Last week, Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi, County Attorney Bob Shillinger, Legislative Affairs Director Lisa Tennyson, and Planning and Environmental Services Director Emily Schemper, traveled to Tallahassee to speak to the Florida Keys delegation, as well as other State officials to discuss the Florida Keys Critical Area of State Concern and other important Florida Keys issues at the State level. A brief recap is below:
Flag Retirement Box Installed
Thanks to the impetus of two Key West City Ambassadors, City Hall now has a Flag Retirement Box!
Robert Irvine and Mike deBettencourt worked with Mayor Teri Johnston, Assistant City Manager Todd Stoughton and Community Services Foreman Richard Sarver to make this important service a reality.
Irvine got the ball rolling after being involved with a similar project in New Jersey.
The new box is outside of the customer service side of City Hall. It was unveiled last week, and Irvine and the Mayor deposited the first retired flags.
The retired flags will be delivered to American Legion Post 28 located on Stock Island next to the Key West Golf Club and they will burn the flags. Post 28 currently conducts flag burning ceremonies. In fact, the VFW Post 3911 on North Roosevelt Blvd. delivers their retired flags to the American Legion Post 28 for burning.
Radio One Key West, a leading local radio and multimedia company is announcing a new weekly local talk program called “Keys to Business” with host Buddy Shula which will air its inaugural show Saturday Feb 11th from 10am-11am on Yacht Rock Key 93.7 FM, key937.com, WKEY mobile app, and all voice-activated devices.
“Key West and the Lower Keys are on the cusp of a renewed entrepreneurial spirit. Local businesses are the life blood of our community, and we will spotlight them every Saturday morning on KEY 93” said WKEY Owner/President Buddy Shula. I could not be more thrilled to talk to our local business titans and engage in their story…. the good, the bad, and the ugly”
Each business will have a 14-minute segment with Shula, and there is no-cost to be on the show.
Shula says” As a local business myself, it’s my honor to speak to others who go through the same trials and tribulations as I do. I want them to tell their story so others can really understand the situations local business has to endure.”
To schedule your business appearance on the show, simply call KEY 93.7 at 201-WKEY.
Show tapings will be held via zoom or phone Tuesdays at 12:30pm.
The City of Key West and Habitat for Humanity Offer a Free Homeownership Course for Local Residents
Beginning February 22, 2023, the City of Key West and Habitat for Humanity will launch their second six-week free homeownership course for residents. The course will provide information and resources to help people begin getting ready to buy a home, focusing on affordable homeownership options in the Lower Keys.
The course is linked to homeownership opportunities for Keys workforce. The first development is through AH Monroe and the Lofts at Bahama Village, with 26 units that will become available for homeownership. The second is through Habitat for Humanity, with 8+ homes planned over the next few years.
Topics will include: Affordable Homeownership Opportunities in the Lower Keys; Credit Building; Budgeting for Homeownership; How Mortgages Work; HOAs and Closing Costs; and Down Payment and Closing Cost Assistance. Professional bankers and realtors from the community are volunteering to teach the classes, including Daunte Aguilar, Gisselle Garcia, Maggie Sayer, and Jimmy Lane and Marie Brouillette.
The first session of this course ran in 2022, and received excellent feedback from participants.
“The different options can get confusing,” says Hannah Edwards, Community Outreach Coordinator for Habitat. “The Habitat mortgage model works one way, and the affordable homeownership units regulated by the Housing Authority work slightly differently. If people know about the options and how they work, they can be ready to apply when something becomes available.”
This course will be capped at 20 attendees. Priority is being given to those who were on the waitlist after last year’s course. After that, participants will be accepted on a first come first serve basis. Attendees must commit to all 6 classes. A waitlist will be started when all seats are filled.
Classes will be held in the Fellowship Hall at Peace Covenant Presbyterian Church, 2610 Flagler Avenue, from 6:00pm–7:30 pm on Wednesdays, beginning February 22. For more information on the course, or to sign up, contact Hannah Edwards at firstname.lastname@example.org or 305-294-9006 ext. 2.
The Key West Harry S. Truman Foundation and The Society of Presidential Descendants partner to present “Presidential Families Weekend and Forum” February 18-20
The Key West Harry S. Truman Foundation, in partnership with The Society of Presidential Descendants, is set to host a series of special events in celebration of Presidents’ Day Weekend, Saturday, February 18, through Monday, February 20, 2023, on the elegant tropical grounds of the Harry S. Truman Little White House in Key West, Florida.
