Tom Campenni

Friends & Neighbors is designed to give you the information that is happening within our County. My goal is to inspire you to get involved and make a change to make Martin County the best it can be. There is lot’s to do! – Tom

News And Views










As noted below in this edition of Friends & Neighbors, you will see how policy in both the City of Stuart and Martin County is driven by the vocal few.

In the film “Casablanca,” Major Renault was shocked to hear that gambling was happening in Rick’s Café even as he was being handed his winnings from the tables. At the last BOCC meeting, the commission looked on in total surprise during a discussion about a local park’s neglected maintenance. You could almost hear them wondering how this had occurred.


The commission is being as cynical as the fictional major was. Of course, the park which was the subject of the agenda item was not in the best shape. The commission had been spending money on things like a new golf course with a state-of-the-art Top Golf facility instead of the dreary day-to-day expense of fixing community ball fields and park benches. It took a few parents who had finally had enough to vocally complain to have the commission act.


At the City of Stuart commission meeting, it wasn’t even residents and voters who were trying to affect the policy of praying before meetings. Commissioner Collins, who claims to represent Stuart, packed the chamber with non-Stuart residents to influence both Eula Clarke and Becky Bruner to change their stated opinions from keeping the moment of silence to having a prayer before the meeting.


In both instances, the commissioners made policy not for what is best for the county and city but because of the protest of a few people. The parents that wanted Wojcieszak Park were not wrong in their desire to have a safer environment for their children. It was that the commission threw those parents a few bones while the reason the park was in that shape was left unaltered.


Their decision to fund the sexy stuff like the golf course or splash water park has left the other parks without adequate funds to maintain their facilities. That has not changed. $1.6 million dollars in capital improvements per year is not adequate to keep 72 parks up to par. They know it but acted as if it were some big surprise.


The city commission is even more spineless because they made a mountain out of a mole hill and then refused to die even on the mole hill. A year ago, School Board Member DiTerlizzi asked that a prayer be said before their school board meeting. Every other member agreed. I guess they thought it was not worth the battle.


I would have said the same thing when the issue came under discussion in Stuart. It didn’t appear that any commissioner other than Dr. Collins really cared. When first broached by Collins, they could have just said yes. They didn’t.


For the past 2 months, this has taken an inordinate amount of time during their meetings, and for no good reason. This movement is a concentrated effort by a small minority of non-Stuart residents. Both School Board Members DiTerlizzi and Pritchett and Ocean Breeze Council Member Gina Kent though not residents of the city spoke in favor. Non city residents have no business intruding into city affaires. And their assertions that they are always in Stuart ring hollow and don’t matter even if true.


The commissioners didn’t care about their 40-year policy of being non-denominational with the moment of silence. Both Mayor McDonald and Commissioner Rich did not vote to have the prayer. Bruner and Clarke were swayed not by voters or residents but by a mob of outsiders.


In both cases, I am deeply disappointed not so much because of the outcomes but by how those outcomes were manipulated.






As a political slogan, “Drain the swamp” wasn’t a bad idea. But, of course, was only a slogan to Trump and his administration.

Washington may be too far gone for any draining to occur regardless of who is president or a member of Congress. Politicians bashing corporations and special interests are theater and rhetoric and not anything the public should take very seriously. We would all like to think that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is somehow different.


Sorry to disappoint but he is just as much at the trough of big business as anyone. The governor just had his second inaugural bash that was funded in part by two major lobbyists for Disney. Another example of a “woke” corporation being taught what it means to be an enemy of the state. Apparently, they get to bankroll fancy events.


Why is it that any private person or entity is even funding these ceremonies and events? Nowhere in the Florida Constitution does it say the governor taking the oath of office is followed by a big hoedown. I bet the governor could manage to find a judge or even a notary public to administer the oath free of charge. Yes, parties are nice but why do politicians from presidents to local officials feel they need to strong arm their supposed “enemies” to buy the champagne?


How does it look to the average citizen when he sees that one-minute Disney is the “wokiest” thing going and yet the governor takes their money for a party? It looks awfully like a swamp to me. We need to remember Florida has the Everglades, the best-known swamp in America.


We tried to drain the Everglades for over a hundred years until recently when Floridians including our governor decided to be ecologically correct. Now we want swamps to remain swamps. I guess that goes for the political kind too.


As Published In Martin County Moment






Is enough finally enough?


When it comes to the senseless carnage that mass shootings have caused, we are long past time. Americans, especially our children, are being sacrificed on the altar of a crazy interpretation of the Second Amendment. An interpretation that most Americans believe is inaccurate.

LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT — “Russian Brides” Episode 1307 — Pictured: Danny Pino as Det. Nick Amaro — Photo by: Will Hart/NBC

How long does it take for an immigrant to become “Americanized?” Huu Can Tran, an elderly Chinese-born California resident, was the perpetrator of a shooting resulting in 11 dead and 9 injured victims in Monterey Park. The police entered his house where they found more weapons, homemade silencers, and a large quantity of ammunition. His weapon of choice for the massacre was a semi-automatic Mac-10 pistol with an extended magazine.


Like Tran, the victims were mostly of Asian descent in a city in Los Angeles County that is predominantly populated by Asian-Americans. The reasons may never be known, but his other arrest in 1990 was for weapon possession…another uniquely American charge.


Two days after the shooting in Monterey Park, another mass shooting occurred. It was in Half Moon Bay in northern California and another more regular massacre occurred in a school in Iowa. The Half Moon victims were of Chinese descent as was the shooter. While the two dead at the Iowa charter school (plus the founder who was wounded) were Black as was the shooter. The shooter and the 2 dead were members of rival gangs.


As of January 23rd, the United States has had 39 mass shootings since the beginning of this year. A mass shooting is defined by an incident where four or more people have been killed or injured. Iowa doesn’t even count.


Most Americans believe that we can own a gun for sport, hunting, and even protection. I believe that and I own guns. However, nothing in the amendment means that certain weapons shouldn’t be banned, that there shouldn’t be background checks, or training before owning and carrying a firearm.


I agreed with the recent Supreme Court decision striking down New York’s Sullivan Law. That was an infringement on a right because a citizen had to prove to the government that you needed a firearm before being allowed to buy one. If the assumption is we all have that right, you should also agree that there are reasonable responsibilities that also must be part of the right.


How many Americans need to die, especially children, before we come to our senses? There aren’t enough metal detectors, police officers, and security fences to keep us safe even if every good guy is packing heat. Don’t we deserve something better than being afraid to be in a crowd?






The Governor’s Cabinet has unanimously reversed the administrative law judge’s ruling in the Kanner CPUD (Costco) case today.

The decision was a long time coming but anticipated. There was no basis for the judge to rule in the way she did. Having listened to much of that hearing, it was as if Judge Ffolkes had forgotten what evidence she deemed admissible.


Most of the case put on by the attorney at the Governor’s Cabinet for Ms. Robin Cartwright, who was the person who brought the case before the ALJ, was based on proffered evidence that during the trial was ruled inadmissible by Judge Ffolkes yet was what the judge’s order was largely based upon.


Back in November of last year at the hearing, cabinet members including Nikki Fried, the Democrat who has since lost her election for another term as Commissioner of Agriculture, stated that the judge’s ruling was in error. It took to the January meeting for the cabinet to make their decision public.


The order will be presented for signature at the March meeting even though according to an attorney, that was at the proceeding today who is not connected with the case, who stated that in all the years the attorney has practiced in Tallahassee it would be highly unusual for it to go before the council three times.


If the Governor’s Council’s Order is asked by Cartwright to be overturned in the Appeals Court there is a probability it would be immediately dismissed, I am told by attorneys close to the case. A panel of appellant judges could allow attorney’s fees for the prevailing party paid by the looser. Further once the cabinet’s written order is issued regardless of an appeal a permit can be obtained from the city and construction can begin.


This should have never gone this far. The then commission composed of Merritt Matheson, Mike Meier, Eula Clarke, Beckie Bruner, and Troy McDonald in a 5-0 vote after 14 hours in two meetings did the right thing by following the law. Both statute and the city’s own codes gave them little alternative.


