Beloved County Commissioner to be Remembered During Annual Event October 16-20
Florida Keys – 2022’s inaugural “Be Like Mike” week was a huge success, so there’s no better way to continue Mike’s legacy than to keep it going in 2023. “Mangrove” Mike Forster was a Monroe County Commissioner and restauranteur. He was also a member of the United Way of Collier and the Keys’ Local Advisory Board at the time of his passing in 2021.
“Mike loved our community and lived to serve others,” said Leah Stockton, Keys Area President, United Way of Collier and the Keys. “He’d be so happy to see volunteers committing these small acts of kindness, whether it be donating a canned good or picking up litter.”
There are countless ways to help, but this year, UWCK is partnering with Reef Relief for “Be Kind to our Shoreline,” which provides volunteers different cleanup locations. For the second year, UWCK will partner with Burton Memorial Church in Tavernier, Keys Area Interdenominational Resource in Marathon and Star of the Sea Foundation in Key West for a food drive. The donations made in Mike’s name will honor his biggest contribution to our community: feeding the Keys in times of need.
Be Kind to our Shoreline Feed the Keys
*Volunteers needed for shoreline beach cleanup
OCT 16: Indian Key Fills Cleanup
OCT 20: Burton Memorial Church (Tavernier)
OCT 18: Long Key State Park KAIR (Marathon)
OCT 19: White Street Pier & Higgs Beach Star of the Sea (Key West)
While you’re out spreading good, you are encouraged to use the hashtag #BELIKEMIKE on social media. More details are available at https://uwcollierkeys.org/belikemike/ and https://www.facebook.com/groups/belikemike2023
Proposed fee changes at Biscayne National Park to enhance visitor services at Boca Chita and Elliott Keys
Public comment period to run from September 22, 2023 to October 23, 2023.
HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- The National Park Service (NPS) invites public comment on
proposed changes to fees on Boca Chita and Elliott Keys in Biscayne National Park, including the implementation of a docking fee and a flat camping fee. These fees would be utilized to enhance visitor services and better address common issues, such as trash pick-up and disposal, dock repair, resource damage mitigation and facilities repair and maintenance.
Under the park’s proposal, a $45 docking fee would be implemented at both Boca Chita Key and Elliott Key harbors, taking effect January 1, 2024. The second proposed change is the elimination of the current “camping only” fee (camping without docking a boat), leaving a flat camping fee of $35.
“The proposed fees would enable Biscayne National Park to enhance the overall quality of the visitor experience and management of these remote islands,” said Biscayne National Park Acting Superintendent Randalle Burton. “The public’s feedback on this proposal is important to us and will help inform plans to provide the park experience our visitors seek and deserve.”
Boca Chita Docking
Elliott Key Docking
Boca Chita Camping
Elliott Key Camping
$35/night boat docking and camping
$25/night camping only (no boat docking)
$35/night boat docking and camping
$25/night camping only (no boat docking)
Proposed 2024 Rates
Eighty percent of docking fee revenue stays at Biscayne National Park to fund projects related to visitor experiences. Recent examples of fee revenue improvements include improved park signage, updated comfort stations and newly replaced picnic tables and grills. The remaining twenty percent of collected fees is allocated for visitor experience improvements at non-fee parks throughout the NPS.
Comments regarding the park’s proposed docking fee may be submitted electronically on the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website through October 23 at 11:59pm at:
Written comments may be mailed to:
National Park Service
Biscayne National Park
9700 SW 328 Street
Homestead, FL 33033
About Boca Chita Key and Elliott Key. Boca Chita and Elliott Keys offer unique national park experiences. Accessible only by boat, both locations feature beautiful waterfront views, grassy camping areas, docks, restrooms, picnic tables and grills. Recreational opportunities like these at Biscayne National Park contributed to boosting the local economy with visitors spending $50.9 million on hotels, gas, and restaurants in 2022. These expenditures supported a total of 659 jobs, $25.8 million in labor income, $43.6 million in value added and $74.1 million in economic output in local gateway economies surrounding Biscayne National Park.
