April 21, 2024

Friends & Neighbors Edition

In this Edition

We are looking for a few good men and women to join our team. We quite simply need columnists to join our ranks. Do you have a hankering to tell others about your passion or occupation? This may be the place for you. Drop me a line and we can speak about you finding a home to spread your word.

This week we have several articles about the Nazi hate speech at the last Stuart Commission meeting. Read about how the commissioners handled it and how Stuart PD stepped up.

There are the latest photos from Pal Mar illustrating how wetlands are being destroyed. A special report on a transportation program making sure our most vulnerable populations arrive at their medical, employment, and educational appointments on time. We cover the announcement of former superintendent, John Millay’s run for school board and his withdrawal a few days later.

I write about when the N.Y. Mets were at the Polo Grounds. Where Martin County statistics on taxes come from. Will the new station enable us to have that small town feel again.

We have all our great columnists, nonprofit notices, and the latest information from our constitutional officers.

Happy Sunday Morning!


It is “amazin” how things have changed since I was a kid.

The first time I ever saw a baseball game was in 1962…the year the New York Mets became the 10th team of the National League. They were playing at the Polo Grounds in Upper Manhattan which had been the home of the New York Giants before they left for San Francisco in 1957. I don’t remember who the Mets played, but I think it was the Cincinnati Reds. The Mets lost the game as they would lose 120 games out of 160 that season.

On the way home on a crowded subway train, no one was sad for the $2.50 they spent for their ticket. Like my family, most of the early fans had rooted for the Brooklyn Dodgers before they decamped to Los Angeles. I was too young to ever have rooted for “Dem Bums” as the Dodgers were known.


But until a National League team reappeared in New York, my grandfather, an immigrant, was adrift. I never knew what a ballpark was like until the day I first saw the Mets play. We were never going to see the Pinstriped Yankees because we were “working people and not millionaires.”

My own baseball career was anything but organized. We had cement playgrounds rather than grass fields. Most of our games were with broom handles and spaldeens. I was more of a handball and boxball player, again with the ubiquitous spaldeens. You could buy a “pinkie” for a quarter at any candy store.

The 1962 Mets with “the Ol’ Perfessor” Casey Stengel as manager, was a sight to behold. Casey had been a journeyman player and so-so manager until the Yankees hired him in the late 1940s. He won 5 consecutive series in a row. In the 12 seasons as manager, the Yanks clinched 10 pennants and 7 world series.

But by the time he came to the Mets, he was 72 (when 72 was ancient) and far from being in his prime… just like most of his players. He had always been known as a character and when you have a 40-120 win/loss record, you had better be able to inject some laughs for the fans. One of his famous lines from that season was, “Can’t anyone play this here game.” He hung the moniker of “Amazin’ Mets” on the team, and it stuck.

My grandfather had a team to root for again. He could sit in front of his fan and TV with rabbit ears and watch baseball in a hot apartment all summer long.

I fondly remember the Polo Grounds which overlooked Highbridge and Yankee Stadium 1.5 miles away. The Mets moved to Shea Stadium in Queens in 1964. It was a brief romance that I had with those Polo Grounds, but it was a first love. All others are never the same.   


At a recent conference held in Austin, Texas, liberal young professionals, and city planners came together to push for a relaxation of local zoning laws.

It has been called the YIMBYtown Conference and has been going on since 2016. It originated in Boulder, Colorado. The participants advocate for bike lanes, public transit, and higher density in suburbs and cities. An unlikely new group of conference participants were added…Republicans from red states.

YIMBY stands for “Yes In My Back Yard.” The keynote speaker was Montana Governor Greg Gianforte, a conservative Republican, who last year signed into law a housing package now known as the “Montana Miracle” in YIMBY circles.

The pro-housing bill, formally known as the Montana Land Use Act, overrode local zoning ordinances and enacted laws for multifamily and ADUs in single family neighborhoods.  Montana, about as Republican as a state can be, looked at proposals from planners, city officials, home builders, and nonprofits before enacting this legislation which is far ahead of more liberal blue states when it comes to different housing alternatives.

One of the speakers at this year’s conference was a Republican Texas legislator who is pushing to loosen zoning regulations in addition to his advocacy on a near total ban on abortion. He was joined on the panel with lawmakers from Vermont, Arizona, and Montana discussing eliminating what may be considered exclusionary zoning and anti-free market local regulations on the state level.

This is now a big tent movement with sponsors such as the Mercatus Center and the Pacific Legal Foundation joining more liberal ones. The lack of housing has reached a critical point throughout the nation. Whether you are a Democrat or Republican, state government now wants to find a solution even if local codes must be overridden to enact the solution.

In deep red Martin County and purple Stuart, we may find that the state will no longer allow an unwarranted fear of more housing of all stripes and character which prevents its being built. Either our zoning laws will become more inclusive, or we may find ourselves with a state zoning code much like we have a state building code here in Florida.   

As Published In Martin County Moments 


What the two Neo Nazis did at the Stuart Commission Meeting (see stories Here) is reprehensible. I hope everyone understood that.

This idea that White people are going to be replaced is nothing new. In 1892 an Anglo-Australian writer and politician, Charles Pearson, warned that White people would be replaced by those that “we look down on.” Then came the eugenics movement that resulted in Black people being sterilized.

There is also the nonsense about Jews somehow not being part of America. Only White Christians are, and yet that definition keeps changing. In a 1740s letter on German immigration, Benjamin Franklin stated that “they were the most ignorant Stupid Sort…” The first bilingual classes in New York City go back to the 1840s and were provided to the Germans streaming into the city…the grandparents of the Nazis with their Aryian superiority.

Russians, Poles, Italians, and the Irish were not considered White by the Americans when they first landed on our shores. Chinese were excluded by an Act of Congress. Catholics of every sort could never be true to the red, white, and blue because their first allegiance was to the pope.

Mexicans, South Americans, Africans, Indians (from India), Moslems, and those from the Middle East are now told the same thing that the Italians and Irish were. NINA… “No Irish (substitute Italian) Need Apply” for apartments or jobs. But since someone had to erect the buildings, go into the mines, and dig the ditches, they survived.

I often wonder what if the Native Americans had been more hostile to our English forebearers? Instead, the White Europeans wiped them out as they made their way across the continent. It could have been the other way around.

Donald Trump wants immigrants from Norway or Switzerland. Since the end of World War II, the standard of living for people from those 2 countries has been higher than anything America could offer. Why would they come here?

What the racists and Nazis don’t get is that in America, a new group is always coming. That is our strength not our weakness. Immigrants don’t soil the blood but re-invigorate it. Jobs done by one ethnic group or race in one generation are performed by another in the next.

Those guys at last week’s Stuart commission meeting giving out pamphlets and speaking about the “crimes of the Jews” are ignorant, racist, and un-American. I guess they forgot that Jesus wasn’t a Gentile but a Sephardic dark-skinned Jew. You know…the kind that the Nazis sent to the gas chambers. Today’s scorned immigrant could be tomorrow’s prejudiced American.  

Where Are You Ranked

I have often heard one candidate for commission claim that we are the third most taxed county in Florida.

He may be right. However, I haven’t been able to find that statistic. Yet I found plenty of others.

Florida Tax Watch puts out an interesting guide titled “How Florida Counties Compare.” According to one of the charts, “Per Capita Total Property Levies FY 2022-23, Martin County comes in #5 of all counties in the state.

And according to “Per Capita County Government Property Tax Levies,” Martin is #1. Looking just at school district taxes, we are #7. For “Average Total Property Tax Millage Rates,” Martin is 17th. While “Growth In Total Property Tax Levies FY 2012-13 to FY 2022-23”, we are 31st. Push back the start date to FY 2007-08 (the year of the Great Recession) and our ranking becomes 21st.

Once the pamphlet gets to sales tax paid, we really drop in the ratings. “Per Capita Local Option Sales Tax Revenue,” we are 35th and 61st with “Percent Of Available Local Option Sales Tax Being Levied.” Most counties out of Florida’s 67 are all over the rankings depending on the table being used.

The pamphlet has many more tables. There are other statistics that can be used from different sources to prove Martin County is #1, #10, or #67 ranked of Florida counties. Statistics exist to support every point of view if you look hard enough. Our standing in the rankings is immaterial to whether the county is spending tax dollars wisely and to achieve the greatest benefit and wishes of the taxpayer.

I see us having some unsustainable budgets for departments in the county government. Foremost is in the public safety expenses. Just like any statistic whether we have the best, medium, or worst sheriff and fire/rescue is not the point. The point is how much can we afford?

The commissioners never seem to ask that question. It isn’t whether we deserve the best services but rather are we purchasing the best bang for our buck for the tax dollars we have? If we gave each citizen their own deputy, they would be protected from crime to a large degree. The same if each of us had our own EMT as part of our retinue. No one proposes that because we know that it is unaffordable

As taxpayers and voters, we buy into the myth that we deserve to have the best in those departments and more personnel with more equipment. Then the minute a tax increase of any size is proposed, we are up in arms. Politicians’ biggest flaw is they want to please. The biggest flaw of citizens is they want it all and never pay.

The next time you hear a statistic, remember that it probably is true but without all the data it doesn’t mean very much. You can look at the pamphlet here 

Fletch's Perspective

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

Their return to haunt households everywhere around this time of year is as predictable as the villain in a summer blockbuster who rises to attack again mere moments after the first presumed demise.

That bad guy is in this case is Boredom, who along with his sneaky sidekick, Idle Time, can invade your summer and capture your child’s mood. Thankfully, parents and guardians can defeat this dastardly duo quickly and completely with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County’s Summer Enrichment Camp.

Our summer program brings the fun from nearly the moment school lets out until classes return, running from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. May 28-Aug. 7.

Best of all it’s available for a cost that can’t be beat—free!

The children and families of Martin County are blessed with an array of incredible summer camp programs. If you’re able to travel to the varying host locations, a wide variety of experiences await. Understanding the limitations in transportation and means that many of our members endure, BGCMC provides a one-stop summer camp extravaganza that—fueled by the fertile imaginations of our staff—incorporates sports, art, environmental stewardship, entertainment, and field trips they’ll never forget.

Summer activities at the clubs kick off with a glow party and get even brighter from there. The kids will enjoy picnics, Water Day, Field Day, and a beach cleanup. Our lemonade stand event instills the importance of good business practices while inspiring club members to brand their own lemonade with concoctions that expand the spectrum of traditional flavors.

For Ocean Week, the kids will learn about different marine animals. For Mystery Week, the nooks and crannies of every club will transform into escape rooms filled with clues for the kids to analyze and collaborate on to discover the best way to break out.

With healthy lifestyles (alongside academics and good citizenship) among our core priorities, you can bet that every club member will get ample opportunity to exercise their competitive natures and more. Each week they’ll enjoy soccer, tennis, flag football, color runs, and a basketball tournament that encompasses all four of our clubs and culminates with bragging rights that last all year. There’s no fear of anyone pulling a hammy as they’ll get plenty of stretching and cool-down time at weekly yoga classes.