Despite the law and codes, they were able to convince the developer to give things that were much more than could be expected. Roads, ponds, more landscaping, and other improvements became part of the package. The developer was very accommodating to these amenities.


The apartments in the package are not low-cost housing but given the area’s AMI (average median income) most of the rents would fall at or a bit above that amount, I understand. If you count the jobs created by Costco and the rest of the development, Stuart and all of Martin County is much better off with this project than without.


The NIMBYs defeat are the taxpayers, job seekers, people looking for an apartment, and all the residents win. There will be additional struggles and other obstacles by the “Nyet People”, but the biggest obstacle has now been overcome. I don’t often agree with Governor DeSantis but this time his decision with the concurrence of his cabinet was right on the money.


As Published In Martin County Moment





Other Opinions





By Keith Fletcher CEO & President of

Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County


As kids, many—if not most—of us were told we could be whatever we wanted to be when we grew up. So, we grew up believing it.


Sadly, many of the kids at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County (BGCMC) seldom hear such words of encouragement. Worse, some are told they’ll amount to nothing. So, before those words set in too deeply, we make it our calling—our sacred duty, in fact—to cultivate a climate where they’re reminded regularly that they’re loved, accepted, and filled with limitless potential.

Then we show them the ways in which they can realize and channel that potential.


Thanks to partners such as Martin Health Cleveland Clinic, the kids have donned scrubs and—guided by surgical teams—received hands-on experience with actual medical equipment conducting mock operations.

Thanks to our partnership with Indian River State College, kids as young as 13 are learning beginner level drone piloting training in route to eventually earning FAA-remote pilot certifications.


Thanks to the hospitality professionals who head our culinary program, youth at elementary, middle and high school levels receive age-appropriate kitchen training—including knife skills, sanitation knowledge and cooking lessons—to excel in top restaurant environments. Some put those skills to test right now, operating our Fork in the Road food truck, covering every aspect imaginable—including growing in our gardens many of the ingredients included in the meals they serve—catering local BGCMC events.


Advanced virtual reality platforms enable the kids as early as middle school to explore—through computerized avatars—skilled trades such as carpentry, plumbing, electrical and HVAC, free of the liability risks associated with visiting actual job sites. Such training technologies are proven to enhance real-life performances across a range of careers. Virtually trained surgeons, studies how, to commit six-times fewer errors on the operating table; soldiers demonstrate nearly three times the levels of success in the executions and outcomes of their assigned missions.

Whether they grow to become soldiers, surgeons, plumbers, pilots, carpenters, computer programmers or leaders of some fascinating new field none of yet knows will exist, the young people at BGCMC can grow up to be whatever they can imagine.


Thanks to the support and partnerships of this generous community, we can spark those imaginations and equip them to achieve what it awakens.


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



By Darlene VanRiper



I attended the Legislative Delegation forum on January 13th.


It was held at the Wolfe Center at IRSC, Chastain Campus on Salerno Road.  This is a public forum held once a year to allow any citizen to voice their grievances, opinions or praise on Senator Gayle Harrell, Rep. Toby Overdorf and Rep. John Snyder as they are our current elected officials.


I was dismayed by the amount of set up and fluff on the part of the speakers.  Government officials and non-profit representatives pandering really to the elected representatives. They are explaining what they are going to explain to them when they travel the 6.5 hours to Tallahassee for “Legislative Days”.  A waste of time and resources in my opinion.

The Legislative public forum can be a useful tool.  One can make public one’s issue…get it “on the record” so to speak.   But honestly, non-profits and government officials know that they can call their representatives any day of the week and get an audience at the official’s office.   It would be more productive.


And they likely would not be limited to 5 minutes.  The 5-minute limitation for government officials, but 3-minute limitation for private citizens just seemed wrong on its face.  It should be just the opposite.  But private citizens should know that they too would be received at the offices of our representatives. They would certainly get a lot more time than 3 minutes.


We are fortunate here in Martin County.   We are only 160,000 residents so setting an appointment with our officials is not difficult.  They all have local offices so no need to drive 6.5 hours to Tallahassee.


The annual Legislative Days in the capitol is a crazy event to be avoided at all costs.  People travel for hours to overpriced hotel rooms, overcrowded and expensive restaurants to spend 5 minutes with their senator or representative.  The elevators are elbow to elbow, the hallways are a mass of confusion.


Your visit to their local office will be much more memorable.  And isn’t that what you want, for your issue to be first and foremost in the mind of someone who may be able to act upon it?


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




Nicki’s Place

By Nicki van Vonno





My sister lingers in a nether world of memories and visions. She has been slowly slipping away from us. She has COPD and now dementia. She lives in a nursing home, after years of my nephew caring for her at home.


Before, she could talk. Now she mostly sleeps or fidgets. Her once talkative roommate would talk too. I had to steel my heart; it hurt too much to see my sister. I could not absorb her roommate’s sorrow and confusion on top of my own.

As I visit, I watch my sister scratching and realize I do the same. Eczema runs in the family. I wash my skin with medicated soap touted by the doctor columns in the newspaper.


I decorated a 4-foot silver tree for Twinkle. It is still up, in my family room, bedazzled with ornaments of food and family. I go to the nursing home. I stick my visitor’s name tags on my calendar, trying to prove to myself I am a good sister.


An old picture book about a little lost angel comes out every Christmas. The littlest angel of the Chorus that announced Christ’s birth fell asleep among the baby lambs and couldn’t get back to heaven. She was adopted by a childless couple and gave away her harp, her wings, and her crown to help others. I thought I was the angel.


But now I see the wisdom of God’s ways. My sweet twinkle, twinkle little star. She is the angel sent to earth so that our family could learn love, patience, and forgiveness. She was born prematurely, her lungs never fully developed. She could not take nourishment. My grandmother figured out she was allergic to breast milk and formula and kept her alive with cow’s milk. At some point she was blinded by a baseball and became deaf in one ear. She was one of those people who caught everything and got it worse than others with the same illness. My parents paid for classes, rent, and medical expenses, much to my stepfather’s ire. My late husband was her last helper.


My sister was also my spiritual advisor, balancing the evangelical faith of my father to the Catholicism of my mother. When I was twelve, I was confirmed in the Catholic Church. I wanted my confirmation name to be Joan. My sister and I recently watched movies about Joan and Bernadette. How I loved the warrior saint. My sister convinced me to choose Bernadette, who was visited by the Virgin Mary at Lourdes, creating a place for healing. I followed her advice.


My sister would urge health, wisdom, and kindness. In a world where you can be anything, be kind. Amen.


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





By David Hafner




We use the saying “New Year, New Me” quite heavily when talking about changes we will make in the new year.


New goals are set for living healthier, managing money better, and using time in a more valuable way. My goals for the new year were set long before New Year’s Eve.


If you’ve been reading along over the last year and a half, you may have noticed most of my articles focus on agriculture and kids. These are two areas that I am very passionate about. I bring together both of those passions when I work with the youth members of the Martin County 4-H program.

This past summer I learned that the Martin County 4-H Agent would be leaving and there would be an opportunity for me to apply to take over this role. I went right to work building my resume and securing letters of reference from strong stakeholders who would help me achieve this goal.


My passion shined through during the application process and led the hiring agents to select me to lead our 4-H programming in Martin County! I was selected in October and began my new role January 3rd. “New Year, New Me.”

In this role as the 4-H agent I am a faculty member of the University of Florida. That means all the resources of this great university are at my fingertips and I get to share them with the future leaders in our 4-H clubs and after school programs.


“Hi, my name is David Hafner, and I am excited to say I am the new Martin County 4-H Youth Program Agent. I am no stranger to Martin County 4-H as I have been a club volunteer and leader for the last 7 years, a member of the Martin County 4-H Advisory Committee for 5 years, and I am an alumnus of Martin County 4-H having been a member of the Martin County Equine Judging Team and the Bits & Spurs 4-H Club 20+ years ago. Above all that I have 3- soon to be 4- sons enrolled in Martin County 4-H, so believe me when I say this program is important to me and I am invested.”


