Town Commission.

At the time, I did not have her letter of resignation. Now I do. And she makes it quite clear that it wasn’t about a lack of indemnification for her actions but something that is a fundamental argument in Martin County…property rights.

In her letter, Ms. Collins states this reason: “The Town Commission has voted to ‘study resetting the Waterfront Setback Line for the purpose of writing an ordinance.’ I believe this has the potential to expose the town to an enormous amount of liability. It will lead, once again, to the Town's residents paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and wasting thousands and thousands of hours of staff time that should be devoted to the work of running the Town.”

In the March elections, four commissioners who won and to some extent wanted the line to be changed back to a more restrictive point. Ms. Collins was the fifth winner, but she did not. One of the pro change commissioners, Mayor Townsend, is embroiled in a civil lawsuit on sunshine violations now. At some point if it is proven, this may become a criminal matter. Recently elected Tim Scott has already resigned.

Property rights were enhanced once the setback line was extended a few years ago. The town commission, a governmental body, gave the owners of the properties and those that subsequently bought the plots something (property rights) that cannot be taken away. Trying to change the law to prevent building is going to be costly and a loser. Florida law is very strong regarding the property rights of landowners. The town is looking at millions of dollars in damages and legal fees. 

At one time, Jupiter Island residents settled their differences behind closed doors usually at a club or cocktail party. Those days are gone apparently. Land disputes have become a bare-knuckle fight involving people who have the monetary means to back up their claims and egos. In other jurisdictions where people have more modest wealth, there is likely more incentive to compromise. In this town, the outcome of disputes just comes with several more zeros attached.

Ms. Collins saw the writing on the wall and got out when the getting was good. I don’t know if Smith thought the fight was just not worth it, but he must be sleeping a little more peacefully. The town’s battle lines are drawn, and an unbiased party can see what the final outcome will be.

In the meantime, who will be next to leave the commission? What happens if another of the three decides to vamoose. Does the governor come in? I don’t know but stay tuned for the next installment.

Apparently, the commission has the same thoughts and has asked for interested parties who would consider being appointed to the commission to contact the town manager or clerk. They will be discussing it at the September meeting. I wonder if McChristian and Johnson, who were defeated during the last election cycle, are going to toss their hats in the ring. How about a draft Pidot movement? 

  Both Stories Were Originally Published On Our Facebook Page As Breaking News 

Final Thoughts



Martin County and the entire world abounds with conspiracies, fantastical flights of imagination, or just plain old lies. Yet it seems the authors want to remain in the shadows instead of embracing their work in the light.

It is hard to take seriously people who refuse to admit authorship. Without a name there is no substance, just half-truths, rumor, and inuendo. There is no such thing as alternate facts or subjective truths. No one should ever argue or try to refute a specter. And make no mistake they are the ghosts that haunt insipid ideas and doubtful information.

I have columnists with whom I don’t agree, but I give them an opportunity to express their opinions and make their cases to our readers. Friends & Neighbors believes in a marketplace of ideas…not a party line. What you won’t see is any of our writers allowed to be anonymous, which includes even the letters that we publish.

To change minds, there must be an openness to having ideas debated and challenged. Those who work in the shadows are not looking for validation. They live on inuendo and sometimes just plain falsehoods.

On our site, there is a place to register to become a columnist. There is a place to send your letter expressing your viewpoint. In both cases, you need to sign your name and then have pride of authorship for what you have written. If you can’t even muster those bare requirements, I would not expect the public to give you much credence. You would never be included here.

In Florida, there is a law requiring sunshine for local elected officials to act only in public meetings. They must do the people’s business in the open. At Friends & Neighbors our opinions are authored by a known individual and available for inspection. You should insist that from anywhere you go for information.

Otherwise, the information being given is not worth the effort to read.



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

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



Tom’s Articles

From Medium

"Economically We Won. We Need To Act Like It"


From Martin County Moments

"When Being Involved Mattered"


"Save Local Government"


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The New Tork Times: “In a Hot Job Market, the Minimum Wage Becomes an Afterthought”


The Washington Post: “The states that produce the most doctors, artists, and writers, and more”


The Capitolist: “State Representative eyes county commissioners term limits”


The Conversation: “Governors may make good presidents − unless they become ‘imperial governors’ like DeSantis”


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