September 17, 2023

Friends & Neighbors Edition

In this Edition

Of all the rooms in the house, I am most comfortable in the kitchen. It has always been that way.

Through the years, I have lived in apartments and homes with many different kitchens. Some of the kitchens were fairly basic while others were more elaborate. I sometimes look back on the kitchens of my childhood and wonder how meals for so many people were turned out from kitchen ranges as small as 24 inches.

My grandmother would fry what seemed like hundreds of meatballs or several chickens for family and guests. She would make steaks in a cast iron skillet that I still have and occasionally use. There never was an exhaust fan or anything more than a window only cracked in winter.

Most of my family worked in restaurants so I was a frequent guest even when little. As I became older, I too ever so naturally joined the family business. As a senior in high school, a manager of the Plaza Hotel in New York offered me the opportunity to go to Cornell which was the preeminent hospitality school at the time. He just wanted me to work an extra year under his tutelage first. I declined.

If you had a New York wedding at a catering hall in the late 1960s to the mid-1970s, I could have been one of those people who helped prepare your banquet feast. Working in kitchens helped pay the rent while completing college with a growing family.

This was long before the celebrity chef was invented. It was a mean nasty business. I never quite saw it captured for those unfamiliar with that “life” until Anthony Bourdain authored his seminal book, Kitchen Confidential.

In my early years, I worked in two places with a “dormitory” for employees. One had a room with mattresses where you could sleep between shifts so you would not have to travel if you had an early morning shift. I spent weekends there since as a kid I worked every shift from Friday dinner to Sunday dinner for about a year

The other was a place that employed many brothers who had come from the Dominican Republic. They lived in a room in the basement. I would occasionally sleep there if I worked the night shift and then was scheduled for the morning. What went on in that room wasn’t for the faint of heart.

Most professional kitchens, at least in my time, were viewed by the workers as a pressure-filled, exhilarating, terrorizing few hours when you were slammed. In some of the jobs I had, I was tasked with being one cog in the wheel. I was the vegetable cook or grill man. I needed to push out the dish to the chef’s watchful eye. And somehow it all must come out from the different stations at the same time.

In other smaller kitchens, I could have been alone or paired with another cook. I liked those best because while the meals were not as elaborate, I controlled the entire process. At other places, I did all the prep and made food for the following day without much time pressure at all.

What those early years taught me from watching my family to doing it myself was that no one should have to work that hard. After finishing a shift, I had a sense of real accomplishment and at the same time had never been more tired. Working in kitchens gave me confidence (sometimes undeservedly so) that I could do things I never thought I could.

It gave me the courage to make mistakes, and it also showed me how to recover from some royal screw ups. Lastly, it impressed me how valuable an education was to my future material success. If I wanted to be able to eat in some of the places where I worked, I couldn’t have done it on the money I made working in the kitchen.

Lastly, it was my responsibility to take advantage of the opportunities given, including pursuing higher education.    


I want to thank all who contributed to our fundraising appeal last week.

We have come a long way since we were a constituent newsletter a decade ago. Friends & Neighbors is in its third iteration with the launch of our newest format. As we have become better it has become more expensive. Everyone associated with this publication does so as a public service.

Even with that we need to pay for servers, website, our email provider, and expertise which myself and our other volunteers just don’t have. It isn’t too late to send a few dollars. Just follow the prompts on this website. Remember that anything you do send is not tax deductible.

And if you are a business owner or professional you should look at our sponsorship opportunities. Your name and logo would be prominently displayed and our 27,000 email recipients would know that you want to make our community better.

If you would like to become a columnist fill out the form. I would really like to find our food and restaurant reviewer. Send us an email commenting on any of our stories to give us your opinion.

Make sure to visit our Facebook page to see the latest news between publications. And finally make sure that your friends & neighbors have signed up for their free copy to be delivered to their email box.

Have a good Sunday morning!

AI & The Local Press

A recent story in The Washington Post reported on the use of AI generated stories in local papers owned by Gannett. It seemed to be used exclusively to report on local high school sports.

The uniqueness of the language led people who read the stories to mock them. Writing on local sports for local schools can be expensive to cover. It is kind of hard to be a local paper and not have local reporters not only for high school sports but for local stories on politics, people, and events. And sadly, having on the ground reporters is an all-too-uncommon occurrence today.

Gannett has suspended use of the AI company and claimed it was a trial to aid their journalistic staff. If they were using the program without reports or editors, then there wasn’t staff to help…only to replace. And that is the conundrum not only Gannett faces but every local newspaper. There is no substitution for feet on the ground.

Local newspapers are failing at an alarming rate. And while we may not know what high school team won in the future, these are the least of a community’s problems. It is coming to the point where the school board meeting is not being covered and the city hall beat is a thing of the past. How about that public interest story that is never told. Why is no reporter explaining the county commission’s decision about raising taxes. How come the local paper stopped in-depth reporting on any issue?

The less local news there is, the more chance that corruption will flourish. Deals will be made between politicians and developers. Democracy will die by a million cuts of benign neglect.

By not covering the local news, local papers become an afterthought for many. There are plenty of places to find out what happened in Washington. Regurgitation of wire stories on a local paper’s pages will not make readers want to stick around and pay for the newspaper.

Where do you find out what happened at the local water district? Mom & Pop local newspaper ownership succumbs to big chains that may have people covering stories via the internet. They wouldn’t know Main Street in Walton, NY from Main Street in Santa Rosa, CA. There is a disconnect that only leads to the spiral of less revenue from fewer ads and subscribers.

There is no substitute for shoe leather in covering a story. Knowing the local terrain is essential. The reporter needs to be part of the community he/she is covering. That is disappearing. Local radio is disappearing as are local television newscasts that tell us more than the weather.

We are in terrible trouble in this country. Because there is no arbiter of facts—facts are fungible—they are a belief system and not an absolute. That belief will lead to politicians trying to play fast and loose with their duty to the people. Sun shining into the inner workings of government prevents the little shortcuts that grow into larger corruption.

There are thousands of internet sites claiming to be news but mostly they are just big rumor mills. They seldom present just facts. Usually, they manipulate information so that their point of view is vindicated.

High school sports are not very important in the scheme of things. AI is not the answer to finding a cheaper way to do journalism. It is the public’s responsibility to support and pay for the valuable information that local media produces. Our society suffers without trusted local journalistic truth tellers.

As Published In Medium

Principles Of Governance

Budget time focusses me to think about the principles of governance.

What we lack in this county is an overriding philosophy of what government should be. Should the government run businesses? Even if those government-run businesses are profitable, should they be doing so? Is it fine for the county to fund nonprofits?

What the governing boards do now is approach each project and each agenda item in isolation from any other. At the recent BOCC meeting, the board refused to give a new land use to the old fire station at U.S. 1 and Ridgeway. For some reason, the land use was for mobile homes. The person bought it from the county and was asking for general commercial. This is the same use as the neighboring U.S. 1 parcels have. Ridgeway Mobile Home Park is behind this parcel.

Why didn’t the county give the proper use and zoning to this property and then sell it? It would have brought a higher price. One person came to the meeting from the mobile home park and complained. This stopped the commission from moving forward. How can that be?  No sane businessperson would buy another piece of property from the county. What do you do when there is an old fire station on the property that can be repurposed? Should it be knocked down and then put a couple of double wides there?

Since it has no governing philosophy, the commission just sort of blows with the wind. If no one had objected, they would have approved of this without question.

You see it repeatedly. The BOCC approved an $85,000 position for Special Olympics, and then at the budget meeting because of opposition to the tax increase by constituents, instructed the staff to cut $8 million at the same meeting. They are the Sybil of Martin County…which BOCC personality will show up today or in an hour?

I want to see some consistency based on a philosophy of governance. What we have now is pandering. How do I get elected to another term. The legislature needs to pass term limits for all locally elected officials. This nonsense needs to stop.

Romney, DeSantis & Woke Corporations

During his 2012 presidential campaign, Mitt Romney was laughed at during a debate when he stated that, “corporations are people, my friend.”

I knew exactly what he meant but thought by saying so he made a political error. That wasn’t the deciding factor in his loss, though I believe it contributed to his appearing out of touch with the average American. On the facts, Mitt was right.

The courts have stated that corporations are persons in most instances under the law. Corporations can be both civilly and criminally liable for their actions. The U.S. Supreme Court recognizing the rights of corporations goes back to the Dartmouth case in 1818 and has been expanding in scope ever since right down to the famous Citizens United case about corporations being entitled to express their opinions and contribute to political campaigns.

Yet under Governor DeSantis, Florida has punished Disney for doing just that. At some point, this case will reach the Supreme Court and if precedent still means anything, the court will rule in Disney’s favor. I don’t think more than 200 years of precedent is going to be reversed because of “wokeness.”

Romney was and is a deeply religious, moral, and conservative man. He should have been president. While travelling, I met one of his biggest supporters during Romney’s campaign. He had been a backer of his when he was governor of Massachusetts. They travelled in the same social circles. My travelling friend couldn’t have been more effusive in his praise of Romney. He happened to have been correct.

Romney announced that he was not seeking re-election to the U.S. Senate. His breed of public service is dying in America. Mitt cited his age as one determinant but I believe he felt no longer knew he was welcomed in the Republican Party and didn’t relish a primary fight with all the vitriol.

Romney was right about corporations. He was also correct about Russia as being our enemy. Mitt’s problem was he was not an effective communicator to the American public. That is too bad. Because he knew what he was speaking about with both the Russians as enemies and corporations having the right to speak out on issues.    

Fletch's Perspective

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

Nothing, as the saying goes, is written in stone. We strive to instill this simple truth—so often obscured by difficult circumstances—into the hearts and minds of the children we serve at Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County (BGCMC).

When equipped with education, opportunity, expectations and guidance, our members can rise above the limitations life seemingly handed so many of them.