I am excited to take on this new role serving our youth and community through 4-H. I will give my head, heart, hands, and health for our clubs, community, country, and world and I can’t wait to share with you how Martin County’s awesome 4-H youth are making the best better!


Please keep in the back of your mind that 4-H is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and I will be looking for people and organizations in our community to support our programming. If you would like to learn more about 4-H and/or how to support our programming, please contact me at I would love to show you how 4-H is growing a brighter future for and with Martin County’s youth.


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





Rob Ranieri

CEO for House of Hope



House of Hope continues to deliver on our mission to empower residents to overcome hunger and hardship.


We accomplish this by providing support in both the basic needs (food pantries, clothing, and financial assistance) and life skills lane. In today’s column I am excited to update you on our efforts in the life skills lane. House of Hope moved into the life skills arena over four years ago.


In reviewing our client data, we saw many common obstacles faced by the households that we serve, particularly in health and nutrition, education, job readiness, computers and the arts.


Our Centers for Enrichment provide a base for us to provide key programs and services in communities of need. The Centers are in Jensen Beach and Golden Gate. Last year, our no cost programs reached 863 individuals with nearly 4,000 services.

We recently finished construction on an outdoor classroom at the Golden Gate Center thanks to the support of the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties. This will increase our learning space and help us to reach even more people with valuable services and programs.


This summer we will add the KinDoo Center in Indiantown to the House of Hope Enrichment facilities. The Centers offer programs for all ages, from early learning to senior programs and all ages in between, with 25 different classes and services offered last year. Programs include Quit Smoking Now!, English as a Second Language, Homework Helpers for Children, Art 4Kids, Art 4 Women, Mindful Movement, and more.


It is not unusual to see entire families take advantage of the programs and services. One example saw children receiving homework help, while one parent participated in English as a Second Language and the other received Career Coaching.


Our Nutrition and Health Education program is supported by our four garden sites across Martin County, as well as our Traveling Nutrition Education Garden. This year we have expanded our staff to add a second Nutrition educator, which has allowed us to expand into Wellness programming, including mindfulness, meditation and more. Nearly 3,000 individuals participated in health and nutrition classes last year, including 211 children receiving weekly lessons with pre-post testing that showed 87% increased knowledge of nutrition concepts and 93% reported trying a new fruit or veggie during the program.


House of Hope continues to look for ways to help our clients move toward financial stability and independence. Our dedicated staff committed partners and funders, and passionate volunteers work together to develop and launch innovative and engaging programs. If you would like to learn more about us, are interested in our services, or would like to volunteer, please visit our website at www.hohmartin .org.


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




By Michele Libman M.D.




Menopause and Andropause


As we age one of the unfortunate consequences is that our hormone levels drop.  In women this can be a dramatic change, whereas men tend to have more of a gradual decline.   The media has designated this as andropause in men to counter the commonly known complaints of women going through menopause.


However, there are some important distinctions.  Women who have gone through menopause are no longer able to have children naturally but men with declining testosterone levels can still father children.  Menopausal symptoms usually are sudden in onset whereas men may not have any symptoms at all, and if they do, they are gradual in onset.


Both menopause and andropause can cause similar symptoms… fatigue, brain fog, night sweats, depression, hair loss, anxiety, weight gain, loss of libido, and vaginal dryness in women and erectile dysfunction in men. To confirm the diagnosis a simple blood test can be done to document the low levels of female hormones (estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone) as well as low levels of testosterone in men.


Some natural ways to help combat these changes is to maintain regular exercise habits, eat a healthy diet rich in nutrients and low in sugar and carbohydrates. Wearing loose lightweight clothing can help keep night sweats at bay.  In addition, spicy foods, alcohol, and caffeine can all raise body temperature which can make night sweats worse so should be avoided.


It is also best to stop smoking.  Relaxing activities such as yoga, tai chi and doing deep breathing exercises can help ease some of the symptoms.  Women should also take calcium and Vitamin D as well as get some sunlight exposure to keep their bones strong.


There are some natural supplements such as black cohosh, flaxseed, and soy that have been used to counter some of the effects of menopause although the research appears mixed as to whether they actually work.


If you are interested in hormone replacement therapy, you should talk to your doctor about prescribing bio identical hormones which are derived from plant sources and have a chemical composition that is identical to that produced in the body.  The Large Women’s Health Initiative study that linked hormone replacement therapy with an increased risk of cancer was done using synthetic forms of hormone replacement such as Premarin which is derived from the urine of pregnant horses. The research appears to support the safety of bio identical hormones although more large-scale studies need to be done.


Hormones can be delivered in many forms including by pill, topical formulation, and injections. You can also have a 15 minute in office procedure where a bio identical hormone pellet is inserted under the skin which allows the hormones to be released according to the body’s natural circadian rhythm… this only needs to be done 3-4x a year so allows you to have all the benefits of the treatment without having to remember to take pills, give yourself injections, or apply messy creams.  You should discuss with your physician as to which option is best for you.


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





By John Gonzalez



Welcome to 2023. Personally, l am looking forward to a fresh start and new adventures. I tend to be an optimist and usually see a glass as half full. As I look forward to the new year I am searching for the bright lights on the horizon (and not a train coming my way).


The national headlines are generally predicting strong downturns in the overall housing market. I tend to agree that these forecasts are likely to be true in some regions. Higher interest rates have pushed down the buying power of the general real estate borrower and commercial developers. This is the intention of the Federal Reserve in its efforts to stem inflation in an overheated market. I live and work in Florida, specifically the Treasure Coast, and see a different picture in our local real estate economy.


Florida’s numbers are not like the majority of our 50 states when it comes to real estate prices and demand. We buck most of the trends. Clearly, we have had a pull back on demand and pricing, but I believe it is temporary and is already beginning to correct itself. I have real estate advisors in my office that are putting in low offers (at their client’s insistence) that are quickly and soundly rejected. Many of our out of state visitors are convinced by all the headlines that they can come to Florida and buy real estate at depressed prices. I am not finding that to be the case.

2021 was the best real estate year this country, and Florida, has ever seen. The statistical analysis of our local 2022 4th quarter versus our 2021 4th quarter shows some interesting data. Home prices have had an increase in value – year over year. There are more homes on the market which provide greater choice and options. Not surprisingly, less homes sold in the 4th quarter 2022 but there was a healthy volume of transactions. In 2021 homes sold, on average, at 98.6% of the asking price. In 2022 the percentage was 95.7% of the asking price. It is interesting that buyers approach our market and “expect” 10-15% off the asking price but the data shows that this is not only unreasonable but unsupported by the numbers.


Exceptions to the rule always exist. There are sellers out there that have had tremendous gains in the value of their home. I have seen estate sales that gave deep discounts to the market value simply to sell the property. There are sellers that sense their profits will disappear, because the news leads them to believe there will be another real estate crash, so they sell below fair market value.


My advice is to stay calm, make fair offers and sell for reasonable prices. Consulting and using a real estate professional in times like these will not only give you great exposure and information – but it might also save you from buying too high or selling too low. Remember – like it or not – Florida will always be on the top of the list of the best places to live on this planet.


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





By Missi Campbell

Executive Director of the Palm City Chamber



I was granted the opportunity to grow up here in Martin County.


I will always be grateful to my parents for this amazing opportunity. The only drawback is that I never get to have out of town company because everyone I know lives here. This past weekend, we had the chance to invite friends we met traveling to come and stay with us in Palm City. They live in New Hampshire so why wouldn’t they choose to leave the snow and cold for a nice weekend in the 80’s in Florida?


We were able to highlight the beauty and friendliness of Martin County. Friday, we took a leisurely boat ride in the river and when we got to the inlet the Atlantic Ocean was so calm, that we ventured out.