Several field trips fill out the itinerary—including Vero Skating, Rapids Water Park, Sailfish Splash, Superplay USA, Fun Depot, Kennedy Space Center and an elephant sanctuary as well as regular visits to the movies.

Our Summer Enrichment Program isn’t all (although mostly), fun and games. The kids will still work with our certified teachers on their customized learning plans to maintain their gains and grow their skills in reading, math, and science. That’s because the one “ride” we’re committed to keeping them off of is the summer slide.  

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

VanRiper's Views

Darlene VanRiper

You Just Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

The Apollo School in Hobe Sound (more on that later) hosted what has become an annual tour through historic Hobe Sound on April 13th.  I took advantage of it. 

It was a spectacular morning.  The kind that makes us say “This is why I live in Florida”.   We departed from the Apollo School which is a 2-room schoolhouse built in 1925 and later saved from destruction by a former student, Kathy Spurgeon and her friends.  It is worth seeing and hearing its history. 

Next stop was the Hobe Sound Community Center.  A place where I have attended many meetings.  I didn’t realize that the building had been moved from Camp Murphy after WWII.  There to meet us was Commissioner Jenkins who grew up in Hobe Sound.  He explained that the Center had been the hub of all social activity back in the 1960s and 1970s…fish fry, square dances and “billiard contests”. 

A voluntary fire department was across the street. 

Commissioner Jenkins’ family story alone is worth the trip.  In the 1920s his family owned 36,000 acres called White Dove Farms.  It was a squash farm.  Much of it was swamp and not farmable. 

None the less, his grandfather sold it for 50 cents an acre.  Back then land was a liability because taxes were 25 cents per acre.  Mr. Jenkins family home was built in the 1940s and was originally a servant’s quarters housing those who worked on Jupiter Island.  Because there was no connecting bridge at that time, the servants would be ferried over to the Island every morning.

We stepped back to 1958 when entering the Community Presbyterian Church.  Hand pained flowers featured in the Bible adorn the ceiling!  I’ve never seen anything like it.  As the first church in Hobe Sound and built by its parishioners, it extended the social life of the community taking some of the pressure from the Community Center.   Its history is rich and well worth a listen.

I’ve been seeing the Silver Bullet of Hobe Sound when driving on US 1 since I moved here in 1996 and never knew what it was.  The tour took us to the highest point in Hobe Sound.  And while I didn’t get a nosebleed, it was educational and fun.  The Silver Bullet built in 1912 is a water tower of course.  “The Hill” on which it is perched used to boast 2 resort hotels.  I’m pretty sure the wind blew them away.

We were given insight on Picture City which was to be the 2nd Hollywood and failed miserably due to a turn in the economy.  You can still see remnants of the lampposts built in 1925.   We learned that Joseph Reed and a group of investors bought a large part of Jupiter Island in 1933. Nat Reed and his brother continued developing the Island until the Hobe Sound Company was dissolved in 1998. 

I couldn’t write down or remember all that I learned about the place I have lived for nearly 30 years.  I encourage everyone to give this tour a sunny morning.  You can reach the organizers at the Apollo School at 772-546-5272.  It is an annual event.  But I bet if there was enough interest, Kathy would organize another one.  She’s a good sport.

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

Nicki's Place

Nicki van Vonno
van Vonno Consulting, Owner

Movie Jones

At the Academy Awards Oscar winner Christopher Nolan suggested that film was a young art form, only one hundred years old. He marveled at how the making of film might evolve and thanked the audience for including him in its journey.

Who remembers when visual art was only one hundred years old? Don’t be silly, Humans have been making visual art since they sheltered in caves to escape the weather and predators. That collaborative artwork remains, still casting its magic on humans.

As a youngster who loved  Greek and Roman mythology,  the plays of Aristophanes, Sophocles, Aeschylus, and Euripides were my introduction to theater. Film may be new, but collaboration is not. Film, like theater, is a collaborative art form with its  roots stretching from ancient Greek and Roman days. Dysfunctional families have been around since Cain and Abel.

Last night I watched  TCM show its “Tribute to Robert Osbourne.” I never knew Osbourne started as an actor. His relocation to New York to do movie reviews at CBS  created the opportunity for him to begin his hosting role at TCM and turned it into a showcase of film programming.

As an avid movie watcher I watched all the nominated films, except “Poor Things.” I need a designated time to watch that feast. But its development and production,  and performance  is an example of where film can go.

 I also saw the future of film, in Barbie, in Oppenheimer and in the amazing “Anatomy of a Fall,” starring Sandra Huber. Watching Sandra morph into the wife of the Nazi Commander running the next-door concentration camp in “The Zone of Interest” was shocking and thrilling.

The sequences where the film goes to other locations, both past and future leave us breathless. Watching the Concentration Commander throwing up on the stairs is oddly sympathetic and horrific. His wife in her fancy estate deserves no sympathy. Even her mother abandons her once she understands the enormity of the ash that coats the home and the clothes and the children.

What is next for this Movie addict? “Civil War” and “Dirty Little Letters” in a movie theater enjoying the communal amazing experience.

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

The perception of agriculture in comparison to other industries is an interesting thing.

A bank that does well and grows, it must have sound investments and business plans. I will invest my money there. A doctor who performs surgery well and grows the practice, that doctor must be skilled and knowledgeable in medicine. I will trust him/her with my health. A farm does well and grows in size and production, hold on there! I don’t trust that. They must be doing something bad.

This may sound silly or maybe this sounds like something you have thought or said. Why is a large farm perceived as bad while other large industries are good? The fact is 97% of American farms are family-owned and they are growing 90% of our food.


What makes a farm a family farm? USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA) says a family farm is “any farm organized as a sole proprietorship, partnership, or family corporation. Family farms exclude farms organized as nonfamily corporations or cooperatives, as well as farms with hired managers.”

It comes down to business structure, not business size. There is no size limit- not in acres, not in total livestock, not in tonnage of crops- for a farm to be considered a family farm. Yet when a farm grows above an arbitrary size that sits on a sliding scale it is considered by some to be a factory farm.

“Factory Farm” is a term commonly given to farms that appear to be too large. It is a negative term used to invoke thoughts of neglect and poor management. I challenge you to search that term and look at the page results. You will notice the first several pages listed- the pages most associated with using that term- are anti-livestock groups. I will let you chew on that for a minute.

Here’s another challenge: Go to your grocery store produce section and check the package labeling. You will see blueberries from Chile, Honduras, Peru, or Mexico right next to the ones from Florida. Check the strawberries, tomatoes, squash, the rest of the produce and you will see more of the same. Florida is in prime growing season right now, yet you will find produce from other countries pushing our local produce out.

Other countries do not have the same environmental restrictions, the same labor laws, the same humanitarian rights as we do. Those restrictions, laws, and rights add expenses for the farmers, and our farmers cannot compete fairly with that. What is a farmer to do to handle the crippling weight of those extra expenses to stay in business? The farm must grow larger.

You can take this as a fact. American farms are under attack today, both domestically and from outside our borders. Not only are there groups trying to make you fear your food, but our farmers are also facing unfair imports from other countries. If we lose our domestic food supply and there is another world pandemic, who do you think other countries will feed first- their own people or the Americans who are now relying on their produce?

If you didn’t already see it, I hope this is your awakening. Check your food labels and buy American grown.

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

Michele's Medical Moment

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

Important Tests for Heart Health that you probably never heard of

If you are at increased risk of heart disease you want to read this article!!   What are the risk factors for heart disease?  If you are diabetic, you have twice the risk of having a heart attack compared to non-diabetics.  If you smoke, if you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or a strong family history of heart disease, I am talking to you.  

There is a test that has been available for a while but is recently being ordered more frequently called the coronary calcium score.  This is a noninvasive test that can tell you how much plaque buildup you have in your coronary arteries.  What is plaque?  Plaque is made up of fat and cholesterol which are substances that circulate in your bloodstream.  

As plaque builds up it can narrow your coronary artery or block it completely, which is what leads to heart attacks.  Sometimes a heart attack is the first indicator that you have heart disease.  Calcium screening is a way to screen for plaque buildup before it causes symptoms.  It is a CT scan of your heart. The entire test takes about 10 minutes.  There is no contrast dye involved so no IV is needed. The CT scan can see calcium deposits that have formed in the plaque.  If you have a score of 0 there is no calcification and if you score over 400 you are considered to have severe calcification.

Learning this score can help you make personalized decisions regarding treatment.  For example, if you have been told you have high cholesterol but are against the idea of taking a statin, if you have a calcium score of zero you can be assured that you have a very low risk of heart disease in the next 5 years.  However, if your score comes back over 100 you may want to reconsider that decision, or it may motivate you to make some healthy lifestyle changes. 

This test is most beneficial for those between the ages of 40-75 who are at increased risk of heart disease.  The benefits of doing this test on people over age 75 are not completely understood.   This test is covered by Medicare but even if you are uninsured or have commercial insurance the test generally costs between $100-$150. 

Another test you may want to ask your health care provider to order is a homocysteine level. Homocysteine is an amino acid.  It occurs in high levels in meats. Vitamins B-12, B-6 and folate break down homocysteine to create other chemicals your body needs.  High homocysteine levels may mean you have a vitamin deficiency.  

It may also signify you have a genetic mutation in the MTHFR gene which renders your body incapable of processing homocysteine properly.   High homocysteine levels are associated with damage to the walls of the heart arteries which can lead to plaque buildup and can cause heart attacks, blood clots and strokes. High homocysteine levels have also been found to be linked to low HDL levels which is a subset of cholesterol that has been shown to be protective to the heart when the levels are high.  

To date research that has been down hasn’t shown that lowering homocysteine by increasing vitamin B and folate levels lowers the risk of heart disease.  This is a field that is still being researched to find other methods of lowering homocysteine that may reduce the risk of heart disease. 

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

Martin County Real Estate

John Gonzalez
Engel & Volkers, Managing Broker

I have been highlighting our local towns and neighborhoods in my recent articles. Hobe Sound is an iconic Florida area that is rich in history and is among the wealthiest places in America. Jupiter Island estate homes are contrasted with Zeus Park and Heritage Ridge homes.

Very few spots in Martin County (or Florida) are as easily recognizable as the tree tunnel leading from Hobe Sound to Jupiter Island. Leaving the quaint Hobe Sound and going to “the Island” is akin to leaving paradise and going to heaven. The beautiful oceanfront and inland estate homes with their trimmed and shaped hedges provide privacy and send a message saying hard work, a profitable idea, or a trust fund can lead to a great lifestyle in America.

Unincorporated Hobe Sound grew as families that worked on the Island began to build the community. Developers in the 20’s began by selling homes and lots. When they went belly up a company bought their lands and were planning to make Hobe Sound the Hollywood of the East. The dreams of these developers were crushed by the Great Depression - enter the Reed family.