Of course, good guidance is key and it stems from good leadership. Thankfully, we’re blessed with both at the BGCMC board, which is finally getting the recognition it deserves.

Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Florida Area Council recently awarded our corporate board the vaulted recognition of Board of the Year for the State of Florida. That’s no small achievement.  In Florida alone the Boys & Girls Clubs Alliance encompasses clubs operating on 243 sites in 46 counties and serving nearly 215,000 children. With this award, our board advances to regional and possible national opportunities for additional recognition.

Our Executive Board, Board of Directors and President’s Circle consists of many incredible individuals. Each one boasts resumes brimming with significant accomplishments locally and in many cases nationally. With individual achievements too numerous to list, their collective efforts share vital traits and characteristics, including:

  • Resolved decision-making amid crisis and adversity: Such skills mattered most when we adopted policies and practices to reopen during covid and provide our members with safe, beneficial and free activities and academic instruction so parents could return to work.
  • Studying important issues, challenging assumptions, and addressing difficulties: All proved vital in the board’s approach to pursuing the best ways to serve the East Stuart community, which our incoming flagship Stuart club will enable us to do.
  • Trusting themselves, trusting each other and trusting their team: This allows everyone to arrive at the best directions possible and execute strategies while leaving room to self-correct as needed. Such a dynamic is seldom if ever easy, especially with so many highly qualified and accomplished leaders around the table. But the mission of serving local children in need—and expanding on those we reach—provides the unifying cause they never lose sight of.
  • Inspiring themselves and others to greatness: This innate and self-motivated quality makes our board members superb ambassadors for BGCMC members, opening doors to incredible, lifechanging opportunities for our members. Best of all, they’re all too willing to roll up their sleeves and get directly involved in whatever needs to be done.

Even the board’s no doubt sage tendency of providing guard rails to ensure my accelerator approach to things remains on track, there’s a balanced blue-sky environment that encourages innovation, creativity and freedom to disrupt the status quo to meet our members need with expediency.

I can comfortably speak for the entire BGCMC team in stating that we’re honored to follow leadership that’s so sincerely committed to rejecting the narratives of low expectations often placed upon our members—and rewriting the possibilities before them. This is how one generation of leadership creates and shapes the next.

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

VanRiper's Views

Darlene VanRiper


I attended a meeting of the Affordable Housing Committee. 

It was formed by Martin County to try to find solutions to our affordable housing issues.  It is open to the public. I was curious mostly because short of government issued affordable housing, I only see one solution. 

As far as I could tell I was the only “public” in attendance.  The committee consists of a board, who spent the first 10 minutes arguing about whether they could say a prayer before the meeting.  One of the county attorneys was present and was unable to give a definitive answer. 

So, he said he’d research it.  I wondered how much of the lawyer’s time taxpayers will have to pay for him to research something that shouldn’t have come up in the first place.  Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against prayer.  But before a committee meeting?  It would be one thing if everyone agreed.  But, as with most committees made up of more than 1 person there was not unanimity.  So, instead of insisting, wasting time, and looking foolish, why does everyone who wants the Lord’s blessing prior to the meeting agree to meet outside, say a prayer, and then attend the meeting?  Problem solved.

The interesting thing that came out of the meeting was an announcement made by Michelle Miller, Human Services Administrator for the County.  There is a new federal program, Tenant Based Rental Assistance ( which will give money to persons aged 62 or older who are at 60% or less of household AMI (Average Median Income) for rental assistance.  AMI in Martin County is $84,800. Doing the math 60% is $50,820 for a household of four.  

If you’re going to apply though, you’d better get on it.  The assistance only lasts as long as the money lasts.  The till holds $500k.  I wonder if this isn’t just postponing the inevitable.  It may be useful for someone who has realized they must move as they simply can no longer afford their abode.  Perhaps it will help with the rent during the time they are searching for another.  Sadly, it seems like a temporary fix for sure. 

Back to the only agreeable solution I see.  It was presented at a housing conference a few months ago, that the developer uses tax credits to buy and build the project.  Then instead of selling it, they maintain it and collect the rent to ensure the development remains maintained and aesthetically pleasant. 

Perhaps the committee should be looking into making the invitation for that presentation.

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

Nicki's Place

Nicki van Vonno
van Vonno Consulting, Owner


Thank you for supporting Martin County’s online newspaper!  Thank you Tom for having a vision and creating Friends and Neighbors. Thank you readers who love books and eagerly share with me their book recommendations. 

Thank you Veterans and first responders and rescuers of all types. The care divers, the well diggers, and the rubble busters, the baby whisperers, nurses’ aides, the teacher and bus drivers and my UPS guy.

So many people are making a difference. Like the old guy who told me a joke before my recent vaccine shot. Thank you for science, and the kindness of strangers.

Keep reading!

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

Getting by with less seems to be the theme as of late; at least it is for my family.

Expenses across the board have skyrocketed leaving even less room in the budget- if any room at all- for anything non-essential. With these increases in costs, what is considered essential is also sliding down the scale. For instance, instead of purchasing time-saving convenience items like prepared foods at the grocery store, my family is buying the ingredients and starting from scratch.

Trips to the movie theater are replaced with home movie nights. With the jump in cost of construction materials, farm repairs have gone from fix it as it breaks to selecting which repairs are essential to the safety and wellbeing of us and our animals. Forget about it if my vehicle breaks down. It will have to stay where it is, and my family will have to share a vehicle somehow. And these are just a few examples of the changes my family is facing due to the sharply increased cost of living.

There is some benefit to the tightening of the budget- reining in spending can be good. But there are a lot of downsides that can come with it as well. The added time needed to prepare meals takes away from sitting with my kids while they do homework. The extra farm expenses leave no money for expanding my flock of chickens or building a milking stand for my dairy goats. And while home movie nights are great for family bonding, as a parent I fear for the missed experiential opportunities for my sons.

There is another big factor that needs to be addressed with this tightening of the purse strings- the mental health aspect. I can tell you it weighs heavily on me when my children ask me for something simple and I must tell them no, even though they earned it. I have some great kids and I want to be able to do things for them, but when the funds are not there my hands are tied. This makes my wife and I feel terrible, but we must keep fuel in the car, food in the kitchen, and the power on over anything else.

There is a strong link between money worries and anxiety, stress, depression, and substance abuse. Being able to assess your stressors- my stressors- and talk to someone about them could mean the difference between finding a way to overcome them and them pulling you down the deep rabbit hole. For your sake and the sake of those who care for you, I hope you will find the strength to talk to someone about your worries.

I recently recognized that I pushdown physical pain and ignore it rather than addressing it. This habit came from working physical jobs when I could not afford to miss work. An injury equaled a missed paycheck and that would lead to unpaid bills. But that is not a healthy habit, and I am working on making a change in myself.

Before you start down a path of depression and anguish, know that we are all feeling the weight of inflation and a higher cost of living. You are not alone. If you want to make a change, but do not have someone to talk to, there are free resources available to you. Just call 211.

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

Carl's Conclusion's

Carl Frost
Kai Kai Farms, Owner

Food Waste Recycling Challenges

Urban areas have abundant unwanted nutrients in the wrong form. Organic resources include food waste, yard waste, and sewage waste.  With various degrees of processing these waste streams can be useful to agriculture and the public including cattle ranches, tree farms, nurseries, food farms, golf courses, and your backyard.

Except for hydroponics, agriculture needs carbon for soil amendments. Food waste is in abundance and has potential as a soil amendment ingredient, but it comes with a caveat. From my experience selling vegetables to restaurants, the amount of food waste processing today is limited. Why?

The EPA says, “wasted food is a major global environmental, social, and economic challenge”  The food waste can be diverted to compost production and become a valuable ingredient. It has nitrogen and moisture, two key inputs for composting.

There is a problem with food waste: persistent chemicals commonly known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The EPA reports that one study found concentrations of three PFAS between 0.11-1 micrograms per kilogram in food waste samples collected from grocery stores, hospitals, schools, restaurants, retirement homes and residences. Multiple studies report PFAS in food (we eat) with concentrations below 10 micrograms per kilogram. Seafood is the highest followed by meat. Both food chains bioaccumulate PFAS. But food contact materials are the worst offenders.

The food packaging and preparation tools, like non-stick pans, have been cited as PFAS sources. These food contact materials range in PFAS up to 485 micrograms per kilogram. Some of these PFAS substances leach into the food we eat. Biosolids traditionally have elevated levels of PFAS too. They have traditionally been applied to Florida agricultural lands like cattle ranches and citrus groves. Cattle could graze on PFAS turf.  Biosolids cannot be used on vegetable farms. But land uses change and irrigation water are fungible. Today’s citrus grove is tomorrow's vegetable farm. Note the case of Songbird Farm in Unity, Maine.

I urge you to read Keith O’Brien’s Washington Post article: Forever chemicals upend a Maine farm.  Songbird Farm, organic certified, found PFAS in spinach they grew. The deer in the Fairfield Maine region are on a “do not eat” advisory by Maine state officials who have announced that biosolids with PFAS have been spread at numerous locations over decades. The deer foraged on PFAS lands. PFAS bioaccumulates in their flesh.

Florida drinking water standards do not regulate PFAS beyond setting a health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion. And if you are curious about the well water at Kai-Kai Farm, so was I. We recently tested all four wells and found no PFAS residuals.

Recycling organic waste is not without challenges but we must overcome them because local soil is deficient in carbon and nutrients.

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

Hope in Our Community

Rob Ranieri
House of Hope, CEO

Although we may not know it by our weather, we are approaching the first day of fall.

At House of Hope that means it’s time to unveil our annual Holiday Store. Our dedicated team of staff and volunteers recently converted a portion of our largest thrift store (The Hope Shop located at 2525 SE Federal Highway in Stuart) into a wonderful holiday retail extravaganza. The displays are packed with “new to you” items to mark fall, winter, and all the holidays between now and the end of the year. In addition to all of the holiday bargains, the Hope Shop is full of great deals on clothing, housewares, furniture and more. Our three thrift locations play a key role in helping to fund all of our programs and services that help us to empower residents to overcome hunger and hardship.