Watching the expressions on the faces of our friends while we cruised along the coastline looking at the wonderful homes, it made me appreciate where we live even more. The fact that we can just step in the boat and cruise into the amazing ocean is something that should be valued every day. Then we came home and had a fresh fish dinner of previously caught local fish.


The Palm City Chamber of Commerce had their annual Clay Shoot on Saturday at the South Florida Shooting Club. We went with our guests out west of Palm City to a lovely shooting club venue. The weather was perfect with cloudy skies and a light breeze. Breakfast and lunch were served by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County’s Fork in the Road food truck. Imagine supporting our youth and enjoying great food all at the same time!


Sunday was time for a terrific brunch on the beach at Kyle G’s. The restaurant and scenery made for an excellent treat for our eyes and our bellies. Driving along A1A on the beach and over the bridges, creates a pleasurable experience for your senses. The ocean smells, sounds, and power are always astonishing.


Then it was back on the boat for a trip to downtown Stuart with Rockin’ Riverfront. We were able to walk along the river and listen to the music. Shopping and a visit to a few restaurants completed the afternoon.


I don’t want to be the person that takes what Martin County has to offer for granted. We didn’t even have time to explore the museums, hiking trails, and parks. Our friends will visit again, and I am confident that we will be able to share more of Martin County proudly!


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





BY Capt. Paul Sperco


The calendar is moving right along as we head into the height of the winter season, and I am happy to report the local fishing is on fire.


The beach is the place to be right now as the Spanish mackerel, bluefish, jacks, ladyfish, and the star of the show, the pompano, are being caught from Vero Beach to Juno. It is Monday morning January 23 as I am posting this column and just completed a fantastic day of pompano fishing with my son, Captain Randy.

Randy caught his recreational limit of 6 pompano in a short time and then helped me add another 26 pompanos from one and half to three pounds into the cooler. I have a commercial license to catch and then sell these tasty fish. I am allowed to keep a much bigger number than the 6 that is legal for the recreational angler.


The biggest factor to all of these fish making the showing that they are right now is the last two cold fronts we experienced. The first one on Christmas weekend and the last from a week and a half ago. The north winds and temperature drop into the forties cools the waters to the north of us and the above mentioned species will migrate down the coast and take advantage of our water temperatures that we have this time of year, usually in the low seventies.


We have not had any sustained cold fronts the last two years and that contributed to the less than spectacular surf fishing seasons we have had. All that has changed this year so far and the fishing is excellent. The key to catching pompano is the ability to reach them with long surf rods (10 to 12 feet) paired with a Longcast brand spinning reel or a Penn Spinfisher 6500 or 7550 model. In the Longcast model is the tackle you will need to catch them consistently.

As far as bait is concerned Fishbites has been my key to success and this season the newly produced Powerlime Crab, Periwinkle Clam, and EZ Flea have accounted for most of my fish. The old standard bait, the live sandfleas continue to be harder to find than the pompano.


The bluefish have been abundant and anglers throwing 3/4-to-1-ounce spoons have been having a ball catching the blues and jacks early in the morning and in the late afternoon. Tiger Shores, Stuart Beach, Glasscock, and Bob Graham Beach accesses have all been producing some nice catches.



I want to just mention the topic of beach etiquette as I am sure there are some newcomers to the surf fishing scene. There is no need to set up your sand spikes right on top of another angler in order to catch a few. The pompanos are constantly on the move and swim up and down the beaches, so they are not necessarily concentrated in one spot. Give at least 20 yards to the nearest fisherman and that will eliminate tangles due to casting over someone else’s line or having a fish run down the beach and cross another line.


The Indian River lagoon is producing pompano, sheepshead, big croakers, jacks, and even a few tripletail. The tourist and winter fishing season is in high gear so get out and enjoy the sun, warm temperatures, and beautiful beaches that our beautiful Martin County has to offer.


Good luck this month and catch em up.


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





By Victoria Defenthaler

Retired Martin County Educator & School Board Member



In an increasingly chaotic and changing world, the needs of our children have not changed.


Before learning can take place children need to feel safe, think well of themselves and learn how to connect with others. Since the early life of this country, we have been motivated to educate all our children. How best do we accomplish this in our time?

My name is Victoria Defenthaler. My husband and I have raised three children in the public school system. At the same time, I have been a public-school special education teacher, consultant to mainstream teachers, assistant principal, and school principal. Most recently serving as a member of the school board.


Through this column, I will share what I have learned along the way by using these life experiences and the perspectives gained.


As a mother, a teacher, and a principal it was clear to me my first duty was to provide for the children’s physical safety. As a school principal, each day I would not know which students would arrive at school ready to learn and which students would require extra attention; such as those not wanting to get off the school bus or out of their parents’ car. My teachers, school counselor, and I learned how to address each child’s need each day.


We did this as a team, sometimes able to include the parents and sometimes on our own with the parents’ understanding and permission. Our team approached these times as teachable moments for helping children learn self-regulation. Once the connection with the child was re-established through compassion and understanding they chose to join their classroom family and continue the curriculum of the day.


As I said at the beginning, our world is increasingly chaotic and changing, which undeniably affects our children’s well-being. So, safety today goes well beyond providing physical safety for our children.

We are all in agreement that we want our children to navigate their world successfully. In order to do this, no matter the circumstance, children must be confident enough in themselves. How do we do this? First, by establishing a community of trust among the adults in the child’s world. We model the trust in one another and together we learn the skills necessary to help our children make this trust their own. When children know parents and educators are working together to do what is in their best interest, their confidence and motivation increases, therefore, ensuring the child’s success.


In future articles, I will share my observations and experiences in creating welcoming, safe, caring classrooms, and a school community where learning is at its optimum for all students.


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




Other Government Notices

And from our Supervisor of Elections:
























From the Property Appraiser





















Tax Collector



Clerk Of The Court














United Way Funding Available for Nonprofits

Financial Support Available for Human Service Programs


Stuart, FL  – The United Way of Martin County is now accepting Letters of Intent (LOI) for its 2023 Community Impact Grants for education, health and financial stability programs serving Martin County.


For programs that have not received United Way funding in the previous funding cycle, the LOI is the first step in the competitive grant process to determine if a program merits further consideration in light of available resources and current priorities. The LOI will be accepted until Feb. 8, 2023, at 5 p.m. on  Full grant applications are due March 24 at 5 p.m.


Successful proposals must support at least one of United Way’s focus areas: Education, Health and Financial Stability.

  • Education focus area includes promoting early learning and literacy skills to prepare Martin County children for Kindergarten; helping Martin County students read on level by third grade, acquire skills for academic and social-emotional achievement in middle school; and graduate high school on time prepared for continuing education, work and life.
  • Health focus area supports Martin County residents’ access to healthcare services, including preventative, mental, dental, pharmaceutical, vision, prenatal and pediatric care; helps individuals maintain a healthy weight and engage in supportive relationships.
  • Financial Stability focus area provides Martin County residents with basic needs, including food and shelter, increases financial stability, increases food security and improved employability and retention.


This funding process is open to any nonprofit that serves Martin County.  

  • Must be a 501 (c)(3) organization.
  • Program addresses one or more of the United Way of Martin County’s focus areas above.
  • Program must be in existence for a minimum of 2 years before applying.


If you are interested in becoming a United Way funded partner, visit or contact United Way at 772-283-4800.


For more information about United Way or to give online, visit




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 or fill out the form on the website.



From Audrey Taggart


Since Dr. King’s holiday is here, I have reviewed my extensive notes on his writings.  We all know of his “I Have a Dream” speech given to a huge crowd in our nation’s capital.  My children – attending school on Long Island, NY – had to memorize this speech in 7th or 8th grade.  


Since his plea – to judge folks on their content of character, rather than their color of skin – nearly came to be, we are surely having a setback.


I offer another saying of his and hope and pray this is not the current situation we are in. 


“If we are not careful, our colleges will produce a group of close-minded unscientific, illogical propagandists, consumed with immoral acts.”


Dr. M.L. King, Jr.