Centerpiece of the multi-day event is a Saturday, February 18, forum discussion among a gathering of distinguished presidential descendants on the topic of "Working Across the Aisle: American Bipartisanship.”
Moderated by Dr. Kurt Graham, director of Independence, Missouri’s federally operated Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum, this year’s scheduled participating presidential descendants are: Susan Ford Bales, daughter of Gerald Ford, 38th President of the United States; Clifton Truman Daniel, grandson of Harry S. Truman, the 33rd U.S. President; Mary Jean Eisenhower, granddaughter of 34th U.S. President General Dwight D. Eisenhower; Massee McKinley, great-great grandson of 22nd and 24th U.S. President Grover Cleveland, and great-great nephew of 25th U.S. President William McKinley; and Patricia Taft, great-granddaughter of William Howard Taft, the 27th U.S. President.
Forum tickets are $40 each for Harry S. Truman Foundation members, $60 for non-members. The Forum begins at 4:30pm, with doors and cash bar opening at 4:00pm. Following the Forum, winners of the inaugural Monroe County student essay competition will be announced, after which attendees can mingle and enjoy cocktails on the lawn.
At 5:00pm Sunday, February 19 and Monday, February 20, Clifton Truman Daniel, grandson of Harry S. Truman, will take the stage in a live performance of the acclaimed long-running stage production, “Give ‘Em Hell, Harry!” Truman Daniel is the first direct descendant to portray a presidential ancestor in a production of this kind, and both a scheduled and a popular-demand encore performance of the one-man show sold out last year. Seating is arranged at 2-top and 4-top bistro tables: 2-tops are $80 for Society members, $120 for non-members; 4-tops are $160 for members, $240 for non-members.
On Monday, February 20, the Little White House grounds will provide the setting for a family-friendly Presidents’ Day cookout with hamburgers, veggie burgers, and hotdogs available for purchase. A cash bar will also be available, and attendees are welcome to bring a picnic blanket for the lunchtime event.
The annual “Presidential Families Weekend and Forum” is the largest Presidents’ Day Weekend gathering of presidential descendants in the country. Traditionally hosted solely by The Key West Harry S. Truman Foundation, in 2022 the Foundation partnered for the first time with the recently founded Society of Presidential Descendants, a membership organization for individuals with direct lineage to one or more of the forty-six United States Presidents.
All events are to take place on the grounds of the Harry S. Truman Little White House, 111 Front Street, Key West, Florida. Other weekend offerings include guided tours of the Historic Little White House, self-guided botanical lawn tours, and ancillary cocktail parties. The “Presidential Families Weekend and Forum” is presented with the support of the Monroe County Tourist Development Council. For tickets and information, visit www.trumanlittlewhitehouse.org. For questions, email Rachel the support of the Monroe County Tourist Development Council.
About the Presidential Descendants Forum participants:
Dr. Kurt Graham, moderator of the 2023 Presidential Families Weekend Forum, is director of Independence, Missouri’s federally operated Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum and author of the book “To Bring Law Home: The Federal Judiciary.” With extensive experience in the library/museum world, his background also includes serving as director of the McCracken Research Library at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming, and as director of the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City, Utah. He has a Ph.D. in American History from Brown University, a B.A. and an M.A. from Brigham Young University in English and American Studies, and previously taught undergraduate and graduate courses in American political and legal/constitutional history at California State University, San Bernardino.
Susan Ford Bales, daughter of 38th U.S. President Gerald R. and Betty Ford, was raised in Alexandria, Virginia and studied photojournalism at the University of Kansas. She is recipient of three honorary doctorate degrees and author of two novels. Ms. Ford Bales is Ship’s Sponsor for the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) and in 2016 was named an Honorary Naval Aviator by the United States Navy, becoming the first woman and 31st American to receive this distinction. Ms. Ford Bales lived in the White House while in High School and during her early college career, and following her mother Betty Ford’s surgery for breast cancer, served as official White House hostess. She and her mother helped to launch National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and she subsequently served as national breast cancer awareness spokesperson. Ms. Ford Bales served on the Betty Ford Center’s board of directors, first as a director, then as chairman, and currently serves on the board of directors for the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. She is a founding member of The Society of Presidential Descendants, has been a Trustee of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation since 1981 and currently is co-chair of the Foundation’s Programs Committee. In addition to numerous charitable and public service activities, Susan is Co-Trustee of the President Gerald R. Ford Historical Legacy Trust, Trustee of the Elizabeth B. Ford Charitable Trust, and the Honorary Advisory Committee of the Children’s National Medical Center.