I was fortunate enough to be befriended by Nathaniel “Nat” Reed, when I was a young man. Nat’s family purchased much of Jupiter Island and Hobe Sound in the 1930s and formed the Hobe Sound Company. The company developed and controlled Jupiter Island until the mid-1990s. His mother, Permelia, ran the Island in a way to preserve its values, virtues, and heritage. Many stories circulated about the “black sweater”. If one applied for membership and received the black sweater it meant the hopes of being a member of the club were dashed. Mrs. Reed once declared this was a tolerated myth.

World War II created a new U.S. Army base called Camp Murphy. Camp Murphy was in what we now know as Jonathan Dickinson State Park. Men of the Greatest Generation learned to fight at the Florida camp. After the war, many Veterans returned to Hobe Sound to raise their families in Florida near its sandy beaches. Today, you can find homes in Hobe Sound to fit almost any budget. Great schools, beaches, and parks bring new residents to this historic place.

Hobe Sound is the home to some of America’s finest golf communities and courses. Loblolly Pines, The Medalist, McArthur, Grove 23, Hobe Sound Country Club are just a few of the fine tracts. Several courses in this area rank in the top 100 courses in the world. Tiger, Phil, Rory, and Rickie all practice in Martin County before PGA events. Michael Jordan, the basketball legend, loves golf so much that he built his own private course on Bridge Road.

The Bridge Road corridor and the Old Dixie shopping district have great restaurants, small locally owned shops, and art galleries. If you don't know Hobe Sound - go explore its neighborhoods and beauty. To get a sample of its charm go to Taste Restaurant or Harry and the Natives for a meal or cocktail.

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

Humane Society of the Treasure Coast

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

Dog Safety with Children

When it comes to ensuring the safety of children around dogs, it is crucial to understand the dynamics between the two. While dogs can make great protectors and companions for children, it is essential to remember that they are still animals with their own instincts and behaviors.

The safety of children should be the number one priority. To prevent any potential incidents, parents should educate their children on how to interact respectfully with dogs. This includes teaching them not to tug tails or climb on the dog, as these actions can make the dog feel stressed or threatened.

Many people make the mistake of “humanizing” dogs, meaning that they believe dogs like being hugged because humans do, or that dogs like being held up-side-down like a baby. While there are exceptions, many dogs don’t like these behaviors from humans. It’s important to remember that dogs are still, well… dogs!

When children are babies, before they can talk, parents learn to understand the child’s feelings with their body language. The same applies to a family dog. Dog’s can’t talk, so they “speak” through their body language. This includes recognizing signs of stress in dogs, such as growling or giving a “whale eye”. Other signs of stress in dogs are if they are licking their lips without being hungry or yawning without being tired. These are clear signs that the dog is uncomfortable with their current situation.

A happy dog, plus happy kids, equals to a happy household. Having a dog companion can be incredibly beneficial for your child in various ways. Dogs not only keep kids active but also teach them responsibility from a young age. Taking care of a pet requires commitment and consistency, which are valuable lessons for children to learn.

In addition, dogs can teach kids empathy and build their confidence. The unconditional love and companionship provided by a dog can help children develop compassion and understanding towards others, including animals.

There are so many emotional benefits, but having a dog can also be practical. Dogs are known to protect the household, providing an added sense of security for families. The mere presence of a dog has been shown to relieve stress and promote relaxation in both children and adults.

Training your dog is just as important as learning their body language. It has many long-term benefits like teaching your pup manners, proper potty-training habits, and teaching them things like not jumping up on visitors. 

The Humane Society of the Treasure Coast has many deserving, adoptable dogs who are still waiting for a family. So, if you are in the market for a new furry companion, please stop by our shelter in Palm City to meet them. If you have your own dog at home that you’d like to get trained, we offer many different low-cost training options at our shelter. Visit hstc1.org to learn more about what we have to offer. The benefits of having a dog companion for your child extend beyond just companionship; they contribute to their entire development, well-being and provide the most loyal friend that they will ever have.

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

Palm City Highlights

Missi Campbell
Palm City Chamber of Commerce, Executive Director

Duty, Honor, Courage

Saturday, April 6th was the 50th flight for our local Southeast Florida Honor Flight.

This was my fourth trip, and each one was special in its own way. The day is totally and completely focused on celebrating our heroes and treating them to a day of honor and respect.

My veteran this time was Dave Young. Dave is a local photographer and owns Dave’s Airport Shuttle Service. Dave served in the Army during the Vietnam War and was stationed in Thailand. He registered for the Army and was very fortunate with his deployment.

Traveling to Washington, D.C., for the day is exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. We left Stuart at 3:30AM and returned about 10:00PM. The buses were escorted to Palm Beach International by the Martin County Sheriff’s Department and a motorcycle brigade.

The veterans are treated to a well-deserved water cannon salute at PBIA and Reagan International Airport. The welcome to Reagan included music, signs, and a large crowd.

We proceeded to go to Arlington National Cemetery for the changing of the guard ceremony. It is always a very moving and dignified ceremony. We caught a few cherry blossoms still on the trees. Then we were off to lunch.

After lunch, we went by the Iwo Jima Memorial and headed to the World War II Memorial, Washington Monument, the Vietnam Memorial, Korean War Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial. We walked along the reflection pond from WWII to Lincoln.

As we walked, I was able to watch the crowd as they noticed all the people in red hats signifying Honor Flight. Their reactions were heartwarming. Strangers would stop to shake the hand of a veteran and say, “Thank you for your service.” The biggest impression made to me was when people were thoughtful enough to say, “Welcome home,” to the Vietnam vets because they did not receive that when they returned.

On my first Honor Flight, I was lucky to meet Senator Bob Dole. My veteran that time was Seymour Hoffman, and he is a World War II veteran. He is now 102 and I adore him.

As I pushed Mr. Hoffman in a wheelchair by the Vietnam Wall, a young man with rainbow colored hair walked by. Mr. Hoffman asked me why he did that to his hair. I said it was his own personal freedom to do what he wanted to do to his hair.

A few minutes later, we were in front of the Korean War Memorial and the same young man was walking toward us. He stopped and bent down to shake Mr. Hoffman’s hand. Then he said, “Thank you for your service. Because of men like you, I can be who I am today.” It was one of the most beautiful moments of my life and I will never forget it.

Entire Group

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

Fishing Tips

Paul Sperco

It is Monday April 15th and the spring pompano bite along our local beaches is heating up just like our weather.

Easter weekend proved to be the best fishing we have seen for pompano in the past few months. I fished with my grandkids, son, and daughter in law over that weekend and we ended up catching 70 of these great tasting fish. The timing of the appearance of the migrating pompano is a bit late so I expect to be catching them right into the middle of May.

As far as when to target your surf trips, the spring run normally has better fishing in the afternoons as opposed to the winter bite when early morning is the time to be on the beach. Another factor is the placing of your baits during the spring. This is the time of year when you do not have to test your long-distance casting skills as they can be found anywhere from 40 to 100 yards from the surf.

EZ Flea, Pink/Flesh Crab, and Electric Chicken Crab are the hot baits so far this spring so make sure you stock up before you hit the beach. The key to finding the area they are feeding is to stagger your casts depending on how many rods you are fishing. I fish one at 40 to 50 yards, one at 50 to 70, one at 70 to 80, and one at 80 to 100.

The stage of the tide will factor into that too as the higher tide cycle will allow you to fish closer to the edge because the water is deeper. The spread of fish has been from Juno to Sebastian so find a beach with some clean water and you will probably put some in the cooler.

Remember the regulations are 6 pompano per person and they must measure 11 inches to the fork of the tail. There have also been some big whiting showing up and right now they are an added bonus. Great weather, great fishing, and calmer surf conditions are all pointing to a real good spring run.

Some of the beaches that have been producing are Hobe Sound Public, Tiger Shores, Normandy, Middle Cove, Blue Heron, and John Brooks. Good luck this month and catch ‘em up.

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

On Education

Victoria Defenthaler
Retired Martin County Principal & School Board Member

We moved to a suburb of New York City when I was six years old where my father took a job working as a sales person for an Italian sausage company. He made the trek into the city five days a week to sell and deliver the products on his route.

I remember a time when he believed the business owners were not treating employees fairly so he stepped up as a member of the local International Teamsters Union to represent himself and his co-workers during negotiations. HIs passion around protecting the rights and interests of employees made an impression on me.  So, in my early days of teaching when the local teachers’ union was looking for volunteers to serve as school representatives, I decided to step up just as my father had so that I could better understand the process.

As a representative, I was expected to attend meetings and share the information gathered with the teachers at my school. During one of my first experiences in this role, the principal questioned and criticized what I was sharing with teachers which made it so unpleasant that I returned to my classroom. When the principal confronted me about my decision to leave the room, I explained that all I was doing was sharing information and his attitude toward me and the union made it uncomfortable. As time went on, I continued to witness the adversarial relationship between the teacher’s union, administrators, and the school board in this school district which I continue to see today.

Fast forward to my role as a principal - I was now on the other side of the table. Situations arose which were due to personality conflicts, disagreements, or not being privy to information. There were also times when a teacher’s attitude and/or behavior was challenging, and it was important to deal with the situation. The union’s role is to serve as the teacher’s representative and  facilitate a discussion between the teacher and the administrator. Just as in our court system, innocent until proven guilty.

As a school board member, I asked numerous times for the approach to negotiations to be more collaborative because as an administrator, I know that to ensure productivity and student success valuing and respecting teachers is critical. So, why are the governor and legislators intent on reducing or eliminating union members’ rights with Senate Bill 256? This bill is designed to take away the long-standing ability of union members to choose to have dues deducted from their paychecks and requires that an arbitrary 60-percent super majority of eligible employees pay dues in order for a union to exist. Again, why the attack on teachers’ rights? The governor and legislators continue to be unconcerned about the mass exodus of teachers and the negative impact this is having on the education of our children.

As a former teacher, administrator, and school board member, I strongly encourage teachers to join the union. It has been shared with teachers that the District is legally required to provide them with many of the rights they have; however, please read the statutes carefully because, if it states “…may adopt rules relating to sick leave” or “….may adopt rules that provide for the earning of annual leave by employees”, the operative word is “may” which is very different than “shall”. The union gives teachers a voice and protects their rights and interests. Once this is lost, it will be very difficult to reinstate.

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

Legal Corner

Gene Zweben
Founding & Managing Partner at Zweben Law Group

Should I Talk to The Other Party’s Insurance Company After an Accident?

Unfortunately, accidents are common in Florida, an unpredictable world of driving and commuting. We aim to simplify this process, helping you make informed choices without drowning in legal complexities.

The Perils of Speaking to the Other Party's Insurance

After an accident, you'll likely receive a call from the other party's insurance company. They'll seem friendly and concerned, but here's why proceeding with caution is wise:

  • Their Goal Is Generally Not Your Well-being: Remember, in many instances the insurance adjuster's primary goal is to save their company money. This often involves low settlement offers or getting you to admit fault, which can significantly affect your compensation.
  • You Might Unknowingly Compromise Your Claim: In the heat of the moment, it's easy to say something that could be used against you. Even a simple "I'm sorry" can be misconstrued as an admission of fault. Additionally, you may not know your full medical condition at that time, and any indication that your injuries may not be as severe as they truly are, may hurt your claim.