Walter Deemer


Mark Perry, head of The Rivers Coalition, re-emphasized that their key mission is to Stop The Discharges. Since there haven’t been any “harmful discharges” for several years, newcomers need to made aware that there an ongoing problem still exists. Todd Weissing, head of the Speakers Bureau, noted that he was ready, willing and able to spread the word to any and all organizations that extend an invitation.

Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, a member of the South Florida Water Management District’s Governing Board, told us “no matter what your politics” Gov. DeSantis’s just-issued Executive Order 23-06, which authorizes $3.5 billion for Everglades restoration and protection of our water resources, is a “very big deal”. She urged us to read the whole thing, which you can access here:

Lt. Col. Polk, from the Army Corps of Engineers, reported that at long last the Herbert Hoover Dike restoration project has been completed; a ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held next week. Unfortunately, though, Lake Okeechobee is currently at 16.1 feet, which is much too high for this point in the dry season, and they will probably have to start discharging water down the St. Lucie Canal in the near future to avoid having to do so in April-May, when there is a much higher risk of toxic algae being present. [An official announcement was made the next day.] 

Finally, re the proposed Clean Water Amendment: Diane Goldberg announced that she is still desperately looking for signatures – and help in getting those signatures – to get the amendment’s language reviewed by the Florida Supreme Court. This review is a mandatory step in getting the amendment, which the State League supports, on the 2024 ballot – and the deadline to get the court to review it is March first. You can find information on the amendment at — and if you can help Diane, she can be reached at or at 772-343-8666. 





MartinCounty Friends-and-Neighbors-of-Martin-County-Commission




Wojcieszak Park was the main agenda item at this meeting.

A group of dedicated parents had complained for some time about the conditions at the baseball fields. They are right…the ballfields are deplorable. The park has been neglected for years.


Until recently, I was a member and chair of the Parks & Recreation Advisory Board (PRAB). I know that parents did follow procedure and met numerous times with the department and came before the PRAB to plead their case. Little do most people understand that there is serious underfunding for the maintenance and capital improvements in the park system.


Wojcieszak (Wojo for short) is in the Port Salerno Community Redevelopment Area. Most people who use the park walk to it. It is truly a green oasis within an urban setting. The park is 11.5 acres with a beautiful canopy of shade trees. According to the agenda item, it has 5 baseball/tee-ball fields, some batting cages, a playground, 6 racquet ball courts, 1 tennis court, 1 Futsal court, and 1 basketball court. There are no soccer fields or open space. Both the Boys and Girls Club and Port Salerno Elementary School are on the boundaries of Wojo and use it.


On two separate occasions, November 18th, and January 20th, the PRAB approved recommending to the BOCC using $1.7 million in ARPA funding for a redesign and renovation of the park. The reason that ARPA funding can be used was because the park is in a census tract that is considered low income. This was a way to immediately do the needed work. In this fiscal year, the Fixed Asset Replacement Budget (FARB) has $1.6 million that will be spent for improvements across the system’s 72 parks.


At the February 1st BOCC meeting, I spoke as a member and chair of the PRAB urging the commission to approve the $1.7 million in ARPA funding which they voted to do. Since then, the department has conducted focus groups and presentations with the neighborhood including hiring Hoyle Tanner and Associates, Inc for $234,000 to meet with the community and redesign the park. There will be a workshop for the community conducted by Hoyle Tanner on February 2nd.


Those were the facts leading up to the commission taking an interest. After the three parents spoke who are involved with the league, it was the commissioners turn. Commissioner Heard, whose district Wojo is in, emphatically wants to continue with the community process.


Commissioner Smith asked Kevin Abate, the department director, if the $1.7 million was enough. His response was it depends on the results of the February neighborhood meeting. Commissioner Hetherington toured the park with the baseball parents and rattled off a list of things that should be done immediately for safety.

Kevin Abate

Abate stated that he would immediately have TRICO, the county’s insurance carrier, come and do a risk management assessment and then immediately take care of those items flagged. No commissioner said it was a good idea to have the experts decide what was an immediate danger.


They would rather trust their own expertise and ideas on what was needed. The ideas of the parents of the baseball players who had been ignored for years were suddenly important. Spending scarce funds even if six months from now the repairs become obsolete because of a new park design.


Commissioner Jenkins stated the one unequivocal truth. The Parks & Recreation Department took the biggest whipping at budget time including the freezing of the use of FARB funds. Smith noted that the parks were, by far, the most widely used county amenity.


Chair Ciampi went through a laundry list of immediate improvements that the ball field parents want done. And after the long list, he instructed Abate to make it happen. Hetherington wanted the process to begin immediately.


Heard and then Smith kept saying that there needs to be community involvement. Most of the community are not the baseball parents. They use the fields, but most don’t live around the park. In fact, I would suspect the actual Port Salerno folks would say take a baseball field or two away and give us soccer instead. But statistically the poor and immigrants don’t vote.


Ciampi has already determined how the park should look after he visited. He said that things don’t need to go back to the PRAB because the commission has a good idea on how to proceed. Commissioner Hetherington brought up the fact that the last two PRAB meetings had been cancelled because of a lack of a quorum.


After having served on numerous boards, I can lay much of the blame for lack of quorum on the commissioners who appoint people to boards who do not come to meetings. One reason for the attendance issues may be because the members attend meetings and spend time studying issues related to boards’ agendas but find their advice is ignored by the commission. More on that in a subsequent piece.


A motion was made by Hetherington to spend the money and do the safety corrections based on staff’s evaluation of the fields. It was seconded by Jenkins and passed 5-0.


The current commission, like commissions before, has no philosophy regarding the parks and recreation department’s mission. Should it concentrate on the basic needs of neighborhood and regional parks that serve most of our residents or be in the glamour business? This department, at the commission’s direction, spent about $10 million on the county golf course.


The golf course is not just a municipal golf course. It is a sight to behold. Mr. Abate and his department have given us a great casual restaurant (privately operated), a state-of-the-art driving range, and a Top Golf facility. It is something that is stunning and beautifully executed and was done with the approval and urging of this commission. The same can be said for the beach restaurants, splash water park, and the soon to be completed Phipps Park.


According to the county, they all are in the black. Those facilities give the private sector a run for its money. But it cost millions of dollars to do. And even if these facilities make money, is that the function of government?


The commission starves the Wojos to fund these other projects. Fixing benches and lighting is not sexy. Until a constituent group shouts, those kinds of repairs don’t matter…parks are an afterthought. The motion that was passed is the worst kind because it says its ok to waste funds to satisfy one group, but we are not going to change the starvation diet that led to the problem in the first place.


The agenda item can be found here


The second agenda item that was of importance was the 2023 commissioners’ priorities.


Commissioner Heard had an interesting idea regarding the gates to the St. Lucie Canal from the Lake. She would like to see the muck dredged from in front of them and then install new gates that would allow water to flow over the top instead of swinging the gates open which allows the sediment from the lake to flow. Heard said the Corps of Engineers, as well as other agencies, were interested in the proposal. It would cost millions of dollars if the funding could be found.

She also had the idea of seeing if the entire 156 miles of the Indian River Lagoon could become a national park which would allow more sources of funding for the waterways and further protections.


The commission is very interested in buying more land in IRL South, Pal Mar, and the Loxa-Lucie for conservation. Most of the land will never be developed because of wetlands. It is a great idea though what is not spelled out in their priorities is where to get the funds. I believe a dedicated sales tax of ½ cent would have a good chance of passing but only if the ballot language clearly limited it to conservation land in those areas.


The list can be found here



By Kyla Shay

Trailside HOA President



This past week, the Pal Mar Water Management District held another meeting.


Some progress is being made. Ingress and egress to Pal Mar was discussed as to how they can limit who and what is allowed to utilize the Pal Mar accesses.  In viewing a few of the western portions of Pal Mar’s title searches, it clearly states: “no ingress or egress provided”


It has been discussed by others that the lots within Pal Mar have ingress and egress. My question is: What do the title searches say according to the recorded Plat. Anyone can record an easement. It means nothing if it is not recorded and accepted into the Plat.