The Hope Shop and our other thrift locations are so much more than retail stores for our mission. They are part of our program infrastructure that helps individuals and families reach their goals and overcome obstacles. This year, our stores will distribute nearly 200,000 items to our clients as part of our Clothes Closet program. At no cost, clients can access clothing, linens, blankets, housewares, appliances, furniture and more.

We also provide gently used medical equipment such as canes, crutches, walkers, shower seats, wheelchairs and other items to anyone in the community that has a need. Like all House of Hope programs, the medical supplies are also provided at no cost. We provide books to local teachers and to other nonprofit organizations to distribute to students and families. Our friends in the community donate thousands of books to us, and we firmly believe that those books belong in the hands, hearts, and minds of our neighbors, rather than in boxes in our warehouse.

House of Hope partners with other nonprofits and churches to assist individuals and families with housewares and furniture as they leave local shelters, or try to bounce back from disasters such as fire or flood. We were especially grateful for a recent opportunity to work with the Martin County School District to help several new teachers who just moved to the county to set up their apartments. By taking this financial burden off of these teachers, they could focus on getting ready to make a difference in the lives of local students.

We know that the many ways that our thrift stores, and all of our programs and services, impact the community and our mission would not be possible without the generosity of our neighbors who donate their items to us. We also would not be successful without the support of our amazing volunteers. Our team at House of Hope will continue to do our best to maximize all the gifts of time, talent and treasure that we receive.

If you would like to learn more about how you can get involved, donate items, shop at our stores, volunteer or access our services, please visit our website at

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

Michele's Medical Moment

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

What is A Liquid Biopsy?

The dreaded “C” word.  I’m sure we are all hearing about more and more people being diagnosed with cancer these days.  Unfortunately it seems to be happening at younger ages.  The age to start having screening colonoscopies was just dropped to 45 years old due to an increase in colon cancer in younger people.

Sadly despite the numerous types of cancer we can only screen for a handful of them.  Females should be getting routine PAP smears to screen for cervical cancer and mammograms for breast cancer.  Men over 50 should be getting annual PSA levels checked to screen for prostate cancer (unless you are African American or have a family history then screening should start earlier).  Everyone should be getting annual skin checks and starting at age 45 colonoscopies or the less invasive Cologuard testing.

It is common sense that if a cancer is caught early it is much more treatable.   When caught in the early stages treatment usually involves just removal, and adjunctive therapies like chemo and radiation may not even be needed. 

Fortunately thanks to innovation and new technology there is a new test that is just coming to market.  A liquid biopsy is a simple blood test that can detect circulating tumor cells (CTCs), cell-free DNA (cfDNA) and other molecules present in the blood stream.  Cancer cells release DNA fragments and proteins into the blood which allows them to be detected through a simple non- invasive and less stressful alternative to conventional biopsies.

The liquid biopsy holds immense potential across various aspects of cancer management. It can detect cancer at earlier stages when treatment is most effective.  This is especially crucial for cancers like ovarian and pancreatic which are often diagnosed in advanced stages.  It can allow for real time monitoring of treatment response.  Oncologists can adjust treatment plans based on changes in biomarker levels ensuring patients receive the most effective therapy.  Unlike traditional biopsies, liquid biopsy is minimally invasive which reduces patient discomfort and recovery time. In addition the patient won’t have to miss a day of work!  The liquid biopsy can also provide a comprehensive genetic profile of a tumor which helps oncologists choose targeted therapies tailored to a patient’s specific cancer mutations.

Broken DNA

While liquid biopsy holds immense promise it is not without its challenges. While techniques are continuing to improve, they are not yet as sensitive or specific as traditional tissues biopsies.  They are also currently very expensive as most insurance companies have yet to pick up coverage of this test which currently costs about $1000 making them less accessible to many patients.  In addition, as the technology improves, and the test becomes more sensitive it may pick up cancers so early that the malignancy may not show up on imaging and the patient may be forced to wait until the cancer gets big enough to be removed which would obviously be very stressful.

I think as costs decrease and accuracy increases liquid biopsies will likely become part of routine cancer screening and monitoring. This is a huge paradigm shift in cancer screening and management that offers a powerful tool in the fight against cancer.  I’m excited to see what happens over the next several years!!

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 am often asked how to prepare a home to sell. So, I thought I would share my experiences along with some practical tips.

The first tip on a list is always to declutter. Some people do it very well and others find challenges to the concept. Truthfully, I have a personal understanding because I like to have my stuff nearby - just in case I need it. The most important part of decluttering is taking the personal items out of the house. Research says that buyers need to be able to imagine their belongings in the space … if they must try and imagine it while looking at a huge painting of the current owner's family it becomes a psychological challenge.

Remove oversized and redundant furniture. I once went to a home that had a great room that had two dining room tables and chairs. It made no sense to the buyer, and they rejected it because that room was too large. To make the point - I had a client selling a home. They had large furniture in the living room. Our feedback was, “the living room is too small” (it wasn't). My clients put the large furniture in storage and bought some inexpensive furniture that was small -- we sold it within weeks.

Clean, clean, clean … makes all the difference. Pressure wash the porches, patios, front entrance, clean the pool and make them look like they are properly maintained. The first impression is critical. All your windows should be cleaned and refreshed often. Inside the home is obviously important. If your home is fresh, free of odors, pet fur and it “feels” clean you will be way ahead of the competition. I have been in homes that a buyer rejected because of the grime but three weeks later, the seller had spring cleaned, and it was a different experience.

Your Realtor may suggest you have a pre-sale home inspection by a licensed inspector; it may be the best money you ever spend. Every home has an inspection after the contract is signed. There are often small, seemingly insignificant items that overly concern a buyer. If you have fixed the items prior to the buyer’s inspection it can save lots of money. A “double tapped” electric breaker is a common item that can be easily fixed. I have seen it blow up a sale despite Realtors and seller’s agreeing to fix it. This wastes time and money.

Before you put your home on the market, create a budget to get your home ready to sell. If you spend some money before you sell, my experience tells me you will make it all back in less time on the market, lower repair costs and the size of the offers you receive.

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

Palm City Highlights

Missi Campbell
Palm City Chamber of Commerce, Executive Director

The Palm City Chamber of Commerce prides itself in not only helping our businesses grow and prosper but to also assist in our community. We are honored to participate in many local events, hold community events, and support our local non-profits.

In August, we partnered with SafeSpace and held a Clothing Swap at the Palm City Community Center. This event was attended by approximately 60 women who all walked away with clothing that was “new’ to them. Thank you to Amy Thornton for organizing this great community service. The extra clothing and funds were all donated to SafeSpace to support their mission to empower the safety and well-being of adult victims of domestic violence and their children by providing intervention, prevention, and advocacy services.

September 22nd is the next Women in Business Summit on American Business Women’s Day. We will be having a luncheon and a guest speaker at New Hope Fellowship in Palm City. Our speaker, Kellie Wardman, is an executive coach and senior consultant with DBD Group. The topic will be balancing work, family, and home. We still have a few spots available for this event. You can register at or all the office at 772-286-8121.

Honoring our Veterans and first responders is a high priority for the members of the Palm City Chamber of Commerce. We joined our local firefighters and law enforcement officers on September 11th as we walked across the Veterans Memorial Bridge. We must always remember and honor those that gave their lives that day and their families.

The walk was a good warm-up for us as we prepare for the annual Veterans Memorial Bridge 5K on Saturday, November 11th. The run is in cooperation with the Stuart Air Show and all registered runners/walkers will receive a FREE ticket to the Stuart Air Show. We may even get a fly over!!

A portion of the proceeds from the Veterans Memorial Bridge 5K go to Southeast Florida Honor Flight so that they may continue to honor and show respect to our local heroes by taking them on an amazing trip to Washington, D.C. to visit the memorials constructed in their honor. If you have never had the opportunity to go on this trip as a guardian, I highly recommend that you investigate it. It is absolutely life changing.

As the holiday season approaches, please research any of our local non-profits to find one that will touch your heart and donate your time or financial resources to support their mission.

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

Fishing Tips

Paul Sperco

It is September 12th and Hurricane Lee is starting to head north thank goodness.

The storm is definitely going to impact our surf activities for the next few days. Big swells will be the norm through the weekend, but it certainly is better than the alternative.

The fall mullet Run was starting to ramp up as school after school of the mullet started to appear in large numbers this past weekend. I fished at Round Island up by Vero Beach yesterday and although I did not catch any pompano, the tarpon put on a show that was crazy. These pods of 75-to-150-pound tarpon were hammering the mullet schools all morning and boy is that a site.

The big jacks, snook, sharks, pompano, ladyfish, and bluefish should join the party shortly and our fall surf season will be off and running. The pompano bite was pretty good last year in late September and with the reappearance of the sandfleas that are on our beaches, the pompano will have plenty of food to eat.

If you are going to fish a sandflea on your pompano rig, be sure to tip your rig with a piece of Fishbites. EZ Flea, Powerlime Crab, and Electric Chicken Crab were the hot baits last September and October when the run kicked off.

Another species to look for as we get into September is the Spanish mackerel. They are a ball of fun to catch from the beach on a light spinning rod. A 1/4-to-3/4-ounce spoon reeled as fast as you can provide the bites as these fish will hit anything shiny.

If you are going to target the tarpon, a 4/0 or 5/0 circle hook with a 40-pound fluorocarbon leader on a medium to heavy spinning outfit will be the setup to use. Cast net a few mullets and put them in a 5-gallon pail with an aerator and you can live line them right off the beach. The tarpon, big jacks, and snook will find your mullet in no time, so hang on. It’s a great time of year to fish the surf so get out and give it a shot.