Should You Talk to Them?

Given these considerations, here's our advice:

  • Initial Communication: It's generally okay to provide basic information (e.g., your name and accident date). However, avoid discussing details of the accident or your injuries.
  • Decline Recorded Statements: Politely refuse to give a recorded statement. Recorded statements can be tricky and might be used to undermine your claim. There is no legal requirement for you to speak to the other party’s insurance company at all, let alone provide a recorded statement, although they will typically push to obtain one.

Empowering Yourself with Knowledge

To navigate these conversations confidently, here are a few steps you can take:

  • Document Everything: Keep detailed records of the accident, including photos, a written account of what happened, any witness information, and any medical reports. This documentation will be invaluable whether you're dealing with insurance companies or pursuing legal action.
  • Consult a Professional: Before talking to the other party’s insurance company, it's wise to consult with a personal injury lawyer. They can provide tailored advice, ensuring you don't inadvertently harm your chances of receiving fair compensation.

Dealing with the aftermath of an accident can be daunting, especially when navigating discussions with insurance companies. It is generally a good idea to speak to an experience personal injury attorney after an accident and before speaking to any insurance company to make sure your rights are protected.

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

Kiwanis Park At Woodlawn-An Update

By President  Virginia Hill

Kiwanis CLub of Stuart

For the last two years, the Kiwanis Club of Stuart has been actively fundraising for a "Destination Playground" for older children to be built at Kiwanis Park at Woodlawn.  On Saturday, March 2nd, during our Annual Pancakes and Reading in the Park event, we opened the Destination Playground, a new adventurous section, especially designed for the older child, in the 6 to 12 age range.

Included in this new section, along with new kaleidoscope benches, is the Crab Trap, a climbing adventure and obstacle course, the Alpha tower with dueling slides from the third story, a covered turbo twister slide that shoots down from the fourth story, and an Oodle swing, that allows numerous children to swing together.  We are quite sure that swing has not been empty, since the ribbon was cut by our K-Kids!

We had about 900 people of all ages in attendance! Guests enjoyed an outstanding breakfast, cooked by Kiwanians and volunteers. Fabulous entertainment was presented by the Martin County High School's Jazz Band and Drama Class.  They played numerous songs, and the drama team did an incredible "Mini Seussical" performance to the amazement of all. We gave away over 750 free books and we had special events and giveaways from the Martin County Library, the Master Gardeners, the Children's Museum, Merritt Chiropractic, the Hippy Program, the Halpatiochee Chapter of the DAR and Paws for Readers.

The Key Clubs from South Fork, Martin County, and Jensen Beach High Schools, as well as the Builder's Club from Stuart Middle School, helped to set up, serve and clean up from the event. The Palm City Elementary School’s K-Kids Club painted rocks hidden for the annual Kiwanis Rocks! hunt.  The members of our AKtion Club, through the ARC cleaned our brick memorial area up before the event. We could not have done this without our Kiwanis K-Family.

During this last phase of the park, our club submitted Kiwanis Park at Woodlawn, as a "Signature Project of the year" to Kiwanis International. A Signature Project shows the impact that a Kiwanis Club can have on its community, and it must be a project that is reoccurring and continuing in the community, that demonstrates a significant impact in terms of monies raised and children served in that community, as well as strengthening membership and partnerships within that community.

The Kiwanis Clubs across the world that submit projects, are recognized in two groups, clubs with 27 members and less and clubs with 28 members and more. The Kiwanis Club of Stuart has 59 members, so we qualify for Group II.  The groups are first judged by their district, districts are large and can be a single state, several states, or even a country. Each Kiwanis District must select only one in each group to move on to International competition. There were just under 700 projects submitted and qualified to compete, and Kiwanis Park at Woodlawn was selected as first place in the Florida District!

Our entry then moved on to International competition. Last week, the entries from all districts around the world were narrowed down to just 10 finalists after numerous rounds. Kiwanis Park at Woodlawn is an International Top Ten Finalist! All finalists will be featured at the International Convention in Denver in July and the final winner as well as 2nd and 3rd place, will receive recognition and a monetary award for their project.

As a club, we are honored and excited to inaugurate this playground, that is so much more than a collection of swings, slides, and colorful structures, but a true testament to the shared vision, and commitment that this community has had in supporting us in this endeavor. Additionally, the honor of representing our community, on an international scale, comes with great pride from every K-Family club member in this community, our sponsors, and our volunteers. Many, many thanks to all our supporters, that come in every fashion, it takes a village!

In 1990, Woodlawn Park had the remains of a transmission shop, and a decrepit building used by the Red Cross from WWII, and today it is a community favorite public space where everyone is welcome, where families can gather, where friendships blossom, and where memories are etched into the hearts and the soil of this community. We hope to continue to play, laugh, and celebrate cherished moments together and continue to make Kiwanis Park at Woodlawn a legacy for generations to come.

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

Constitutional Corner & Non Profit Notices


Supervisor of Elections

Tax Collector

Property Appraiser

Renting your home for more than 30 days per calendar year, for two (2) consecutive years or renting it for more than 6 months in one year may cause you to lose your homestead exemption. To determine if you are renting properly, learn more by watching this educational video. https://youtu.be/ek7jNbRiOzs?si=r42GWNqB0S42xQHc

Martin County Clerk & Comptroller

Non Profit Notices



Impact100 Martin Announces 7 Finalists for 2024 Impact Grants

Seven finalists have been chosen for this year’s Impact100 Martin 2024 Impact Grants,  with  four $100,000 grants to be awarded at the annual awards ceremony on April 18  at Temple Beit HaYam in Stuart.

Each of the seven nonprofit organizations is proposing an innovative project that meets community needs. Impact100 Martin’s 422 members have an opportunity to review the proposals in advance and hear presentations in person on the 18th. Each member casts a vote for the 4 projects that she believes best meet the criteria for impact, effectiveness and sustainability.

“We’re especially excited this year,” said Impact100 Martin’s President Maureen Cotter, “because of the quality of the proposed projects and also because we can award four grants in one year for the first time in our history. We met and then exceeded our membership goals for 2024. With 422 members, we have the funds to give out four $100,000 awards and distribute another $22,000 to the other finalists.”

Impact 100 Martin Members Sue Whittington, Wendy Steele, Tiann Berhoff

The finalists are: The ARC of the Treasure Coast with Caring Café: Food from the Heart; Council on Aging of Martin County with Elder Care Mobile Outreach Program; Historical Society of Martin County with The Martin Encounter – A Multi-sensory Mural and Living History Exhibit at the Elliott Museum; Ocean Research & Conservation Association with One Health Fish Monitoring Citizen Science Program; Senior Resource Association with Same-Day Transportation Service; Treasure Coast Wildlife Hospital with Wildlife Rehabilitation & Education Animal Enclosures; and Tykes & Teens with Walk In Assessment Center.

The Impact100 model is a unique and effective way to leverage women’s philanthropy, according to Cotter. Each woman contributes $1,000. Each member then has a vote to choose outstanding projects in the fields of Arts & Culture; Education; Family; Health & Wellness; and Environment, Preservation & Recreation. Each grant is for $100,000, an amount sufficient to make a real impact in the community.

Now in its seventh year, Impact100 Martin has awarded a total of $1.8 million in grants to local nonprofits since 2017. All of the projects that received awards in past years are described on the Impact100 Martin website, www.impact100martin.org.

Only members can vote, but the public is invited to attend the awards ceremony and listen to the grant finalists. Registration and more information are available at www.impact100martin.org.


Impact100 Martin is a nonprofit organization with a mission of creating positive, lasting change in the community through collective giving. Founded in 2017, it is a chapter of the national Impact100 Movement founded by philanthropist Wendy Steele to transform communities through the power of women’s philanthropy. It is a member-driven organization that awards grants in $100,000 increments each year to local nonprofits in the areas of Arts & Culture; Education; Family; Health & Wellness; and Environment, Preservation & Recreation.  Detailed information about membership, grants, and community impact is available at the website www.impact100martin.org or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Impact100MartinFL.

Available For Adoption

Caspian is a real charmer and has never met a person he didn’t immediately love.  This 1-year-old fellow came to us as a stray and is truly ready for a forever home with a family who wants a playful, talkative, affiliative, and affectionate addition.  Caspian has made friends with the other cats in his environment if he has time to get acquainted slowly.  He is neutered, up-to-date on vaccinations, microchipped, and has tested negative for FIV/FeLV.  Run, don’t walk, to meet this treasure!

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



Spotlight on Bacharach, Sondheim, and Webber

The final concert of the 2023-2024 season by the Treasure Coast Community Singers, May 18-19, 2024, will highlight the music of three of the most accomplished composers/songwriters of the 20th century and continuing into the 21st century.  Burt Bacharach, Stephen Sondheim, and Andrew Lloyd Webber are acclaimed for their songs, their musicals, and their influence on contemporary, popular music.  Including “I Say a Little Prayer For You,” “The Look of Love,” and “What the World Needs Now” by Bacharach; “Send In the Clowns,” “Being Alive,” and “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” by Sondheim; “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina,” “Memory,” and “Already Home” by Webber; this Spotlight concert will feature many of the best and most beloved songs from the 1950s through the present day.  Dr. Douglas Jewett, founder/CEO of the organization and recipient of the 2023 Council on Aging Sage Award, will direct the TCCS ensemble, and pianist Carol Paul will accompany.  The Youth Chorus (grades K-4) and Middle School Chorus (grades 5-8) will also sing favorites by these composers, “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” by Bacharach, “Not While I’m Around” by Sondheim, and “Love Changes Everything” by Webber.  Highlight your calendar now for “Spotlight on Bacharach, Sondheim, and Webber.”

On May 18th, “Spotlight on Bacharach, Sondheim, and Webber” will be presented at Trinity United Methodist Church, 2221 NE Savannah Road, Jensen Beach; the May 19th concert will be held at Ross Hall, Pittenger Center, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 701 SE Ocean Boulevard, Stuart.  Both concerts begin at 3:00 p.m.  To purchase tickets for all concerts, visit www.tccsingers.org.

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






Martin County, FL –  During Child Abuse Prevention Month, Hibiscus Children's Center hosted a special reception at Sailfish Point Country Club on April 2nd. It was an honor to have former Hibiscus resident Dave Miller share his story. Dave lived at Hibiscus Children’s Center 35 years ago and spoke passionately about the impact Hibiscus had on his life as a child.

Dave came to Hibiscus Shelter in 1990 at the age of four. He and his two younger siblings were found abandoned at a local motel in Okeechobee. Although Dave was young, he has vivid memories of his time at the Shelter. “I have fond memories of Hibiscus. I particularly remember getting the things that I didn’t get at home like feeling safe, enough food and being clean. It was late at night when we arrived at the Shelter and we were hungry. Staff offered us as many donuts as we wanted. This was the first time I ever experienced having excess food. The staff were wonderful, they comforted me when I was sad and hugged me which meant the world to a scared child.”