We do have a comparison of the illegal building and campers within Pal Mar.  Some of the violations have been removed due to Martin County Code Enforcement. But not all.  What is going on with those? Have they had their time in front of the Magistrate? What is the outcome.


The ATV’s, side-by-sides, dune buggies and hunting buggies are still destroying the wetland areas. They are utilizing the works of the Pal Mar Water District to access the areas of Pal Mar they wish to tear up.


So here are the images for comparison. April 2022 to December 2022.


April 26, 2022

Dec 21, 2022


4-22-22 image 512-21-124



Nice garbage and debris in a wetland.  SFWMD and Martin County must be cringing.  I know we wouldn’t get by with that in our area.


In short nothing much has changed.  We are still waiting.


Kyla Shay’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.




This meeting was originally scheduled for January 5th and listed as such on the Pal Mar District’s website. All the meeting dates for the entire year are listed. Guess what…there is no mention of the meeting being moved to January 17th.


I went to the meeting location on January 5th expecting a meeting. The Martin County chamber was closed. I ran into County Administrator Don Donaldson in the lobby, and he made some phone calls only to find out that it would be on the 17th.


The board decided not to have the February meeting at the January meeting. I will bet you that the February meeting will continue to be listed on the website. March’s meeting is also cancelled because one member was not available to attend, and a suitable date could not be agreed to.


The scheduled meeting should occur and the member either misses the meeting or attends by an electronic means. For example, Commissioner Heard did not attend the last commission meeting. It went on without her.


Looking further at the meeting calendar, the April meeting is listed on the website as April 6th, but one of the board members can’t make it. It has been switched to April 5th. There was no meeting in December, the January meeting was moved from the advertised and listed date, February was cancelled, March was cancelled, and April has been changed from the noticed date. What about the public?


Back in November, George Stokus was elected to the board in place of Zach Gazza. In December, the Martin County Board of County Commissioners appointed Sarah Heard to this board as their representative instead of Harold Jenkins. This was done in the annual re-assignments by the commissioners. The site still has Gazza and Jenkins listed as board members.

It would appear to me that the district staff has been lax in the performance of their duties for some time. Another example was District Director Michael McElligott was instructed by the board to send a letter in November to a property owner regarding the removal of a culvert placed illegally. The letter was not sent. If I heard the director correctly, the letter got “buried” on his desk.


The board needs to take control of the situation and have the regularly scheduled meetings. If they believe there is only need for quarterly meetings, then schedule quarterly meetings. But the excuse that people can’t make meetings is unacceptable for a public board. Further, it is unacceptable if staff can’t get things done in a timely manner.


A question arose regarding how different people can access Pal Mar. A legal memo was written by the district’s attorneys in 2019 outlining this very subject. In the statement of facts section on the front page, the memo claims that, “Because of strict development rules and regulations promulgated by Martin County, the land within the District has not been developed as originally conceived, and no road, rights of way, or outfalls have been constructed.”


The board’s duty is to operate according to a water control plan. It is a “Special District” under Florida statute. Easements can only be used for the purpose those easements were granted. Further, there is no statutory authority for the public use of district lands or property. The general public does not have any right to use the Pal Mar District’s lands.


In the conclusion section of the memo, it goes further to state, “There is no express obligation in the District’s legislative authority to grant landowners access.” If there are no roads in what are called the “works of the district,” then the only way to gain entry is across other lot owners’ lands. While there is no express prohibition about vehicles, there is no way to drive from point “A” to “B”.


Further all building permits which would include roads on all property must be approved by Martin County. Under the County’s current zoning, Pal Mar does not qualify for any type of construction. The board asked legal to flesh out the memo to make the districts ongoing policy understandable, but in a 3-2 vote, it was deemed good enough to have as a beginning of a policy. The memo can be found here


Board Member Stokus then wanted to obtain prices from both Martin and Palm Beach Sheriffs’ Departments to have off-duty deputies patrol the district’s property on the weekends.  Board Member Lew Lolmaugh stated that the district has no enforcement powers, and he is right. They can only protect the district’s property. However, off duty deputies are sworn law enforcement officers, and if they see a crime is being committed, they should stop it.


Stokus also wanted to terminate the funding agreement and a separate mowing and maintenance agreement being done by a company owned by Zach Gazza. I have not seen either agreement, but it appears that Mr. Gazza donates $12,000 per year to the district to pay $12,000 per year to his company to do basic maintenance and mowing. That results in the district not paying anything.


While that is a great deal for the district, Mr. Gazza was on the board and is a large landowner in Pal Mar. It saved the district money…there is no denying that. However, there may be something, if not improper, at least having the appearance of being so in that arrangement. Just think if Commissioner Jenkins’ landscaping company did the maintenance for a county park and had a similar deal. Even if Jenkins was paid without the offsetting credit it would still be illegal.


The funding agreement was terminated with a 5-0 vote. Staff was instructed to do RFPs for both the maintenance and management agreement. The new “maintenance manager” will report directly to the district engineer.








After two years the commission finally approved a form-based code for the Creek District and East Stuart on the first reading.


The initial idea for the form-based code was former Commissioner Mike Meier’s. It was to be tried out in these two places and then expanded throughout Stuart. With Meier gone I don’t see much hope for that happening.


The definition from the “Formed Base Code Institute” is:


“A form-based code is a land development regulation that fosters predictable built results and a high-quality public realm by using physical form (rather than separation of uses) as the organizing principle for the code. A form-based code is a regulation, not a mere guideline, adopted into city, town, or county law.”


The code that was adopted on first reading was far from a true one. It should produce predictability, and this goes a long way to doing just that. A person building a project should be able to seamlessly look at the code and know what can be done. However, instead of the code being the last word, Stuart’s will still have the commission making decisions. That means it will be easy to deviate.


I am glad it was passed but many projects will still come before the commission which means there will be a multitude of uses that will be exceptions to the code. Better than the current system but not free of the political. I am still glad they passed it.


You can find the code here





This meeting was similar to the time that the commission was played like a fiddle by Linda and Paul Daily regarding their lease at the Pelican Café.


At the time, the Dailys were seeking an extension of their lease for the waterfront restaurant, now Hudson’s, which is owned by the city. The lease was not even close to its expiration date. The manager and attorney did not want to entertain an extension at the time, so the owners went directly to the commission. When the commission was debating whether to extend or not, the Dailys packed the chamber with ardent fans…75% of whom did not live in the city and some not even in Martin County.


The same scenario played out at this meeting regarding whether to have an invocation. Once again, the chamber was packed with out-of-city residents expressing their opinion on the subject. What was especially galling to me as a city resident was that three elected officials from other jurisdictions spoke who are not residents of Stuart, School Board Members Amy Pritchett and Mike DiTerlizzi, and Ocean Breeze Council Member Gina Kent.

Helen McBride spoke and said something very pertinent on this subject. As a Stuart and Martin County voter, resident, and taxpayer, she has a perfect right to speak and express her opinions at school board and county commission meetings. Those from outside the city do not pay Stuart taxes or reside here and cannot vote in the elections for city commissioner.


Interestingly, only one pastor from East Stuart spoke though he lives in St. Lucie County. There was no one else from any of the churches in that community. There was no rabbi, imam, Roman Catholic, or Episcopal priest though Father Anderson from St. Mary’s had been there and spoke about a skate park earlier. Likewise, none of the non-evangelical Protestant pastors were there either. Does that mean they don’t believe in the power of prayer?


Of the 14 actual city residents that did speak, more than half spoke against having an invocation. The other 65% from outside the city spoke in favor except for 2. And their comments should have been listened to politely by the commission and then given a much lesser weight than the comments from actual voters and residents.

The idea about whether to pray or not became a symbol for the struggle about the literal soul of the commission. Again Mrs. McBride stated it best when she said since one member became a commissioner, she had never seen such disharmony. Though forbidden by the rules to say whom she meant, there was no doubt that it was Dr. Collins.


Commissioner Rich also had a deeply held belief against having an invocation. I don’t doubt that Collins was sincere in his beliefs when this began, but it became a power play of his against the rest.