Clifton Truman Daniel is the oldest grandson of President Harry S. Truman and his wife, Bess. He is the son of author Margaret Truman and former New York Times Managing Editor E. Clifton Daniel Jr. Mr. Daniel is honorary chairman of the board of the Truman Library Institute, nonprofit partner of the Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Independence, MO, and board secretary of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation. He was a founding member and currently serves as Vice President of the Society of Presidential Descendants. Author of “Growing Up With My Grandfather: Memories of Harry S. Truman” and “Dear Harry, Love Bess: Bess Truman’s Letters to Harry Truman, 1919-1943,” Clifton Truman Daniel is currently portraying his grandfather in the one-man stage show, Give ‘Em Hell Harry, as well as writing and lecturing on the Truman presidency.
Mary Jean Eisenhower is a granddaughter of 34th U.S. President General Dwight D. and Mamie Eisenhower. She was born in Washington, D.C. during Eisenhower’s first term in office, was christened in the Blue Room of the White House, and grew up in nearby Gettysburg, PA. She attended several schools in PA until her father, John Eisenhower, was named as US Ambassador to Belgium, where she lived with her family from 1969 through 1972. Ms. Eisenhower served as a Fellow at Stanford University and at The Churchill Foundation at Westminster College, and is president and chairman emeritus of People to People International. A global humanitarian, she has traveled to more than 75 countries, visiting demining teams and Peace Camps while supporting student and cultural programs. Mary Jean sits on the board of trustees for the Society of Presidential Descendants, holds three honorary doctorate degrees, and has been recognized with numerous awards, including the Knight of Peace Award from the International University in Assisi, Italy; the Medal of Honor from the Slovak Republic; The Harry S. Truman Award for Public Service; the Consular Corps Award of Excellence, and others.
Massee McKinley is the great-great grandson of 22nd and 24th U.S. President Grover Cleveland, and great-great nephew of 25th U.S. President William McKinley. He is a founding member and serves as vice president and chief of staff of The Society of Presidential Descendants. He holds an MBA from the Terry College of Business of the University of Georgia, and is the founding partner of Peerage Communications, LLC, an executive and political communications boutique consulting firm headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. Massee has written for the likes of Delta Airlines, The Coca-Cola Company, LVMH (Louis Vuitton), Hermès and Ferragamo, as well as for three former United States House Speakers.
Patricia Taft is an interior designer turned political and popular culture aficionado and pundit. Born into the Taft Political Dynasty, Patricia is the great granddaughter of 27th President and 10th Chief Justice of United States, William Howard Taft, and granddaughter of esteemed Senior Senator, Robert A. Taft Sr., affectionately referred to as Mr. Republican. Patricia, a fervid proponent of civics education and the preservation of the integrity of the U.S. Presidency, currently sits on the board of trustees for The Society of Presidential Descendants. Specifically, as a member of the board of directors for National First Ladies Day, Patricia holds immense passion for maintaining the important legacy of American First Ladies, such as her great grandmother, Helen Herron Taft. Annually, she looks forward to celebrating her great grandmother’s legacy and critical role in bringing Washington D.C.’s many cherry blossom trees into fruition through the National Cherry Blossom Festival. Currently, Patricia resides in Santa Monica, CA, with her husband, daughter, and French Bulldog, where she enjoys focusing on her affinity for all things past and present American culture through the development of her upcoming podcast and children’s book series.
The City of Key West will be hosting a parade reenacting an historical march from the 1890s, kicking off Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park’s Annual Civil War Heritage Days event.
The parade begins at 4 p.m. on Friday, February 3rd. It starts with a memorial service at the historic Clinton Square at the foot of Whitehead Street.
From there, the park anticipates over 100 reenactors to march a route that will take them past the Mel Fisher Museum, down a block of Front to Duval, then up to Southard Street where they will continue until reaching Fort Zachary Taylor.