Board Chair Scott Roads, Dave Miller, and CEO Matt Markley.

To Dave’s surprise, Hibiscus staff celebrated his birthday during his stay. He recalled feeling valued and important when he was allowed to choose pumpkin pie because he didn’t like cake. “I was always worried about being just a number, I didn’t feel like I mattered to anyone. As a child I didn’t understand that the kindness and love shown to me during my stay at Hibiscus was intentional. I realize now that these were deliberate acts aimed at making me and the other children feel cared for and significant.”

Today, Dave is an advocate for facilities like Hibiscus because of how they made him and his siblings feel. He has a family of his own and is a successful businessperson in Chicago. Dave used his challenges and difficulties to build a solid foundation in life. He has owned and operated several catering and food related businesses and currently owns a bagel shop with plans to expand in the future.

Dave acknowledges the role of his past struggles in shaping his resilience and determination to succeed but attributes some of his success to the support and care he received at Hibiscus. He is grateful for the impact Hibiscus had on his life and for the services Hibiscus continues to provide children who need a safe haven.

CEO Matt Markley said, “Hibiscus was privileged to have Dave share his inspiring story. His words underscore the vital work being done by Hibiscus as well as the impact on children. Through his perseverance, Dave overcame tremendous adversity and built a successful future and loving home for his children. Hibiscus helps kids imagine what a better life can be. Dave is the perfect example of this.”

Guild member Debbie Owens, Dave Miller and Senator Gayle Harrell  

Photos by MaryAnn Ketcham 

Please visit us at HibiscusChildrensCenter.org for more information about Hibiscus programs and how you can get involved to help children



Martin County Top Chef Cooks Up Success for House of Hope 

STUART, Fla. – Over blazing stoves, with a roomful of people watching their every move, five Martin County residents turned into professional chefs for an evening to compete in House of Hope’s Top Chef competition for 2024.

Jennifer Atkisson-Lovett, Sonita Farr, Wendy Kohler, Niki Norton, and Katy O'Neil all donned their aprons and created original dishes at District Table and Bar in Stuart.

This annual event is always a sell-out. This year, the 200 attendees and the Top Chef contestants  raised over $80,000 for the essential programs and transformative services for Martin County residents facing food insecurity and financial hardships.

Jennifer Atkisson-Lovett, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX of Stuart, won the overall Top Chef title with her tuna tartare, voted “Top Dish,” and her energetic fundraising. “I was honored and shocked to win Top Chef!” Jennifer said. “I had such a blast participating in the fundraising aspect leading up to the event.  Of course, meeting the other contestants and cooking with them on night of the event was just amazing!  House of Hope does so much in our community and it truly was my honor to help raise awareness of their efforts.”

Ed Ciampi, Wendy Kohler, Jenifer Atikisson-Lovett, Sonita Farr, Niki Norton, Katy O'Neil, and Rob Ranier

Sonita Farr was honored as Top Fundraiser. Ed Ciampi, Martin County Commissioner, once again served as emcee. The judges were Taylor Mohlmann, Chef District Table & Bar; Carra Crehan, Owner/Operator of Chefs Table & Fruits and Roots; and Jessica Bohner, 2023 Top Chef & Top Dish Winner.

“The competition was really fierce this year,” House of Hope Rob Ranieri said. “We’re grateful to everyone who competed and contributed to make this a fun evening. Their efforts will have a huge impact on House of Hope and the thousands of Martin County residents that we assist throughout the year.”

House of Hope extended a special thanks to Jason Stocks, Chef and Owner of District Table and Bar and Colab Kitchen FL. He hosts this annual event year after year, closing his own operations for the evening to support House of Hope.

Sponsors for the event include District Table and Bar, Stifel Investment Services, RE/MAX of Stuart, The Hawkins Family, Treasure Coast Legal, HBKS Wealth Advisors, Molly K. O'Neil Esq., n2 Architecture + Design, Russell & Dianne Weller, Century 21 Move with Us, Crabby's Port Salerno, Deborah Lovequist, Girls Scout Troop 71734, Jim & Elaine Matts, Johnson Honda of Stuart, Justice for Kaitlyn Kohler, Manchester Insurance, Mann's Education Consulting, Stuart Financial, Treasure Coast Accounting Inc.,  and the Wong Family Foundation. These local restaurants provided delicious bits for the attendees:  Chef's Table, Colab Kitchen, District Table & Bar, Fruits & Roots, Guanabanas, Salerno Pizza, Sunset Sliders, The Grove, Tide House,  and Unique Sweets Supply.

About House of Hope

Founded in 1984, House of Hope is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers Martin County residents to overcome hunger and hardship. House of Hope touches the lives of more than 8,000 people each month helping with basic needs such as food, clothing, furniture, financial assistance, as well as longer-term case management services that help build life skills for a more self-sufficient future. 

The organization has service centers in Stuart, Hobe Sound, Indiantown, and Jensen Beach, with thrift stores in Stuart, Hobe Sound, and Indiantown. House of Hope’s Centers for Enrichment at Golden Gate in Stuart, in Jensen Beach, and now at KinDoo Family Center in Indiantown offer free programs, technology, and workshops designed to enhance life skills, earning potential, health, and overall well-being.

House of Hope also operates the Growing Hope Farm in Palm City and several nutrition gardens that provide sustainable sources of fresh produce for clients as well as nutrition education and vocational opportunities to the community. For more information, visit hohmartin.org or call 772-286-4673. Updates and announcements can also be found on Facebook, Instagram, and X.


Hop to it! Join the Fluffy Fun at Southeast Bunfest

STUART, Fla. — The Humane Society of the Treasure Coast is inviting the public to come out for some fluffy fun at its annual Southeast Bunfest event. Slated for Saturday, April 27, the event will be held from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at The Flagler Center of Stuart, 201 SW Flagler Ave.

 Karen Trapani getting into the spirit of Bunfest as a volunteer

The cost to attend is $5 per person and kids under 10 years old are free. Tickets may be purchased in advance at https://hstc1.org/southeastbunfest or at the door on the day of the event.

Bunfest is the largest event entirely dedicated to critters in the Southeast United States and many people travel from outside of Florida to attend and participate. Special features of this one-day educational, family-fun event include glamour photos by Critter Pics, a kid zone, a Hop ‘n’ Flop Shop along with a variety of vendors, educational seminars, food trucks, face painting and raffles.

Claudia & John Morgenthaler with their pet bunny, Daisy

Bunfest also is an opportunity for guests to bring their own rabbit or guinea pig to the event. All critters must be in a pet stroller, carrier or transported in a proper harness at all times. Owners are responsible for the comfort, safety, and care of their animals. A humane society technician will check rabbits for fur lice, mites and ear mites before entering.

“Bunfest is such a special event, as there is something for everyone, including adoptable critters,” said Communications Manager Sarah Fisher. “Even if you don’t have a rabbit or guinea pig, there’s plenty to see and do.”

To participate as a vendor, contact Events Coordinator Alyssa Bean at 772-600-3215 or Events@hstc1.org. To sponsor Bunfest, contact Development Manager Ashton Standish at 772-600-3216 or AStandish@hstc1.org.

Bunfest is generously sponsored by Apex Pavers & Pools, Monterey Animal Clinic, TCPalm, Supreme Petfoods and Oxbow Animal Health.

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


2024 – 2025 enrollment

The Banner Lake Club Inc. is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that houses Banner Lake Academy. The Academy educates 55 local children Kindergarten through 3rd grade and is specifically designed to nurture children in an optimal learning environment.

New Year 3

Banner Lake Academy offers small classes, low student to teacher ratios, and a rich curriculum with specials that include STEM lab, Art, Soccer, and P.E. Our staff are trained in Conscious Discipline which is a brain based social emotional learning program. This program makes students more resilient and better able to reach their full potential. Our students score within the national average in reading and math assessments.

New Year 4

Our first and third graders scored above national average in reading, and Kindergarten, second, and third graders score above average in math. We employ a dedicated, educated, and well-trained staff. Our staff receives ongoing training throughout the year. We have several staff members with Child Development Associates, associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, Florida Certifications in Elementary Teaching, Director Credentials, and even master’s degrees.

All uniforms, meals, and classroom supplies are provided by Banner Lake Academy to every student. All of this is provided at absolutely no cost to the families that we serve. We are currently enrolling for the 2024-2025 school year. If you are interested in becoming a sponsor, volunteering, or a high-quality education for you child please call our office at 772-545-0953.


Council on Aging Honors 7 Martin County Seniors with Sage Awards


Seven outstanding Martin County seniors are the honored recipients of this year’s  Council on Aging Sage Awards.

Each of them is a remarkable example of leadership, unwavering dedication, and deep compassion for others, representing a broad spectrum of life experiences and fields of influence.

“Our honorees are truly impressive,” said Council on Aging CEO Karen Ripper. “All of them have used the wisdom, talents and treasures they’ve cultivated over a lifetime to enrich the world around them. They are tremendous examples of the fact that age is not an indicator of how much a person can contribute to his or her community.”

This year’s Chairman’s Award was presented to Eileen Morris, a tireless and successful fundraiser for area nonprofits for several decades. The Charlie Kane Award went to Joseph Flanagan,  a local advocate for education and children’s causes.  Also honored were Jane Lawton Baldridge, a renowned artist and ocean advocate; Dr. Philip Schein, a noted oncologist  and international authority on the development of anticancer therapies turned artist; David Mayo, a volunteer for organizations that support veterans and their families; Lloyd Jones, a founder of Martin County’s Black Heritage Initiatives; and Vicki Jenkins, honored posthumously, an extraordinary and beloved special education teacher.

A special Lotus Society recognition was given to Wes and Linda George and Peter and Gayle Grimm for their outstanding philanthropic commitment to the Council on Aging. Their generosity and that of countless other members of the community help to support the broad range of programs that the Council on Aging offers in the areas of Health & Wellness, Social Connections, Meals & Nutrition, and Memory & Care Giving.

The 2024 Council on Aging Sage Award honorees: Seated: Jane Lawton Baldridge and Dr. Philip Schein; Standing: Lloyd Jones, Joseph Flanagan, Eileen Morris, David Mayo.

For 50 years the Council on Aging has served the residents of Martin County as the hub for senior resources. “As we applaud the 2024 Sage honorees,” Ripper said, “we also pledge to continue to ensure that our seniors are able to maintain vibrant and purposeful lives, aging with dignity and a sense of belonging.”