Speaker after speaker said a variation on the same words that America is a Christian nation with Christian values, and we are all Christians. America does have a Christian-Judeo foundation as does Canada, France, the U.K., and many other nations. We are not unique in that regard. That does not mean that we are a Christian nation or that everyone is a Christian.


Collins made the motion to adopt the ordinance that was seconded by Bruner. It passed 3-2 with McDonald and Rich dissenting. The implementing resolution passed 4-1 with Rich dissenting.


The politically inept commissioners were rolled over once again by outsiders trying to dictate the fate of the city. The Dailys did receive a long lease extension that night. They promptly sold it to the owners of the now Hudson’s for a considerable sum while the city must live with below-market rent for a prime property that was leased to the Dailys under false pretenses.

The commission should have done what the school board did when asked by DiTerlizzi for an invocation…which was just to immediately agree to have an invocation. As city resident Joe Hartowski stated, it is performative. For in the end, an invocation only means as much or as little as a person’s own thoughts as the words are spoken.


You can find the ordinance and resolution here








School Board meetings can be excruciatingly boring.


The board and staff use abbreviations and government speak as if the public understands everything being discussed. When looking at the agenda one can (to borrow an expression) not see the forest for the trees.) That is why when you want to know where the substantive portion of the agenda is look at Section 18. That is the part of the agenda devoted to the board voting on important matters.


When making motions and seconds, rarely does anyone clearly spell out what is being voted on. Generally, someone moves to approve for example 18.2, followed by a second and then a vote without any discussion or explanation of what 18.2 is. What is the reason for what looks like secrecy?


The board is not really being secretive. The item was probably (though not always) at least briefly discussed at a workshop. Discussion could have occurred two weeks ago or two months ago before being included on the agenda for a vote.


There were two things that were passed by the board at this meeting in a matter of seconds. The first was from a contract that has been negotiated and is being presented for ratification by the union next month. Starting salaries for teachers will increase to $48,700. The second item are one-time bonuses of $5000 for teachers hired or who are in the process of being hired for Title I schools and comprehensive high schools.


Most of the public would think that it would be appropriate for teachers to receive a raise and a bonus. So why not make sure the public is aware to boost the likelihood of recruiting teachers? Perhaps it was discussed at a workshop, but it should have been clarified again here.


At these meeting, we hear about a student’s scholarship or that a sports team did well. The board and staff clap and take pictures. That takes up most of the time of these meetings. Things like raises and bonuses consume very little meeting time. That is a shame.


The pertinent documents explaining the raises and the list of schools where the bonuses apply can be seen here



Town of Sewall's Point Friends-and-Neighbors-of-Martin-County-Sewalls-Point




Commissioner Fender placed an item that had to do with the tree permit for 10 Oakwood Drive on the agenda.


The owner of the lot is building a house. Plans were submitted for the house and for tree removal. Some of the trees, which were old growth, that had been removed had been certified by an arborist as being diseased. Cutting down trees is a very sensitive subject in the town.

The next-door neighbor said the house would be very big and would result in a loss of privacy for her. Sewall’s Point Building Official Jack Reisinger stated that the house is over-sized by 2% and that the proposed house is within the setbacks. The lot owner must mitigate the cutting of trees by providing new trees that total 130 inches in circumference on the lot.


Reisinger is awaiting a landscape plan before going further. Town Manager Daniels stated that he had changed the procedure to require landscape plans be submitted with the site plan going forward to allow staff, commissioners, and the public to know what will be there ahead of time since it becomes a public document.


Some of the trees removed were not included on the permit. Florida Statute 163.045 has pre-empted local government from preventing the removal of trees that have been certified by an arborist as diseased. That was the reason for the arborist.


Commissioner Campo wanted to know why this was coming before the commission. He asked the building official if he needed the help of the commission in any way. Reisinger said no. Tompeck and Mayfield agreed that the commission sets policy and since no change of policy was requested, they should stay out of it.


Fender brought it up because he believes that there has been an excessive amount of tree removal in the recent past. Unfortunately, anytime a home is built on a vacant lot, most of the vegetation needs to go to create a buildable site. That means that large and old trees will be cut. It would be nice if as many as possible could be saved, but an owner’s right to erect a house on a buildable lot can’t be denied.


You can find the statute and the rest of the agenda item here

The second agenda item that I thought was important was the town foreclosing on 19 East High Point Road because of code violation fines of over $200,000 and continuing to accrue.


The owner, Tony Lagana, was found guilty of cutting down 48 trees without a permit. He was fined $58,000 by the magistrate. The second offense was having or erecting a fence, debris, and a shed in violation of town ordinances. The penalty is accruing at $250 per day. The owner appealed the rulings to the 19th Circuit Judicial Appellate Division and lost in both instances.


This has been going on for two years. Lagana has had numerous meetings with both Dan Hudson, Bob Daniels, and other staff. He refuses to come into compliance. Town Attorney, Glen Torcivia, is asking permission to retain the services of an attorney that will begin a foreclosure action to enforce the liens (including attorney fees) by selling the property.

Regulations book. Law, rules and regulations concept. 3d illustration

Kurzman wanted to work it out as a commission with the owner. Campo asked the owner if he was willing to come into compliance so that a deal could be made as to the amount of the fines. Lagana said no. He said he would have defenses as to why he should not have been fined and for his counter suit. If the special magistrate’s ruling has already been upheld on appeal, I don’t understand how an action in foreclosure would address any of that.


I like the commission don’t understand why the property owner won’t come into compliance especially because it would cost so little. Once a property owner is found guilty, then it is standard operating procedure to ask for mitigation of the fines after the property is brought into compliance.


Campo motioned for a ten-day notice and then to begin the foreclosure action. Mayfield seconded the motion. The vote was 3-2 with Kurzman and Fender dissenting.



Village-Of-Indiantown Friends-and-Neighbors-of-Martin-County-Indiantown-Village




I am wondering if Taryn Kryzda is thinking what she has gotten herself into with her appointment as the interim manager. The sniping began with member comments and never let up.

Council Member Hernandez stated that former clerk Susan Owens was no longer at the village. While not mentioning him by name, Hernandez was incensed that Council Member Dipaolo had gone after Owens at the last meeting for allowing the laptop of former Village Manager Brown’s to be wiped clean.


Hernandez, in tears, went on to say that when Owens began working for the Village, nothing had been set up. She had to do everything from scratch. There were no departments. In her opinion, everybody was doing a great job. She wants it clearly understood that council members should interact with the manager alone and not employees.


When it was Vice-Mayor Stone’s turn to comment, he claimed that Kryzda had not contacted him since she was hired. He then mentioned that Commissioner Jenkins had said that Kryzda was the “best” which came across as an accusation as to Jenkins’ representation. Kryzda explained that she hadn’t been given her village phone until late in the week. But that she was at the village offices and easy enough to fine. Stone even brought Attorney Vose into it by asking whether it was customary for a new manger to contact commissioners.

Guyton Stone

He insinuated that Kryzda had fired Owens which she refuted. Kryzda stated that Owens had resigned on Tuesday. She went on to say that it was not unusual for employees to leave when a new council or a new manager take over. Stone and Hernandez wanted some assurance that other employees would not be gone. Kryzda said it was the manager’s prerogative to hire and fire.  Vose backed up Kryzda by stating that the charter spells out her duties and that of the council.


Stone wants to have an agenda item to discuss how to hire a permanent manager for the next meeting. They were already scheduled to discuss convening a special workshop at the last meeting in February. They will now have two items on the agenda a meeting apart.


Dipaolo had no problem speaking to Kryzda by just going to her office. As a matter of personal policy, Kryzda does have an open door for anyone to drop by she stated. She also wants regularly scheduled meetings with her council members.


When it was Kryzda’s turn for comments, she said that she had met with department heads and some residents, gone through personnel files, and had spent time familiarizing herself with the roles and responsibilities of employees within the Village. She thought that Owens was wearing too many hats which included HR as well as administration. Things were slipping through the cracks. Kryzda did not think that policies and procedures had been well defined for the village hall.