About Biscayne National Park. Within sight of downtown Miami, Biscayne National Park protects a rare combination of subtropical islands, mangrove shoreline, biodiverse coral reefs, and 10,000 years of human history. The park is ninety-five percent water and encompasses the northernmost Florida Keys. Most of the park is only accessible by boat. Home to a vast array of species, visitors to Biscayne might encounter sea turtles, dolphins, sharks, stingrays, and the West Indian manatee. To learn more please visit https://www.nps.gov/bisc/index.htm For regular updates from the park follow us on https://www.facebook.com/BiscayneNPS and https://www.instagram.com/biscaynenps/
MONROE COUNTY, FL – The Monroe County Board of County Commissioners met today to finalize the proposed $667 million Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) budget. The budget includes the Board of County Commissioners, the constitutional officers, like the Sheriff's Office, Tax Collector, Property Appraiser, Supervisor of Elections, and Clerk of Court, and other appropriations for the Tourist Development Council, capital projects, and reserves.
Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi and Budget and Finance Director Tina Boan presented the budget with FY24 estimates of residential real estate trends, taxable property values, sales taxes, and state shared revenues, along with fund balance, reserves, and general fund.
“We are a little county with big county problems plus 5 million visitors a year,” said Gastesi. “This budget continues to meet our increased service demands for our residents, sustainability for our future, public safety, and more.”
With the finalized budget and countywide average property values, a homesteaded residential property owner with an average appraised taxable value of $484,735 will see an $11.24 monthly increase in their property tax for the FY24 year with the tentative budget. The taxable value is different from the market value.
FY24 budget key points:
The budget will go into effect Oct. 1, 2023 through Sept. 30, 2024. The Monroe County Office of Budget and Finance provides coordination and development of the budget. The award-winning office continues to work with inflation issues and Hurricane Irma and Ian impacts while providing for the department's daily operations, program enhancements, capital projects, and infrastructure improvements.
For more information about the budgeting process, visit www.monroecounty-fl.gov/budget.
MONROE COUNTY – The Monroe County Board of County Commissioners declared September as National Suicide Prevention and Action Month. The proclamation was created to raise the visibility of mental health and proactive suicide prevention resources in our community.
“We want to start the conversation, destigmatize it, and help connect people with the appropriate support services,” said Mayor Craig Cates in the proclamation. “Monroe County publicly places its full support behind those who work in mental health, education, and law enforcement.”
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34, with more than 48,000 people dying by suicide annually in the United States.
“We encourage all residents to take time to understand mental health through education and recognize that we need to take care of our mental health while we care for each other,” he said.
If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone, call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing #988 on any phone. Locally, someone can also call the Guidance/Care Center’s 24-hour hotline for behavioral health crises at 305-434-7660, press 8.
KEY LARGO, FLA – In honor of the late Monroe County Mayor Emeritus and long-serving commissioner Sylvia Murphy, the Monroe County Board of County Commissioners dedicated a plaque in the lobby at the Murray E. Nelson Government Center in Key Largo to her service and leadership.
“While we considered naming many things after Sylvia, she really would not have wanted even this,” said Commissioner David Rice, a longtime friend of Murphy. “But, she did so much for our community and the Florida Keys over the years, we would be remise not to do something, even small, in her honor. She is sorely missed.”
The plaque reads:
In Honor of Sylvia Murphy
Dedicated Service and Leadership
November 27, 1935 – November 26, 2022
A Champion of Progress and Community
Monroe County, Florida
2014 – 2020 County Commissioner, District 5
2021 – 2022 Monroe County Mayor Emeritus and bestower of the “Honorary Conch” award
May your legacy of dedication, vision, and tireless commitment to the betterment of our county inspire generations to come. Your unwavering leadership has left an indelible mark on our community, shaping a brighter future for all.
With Gratitude and Respect,
The people of Monroe County, Florida
And all that knew and loved her!
Celso Hernandez, left, Kevin Cuomo, and Giovanni Martinez were recognized at the September 2023 Board of County Commissioners meeting for their 10 years of service to Monroe County. (Hernandez and Cuomo celebrated their milestone in July, but waited for the Key Largo meeting to be recognized.)
MONROE COUNTY – The Monroe County Board of County Commissioners recognizes its long-term employees for their contributions to the citizens of the County. See below those celebrating milestones this month.
BOCC RECOGNIZES AIRPORT AWARD: Key West International Airport Named Commercial Service Airport of the Year
FLORIDA KEYS – The Monroe County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) recognized Key West International Airport Executive Director Richard Strickland and his staff Wednesday for being named Commercial Service Airport of the Year by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).