The Presenting Sponsor for the Sage Awards was Dr. Reza Khatib, with additional sponsorship from The Community Foundation Martin - St. Lucie, Nearing & Dallas Wealth Management at RBC Wealth Management, Price Wealth Management, Richard A. Zappala Family Foundation, Brain Matters Research, Freedom Support Solutions LLC, HBK CPAs & Consultants, HBKS Wealth Advisors, Betsy Herold, Nancy Goethel CFP®, CIMA®, CRPC® - Vice President of Investments at Raymond James, N. Schoonover & Associates Inc., Sandhill Cove Retirement Living, Seacoast Bank, The Saelzer/Atlas Wealth Management Team of Raymond James, Sailfish Wealth Management Group/Michael Dadko, South Florida Orthopaedics & Sports Management, Edward J. Yen CIMA® CPWA® Senior Vice President/Investments, and Stifel/Palm Beach Wealth Advisory Group. Council on Aging also recognizes Supporters of Sage: Berger, Toombs, Elam, Gaines & Frank and

The Feiertag Financial Group of Stuart, with special thanks to Bob Weissman, Judie Price, and Michael & Penny Carr.

About the Council on Aging of Martin County

The Council on Aging of Martin County is the community’s hub for senior resources and the county’s Lead Agency on Aging. Founded in 1974, the organization offers expertise, programming and support for older adults and their families to help seniors maintain lives of quality and purpose. Services include: Day Primary Care Center, Memory Enhancement Center, Adult Day Club, Meals on Wheels, care management, caregiver support, and a robust offering of educational, cultural, fitness and wellness programs.

The Kane Center located at 900 SE Salerno Road in Stuart is the Council on Aging of Martin County’s headquarters and is also an event venue available to the public. It serves as a special needs hurricane shelter when necessary.  Council on Aging of Martin County also operates senior outreach facilities in Hobe Sound, Jensen Beach, East Stuart and Indiantown.  A  501(c)3 nonprofit organization, the Council on Aging receives funding from state and federal agencies and relies on philanthropic support from the community, including other agencies, private foundations and individual donors. For more information, visit www.coamartin.org.


United Way of Martin County Celebrates Leadership Transition and Office Renovations

United Way of Martin County is proud to announce notable changes within its organization, including the retirement of Theresa Schineis, Vice President of Finance, and the appointment of Dr. David Lovett, PhD, as her successor.

Carol Houwaart-Diez, United Way of Martin County President & CEO; Theresa Schineis,  United Way of Martin County Vice President of Finance; Tracy Hernandez, Suncoast Mental Health Center Director of Development.

After 25 years of dedicated service to both United Way and the community it serves, Theresa Schineis will be retiring on Friday, May 31, 2024. Throughout her tenure, Theresa has been instrumental in driving financial initiatives and supporting countless individuals and families in need. Her leadership, dedication and passion for community service have left an indelible mark on United Way of Martin County.

Dr, David Lovett, PhD, United Way of Martin County Director of Finance & Administration; and Ellen East, United Way of Martin County Finance Assistant.

Filling Theresa's esteemed role is Dr. David Lovett, PhD, a military veteran and former CEO/CFO with over 30 years of experience in the field. Dr. Lovett brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the position, poised to continue United Way's mission of improving lives and strengthening the community. During the transition period, Dr. Lovett will be working closely with Theresa until her official end date.

Don Donaldson, Martin County Administrator; and Carol Houwaart-Diez, United Way of Martin County President & CEO

In addition to these changes in leadership, United Way's workspace has recently undergone significant renovations. The once 4,400 square foot office has been downsized to accommodate a small but mighty staff size and to optimize operational efficiency, thereby reducing overhead expenses. The office transformation includes a fresh paint job, new carpeting and about half the operating space that once existed.

Dr, David Lovett, PhD

To celebrate these momentous occasions, United Way of Martin County hosted an open house on April 12. The event served as an opportunity to welcome Dr. David Lovett into his new role and showcase the organization's revitalized workspace with internal partners and stakeholders.


As we bid farewell to Theresa and warmly welcome Dr. Lovett into his new role, United Way of Martin County is not only transitioning leadership but also transforming its workspace to better serve our community. The recent renovations symbolize our commitment to efficiency and sustainability, ensuring that every resource is directed towards our mission of improving lives and strengthening our community. We invite all members of the community to join us in this exciting journey towards a brighter future for Martin County.

About United Way of Martin County

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

Letters From Readers

I urge those who are reading this newsletter to send an email expressing their opinions on subjects. When a reader sends one, it will be included if I find it relevant and I have adequate space. I may edit the letter because of length and clarity. You don’t have to agree with me to have your letter in Friends & Neighbors. All you must do is send it to TOM CAMPENNI or fill out the form on the website.

From Savannah Gallagher

Good morning!

I was reading your newsletter, Friends & Neighbors of Martin County, and caught a line that stated 

“The ½ mill adds $10,738.93 to a teacher’s pay across the board. You can see the presentation here.” I read through the link you attached and could not find that information there.

I am a teacher in Martin County and do not receive a millage payout even close to that number. The majority of teachers in Martin County receive $1800 before taxes. These teachers are in years 1-6. The next group of teachers is in year 7-9, and they receive $5000 before taxes. These two groups make up most teachers in the county. The few, the 10+ years, make $10,050. 

I got excited thinking that this option is on the table, but don’t see that. I am hopeful you can help me find  the source of this information. I truly appreciate all of the work and effort you put into the newsletter. I look forward to hearing from you! 

Savannah Gallagher

A teacher in her 6th year earning an 1800 millage

My Answer

Here is the chart from the 5th page showing that by taking advantage of all the opportunities for extra income here is what it shows. This is what was presented at the meeting.


From Julie Marshall

Dear Tom:

As is always the case, Victoria Defenthaler ('VD') was incorrect in the information she presented to the school board on March 19th, 2024 and in your February 14th newsletter in regard to the settlement on the legal case about the Parental Rights in Education Law .  I would like to clear up that misinformation.

The liberal activists lost their case.  The liberal activists lost their appeal. 

The settlement agreement says the same thing the law does.  There was nothing changed to the law.  

The mutually agreed settlement ensures that the law will remain in effect and that the plaintiffs will dismiss their case.  

The settlement agreement is the elementary version of the law so our 'educators' can understand it.

The settlement agreement has clarified points of contention and ensured that students would not be prohibited from mentioning if their guardians were a homosexual couple and that “literary references to a gay or transgender person or to a same-sex couple” were not prohibited so long as it was not itself “‘instruction on’ those topics.”

The plaintiffs have admitted that the agreement did not alter the law.  The plaintiffs’ attorney, Roberta Kaplan, told the Times, “It (the settlement) should put a stop to the overreacting."  I guess VD did not get that memo.

The liberal activists and MSM wanted to call it the 'Don't Say Gay' law, however, 'gay' was never mentioned in the law once if anyone actually deemed to read it instead of following the MSM narrative.  They could say 'gay' the entire time.  






In your March 17th newsletter, VD went on again about book ‘banning’.   I would like to clarify for the umpteenth time that no books were ‘banned’.  There were inappropriate books removed from minor children having access to them in the MCSD libraries predominately for graphic sexual content.

Not one book was removed because of an author’s LGBTQ+ status or for the color of the author’s skin.  Not one book was removed for LGBTQ+ characters or for the character’s skin color.  These are flat out lies.

VD’s continued spread of misinformation marks a further loss of credibility for her and the people who believe what she says instead of doing their own research.  

VD has the right to speak during citizen comment at board meetings, but she does not have the right to lie to push her personal agenda and further try to divide the community.  

Thank you to the MCSB & MCSD for following the law and for the great policies and procedures governing our district.

Jenkins Endorses Gibbs-Thomas For His Seat

At the Martin County Taxpayers Association dinner on April 18th, Commissioner Harold Jenkins enthusiastically endorsed Mayor Susan Gibbs-Thomas to succeed him as the county commissioner for District 3.

Jenkins has decided not to run for re-election. It came as a complete surprise to the audience when MCTA president, Kevin Powers, handed the mic to him to make the announcement. Gibbs-Thomas and Jenkins attended Martin County High School together and have known each other since childhood. When announcing his unequivocal support, he stated, “She’s an old school mate and a great lady.” Then the two exchanged a hug.

Gibbs-Thomas is serving on the Indiantown Council and as mayor for three terms. She has been on the council for all six years that the village has been incorporated. She has been instrumental in the formation of that government. Gibbs-Thomas is a native of Martin County and has raised her family here. She is the fourth generation of her family that has worked at Warfield Elementary in Indiantown.

Mayor Gibbs-Thomas will have to resign in November from the Indiantown Council once she qualifies. She is anxious for the campaign to get underway. Now that Jenkins has decided not to run and she has his endorsement, Gibbs-Thomas is the favorite to be elected to the BOCC. District 3 encompasses Hobe Sound, Jupiter Island, Indiantown, and a large part of the western part of the county.

Martin County


Once again, the people who will probably have a treatment facility in their neighborhood in South County spoke about not wanting one. Because the owner of the project is asking for a federal accommodation under the “Americans with Disabilities Act,” the commission will not have any say about it going forward or not. A special magistrate will hear the pleading and make a determination whether the accommodation is warranted or not.

Martin County Forever is a group that wants to have a ½ cent sales tax for ten years to fund buying land, conservation easements, and up to 5% of any land acquired’ s purchase price to be used for maintenance.  The target land area is within the Indian River Lagoon South, Pal-Mar, Loxahatchee and St. Lucie Headwaters, and Blueways Areas. It is a referendum that will be on the ballot in November.  

Contained in the ordinance itself was the makeup of the committee that will oversee what lands will be acquired. It goes further to state that of the 9-member board, 4 will be from environmental groups, 1 member from a fiscal oversight group devoted to examining budgets, 1 member from the real estate community, 1 member from a business group, and 2 members representing agricultural interests.

This will guarantee that those evaluating which lands to purchase will come from a cross section of the county’s voters. It is important that it won’t be the politicians sitting on the commission making the decisions. Though Commissioner Smith had some trouble with the idea that ordinary citizens would be involved.

He can’t understand why there is a need for oversight and why not just leave it up to the commission. Let me just give one example of many I could to illustrate why that is not a good idea. During discussions, Smith wanted to increase the lands that could be bought by adding lots located next to existing parks to the list eligible under the referendum. He cited the skateboard park in Rio as an example of why that is a good idea. That parcel was acquired after the neighboring park was already built and operating.

Quite simply, parcels like that are not the intent of the sales tax. If the commission sees a need, it can buy parkland out of other funds.


The referendum is a good idea to preserve not only important conservation land but even to have agricultural easements so that land can remain in farming and ranching in perpetuity instead of being sold for housing developments.

The commission passed it 5-0. Now it is up to the voters as to whether the additional ½ cent is worth paying. If they want to preserve western lands, the county can buy land using the tax revenue derived from the referendum and remove it from the private sector for development. Citizens can’t claim to be against development and then expect land in private hands to be kept unused in perpetuity.

A presentation was given about the importance of maintaining Bathtub Beach. I have had my misgivings about trying to work against nature by continuously restoring the beach only to see the sand disappear with the next storm.

If this were 120 years ago, we could allow nature to take its course. Since then, we have a barrier island that has become a residential and commercial center. Thousands of people live and work there plus the numerous resorts that line the shore.