When it came time to approve the minutes from the last meeting, Stone wanted to include that Dipaolo had said that he wished that he could fire Owens. Stone wanted the entire recording of the matter transcribed and included. Vose reminded Stone that if it were transcribed, it would be on the internet. A motion was made by Stone and seconded by Hernadez to have Dipaolo’s one statement included in the minutes.


I don’t quite understand Hernandez and Stone’s reluctance to work with Kryzda. If anything, they should be glad to have someone who knows and understands local resources.  For example, she was able to have the Martin County Clerk of the Court step in temporarily because of Owen’s resignation. The only people who can hurt the two council members are the voters. And this petulant attitude of theirs is not doing them any good.


There may have been residents who thought Brown shouldn’t have left. Once the council changed after the last election, it became inevitable. Owens was his deputy. Any chance she had of remaining in my opinion was over once the laptop was erased at her instruction.


Perhaps there are other things that will come to light regarding how the village ran under Brown, but now is the time to heal. Kryzda can bring a semblance of order and professionalism that has been lacking. And it does need it. She can institute best practices.  Everyone on the council should sit back and allow her to do so without thinking or attempting to show that Kryzda is the enemy.


The voters wanted these changes otherwise Clarke and Dowling would have retained their seats. If Stone and Hernandez do not want to suffer the same fate, they should embrace what the voters said loud and clear. They must change direction or be out of a job.




Town of Ocean Breeze


The Next Meeting Is October 10, 2022


The next meeting will be February 13, 2023



Jupiter Island Jupiter Island Sky View


The next commission meeting is February 7, 2022




In The Spotlight

by Jackie Holfelder





The Multi-Faceted Journey of Joanne Zarro


I’ve known Joanne Zarro for more than a decade – at least I THOUGHT I did. But when she agreed to allow me to profile her and I read everything she’s done and accomplished, I realized how much about her I really didn’t know.

Joanne Photos provided by Joanne Zarro

Joanne moved to Hobe Sound in 1982 from the outskirts of Philadelphia and attended Cardinal Newman High School in West Palm Beach well before I-95 was built.


Because her faith has always been a priority, she was active in St. Christopher’s Church in Hobe Sound and began volunteering, visiting local nursing homes and teaching Congregation for Catholic Education (CD).



Joanne first felt her leadership skills blossoming while she was attending St. Leo College near Dade City.


Her social work internships reflected a perfect blend of her strengths and likes as she worked with Family Services and at a local domestic violence shelter.


Following graduation in 1990, Joanne moved back to Martin County, which she has called home ever since. She worked for SafeSpace, overseeing the opening of its first shelter in Martin County, while attending Barry University and receiving a Master’s Degree in Development & Administration.


In one of life’s quirky developments, Joanne transitioned to the mortgage industry in 1997, working for another company before opening Zarro Mortgage Group in 2021. She takes great pride in her well-earned reputation for being an honest, reliable, hardworking business owner.

Joanne & Courtney Photos provided by Joanne Zarro

As a busy business owner, wife, mom and active volunteer, Joanne doesn’t have as much time for hobbies as she’d like but she loves orchids, has discovered a new-found joy in reading and – whenever she has the chance – indulges her “greatest love aside from my husband, Drew Jones and daughter, Courtney”: traveling.


Joanne was very involved with volunteer and community events prior to her daughter’s birth in 2005 and now that Courtney will be going off to college, she’s ready to ratchet it up again.


She’s been a member of Soroptomist of Stuart from 1995 through the present, holding every position and chairing many fundraising events.  During her term as president, Joanne started the International Relations Committee, which has supported and assisted many international organizations that help women and children. She’s been active in other efforts to prevent and eliminate human trafficking.


The list of organizations and nonprofits to which she’s lent her expertise is long and varied and includes Stuart Martin County Chamber of Commerce,


LEADERship Martin CountyClass 4, Catch the Wave of Hope, Martin County Business Exchange, Junior League of Martin County and Hibiscus Children’s Center, as well as the afore-mentioned Soroptimist of Stuart.


Joanne Zarro is more interested in tackling the task at hand – whatever it may be – and getting it done successfully and with a minimum of drama than she is about reaping personal praise. I’m so grateful she gave us the opportunity to learn just how special she really is.

Jackie is always looking for a good story…you may reach her at:


Final Thoughts




America has become a nation where outlandish political behavior is the acceptable norm.


Kevin McCarthy finally being elected Speaker of the House of Representatives on the 15th ballot is a good example. It had not taken so many ballots to elect a speaker since the eve of the Civil War. Then there were the key disputes on issues such as slavery expansion raised by the congressional members. There were really no disagreements on policy but rather how much to investigate Hunter Biden, the FBI as an un-American organization, and the IRS.


On the state level, Governors DeSantis and Abbott have no clear reason why they are shipping human beings from Texas to Washington, Chicago, and New York. It is imperative that the Feds fix the immigration mess and supply the states with the funds necessary to take care of those coming across the border. But it appears that neither the president nor Congress have the political will to do so.


That doesn’t make the actions of either DeSantis or Abbott are right. They are not proposing solutions…only making statements for their base to cheer. “Owning the Libs” is not a governing philosophy. Treating fellow human beings as cattle to be shipped from place to place is neither Christian nor American.


Here in Martin County, we have those who are against property owners’ rights. However, they themselves are not willing to buy these lands and place them into conservation. It is always amazing to think that people really believe that nothing is ever going to happen because a parcel is empty.


It is delusional thinking at best that has overtaken our politics. For example, the IRS is a difficult agency to deal with most times. However, the difficulty is due primarily because of Congress passing more and more arcane tax laws and loopholes and not providing adequate funding to the agency to enforce the laws created. Passing a bill to do away with the current funding won’t accomplish anything without changing the tax code. It will make life more difficult for those taxpayers unlucky enough to have to deal with the agency.


I do not agree with the Democrats’ policies at times, but I understand what they are. What are the Republicans’ policies? “Owning the Libs” doesn’t cut it. Doing oversight investigations on how the FBI does its job could be warranted but what would be idiocy is focusing on the agency’s raid on Mar a Lago which was executing a duly signed search warrant.


DeSantis and Abbott trying to mitigate the effects of immigration on their states would be fine. Spending millions of state taxpayer dollars to move a few busloads of migrants is a waste of resources. The problem of mass immigration continues. The governors received their headlines and there still is no money or plan to deal with the problem at the federal level which is where that would need to originate.


Locally trying to stop development by railing against it is a losing proposition. If the goal is to save wetlands and Martin County’s rural western ranges, then work with local county commissioners to come up with a funding mechanism to buy sensitive lands and place them in conservation. A sales tax similar to many in other counties dedicated solely to the purchase and maintenance of places like Pal Mar and Loxa-Lucie would help accomplish that.


Believe it or not, the Rural Lifestyle change would place thousands of acres in either perpetual farming trusts or conservation lands. Look at how the U.K. clusters large open spaces around village and town centers. It needs to be something we explore. Density is not bad especially when in the bargain you receive forever green spaces.


Living in a fantasy world that immigration is going to end, Hunter Biden’s laptop is a guarantee of Republican political dominance, or development will stop are just that…fantasies. There are real things that can be done to accomplish goals. It must be based on substantive plans…not just wishes and hopes.






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:



Articles Tom wrote:


From Martin County Moment:


“A Deal In The Works”




“The Emperor Has No Clothes”




From Medium


“School Vouchers Can Prevent School Censorship”




“Christian Nationalism For America Is A Fallacy”




Other Articles:


The Capitolist: “Jeff Brandes’ think tank: Live Local Bill will help, but bigger changes needed to fix affordable housing crisis”




The New York Times: “How To Clear 500,000 Ferel Cats From New York Streets”




Trump’s Indictment




Florida Phoenix: “Statehouses debate who should build EV charging networks”




The Washington Post: “Tracing the power of Casey DeSantis”







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