This will be the 32nd celebration of Civil War Heritage Week in which visitors to the state park will be greeted by volunteers reenacting the Union soldiers who occupied the fort during the Civil War.
FLORIDA KEYS COUNCIL OF THE ARTS HOSTS ANNUAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING, KICKS OFF COUNTY 200-YEAR CELEBRATIONS WITH ANNUAL MAGAZINE
Monroe County Pro Tem Holly Merrill Raschein attended the Florida Keys Council of the Arts annual meeting held Thursday on Pigeon Key. Merrill Raschein is the Board of County Commissioners liaison for the council. The membership meeting included unveiling “Culture,” an annual magazine placed in the hotel rooms and other locations for visitors to learn about cultural events and activities throughout the Florida Keys. Monroe County Mayor Craig Cates does the welcome message in the magazine.
In addition to the magazine’s calendar of cultural events, two local writers have featured stories. Jill Zima Borski chronicles “200 Years of the Florida Keys” in her piece, and historian Brad Bertelli exposes “The Florida Keys: Historic Lighthouses, Island Wonders, and Natural Beauty.” Each spoke at the membership meeting. The county is celebrating the 200-year anniversary of Monroe County this year, and the Florida Keys Council of the Arts is helping celebrate by including bicentennial themes in its annual events.
The 2023 “Connections Project” is also celebrating 200 Years of the Florida Keys. The project will include 300 unique art pieces on 6x8 canvases that will travel from Key Largo to Key West from Feb. 7 to April 20. Receptions will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. at the following locations and are open to the public:
To view the “Culture” magazine, visit https://fla-keys.com/pdf/culture/CultureMag2023.pdf. To learn more about the Florida Keys Council of the Arts, visit keysarts.com.
The City of Key West is moving forward with work on the Diesel Plant in Bahama Village. The beloved mural on the building will be temporarily relocated while the two non-historic portions of the building are demolished. The mural will be stored safely until the building is restored.
The demolition is the first step to ensuring that the historic structure is shored up for preservation. This step leads the way to issuing a request for proposals for the eventual rehabilitation of the site.
The plant was originally built in the late 1800s to generate gas used for lighting homes, businesses, and streets. It was decommissioned in the 1960s. In the early 2000s, the community voted to accept the transfer of ownership of the building from Keys Energy to the City of Key West.
The site consists of several buildings, two of which have no historic value. By removing them, the historic part of the building will be accessible for shoring up, if necessary. The City’s Chief Building Official Raj Ramsingh is overseeing the work.
The plant is adjacent to the land where the affordable housing project The Lofts is about to be constructed. Both parcels are next to the Truman Waterfront Park.
City officials are looking for interest from the public to redevelop the plant in a way that ensures the preservation of the historic building while enhancing the neighborhood.
In response to community requests, and to ensure pedestrian safety on the busy Eaton Street, the City of Key West has improved center line markings and signage in the area of Elizabeth, Margaret, and William streets.
Eaton Street is a county road, so our engineering and community services departments met with the county to ensure there were no objections.
Given the green light, the improvements were made.
“We are happy to do all we can to improve the safety of our residents and visitors,” said City Manager Patti McLaughlin. “This part of Old Town is quite congested, and we need to remind people to yield to pedestrians.”
Key to Be the Change Month
Mayor Teri Johnston and the Key West City Commission have proclaimed January Key to Be the Change Mentoring Month. But for the many mentors in the community, every month is mentoring month.
First established in 2014, Keys to Be the Change provides programs, education, awareness and opportunities that empower children, youth and adults to improve health, wellness and skills for success in school and in life. Mentors play a vital role by providing crucial emotional and social support to our children and youth as they grow and develop into our next generation of future citizens and leaders.
The program collaborates with the City of Key West, the Key West Police Department, JIATFS (Joint Interagency Task Force South which includes personnel from the US Coast Guard, Army, Airforce and Marines) as well as numerous community members.
“The organization recognizes that mentoring results in less truancy,” reads the proclamation, “higher rates of graduation, fosters better attitudes regarding law enforcement and encourages bonding with school as well as community.”
“Our kids are so lucky,” said Keys to Be the Change Executive Director Heidi Golightly, “that we have these people in our back yard. They have jumped in to help our high risk youth.”
She noted the youth leaders of the organization, noting that they were a testament to the success of Key to Be the Change.
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