Sailfish Point was once known for its mosquitoes and not its golf course. Since the 1980s when the development was fully built, it has become one of Martin County’s pre-eminent neighborhoods. The only way to get there by land is MacArthur Blvd. Can Martin County really afford to allow the peninsula to disappear along with its taxable values. Besides Sailfish is a partner in restoring the area which stabilizes their own shoreline.

You can see the interesting presentation here 

Pal Mar


An officer from Florida Fish & Wildlife explained how they will patrol as private security and be paid by the district.

Unlike Martin County Sheriff’s Department, FWC officers patrol alone, and therefore while their hourly rate is higher, they still will be able to be in Pal-Mar for longer periods of time. FWC also charges a cost-per-vehicle-mile which MCSD does not have. Both Board Members Cutting and Heard want it.

Besides, it doesn’t really matter whether the sheriff’s hourly rate is less expensive because he doesn’t want to provide patrols that the district pays for. And that is the rub…there is no law in Pal-Mar. Maybe FWC will bring a little back.

T. J. Mansell, the maintenance supervisor, made his report. He illustrates his points with photos. He showed where one berm had been opened to allow water to spread. Another photo showed where a load of tires had been dumped. There was a photo of a district sign that had been shot away.

The board gave Mansell the authority to call FWC when he sees a person doing something they shouldn’t. This will be in addition to the patrols. FWC will respond if they are able to do so. Will that work? I do not know. But something must be done.

Law enforcement will also have to accompany code enforcement to serve people with the paperwork when unauthorized buildings and other structures are found. All buildings within Pal-Mar are unauthorized. One can only hope this is not another false promise but a way to clean up the mess that is Pal-Mar.

Ride United

Darlene VanRiper

There is a fairly new service in Martin County of which few are aware. 

The United Way of Martin County gives free rides to people.  Age doesn’t matter.   Income doesn’t matter.  Purpose matters somewhat. 

CEO Carol Houwaart-Diez explained that Ride United is for anyone going to education, employment, health care, or other critical services such as grocery shopping who needs a ride.   

Those eligible must reside in Martin County, need to travel within Martin County, be 18 years (or accompanied by an adult) and have a cell phone.   

Some examples Carol gave of users are a mom without a car getting her children to the doctor.  A carless college student with classes at IRSC, a woman without a ride to and from a colonoscopy, an older man who no longer drives going the grocery store, a young woman needing a ride to a job interview.  

The examples went on and on. They won’t take you to visit a friend.  But I’d bet they’d take you to visit a loved one in the hospital.  

The program had a soft launch in 2022 and 2023 has seen the increase in users multiply drastically.  MARTY as an alternative doesn’t operate at all hours, on weekends and isn’t a door-to-door service.  Ride United weekend and evening rides must be pre-scheduled during United Way’s working hours M-F 8 am to 4:30 pm. 

The United Way has some funding for offering these LYFT rides at no charge.  The Cleveland Clinic is a corporate sponsor, and the non-profit has an anonymous donor.  Carol would like to see this program complement the MARTY system.  County funding would be needed for that expansion. 

So, if you think this is a countywide need, why not donate to keep it going?  If you know someone who could use a ride tell them to call 772-283-4800.  If you need a ride and think this service is just for other people…think again. 

City of Stuart











A presentation was given by the Public Works Director and Public Utilities Director regarding quiet zones.

In the presentation, they explained why trains sound their horn when travelling through crossings. It all comes down to safety. In a quiet zone, horns aren’t required to sound because of enhanced safety measures.

That doesn’t mean the engineer won’t sound their horns. It means that they are not required to sound their horns.

Implementation of quiet zones happens in two phases. Stuart is in Phase 1 of the process which is designing for safety and public outreach. The actual work to have quiet zones is completed in Phase 2.

The City of Stuart wants to work with Martin County to have the zones countywide. But if not, then Stuart will attempt to implement the process alone. There are five crossings in Stuart: Florda Street, MLK Jr. Blvd, Confusion Corner, Sailfish Circle, and Fern Street.

Each of those crossings must be reviewed to see what safety measures will be required. The main feature is four quadrant gates. The preliminary reviews are in process now. At some point, there will be public meetings and outreach. If those go well, the project may move to implementation if the FRA (Florida Rail Administration) gives it the go ahead.

You can see the presentation here

During public comment, two Neo-Nazis spoke. They behaved like gentlemen if the content of their comments was ignored. Of course, it is a government meeting and public comment is open to all. Those guys provided their point of view about not wanting to be replaced by Jews or non-white people.

It must be hard to live inside their heads. How do they look at any kid, white or not, and feel such hatred? And to having Commissioner Clarke up there must make them ill as she is many times elected Black woman in a position of authority. How twisted are their minds to proselytize those doctrines. The hatred must eat their souls.

To see what happened to the Nazis, read the story below next.

The final agenda item was the signing of a long-term agreement with Project Lift for the old Gary property on Martin Luther King Blvd. The city received a CDBG grant to buy and build a facility known as the “Stuart Job Training And Entrepreneur Center.” It will be used by Project Lift to train people for employment in industries on the Treasure Coast and in support of entrepreneurship opportunities.

Bob Zacheo, CEO of the organization, said that the facility would create about 50 new jobs for Project Lift. That doesn’t count the kids and young adults ages 14-25 that it will help and train. Project Lift has multiple sites in several counties. Stuart will be well-served by this partnership.



A few blocks from this location, the Boys & Girls Club will be opening its new facility. East Stuart is beginning to be a place to go for training and sports as 10th Street Recreation Center is getting ready for its face lift.

You can see a presentation of the project with grants here  

Stuart City Commission Has Unwanted Guests

From the agenda, the April 8th city commission meeting appeared to be more a ceremonial meeting than anything of import. That isn’t quite the way it turned out.

Two gentlemen (and I use the term loosely) were in the audience waiting to speak at public comment. One wore what appeared to me to be a T shirt with the band Kiss’ logo. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

One commissioner knew exactly what the T shirt symbolized and wasted no time in texting Stuart PD Chief Joseph Tumminelli with what the symbols meant, and it had nothing to do with Kiss. Stuart’s Commission meeting was going to host the ravings of a Neo-Nazi group.

Usually, there is just the police chief in uniform at the meeting. Last night, once everyone realized what was happening, the police contingent was beefed up to include Captain Flamur Zenelovic and Lieutenant Mike Gerwin. There was also an officer stationed outside in a patrol vehicle.

The commission, manager, and attorney acted normally though all realized what was happening. One of the Neo-Nazis, Jon Eugene Minadeo II, spoke with Tuminelli outside the chamber. Minadeo was surprised to learn that the chief knew who he and his partner with the T shirt, Colby Alexander Frank, were.

Frank had been arrested in Stuart last May on the charge of “Resisting Officer Without Violence” which is a misdemeanor that was disposed of in November 2023. Minadeo had been arrested in Palm Beach County for littering and received a 30-day sentence. There was apparently an open warrant for both there and Stuart PD took him into custody.

But before Minadeo and Frank were cuffed, they were allowed to spew their hate during public comment with three minutes each. As you can imagine, it was all the white nationalist stuff that we have heard so often from hate groups. The Great White Replacement Theory and the anti-Semitic rhetoric that has been going on since the Middle Ages.

The commission sat and listened to the hate without response. Their looks were more of disgust than anything else. This is what the country and now Stuart has become.

I am proud that the Stuart City Commission had the fortitude not to shut down the Nazis’ free speech rights. When you allow their hatred to be shown in the light of day, it demonstrates how ridiculous their diatribes are. At some point, they may come back, but if they drop one of their poisonous printed handouts, Stuart PD will be making more arrests.

Reported On Our Facebook Page April 9, 2024. Make Sure You are Following Friends & Neighbors For The Latest News

More On Stuart Parking

The other morning, I found myself at the Sunset Bay Marina. I decided to look for a sign that explains to people that Sailor’s Return valet would park anyone’s car without charge even if they were not dining at Sailor’s Return. It is the same arrangement that exists for valet parking at Hudson’s.

Guess what? No sign about that or posted hours. In the last edition, I wrote two pieces regarding the contradictory signs and the actual valet hours at Hudson’s. There still has not been any response to my piece from the city nor do I see any change in the parking lot there.

At the marina, the cones were out blocking parking spaces at 5:30 am last Saturday morning. Though I have never noticed, the cones are probably at many empty spots all the time. This again leaves the driver ignorant of the fact that he can valet his car for free.

I am not overly concerned about parking downtown. I think people make too big a deal about it. My concern is about agreements made on behalf of the city. If the city can’t even make sure that an agreement like parking is being upheld, what about more important clauses like building maintenance by tenants or even tax payments falling through the cracks?

Municipalities are allowed to own and lease properties. It could be a good source of income. Yet the management is as lax and willy nilly as any I ever saw in my 50-year commercial real estate manager career.

There is an old saying that if you don’t have skin in the game then you don’t care, and it is very relevant here. No city employee or commissioner has their own money at risk in these arrangements. The taxpayers do, and we should hold government to a better standard.


By acting as a property owner and leasing a public asset, Stuart is operating as a private sector landlord would. Just like a property management company stands in the shoes of the actual property owner, Stuart is fulfilling that function for the residents of the city. They have a fiduciary responsibility.  

Martin County School Board


Public comment was where the action took place. The three main subject areas were the pool, pay, and books.

The district has already said it would keep the pool open through the 2025 year. Most people would be satisfied with that answer but not everyone. It may not be the answer some are looking to accept. I guess the right one would be spending whatever is necessary to leave it open in perpetuity.

One speaker felt there was the need for more pools in Martin County, not fewer. I agree with him. There should be a public pool in every regional county park. If the Martin County schools closes its pool, then the county will have one municipal pool, and it costs $179 for an annual membership for the lap pool at Sailfish.

The school district was given an estimate of $1.2 million for the repairs needed at the MCHS pool. That doesn’t count what it costs for ongoing maintenance. When the district is struggling to pay teachers, is that a good use of funds? There are no easy answers.

No one likes to pay taxes. Floridians like it less than most Americans. Martin County homeowners like paying them even less than most other Floridians. Even if we liked paying more, there is the added problem of the limitations that Tallahassee imposed on the district to even raise taxes.

We have often heard that “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society” which is from an opinion written in 1929 by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. Of course, the amount that individuals want to pay differs from person to person. At some point, we must pay more in taxes so that teachers are paid more, parks are maintained, and the government goes on.

Friends & Neighbors try to provide contract information for teachers. Understanding it is complicated because there are so many variables. It seems that teacher pay is determined by their level of education, where they work in the district, length of their tenure, whether they are involved in various after school activities, and probably one or two additional factors.

The district voted that the AFSCME members will receive a $790 bonus for this year. As soon as the MCEA members agree, they too will receive that amount. I can see why teachers, while happy to receive the money, gripe because the bonus is not part of their pay for pension calculations nor part of the base that is subject to cost-of-living increases.

Superintendent Maine stated that Martin County pays $21 per hour for bus drivers which is more than most of the other counties in the state.