Good luck 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

As this school year began, I found myself reflecting on my experiences in years past as an elementary school principal.

I always looked forward to planning the “Welcome Back Breakfast” for teachers and staff. I believed it was important to set a tone of excitement for teachers because this enthusiasm would have a positive impact on our students return to school. As I was lost in my thoughts, I received a message from a teacher I worked with in years past. The teacher shared, “Every year when we start back to school it always makes me think of you and how you always made us teachers feel so important in the life of the child.” Although I appreciated this sentiment, I thought how sad it is that teachers today are not shown the value and respect they deserve.

This is not necessarily a reflection on school administrators because they are under the same constraints. Eighteen education bills were signed into law in Florida in 2023!! Each of these laws has a direct effect on teachers’ ability to teach and students’ opportunities to learn. Many of these laws are written with such vague and confusing language that it has created a sense of fear; thereby, causing educators to proceed with extreme caution in instruction. This stress is overwhelming educators.

This year teachers were presented with all of the information and expectations surrounding the new education laws, one being HB 1069. Teachers were required to view two presentations. One was entitled, “How to Upload Classroom Library Using Bar Code Scanner” and the other “Elementary Classroom Library Procedures”.  While it is true that the scanner will scan the ISBN number, the teacher also has to enter the title and author of each book on a spreadsheet. These added tasks unnecessarily divert the teachers’ attention from their purpose – educating our youth.

Each school media specialist is required to form a book review committee. Every book must be properly vetted when added to any classroom library. Since this process takes an inordinate amount of time and having to err on the side of caution, teachers have made the difficult decision to remove books from their classroom libraries. The effect the lack of access to literature will have on student learning will not be realized for years to come.

What seems to have become lost in the creation of this legislation is the actual education of students. Educators’ time should be valued and protected so they can plan and implement the curriculum and create an optimal learning environment. The most disturbing part about this, aside from book bans, is the law makers’ message which shows a lack of teacher trust which has resulted in an excessively high number of teacher vacancies. For teachers to work so hard for the betterment of our community and then be pulled into the negative side of conspiracy theories is cultivating bitterness, carelessness, a lack of trust in our community residents and policy leaders - elected and appointed!  

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

Arati's Advice

Arati Hammond
Keller Williams, Senior Real Estate Specialist

Home Belongs To You, Not Your Future Buyer

The key step to successful aging is rethinking how we house ourselves.

Most people buy homes and condos with an eye toward reselling them.  This means we buy a home for the next person, not ourselves. We have to make sure the home is for us and is adequately prepared for things that might go wrong.  Perhaps we should turn our home into our castles.

The surrounding space – the city and neighborhood – is equally as important as the house when you’re looking to support your needs and desires as you age.  Think walkability, amenities and services, recreation, restaurants, and public places that you can reach easily and that will help you to stay connected with life, the community, and people.

Good idea: Yes, the best plans for aging can veer off course. Have a room with a view and make certain that your bedroom is a beautiful place, just in case it becomes your primary living space temporarily or for the long-term due to an illness or accident.

Get Social

You know that loneliness and isolation are killers during old age, so strong human bonds are crucial to long-term happiness.  Start building that social web now, not when you’re old and you desperately need it.  Three ideas for finding relationships include:

1. Family. Think of your three best friends and start considering them your siblings. After all, the notion of family is evolving and it’s not just blood relatives who can be in our inner circle.

2. Colleagues. Leave a job and you often leave colleagues – those with like interests – behind. Why? Stay connected with them. They may become dear friends or they may be the people you tap when you have an idea for a new venture.

3. Neighbors. Robert Frost’s proverb, “Good fences make good neighbors” may not be a smart move. Schmooze with your neighbors. Turn them into friends. 

Volunteering, offering to help others, exercising with friends, skyping with loved ones, and creating a weekly communal dining experience at your favorite restaurant all help to nurture those relationships.

Innovation to the Rescue

The hope is that the human connections will help when life gets difficult.  Conveniences and technologies also increasingly allow people to age better than previous generations have. Those include things like food delivery services, Uber, apps that help you stay active, and technology that can connect you to your doctor digitally. And as technology evolves, those innovations will only get better.

Good idea: Share a person. At some point, you may need help around the house, assistance with dressing or showering, or someone to do tasks once a week. However, hiring a full-time person may be too costly or unnecessary. Why not gather together some friends and hire a professional that you can share?

So, no one is too young to create a vision for aging.  Prepare your home and build your social network so you can craft a rich life and find an antidote to loneliness and adapt to the vagaries of old age.

And be sure that you’ll be living in your castle, not in a storage facility.

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

Mindful Meditation

Jessica Miranda Roberts
Mindfullness and Moving Meditation Instructor

Breathwork to Counter Stress and Fatigue

For almost two decades I have been helping people learn to de-stress, be well, and function optimally using only their own breath. By making slight changes to how you breathe you can change the pH balance of your blood, improve immune function, lower blood pressure, improve sleep, strengthen your core, and so much more.

New and ongoing research suggests that not all breathing exercises are effective and not every breathing exercise is appropriate for just anyone. If you have tried breathwork in the past, and didn’t find it helpful, it may have simply been the wrong type of breathing exercise for you at that time.

Here are a few tips to ensure your breathwork journey is enjoyable and beneficial.

  1. Working on your own is appropriate, but if you don’t feel well or get stuck, seek the guidance of a trained professional.
  2. Breath exercises should be learned in stages.  Focus on building a strong foundation of mindfulness, awareness, and breath fitness, working from simple to, if needed, more advanced practices.
  3. Know what the purpose of the exercise is. Not all breathing exercises are supposed to calm you and promote peace, some are to excite or energize you, or allow you to work under extreme conditions, and are not good for you if you are just sitting.
  4. Changes to how you breathe should be subtle and comfortable. Remember skill is acquired over time with patience and practice.
  5. Learn the basics of good breathing mechanics. Getting the diaphragm working well is essential to success.
  6. Nose breathing is essential to good health and performance. Practice nose breathing while doing a daily activity or during exercise and notice how you feel afterwards.

Learning to use your own breath, to affect your mind and body, is a powerful skill and I highly recommend it. A great starting point is the Essential Breath Exercise.  It is basic but powerful and appropriate for most everyone.  Try it now, with these instructions:

Essential Breath Exercise: Take a comfortable full breath in, pause, and then slowly breathe out. Relax for a moment and repeat that 10-12 times for about two minutes. If possible, breathe through your nose. As you become comfortable with it, let the breath get low in the ribs and belly. A slow calm exhale is key.  If you can, try and repeat this at least five times during the day.

Becoming aware of and learning how to better control your breathing will positively affect your mind and body. There are many wonderful, experienced teachers offering opportunities to learn these skills in our area, including myself. For those reading my column, I am holding a free online class on Sunday, September 24th, at 4 PM for beginners. Email for the link and log in.

Jessica Robert’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Legal Corner

Gene Zweben
Founding & Managing Partner at Zweben Law Group

Steps To Take After A Taxi Or Rideshare Accident In Florida

The rise of rideshare services like Uber and Lyft, coupled with traditional taxi services, means that many Floridians are spending more time in the backseat. But what happens when your smooth ride turns bumpy, and you find yourself involved in an accident? Here's a step-by-step guide on what to do if you're caught in such a predicament.

Ensure Safety and Assess the Situation

After an accident, your safety takes precedence. If it's possible and you're not severely hurt, move away from traffic to a safer location. Once safe, assess yourself and your passengers for injuries. Some injuries may not show immediate symptoms, like concussions or internal injuries, making medical attention crucial. A thorough medical examination can help identify injuries and create a documented record for future reference.

Reporting to the Relevant Parties

Reporting the accident is not only necessary but can act as your support during insurance claims or disputes. Always report the accident to the police, even if it's minor, to establish an official record. Additionally, inform the taxi company or rideshare service involved. Uber and Lyft have designated procedures for accident reporting, often found within their respective apps. These steps provide dual protection and documentation of the incident.

Documenting Essential Information

In an accident involving a taxi or rideshare, you're dealing with corporate insurance policies. Therefore, it's crucial to gather the driver's full name, contact details, insurance information, and if applicable, the taxi number or rideshare information from the app. This information is critical when negotiating with insurance companies and for any legal proceedings.

Tackling the Insurance Complexities

Taxis typically operate under commercial insurance policies, providing coverage for the driver and passenger during rides. Rideshare drivers, however, are covered under their personal auto insurance and supplemental insurance from the rideshare company, which comes into effect during active rides. The complexity of these overlapping coverages can complicate the claims process.

Gene Zweben is the Managing Partner at Zweben Law Group, a personal injury law firm  located in Stuart, FL.

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

Martin County Taxpayers Association

In our opinion, the financial future of Martin County is in serious doubt because of steps that the BOCC has or has not taken.

Instead of confronting and prioritizing what the needs for the county are, the BOCC has often given in to whichever squeaky wheel was turning at a particular moment during a commission meeting. Their long-range plan seems to be no plan. If a group is organized or even semi-organized and demands a park or a baseball field upgrade, then the commission has and will throw established plans overboard to appease the current crowd.

This is far from the leadership that one should expect from our elected officials. When challenged, commissioners always present their good reason to go along with the crowd even if it is to the detriment of the greater tax paying public.

The recent compensation increases that Public Safety employees received are a good example of politics over taxpayers. 16% increases are unsustainable for our county. It does not matter whether they can be justified by pointing to pay levels in St. Lucie or Palm Beach Counties.

If one were going to use those counties as the comparison, then one should also compare how both outstrip Martin County in income because of a much more robust acceptance of business and real estate development. The counties to the north and south of us have a business model that allows them to pay more for government services. Ours does not.