The airport received the award at the Statewide Continuing Florida Aviation System Planning Process Steering Committee Meeting held in conjunction with the Florida Airports Council annual conference in July.
FDOT annually recognizes superior achievement by presenting awards in eight different aviation categories, with Key West International Airport being nominated for Commercial Service Airport of the Year.
Mayor Craig Cates congratulated Strickland both for the award and the ongoing Concourse A and terminal improvements project at the Key West airport.
“I’d like to thank the staff for their hard work,” Strickland said. “None of this could be done without them.
Under his direction, Key West International Airport is made up of the following employees:
Airport Security, MCSO
The Key West Harry S. Truman Foundation and The Society of Presidential Descendants partner to present “Presidential Families Weekend and Forum” in February
The Key West Harry S. Truman Foundation, in partnership with The Society of Presidential Descendants, is pleased to present a series of special events to be held in celebration of Presidents’ Day Weekend, Thursday, February 15, through Monday, February 19, 2024, on the grounds of the Harry S. Truman Little White House, 111 Front Street, Key West, Florida.
Centerpiece of the long weekend is the annual Presidential Descendants Forum on February 17, featuring an assemblage of distinguished presidential descendants engaged in a moderated discussion on this year’s topic, “Political Maneuvering: The Powerful Influence of the Presidency.” Other events are to include a “Presidential Families Cocktail, Trivia, and Silent Auction Evening,” two live performances of the highly acclaimed stage production, “Give ‘Em Hell, Harry!”, starring President Harry S. Truman’s grandson, actor Clifton Truman Daniel, a presentation by renowned artist Tom Corbin, creator of the monumental Harry S. Truman bronze sculpture on display in the U.S. Capitol rotunda in Washington D.C., announcement of the 2024 student essay competition winners, and a traditional Presidents’ Day cookout.
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/foundation/events/.
Mayor Teri Johnston and the Key West City Commission unanimously voted to name the Key West Firehouse Museum in honor of the retired firefighter who saved the historic building for future generations. It now bears the name the Alex Vega Firehouse Museum at the Key West Historic Firehouse at 1024 Grinnell St.
Vega's journey with the Key West Fire Department began in 1975 when he was 22 years old. In 1992, his dedication was recognized when he was honored as the Firefighter of the Year. He retired in 2005.
In 1992, the City of Key West started discussions on demolishing the historic 135-year-old firehouse, prompting Vega's intervention. His efforts initiated the restoration and preservation of Fire Station No. 3, leading to the establishment of the nonprofit organization Old Fire House Preservation, Inc. Through his resourcefulness, Vega secured grants from both Tallahassee and local benefactors.
It took years of hard work and dedication from countless volunteers and other retirees to establish the museum. A dedicated historian and community advocate, Vega has devoted his life to safeguarding the history of his hometown. His extensive background as a second-generation firefighter, combined with his deep knowledge of local history, makes him an invaluable asset to the Museum.
“His familiarity with the firefighting profession and his family's involvement in it provide a rare insider's perspective that resonates with visitors,” wrote Commissioner and retired Fire Chief Billy Wardlow. “He serves as a bridge between the past and the present, connecting generations through stories, artifacts, and interactive displays. He is an irreplaceable figure in the museum's journey.”
Vega currently holds the position of President at the Key West Firehouse Museum. This role has been a labor of love for him, spanning nearly three decades of passionate service.
Summerland Key, FL (Grassroots Newswire) September 19, 2023 - EXIT Realty Paradise is pleased to announce that Kyle Koehler has joined its growing team of dedicated real estate sales professionals.
EXIT Realty Paradise, located at 24171 Overseas Hwy, Summerland Key, Florida is a proud member of EXIT Southeast's rapidly expanding network of independently owned and operated brokerages across the region.
About EXIT Realty: EXIT Realty is a company founded and built on human potential. A full service, forward-thinking, real estate franchisor with offices across North America, EXIT has to-date paid out more than a half a billion dollars in single-level residual income to its associates. A portion of every transaction fee received by EXIT Realty Corp. International is applied to its charitable fund, and to-date, $7 million has been allocated to charity. For more information, please visit www.exitrealty.com and www.joinexitrealty.com.
Submit Your Stories
Chamber members send us your press releases on your organizations accomplishments, staff awards and/or major happenings. We will post them for free.