Books and bans on them were also a topic of a few public speakers. There was nothing new here. It is such a fundamental issue, but it has no solution. Some, and I am one of them, believe everything should be available. However, nothing should be checked out of a library without a parent’s permission.

There are age-appropriate materials, and third graders should not be subjected to something that is in the curriculum of a high school sophomore. For years, we were able to agree with most standards. We need to do so again.

Perhaps district-wide education no longer works because we cannot agree. We have already embraced open schools to all in Martin County. The individual school curriculum should also be diverse in the choices offered and the method of teaching. In other words, every school is a charter school under the rubric of public education.  

Millay Withdraws From Race

A press release issued by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County announced that Dr. John Millay their senior vice president has withdrawn from running for the District Two Seat at the Martin County School Board.

Both the CEO and the board president of the nonprofit cited the close collaboration between the district and club activities. At present a new club house is being built on school district property in East Stuart. You can see the announcement here 

As of 4:30 Friday afternoon Dr. Millay is still showing as a candidate on the Supervisor of Elections website. Though he has removed his announcement of his candidacy from his Facebook page.

We will add to this breaking story as developments occur.

April 12,2024 Friends & Neighbors Facebook Page

From Millay Facebook Page April 13, 2024

Dr. John Millay on his Facebook page has confirmed that he has dropped out of the race for the District 2 Seat on the Martin County School Board. In his statement cited below in full, he thought it better given his position with the Boys & Girls Club.

Millay was the first appointed superintendent and served a little under three years. He became senior vice president at the Boys & Girls Club a few months later.

Millay’s post is here:

“Hello friends! There’s no easy way to say this—especially considering the incredible outpouring of support I’ve recently received from around the entire community—but due to various unanticipated issues, I feel it is necessary to withdraw my candidacy for the Martin County School Board race, effective immediately. My commitment to our children and families is steadfast and sincere. With my focus fully concentrated on my role with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County, I look forward to increased outreach and continued positive and productive working relationships with the entire Martin County School District. BGC and MCSD closely and consistently collaborate to create great outcomes for kids. That is what it’s all about.

I’m sincerely grateful for the opportunity to answer this call and want to thank in advance my many friends and supporters for their continued encouragement in this effort. Onward and upward! I feel blessed beyond measure with true friends and so many caring relationships!”

April 13,2024 Friends & Neighbors Facebook Page

Town of Sewalls Point


After an absence of several years, Vinny Barile was once again sworn in as a commissioner. If Commissioner Barile is anything like he was during his last stint serving the people of Sewall’s Point, the town should be happy. Welcome back Vinny.


At the last meeting, the commission approved several changes to the town charter that the charter committee had requested. The commission instructed Manager Daniels to come back with a price estimate of how much it would cost to have a referendum. To place the revisions on the ballot in November, it will cost $1930, plus approximately $500 for advertising, and $2000 for attorney expense.

The town attorney expense would be the same even if the commission had decided to just make the changes by ordinance. Mayor Tompeck preferred the ordinance route but if the rest of the commission wanted to have the decision made by referendum, then he would go along. All the rest of the commission wanted the residents to vote. A motion was made by Barile and seconded by Fender to go to referendum. It passed 5-0.

Also, at the last meeting, the commission asked how Snyder Marketing will be paid. The total cost is $36,500 for the two proposals adopted. It will be covered by reallocating funds from surpluses in existing budget lines. You can see Daniel’s memo here  

Commissioner Kurzman wanted to discuss not allowing tree cutting or trimming on Saturday. He also wanted to see about requiring a permit to be shown at the front of the property similar to any other building permit. He was reminded by the attorney that state law allows arborists to certify if a tree should be cut. In that case, there is no permit required.

The town attorney will look into the matter. Barile spoke about property rights as did a member of the audience. This is not the first time this has come up and probably won’t be the last.

Kurzman also spoke about contractors that arrive prior to 8 am and then park in the street as early as 6:30 waiting for the time to be able to begin work. Residents can park on the street overnight if they have a sticker. Some of the contracting jobs have been going on for several years.

The larger the house, the more workers on the job. Therefore, all the cars do not fit on the property, and they must park in the street. The staff and attorney will see whether building permits can be limited to two years.

The police chief spoke to remind the commissioners that the two issues should not be conflated. Marked trucks are not allowed on the street before 8 am. What the commissioner was seeing were the employees who may arrive early and eat their breakfast in their own cars while waiting to begin work. Unless they were making noise, there wouldn’t be any current laws being broken. If people believe something should be checked out, they should call and the police will investigate.

Joe Capra, the town engineer gave a status update on the projects. I have enclosed it here 

Town of Jupiter Island


The commission once again tackled the role boards play in the town approval process.

They had a workshop especially to elicit suggestions from board members, and it was sparsely attended. It appears that while Commissioner Scott would want to make all the boards advisory, the workshop revealed there is not much support for doing so. Commissioner Warner stated that the current system has worked for a long time. While nothing is perfect, things are functioning.

Vice-Mayor Fields stated that the citizens are not ready to invest final say in the commission. Mayor Townsend believes that there is no support either.

There is support for the commission to have the ability to hear appeals de novo which means the commission can hear new evidence in a case besides just relying on the existing record. If an applicant feels the boards have denied an application unjustly and there is new evidence to prove that then the commission as the appellant body can hear it.   

While that sounds great, applicants usually appeal decisions when they didn’t receive what they wanted. The commission, especially Scott, believes that the boards are giving too much away to applicants. Will the commission not just hear appeals but decide to intervene and change decisions of boards without applicants asking? This will work if intervenors are involved and ask for an appeal of a decision. Otherwise nothing has changed.

Scott is right when she says that other commissions and councils in the state are the final arbiters. Jupiter Island does It differently. When there was less dissension, their system worked fine. Maybe it still does. But the other commissioners should at least give the hard charging Scott an opportunity next year to bring her idea back.

During “Coffee with the Commissioner,” the town manager specifically mentioned our publication and what was written regarding the town being inhospitable to outsiders. If you want to close the county’s beach at night, that is the way I see it…and so would the people of Hobe Sound.

Chief Ewing gave the following stats for 2023 at the beach: 51 calls for service 20 of which occurred between 7 pm to 7 am. From 10 pm to 5:00 am (apparently when the beach would be closed), there were 11. Calls for service doesn’t mean a crime was committed. If there were any arrests, they weren’t recorded in these statistics.

In “friendly to strangers” Jupiter Island, there were 79 traffic stops where the cars pulled over get off the road at the beach parking lot. That had nothing to do with the beach. If you are coming over the bridge and speeding or are suspicious (like in a 2010 Mazda) and stopped, then the chief said most pull into the beach parking lot or town hall.

Public Safety did 447 additional patrols. Manager Garlo said that the heavy presence keeps things tamped down. Does that mean in friendly Jupiter Island they warmly embrace the citizens of Hobe Sound by asking after their safety? It doesn’t look that way to me. You can see the statistics here 

Should the beach be closed at night? There is an argument to be made for doing that. But only if it is county-wide policy. It isn’t fair to close the Hobe Sound Beach on Jupiter Island, and about 20 miles away leave the others open. If the county commission wants to re-examine the question that would be fine as long as all the beaches will have the same hours.

South County has only this tiny beach to call its own. And I know friendly Jupiter Island with its additional patrols and car stops are just keeping strangers and residents safe from the perils of mayhem. Yet using their own statistics, there doesn’t seem to be much of a problem.

Final Thoughts


Do you think that Brightline knew that Fort Pierce was incapable of performing on a deal and decided that Stuart and Martin County could?

If you look at the mess that is happening with King’s Landing, they certainly seemed to have a premonition. It seems that the City of Fort Pierce and Audubon Development Corp could be headed to court because the city is claiming the developer has not performed according to their agreement.

The last thing the railroad wanted was a partner that could not perform. I am not so sure that our county and city will perform either but at least there is a hope of success. If you remember Fort Pierce’s two offers didn’t have their commission voting in favor of either concept. That is not a good sign.

I am sure when push comes to shove if the grant funding is there, both Martin County and Stuart will move forward. It won’t be unanimous, especially in the city commission, but the will of most of our citizens is there. Except for the usual NYETs (Russian for NO) what is the problem having a mode of transportation that takes cars off the roads?


Jane Jacobs, the mid-20th century disrupter of Robert Moses’ plan to have a highway cut across Manhattan along Canal Street and then another superhighway along the West Side, was not anti-development. She believed in higher density cities, short blocks, and mixed-use zoning. In her view new construction was not a problem, it was the way many developers designed their projects.

Foremost she disliked cars. In her mind, cars were things that required huge amounts of unproductive land to be used as parking lots. Highways that moved cars were disrupters of neighborhoods. If Moses had had his way, SoHo, Greenwich Village, Chinatown, and other Manhattan neighborhoods would have been destroyed. It is very similar to what happened in the Bronx with the Cross Bronx Expressway and in Brooklyn and Queens with the Brooklyn/Queens Expressway.

Here in Stuart, we often hear from the NYET people that any new building is wrong. Parking codes are not changed because we want people to use cars, but car-centered approaches are not favorable for small town life. It is not conducive to shopping locally. Cars kill small towns.

Stuart is not a suburb of anything. Why do so many people who do not live in the city want to stop Stuart from returning to being the small-town economic hub of Martin County. That requires a level of density that Stuart had at one time. When we were not so focused on cars, there were even a couple of buildings that had density above the dreaded 30 units per acre.

If the NYETs want to hark back to an earlier Stuart, they need to end their irrationality when it comes to planning. Cities are about people—a critical mass of people. They need to mix in streets, parks, and public places. Any small town is one where people walk to school, jobs, entertainment, and shopping. Where they can’t walk, then the transportation shouldn’t be by car but by something like our trams.

When one leaves Stuart, then whenever possible they should also use public transportation…Brightline. Regardless of what Brightline believes their future is, it will probably be something else. At some point, it will become an affordable option compared to driving to our south and north.

If you want to save Stuart and preserve our small-town lifestyle, then stop fighting the building of any new multifamily housing. Right now, we have a downtown where you can’t buy milk, have clothes washed, or a prescription refilled. That wasn’t the Stuart of the 1960s. Today it is a Potemkin Village of restaurants and tourist stores where most people are visitors, and few are from the city.


There is not a critical mass of residents to support the retail necessities. By allowing multi-family to radiate along our major streets, we will create the amount of people necessary to sustain that economic activity resulting in fewer road trips and more walking ones.

Maybe Brightline saw a Fort Pierce Downtown completely devoid of people with only a few restaurants. Perhaps it saw in Stuart a place where people lived and worked. Those would be their customers but also would allow others to come here to work and enjoy a small town.

Remember Jacobs saw every neighborhood as a unique small town even in places like New York. That is why she fought the idea of highways disrupting the flow of people from one neighborhood to the other. You are not being an advocate for the small-town atmosphere if you are against neighborhoods having the critical mass needed to support themselves. You are the killer of what you believe you are trying to save.

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

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


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