We are not saying Martin County should imitate their patterns of development. But then we cannot use their salary structure and level of service as something we should aspire to achieve. Recently the commission needed to have a super majority of four votes to pass the “not to exceed” millage rate. This was not because the increase in taxes was so great (2.6%), but the state has legislated that the number of affirmative votes needed depend on where assessed value increases are coming from. Our values were increased overwhelmingly from existing properties instead of new ones. That necessitated the super majority vote.

Recent commission actions just underline how wrong the direction Martin County is going. The promise to pay millions to a developer not to develop his lawfully entitled project is eye opening. We do not adequately maintain our parks now, yet to appease a few, the commission wants to stop a Palm City project that will pay millions in new revenue to the county and create one more park in addition to the 72 we have already.

The State of Florida has provided millions in grants for conversion from septic to sewer. The BOCC years ago decided that each neighborhood would pay its own way in the conversion process. There were other ways of accomplishing this but in the past property owners paid differing amounts based on overall costs for the project minus outside grants and funding.

Two recent neighborhood conversions paid almost two thousand dollars more than what the cost would have been for the Port Salerno/New Monrovia conversion. Yet despite this difference, the commission scrapped the project because the homeowners there complained of the cost. Is the commission now going to propose that Martin County’s entire tax base or all utility customers subsidize this neighborhood’s conversion?

Martin County is one of the highest taxed counties in the state. Much of that is the result of trying to deliver a level of service that does not fit with a county of our size and population. Martin County has discouraged the formation of municipalities. Counties were not meant to deliver municipal services. Because the county acts as a municipality there is a need for even greater tax revenue than should be warranted.

Martin County’s present financial trajectory is unsustainable. It would be irresponsible for county government to continue saying yes to all. At some point, the economy will be in a recession. Tax revenue will fall. If we can’t pay our bills now without tax increases, what happens when valuations and revenue fall?

The leadership we deserve has been lacking and what has evolved is the plaintiff cry of the dissatisfied few and politicians listening to the few to the detriment of the many.

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

Article 1: Making the Case

Jim Snedeker & Merritt Matheson
Martin County Forever

Preserving Paradise: A Half Cent at a Time

Jim Snedeker, Chair, Martin County Forever

Merritt Matheson, Committee Member, former Mayor, City of Stuart

Martin County is a special place, and that’s why so many of us who were not born or raised here decided to move here and call this place home. The small-town charm, the slower pace, the lower density, and of course the abundance of undeveloped, natural lands.

But as a Greek philosopher once said, “The only constant in life is change.”  Martin County has been changing and will continue to do so as we grow and develop as a community. The burning question is: what can we realistically do to protect what we love most about Martin County?   

Over the past 10 months, a small group of concerned citizens has been working together on an initiative called “Martin County Forever.” Our mission is to acquire and preserve important natural lands in Martin County for the benefit of present and future generations. 

Why does that matter?  For many obvious reasons. Acquiring land will help to protect the unique character of Martin County, clean and restore our rivers and waterways and safeguard sources of drinking water, preserve valuable wildlife habitat and wetlands, and create more recreational opportunities.

How much land are we talking about and where is it located? There’s about 46,000 acres of natural lands within four target areas that are identified on Martin County’s Land Acquisition Map. As seen on the map, they include Blueways, Indian River Lagoon Watershed, Loxa-Lucie and Pal-Mar.

Our County has a successful track record of acquiring environmentally sensitive lands. We just need to build upon it, be proactive and work together. 

Martin County citizens have voted in the past to tax themselves to support these kinds of land acquisitions. A voter approved half-cent sales tax in 2006 generated about $30 million and was used to leverage an additional $30 million from state and federal sources.

We can do it again and shape the change we want.

We know that talking about taxes can be controversial but as we’ve embarked on our outreach efforts, we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the widespread support we’ve received for the idea. Environmental groups and business leaders alike have encouraged us to move forward with our proposal to the Martin County Board of County Commissioners - to have referendum language placed on the November 2024 ballot for a half-cent sales tax to purchase and preserve Martin County’s most environmentally sensitive lands.  

A half-cent sales tax could generate about $18.3 million a year for 10 years.  A significant portion (about 38%) would be funded by visitors who spend their money in Martin County.  And importantly, the tax would NOT apply to groceries, prescription medication or school supplies.  Properties would only be acquired from willing sellers.

Skeptics might want to know how we can trust our government to spend the money as intended.  That’s why we’ll be building safeguards into the referendum language including the creation of a Citizen Advisory Committee among other things. 

This is the first in a series of educational columns. We’ve got much more information to share with you.  In future columns we’ll explore the four target areas, share more details on the referendum language, and show how you can get involved.  In the meantime, we’d like to hear your thoughts on this initiative. If you’d like to schedule a presentation to your group or association, please contact us at

We hope you’ll stay informed and follow us on Facebook at XXX.  We’ll also be launching our website soon at







Jim Snedeker                                                                           Merritt Matheson

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


Hurricanes Target Land & Property While Fraudsters Target Homeowners

By: Brandon Tucker

Executive Director of Florida Landowners Association

Insured property damage is projected to reach $9 billion in the wake of Hurricane Idalia. An eye-popping price tag to be sure, but far less than the $112 billion following Hurricane Ian’s Category 5 storm that hit the Gulf Coast a year ago. 

Cleaning up your property and rebuilding your home after a destructive storm is pricey. But it can cost even more if you become a victim of fraud. And unfortunately, Florida and fraud go together like thunder and lightning.

The reason could be that almost 100 years ago, the Ponzi scheme was born right here in the Sunshine State. In 1925, Charles Ponzi famously conned people into buying swampland, claiming they could easily develop on the coveted, albeit marshy, prime real estate. Unfortunately, almost a century later, Florida remains a hot spot for property and real estate fraud. Florida has been a mecca of moving scams and mortgage fraud, land, and insurance shams, and specifically after hurricanes, roofing, and contractor cons.

Like a fast-moving storm, Wire Fraud Scams can inflict damage quickly and are especially popular with con artists given the fast, fat payouts they are netting. This particular scheme involves tactics such as phishing, hacking, and spoofing. Ne’er-’do-wells hack into your computer and pretend to be your real estate agent. The hacker may email or even call you to make a deposit into a bank account for closing costs or in some cases for escrow funds.

The good news – like preparing for an impending storm - there are ways to protect yourself. Beware of changes made at the last minute. If something doesn’t look right, pick up the phone and call your agent, the title company, or your lender and speak to them directly. Don’t send financial information in an email.  And if you’re being rushed to send money or sign a contract, wait, take a breath, and consult with someone you trust.

This is especially relevant following a hurricane. If a contractor or roofer is pushing you to sign a contract or hand over a large deposit before any work is done, think twice. Reputable companies will work with you and will be open to negotiating, within reason. And remember, nothing in life is free! Ask for a business license, check the company’s history with the state, and get feedback from previous customers.

Florida property owners know the risk of storm damage but shouldn’t have to endure property loss or financial damage because of fraud.   

The Florida Landowners Association empowers landowners, throughout the State of Florida, to engage, educate and demonstrate to the public why protecting landownership rights is so important to not only the individual landowner but to the communities in which these lands exist.

Brandon Tucker’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Constitutional Corner & Non Profit Notices


Other Government Notices


Supervisor of Elections

Tax Collector

Property Appraiser

“The Property Appraiser's office has specific roles and responsibilities with regard to new developments. Please watch our latest educational video to learn more!”

Martin County Clerk & Comptroller

Non Profit Notices




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

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

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

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

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

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

Your company or team can ‘iron’ out a sponsorship plan with prices ranging from $750 to

$10,000. Golf entries and gift bags, tee signs, and tickets to the cocktail party and awards banquet are all ‘in the bag’ with your sponsorship purchase.

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

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

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

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


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


Roses and Rose’ to Benefit Catch the Wave of Hope

By Jackie Holfelder

An upscale luncheon on November 9 at the popular Hudson’s on the River will benefit Catch the Wave of Hope (CTWH), the nonprofit with a mission to prevent the sex trafficking of children through awareness, education, restoration and legislation.

CTWH is impacting the community as it shares information, debunks myths and brings local experts into conversations with the public to better prepare everyone to recognize the inherent dangers in this heinous crime.

Roses and Rose’ will be nothing short of fabulous: a light lunch featuring Hudson’s enticing food, complimentary rose’ and no speakers, vendors, fashion show or silent or live auctions! Step into the photo booth that will be on site and take fun photos with your friends who are attending.

A handful of high-ticket items like a Louis Vuitton purse and unique staycation packages will be raffled and Catch the Wave of Hope’s knowledgeable and personable Executive Director Sarah Marie Henry will offer a short briefing on Catch the Wave of Hope.

Photo provided by Catch the Wave of Hope.

Roses and Rose’ committee members Sarah Marie Henry, CTWH Executive Director; Bonnie Gorman; Nicole Vosters; Fida Georges, Event Chair; Gia Skoch, Kelly Laurine - CTWH Board Chair and Michelle Campolong

Tickets are $125 per person and must be pre-purchased. Roses and Rose’ starts at 11 a.m. and will end at 1:30 p.m. Brunch attire is suggested and fascinators are optional. To purchase your ticket, visit Seating is limited.

Sponsorships between $500-$5,000 are still available. Join such prestigious local businesses as Hudson's on the River, Elevate Vero Beach, Foto Fun Photobooths, Black Sheep Salon, Albany Aesthetics, Pirate Firearms LLC, Rosi Shepard Real Estate, Mi Creations & Events, DJ Louise G Entertainment, Flowers by Silvia, Pasta by Pollo, Laura Leighton Real Estate, Vosters Insurance, Circle 6 Consulting, Ship Camps, Romagosa Barron Dermatology and Stuart Periodontics who have already signed on to be part of this important event.

Hudson’s on the River is located at 351 SW Flagler Avenue, Stuart.

To learn more about Catch the Wave of Hope, visit or email Sarah Marie Henry at




Dancing with the Martin Stars Takes the Stage on September 23 in support of the Martin County Healthy Start Coalition

Stuart, Fla. - Tangos, sambas and waltzes will take center stage at the Lyric Theatre on September 23 as the 2023 Dancing with the Martin Stars competition thrills the audience with fancy footwork.

Dancing with the Martin Stars is now in its 12th year of supporting the Martin County Healthy Start Coalition and its mission to ensure that every baby in our community is born healthy, every mother receives support, and every father is involved.

The competition pits teams of local dance instructors with volunteer “celebrities” from the community. The volunteers learn intricate dance steps for the performance in the hope of winning the grand prize----bragging rights and their own mirror ball trophy. They also compete in raising funds from friends, neighbors and local businesses to benefit Martin County Healthy Start Coalition.

“Dancing with the Martin Stars is always a fun event,” says Martin County Healthy Start CEO Samantha Suffich. “The purpose, though, is very serious. The funds our volunteers raise help us with our many programs that provide prenatal care to expectant mothers and then follow through to be sure that babies are born healthy and receive the services the family needs for a successful future.”

This year’s Martin Stars are: Carol Briseno, Recreation Coordinator with Martin County Parks & Recreations, dancing with Jang Don; Nikki Leserra , Creative Director at Sky is the Limit, dancing with Brian Spector; Jacilyn Mikels,  Aesthetic Nurse Practitioner at Jeunenu Aesthetics, dancing with Michael Chaves; Monique Robbins, Prevention Coordinator with Tykes & Teens, dancing with Yusell Garcia; Joan Goodrich, Executive Director of the Business Development Board of Martin County, dancing with Craig Galvin; Dr. Kurt Barnhill, Chiropractor at Precision Chiropractor and Rehab, dancing with Daisy Krakowiak-Wiebe;  Dr. Edward Savage, Cardiothoracic Surgeon of Cleveland Clinic Martin Health, dancing with Tanya Chaves; Noel Thomas, CEO of Zero Trafficking, dancing with Cheri Shanti; and Tony George, Attorney at Law, dancing with Marianella Tobar.

Community members can support a favorite dancer through the Martin County Healthy Start website, Tickets to the event, which begins at 7 p.m. on Saturday, September 23, are available through the Lyric Theatre box office

Natalie Desmangles and Brian Spector won Overall Champion at last year’s Dancing with the Martin Stars.

LiveStream tickets for those who can’t attend in person are on sale  at, or people can watch the live broadcast at Hudson’s in Stuart.

A Sponsors Only cocktail party will be held before the dance competition begins. Casco Companies is the evening’s title sponsor and encourages individuals and organizations to join them at sponsorship levels ranging from $500 to $10,000.

For more information, visit or call 772-463-2888.

About Martin County Healthy Start

Martin County Healthy Start is a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring that every baby is born healthy. It provides educational and health services to pregnant women, new mothers and their families at no cost, particularly expectant mothers who are at risk for late or no prenatal care.

The programs of Martin County Healthy Start Coalition are voluntary and available to all Florida residents at no cost.

For more information about Martin County Healthy Start Coalition and its ongoing programs, visit, call 772-463-2888 or follow the organization on Facebook.


Sunset Concerts in the Gallery for October and November

By Jackie Holfelder

For eight years, MartinArts has been presenting its acclaimed Sunset Concerts at the Gallery at the Court House Cultural Center at 5:30 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month.

The eclectic series is noted for revealing each artist’s personality and individuality and for offering a wide range of talent encompassing all ages and media.

Sunset Concerts in at the Gallery is open to the public. Registration is required. Cost is $5 for non-members, free for members.

The program for the next two months is highlighted below:

·        Tuesday, October 10, 2023

"Halloween Spooktacular"
Featuring organist Brandon Glick and pianist Paul Hamaty—Halloween costume event for kids of all ages. Please note that this event will be held at in the sanctuary of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 623 SE Ocean Boulevard, Stuart

·        Tuesday, November 14, 2023

"Thanksgiving and Celebration of our Veterans"
Featuring Susan Callahan and Friends presenting a concert of inspirational and patriotic songs

For information, visit



Farm City Luncheon 2023 Celebrates the Rich Heritage of Martin County Agriculture

PALM CITY, Fla. - Gloretta Hall is a born and bred city girl. Wes Carlton is a farm guy through and through. Meeting each other for the first time at last year’s Farm City Luncheon, the two Martin County residents found themselves seated at the same table, discussing a wide range of topics on which they agreed and many they both wanted to learn more about.

“That’s the whole point of the Farm City Luncheon,” explained Rick Hartman, President of One Martin, the nonprofit organization that hosts the luncheon each year, along with the Martin County Farm Bureau. The annual event brings together urban and rural residents of the county to celebrate the important relationship between farmers, consumers, community leaders, and everyone in between who contributes to the community’s safe, abundant food supply.

“We’re all in this together,” Hartman says, “and the better we know and understand each other, the better we can work on our collective challenges together.”


This year’s Farm City Luncheon is on Thursday, November 16 at 11:30 a.m. at The Rocking H Ranch on Boatramp Avenue in Palm City. As with previous year’s luncheons, the farm to table menu will feature items that are locally grown and sourced.


Generations of farmers and ranchers established Martin County as an agricultural powerhouse where they raised their families, harvested their crops, drove their cattle, and helped to feed a region and a nation. During the luncheon, a panel will explore Florida's rich agricultural heritage and traditions, recognize the knowledge, skills, and values passed down through farming families, and share activities and initiatives that promote a greater understanding of the important cultural and environmental role agricultural plays in our community.

Martin County residents Gloretta Hall and Wes Carlton

“I thought I knew my community,” Gloretta Hall said. “The things I learned at the Farm City Luncheon and my conversations with Wes have given me a whole new perspective on what it means to be part of Martin County.”

Wes Carlton seconds that. “Agriculture in our region is changing rapidly, and it’s in the best interests of all of our residents to bridge the gap between those of us still farming the land out west and the folks in our more urbanized areas. We need to do it for the sake of our children and grandchildren.”

Sponsors to date include Ashley Capital, Becker Tree Farm, Captec Engineering, Family Lands

Remembered, Hartman Real Estate, Market on Main, Martin County Farm Bureau, Midbrook 1st Realty Corp, Shearwater Marine FL, Theresa & Richard Anderson, Three Lake, and Wedgeworth, Inc.

Additional sponsorships and individual tickets for the 2023 Farm City luncheon are available online by going to or by contacting Melissa Zolla at or 772-287-5272.




Celebrate at MartinArts Community Open House

By Jackie Holfelder

Celebrate the 100th anniversary of Stuart High School (1923-2023) at a community open house presented by MartinArts on Saturday, September 23 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

Two discussion panels will feature alumni reminiscing about their school days (come by and see whom you know) and local experts sharing their views about the building’s architecture and its value to the Treasure Coast.

What’s a party without cake? Have a slice to salute the centennial of Stuart High School, located at 500 SE Ocean Boulevard, Stuart.

For information, call 772-287-6676.


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 Caryn Hall Yost Rudge:

This new format is aces, Tom. Thank you.
You are spot on about the importance of the proper city attorney:
 "The demeanor and past conduct of the manager and attorney must be unimpeachable."

I think you could do a fun investigative piece on the Federal Case 23-14270-CV
because Judge Middlebrook's Order on August 31, 2023 is allowing to move case forward.
  I haven't served Mortell, Nicoletti, or City with their summons but whom will accept service to sign summons and then Answer for the city?    It's an exciting little mystery! 
 I grew up in Hancock New York and can't wait to see you in person to talk about that area that is so dear to my heart!!  Not many people know where it is! 


From Ralph Caruso

Railroad Bridge Opening Schedule

It is nice to hear that the marine industries have decided to step into the railroad bridge mess.  Those of us who own sailboats and live west of the bridge have no one to speak for us.  I agree that all the stakeholders need to be involved, but the proposal still has a very large hole in it that no one seems willing to bring up .  The railroad says that 16 ft clearance will allow 90% of all boats that currently wait for the bridge, to go thru it.  I don’t believe that this is true, and what is the railroad going to propose about the operating schedule with the new bridge?

The operating schedule should not wait until the bridge is complete, or even under construction, or even just a hand sketch.  The operating schedule issue should be tackled FIRST, and the new bridge should be designed to make sure that the bridge is open often enough to meet the needs of the maritime communities that need an ICW clearance (65 FT – the current clearance of the New Roosevelt Bridge).  This is important, because if the proposed bridge takes too long to open or close, then the boaters will be  stuck, and I can easily hear the railroad saying that it is good enough – the bridge should only open once or twice per day, in the middle of the night, when there are no trains moving. 

The discussion about bridge opening times needs to be done NOW, before anyone spends any more money on this ill-conceived project.  Brightline/FEC knew this was going to be a problem before they started on the track and signal upgrades, but they chose to ignore it, thinking that closing the bridge to accommodate the railroad would be a fait accompli.  Well, it is not, and we don’t want to waste more money just to have this discussion again in 4 years.

We need to establish a HARD schedule for bridge opening, NOW. 


From Richard MacAuley

immigration Reform?
The U.S .Constitution charges the federal government with border protection and immigration policy. The current administration continues to make a mockery of these duties. I note the use of words such as "undocumented immigrants" as opposed to "Illegal immigrants", "Desantis' new anti-immigrant law" and "them foreigners". These words do little to promote respect for federal immigration laws currently in place. Recklessly opening the border, clandestinely transporting unvetted illegal immigrants in the middle of the night to various cities and towns throughout the U.S. and subjecting our citizenry to a multitude of possible health hazards, criminals and terrorists also do little to improve the situation and is counterproductive. We must abide by the laws and if necessary change them, but. breaking the law and putting the citizenry in jeopardy is not the answer.

Eagerly await each issue of your F & Ns


Martin County


The Special Olympics needs a person in Martin County to coordinate the program. The person will be based in St. Lucie County but mostly working remotely in Martin. Their goal is to increase the number of athletes and coaches by 20% and 10% respectively.

Should this be funded by the county budget? Commissioner Heard asked about performance measures to make sure there is a metric to measure performance. Staff did say they do have the ability to do that. What is always lacking in these discussions is a governmental philosophy. In this case, is the government the proper vehicle for funding this position?

Gail Goldy, a citizen who made public comment, said that charitable organizations should not be counting on the county to pay for what private contributions should do. I agree entirely with Goldy. Yet the commission in a 3-2 vote (Heard & Hetherington dissenting) voted to approve the $85,000 position. You will see how ironic this is with the outcome of the budget meeting described below.

Last year, the commission adopted an ordinance ending the sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits in retail stores. There were two stores that sold these animals. It was recommended by the Animal Care & Control Oversight Board that a one-year exception be granted to those two stores. The commission decided that one year was too long and shortened it to six months.

After the “tee shirt” brigade protested, the commission did make it one year. They refused to grandfather in the two stores. County legal staff told the commissioners that if the stores litigated, they felt the county could win. The stores’ owners sued.

After a year, there is a proposed settlement grandfathering in the two stores. They can also move to other retail places of up to 3000 square feet even though the current stores are 1260 and 2400 square feet. The pet store entities can sell their businesses to others. The commission created monopolies in effect since there are no other stores allowed in the county.

I guess it wasn’t that easy to close existing businesses.  They could have had a much better deal last year by just allowing the businesses to remain open. There probably wouldn’t have been anything about selling or moving. This is the government at work.

The budget hearing was a surreal event.

Usually there is no one in the commission chambers for the budget hearings. It is largely a nonevent. Not this one. There were at least a hundred people spurred on by the Martin County Taxpayers Association and the Republican Executive Committee.

There was a tax increase of 2.649% proposed. No one wants to pay an increase. Speaker after speaker voiced their disapproval without many suggestions on where to find the nearly $8 million to have a budget neutral increase. It was the usual “low hanging fruit” that could be found and cut according to many.

Like so much in Martin County, some of the same people who were lobbying commissioners throughout the year for funds for their pet projects were now asking why there was a tax increase. Like the Special Olympics position, each spending line has a constituency that wants funds. Look at what happened earlier this year when a group of parents lobbied for $100,000 for ballfield improvements to Wojcieszak Park. They got the money.

The real problem is the uniformed services contracts. Sarah Heard stated that there were $20 million in increases over last year. Yet except for Heard, the other commissioners gave them that money. The public didn’t seem to care when those contracts were signed, giving supposedly 12% raises that are much closer to 16%. Even with the crowd ready to go to war over a tax increase of much less than the inflation rate, they gave applause to the sheriff when he spoke. He is receiving millions more in increased funds.

We may have the best fire/rescue and law enforcement anywhere in the United States. The question is how you pay for it if not by taxes. I once drove a brand-new Rolls Royce. It was one of the best feelings I ever had. But when the ride was over, I drove my Chevy home. Wishes are just that… wishes.

How do you trim $8 million. The board can say to the sheriff that he must have no increases. The sheriff would then go to the Governor’s Cabinet and appeal the decision. He would most certainly win. Yet it would show commission resolve.

At this point, the contract with fire/rescue is signed. There is a contractual obligation for the next three years. What you can do is cut all new equipment for next year and make do. Perhaps hiring the former union president to be fire chief was not the best move by the commission. Make no mistake except for Heard the rest of the commissioners are to some extent beholden to the fire union for their support at election season.

The argument was made public safety employees were leaving for more money elsewhere. I don’t doubt that is true to a large extent. That doesn’t mean you just throw money at the problem. Money you don’t have, and the public doesn’t want to spend. You may want the solution to be able to pay more. Sometimes, because of reality and circumstances, it doesn’t work.

Where will the cuts fall? They would almost have to come from the CIP. There is a little over $10 million in that category. Postponing improvements and cutting FARBs (Fixed Asset Replacement Budget) are where most of this money will be found. And a little public sacrifice from the sheriff. Otherwise, operations will have to be cut, which means closing parks and libraries for instance.

This budget currently does not include the ridiculousness of paying $4 million to buy a piece of property to remove from the tax rolls in Palm City. The reason that some residents object to a new development of 90 apartments is laughable. That item will come back in October when the budget is over and currently no provision has been made. Yet the money will come from tax dollars. It will be labeled a Palm City only expense. Even though the lost ad valorum over the life of the project would be in the millions for the entire county.

The time to start the 2025 budget process for the citizens of Martin County is now. Residents cannot spend 50 weeks a year begging the commissioners to fund a project or hobby and then at the last minute become a fiscal hawk. It doesn’t work for taxpayers and residents or commissioners.

The budget and millage were passed in 34 motions. It was what was presented with the increase. The commission by law had no choice. For the most part, four commissioners voted affirmatively because it was the responsible thing to do.

In two weeks, there will be a hearing where the final millage and budget will be approved. That is where the cuts and millage neutrality will be enacted. Then I would imagine the public will go back to asking for more expenditures and the commissioners giving in to the “tee shirt” of the week.

Until there is a philosophy of government that outlines its purpose in Martin County, expect more of this nonsense. Commissioners voting for outrageous contracts, residents demanding services, and all refusing to accept the reality of what 160,000 residents can pay for. 

You can see the budget presentation here 



There was a memo on the flooding that occurs off the Beeline Highway since it was enlarged to 4 lanes. This is an item that has been discussed before. The district’s engineer, Higgins Engineering, has contacted several agencies. They cannot find an engineering change that would have caused any difference. The board decided to not pursue this item further. You can see the report here

Three entities had made proposals to become the district’s maintenance supervisor. The prices range from $125 per hour to $55 per hour. TJ Mansell who had performed that work previously for the district was selected at $65 per hour with an 8-hour minimum per week. You can see his proposal here

At the last meeting in July the district’s law firm was terminated. The board has chosen Torcivia, Donlon, Goddeau, & Rubin P.A. as their replacement. That firm represents several cities in Palm Beach County and Sewall’s Point in Martin County. You can see their packet here

The board also decided to begin recording and showing the meetings. And in my opinion, it is about time. Florida should mandate that all meetings be recorded and placed on a platform to be seen by the public. In 2023 it is impossible to claim that a government is transparent and then does not have a means for the public to see its workings.

There were two options presented, one for $150 and another for $300. For a $150 it will be a static view with no ability to see presentations or speakers besides the dais. The lesser amount is what the board opted for. For a few dollars more they could have had what the public has grown used to in televising meetings. But this is progress.

Mr. Gazza was called on to make his last report as the maintenance supervisor. But instead of a report he just asked questions. The prime one being the board’s decision to address the next mowing of the district’s works at the January meeting. Before he took over the job, apparently the mowing schedule was not as often as it was under him. I believe the board wants to go back to that approach.

Mansell from his seat in the audience went on about how in the past he would just find people to do the work at the Tractor Supply. It was a very folksy soliloquy. If the board wants to take a more natural approach, then he is the right person. I am going to suggest that he step up to the podium to make his speeches as opposed to the “cracker barrel” forum of leaning back in the audience seat. That way we all have access and it will all be recorded.

Sarah Heard asked that the sheriff’s office report at every meeting. While patrolling there were 5 or 6 arrests for crimes they witnessed. The reason their presence is so needed is that of indiscriminate gun fire that is not only dangerous to others within Pal Mar but neighboring communities like Trailside. Again the deputy said they are seriously constrained on what they can do in this regard.

It was also mentioned that if the counties, SFWMD, and FWC have surveys and post their properties then they could enforce trespassing against those on their properties. Is it expensive? Sure, it is. Is it necessary? More and more it is my belief that it needs to be done.

Without it the sensitive lands that are being destroyed by the weekend warriors will continue. Give law enforcement the tools it needs for the results you want.

It does seem that the board meetings are much more civilized than in the past. Kevin Cutting the newest small landowner board member is thoughtful and wants to do what is best for the district. He doesn’t seem to have any ulterior motives.

City of Stuart


Serena Hoerman from Florida Atlantic University gave a presentation on resiliency.

There are 161 miles of shoreline in Martin County with 21 miles of beaches. There are nearly 5000 waterfront parcels. The city is currently gathering information to create a sustainability action plan.

It was an interesting presentation. You can see it here 

For some time, there has been discussion about moving the city garage located on Martin Luther King Drive to the water plant on Palm Beach Road and 10th Street. There were some very basic estimates to do so a few years ago but it was cost prohibitive. Mortell wants to do a more thorough study to see whether it is or not.

I think for Mortell the real impetus came when he was trying to find a place to locate Public Works and Utilities in the new city hall. Space had never been allocated for the department since, originally, a building was going to be included on the new public works site that would have included their office space.

Currently, it is an old mostly open-air facility. Is it really in the right place? With the new zoning overlay for East Stuart, the current site is a non-conforming use.

What Mortell asked the commissioners to approve was an increase of forty-two cents per month on the residential cart bill to have a real study performed.

The commission approved unanimously. You can see the presentation here 

On the first ballot, the commission voted 4-1 to hire Lee Baggett as city attorney. The only dissenter in the ballot was Clarke who cast her vote for Zoe Panarites. She later seconded the motion to hire Baggett. You can read several stories detailing the history leading up to this vote below.

The commission had their first of two meetings to set the millage and budget for 2024. They were allowed to go to 5.5 mills under the previous approval of the budget. The manager was able to keep it at 5 mills, which is the current rate.

The total amount that will be collected is $98 million in all the funds. Ad valorem is a little more than $44 million. The CRA has funding of $13 million.

The uniformed services’ salaries are budgeted at 10% increases. While the rest of the staff will have what some commissioners are calling a COLA, but in reality, is a 4% increase. That will take effect (including for commissioners) on October 1st. There are also merit raises that are based on evaluations that could go as high as 6% which would take effect on the employee’s anniversary date of hire.

There was a discussion on the Fire Fee which has not changed since its implementation in 2014. The commission would like to have these discussions before the next budget to see whether it needs to be changed.

The budget and millage passed 5-0. The entire budget can be found here 




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

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

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

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

The commission will individually interview them on September 7th and decide at the September 11th commission meeting to whom the job offer should be made.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Less Smoke But Just As Many Mirrors

In the last edition of Friends & Neighbors, I decried the lack of transparency given to the public in the agenda item regarding choosing a new city attorney.

Nothing whatsoever was included in the agenda packet that was provided to the public. There weren’t even the names of those who applied nor the finalists. Obviously, there was no thought given to interested citizens reading resumes, applications, or their understanding about why the finalists were chosen by the committee. Forget about citizen comments in this process. (You can see the article here )

For the special meeting to interview the next city attorney on September 7th a bit more was offered but nowhere near the full story. The information provided for the upcoming meeting was not the original information but rather an opaque memo trying to justify who should be picked. There still was not included the resumes and applications which are public record. There wasn’t even included the spread sheet the committee used to outline all the candidates plus why they picked the four they did (you can find it here ) In fact even the names were not listed except as a CC to the memo how would anyone know who they were.

In the special meeting’s packet, it was stated that the commission could immediately vote to pick a “winner” as if such an important decision should be made with no time for thought having just interviewed the candidates that same day. It smacks of a predetermined outcome.

Stuart seemed to be coming out of the “good ole boy” era for the past few years, but it looks like it could have slipped back into that arena. I was hoping that both Rich and Collins would be independent and not beholden to special interests. But it takes three votes so look for how the veterans cast theirs to have your answer.

There are three finalists who are a rational choice and one who should not be considered at all. Which brings me back to outside influence on the selection committee. One of the candidates has no municipal experience and a string of having bad debts…makes me wonder why he is on the list. What do you think?

But it would be impossible for the citizens of Stuart to form a knowledgeable opinion since the candidate information was never shared or made available. It was kept from them. And the commission wants them to think there was transparency? Perhaps having two lawyers on the selection committee was a mistake. How come no independent citizens were there. Each commissioner could have appointed one. Too many questions would be asked?

You can see the backup to the September 7, meeting here  



From the beginning of the process, selecting a new city attorney has not been the most transparent process. It seemed that the best person was destined not to get the job because he was not the hand-picked candidate from the “good ole boys.”

There were four finalists from the initial search. On paper, three seemed to have municipal experience. The fourth, the insiders’ choice, did not. One of the three with municipal experience dropped out and was never interviewed by the commissioners. The commissioners interviewed the three remaining.

By the time of the interviews, at least two commissioners were leaning against the “good ole boy” candidate. Did the interviews change minds? I think they did. It became painfully obvious that a city attorney, like a city manager, should be more than their technical skill set. When a candidate doesn’t even have the skill set, it is hard to overlook that deficit.

It was discovered that one of the candidates with municipal experience had also been a real estate broker for a firm owned by “big sugar.” The attorney had worked for them in Palm Beach County but even more interestingly in Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic.

Perhaps if it had been disclosed up front, then the outcome would have been different. This is Martin County. The only thing that has saved us from the 2018 summer is that the Army Corps has not done massive releases from Lake O.

Imagine if the attorney for Stuart had been a friend and employee of the sugar people. Commissioners would have paid a political price. Even with that moniker, that attorney received Commissioner Clarke’s vote.

In the end, a fellow by the name of Lee Baggett was chosen by the other four on the first ballot. Lee is currently working as an attorney for Martin County. Before that, he worked for Port St. Lucie and previously he was with Lewis & Mortell in Stuart for about a decade. Lee lives in Palm City and knows the county. He was always the right choice.

This process revealed two things. One is that the “good ole boys” still have their hand in the game in Stuart and Martin County. Their influence is waning, but it is still there. As citizens, they should continue to have a voice like every other citizen. They should not have a veto or be able to dictate the nominee.

The second revelation was that sometimes the right person is ultimately chosen. Baggett appears to be a yeoman attorney. He knows the law and has litigation experience. He already has a relationship with Manager Mortell which means they can work together. The most important thing is he knows Martin County’s quirks and eccentricities. Baggett doesn’t appear to be in anyone’s pocket…not the “good ole boys” or sugar.    

Martin County School Board


In the name of parental rights, has the legislature taken away all pretense of any local discretion in educational policy?

As the meeting went on, it seemed that the policies the board enacted were in response to legislation requiring the board to do what has been mandated. The board (and to some extent staff) were just cogs in a wheel. Is this what parental control means? It seems more that it is state control being instituted under the guise of something else.

I believe in parents exerting control over their children’s education. Vouchers would allow parents to choose schools whose educational philosophy is most closely aligned to a parent’s beliefs. That makes sense to me.

What it appears is happening now is a concentration of most educational policies in the hands of Tallahassee. At times a single parent can influence the choice of books and curriculum material for an entire district under the guise of parental control. Yet is it really or just an impediment for districts to make decisions it feels are best.

True parental control is when there is a flowering of different educational choices at a variety of schools. A school that does things like Classical Academy and sticks to the traditional approach. Or another that uses a Socratic method to teach. Vouchers would allow the parent to choose.

If Tallahassee is going to mandate things so pedestrian such as how to hold a job fair for students, is that true choice? Parental control should mean a child’s education is left to the parent to find the school that best supports the ideal. If all Florida is doing is substituting a local authority with a state one, there is still no true parental rights.

Both districts and Tallahassee need to step down from micromanaging. Let schools compete for the educational dollars by creating learning environments that are what parents truly want for their children.

With the new tax rates for the next year, which begins October 1st, taxpayers will see either a slight increase or a decrease. The state’s required tax rate will be slightly less next year with all other rates to remain the same. However, because of an increase in property valuations there will be more dollars collected. In any case, because of Save Our Homes, increases in valuations are capped.

The final budget numbers will be a little more than $568 million. It is about $4 million more than this year’s budget. You can see the presentation here  

Town of Sewalls Point


The Interlocal Agreements with the county for the first septic to sewer systems are now approved for South Sewall’s Point Road.

This has been a long time coming. The first 169 connections are agreed to be done as septic to the grinder system. It looks like the price will be about $12,000 a connection. The commission will try to see if the price can be lowered.

It would be great if the town engineer could find more grant money to assist in funding. Though the $12K number looks like it is what things cost. Based on other recent hookups through the county, that is likely the cost.

Manager Daniels and the commission emphasized that there would be no mandatory hookups and no special assessment to pay for anything. The commission also emphasized that they want to have a viable communications campaign to explain what is happening and to forestall any resident misunderstanding.

Please see the map below to understand where the first hookups will be.

Village of Indiantown

We will report on the September 14th meeting in our next edition.

Town of Ocean Breeze


This was the special council meeting to approve the millage and budget for the 2024 tax year commencing October 1st.

The town, even with the decrease in the millage of a tenth of a mill to .9 mills, would still collect slightly more ad valorem than last year. The amount will go from $64,000 to $72,000. The anticipated total income for Ocean Breeze will be $220,000.

The expenses are anticipated to be $264,000. The difference will come from the fund balance. At the end of the fiscal year, there will still be almost an entire year of expenses in the reserves.

A public speaker from Seawalk wanted the millage to decrease to .8 mills. The council by 4-2 voted to do just that. Then the council decided not to continue with the police patrols which cost $18,000 per year. That was a 5-1 vote.

There was also a move to cut a portion or all the increase from the deputy clerk of $11,000. It was unclear from the explanation why she was receiving the raise. The mayor, who is the chief operating officer, could not coherently tell the council why it was necessary.  There was also some question as to the increased computer expense that no one could adequately explain either.

The town consultant suggested they pass the millage and budget as printed with the millage dropping to .8 mills and the end of the sheriff’s patrol. In two weeks at the final hearing there can be further discussion.

It seems that the Seawalk development is heading down the path of ending incorporation. It would not be an unreasonable position. They should wait till the developers of the resort and Seawalk have finished their work. Then it may not be time for a frank discussion of why the municipality should continue.  

You can see the entire budget here 

Town of Jupiter Island

The next meeting is Monday September 18th.

Final Thoughts


How prevalent is this…even for countries as powerful as the U.S. How much do we rely on the private sector to operate the infrastructure of the nation? Make no mistake, the ability to use satellites is absolutely necessary in any war situation. For that matter, in any day-to-day situation.

Is the vaunted concept of private/public partnerships practical for the U.S. under any circumstances when it comes to infrastructure? I don’t know the answer to the question, but I know as a nation we can’t allow any private company or person to dictate our ability to defend ourselves and our allies.


If we are not dependent on a multi-national or even domestic company, then how do we make sure our allies aren’t either. Isn’t Ukraine, if not a formal ally, then a proxy for us and the rest of NATO?

Elon Musk certainly has the right to his beliefs just as any American does. But can we allow any individual to thwart U.S. policy if he/she disapproves? The free market doesn’t mean you sacrifice your beliefs for that of the government. Yet, there are some select sectors of the economy that cannot be beyond government’s ability to control.

During World War II the American government could count on the support of private manufacturers to change their production mix to a wartime footing. I don’t know if that will happen today. Ukraine is finding out that Mr. Musk is not willing to align his interests with any government’s.

He is not a Ukrainian citizen, but he is an American one by choice since he was born in South Africa. Would he allow his company to assist America in an operation even if he believed the policy was wrong? I just hope the U.S. won’t have to find out.



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

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


Tom’s Articles

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“Less Smoke But As Many Mirrors”


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