Takeaways from Tallahassee — Healthy minds

Blue Tally Takeaways (5)
Ron and Casey DeSantis are touting a historic budget for mental health.

Healthy minds

Gov. Ron DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis touted their support for mental wellness this week, highlighting the budget’s focus on behavioral health and substance abuse services.

In a Wednesday news release, the Governor and First Lady accented three mental health investments in particular: $158.4 million for the State Opioid Response Grant, $1.4 million for residents affected by Hurricane Michael and $3 million to expand the state’s 211 crisis network.

“These key investments are in addition to the historic $120 million the state is dedicating to schools to continue to support the mental well-being of students,” the First Lady said. “We look forward to continuing to work every day to ensure Floridians have the tools and the skills to persevere through life’s challenges.”

Both Ron and Casey DeSantis get kudos for promoting mental health. Image via AP.

According to the Governor’s Office, the State Opioid Response Grant will broaden access to medication-assisted treatment for Floridians struggling with opioid misuse. It will also bolster prevention, treatment and opioid recovery efforts.

Notably, the opioid epidemic remains a deadly issue in the United States and Florida.

In Central Florida, for example, drug overdoses rose 70% during the pandemic’s first three months.

“Opioid overdoses have skyrocketed in Central Florida, and I applaud Gov. DeSantis for taking this issue head-on by prioritizing mental health services and combating the opioid epidemic, which has plagued Florida and claimed lives for far too long,” said Maria Bledsoe, CEO of Central Florida Cares Health System.

Meanwhile, the 211 network — which connects callers with human and social services — will use the investment to expand outreach and other coordination initiatives.

According to the Florida Behavioral Health Association, calls to crisis and emergency hotlines have increased 65% since the pandemic began.

“By including more than $137.6 million for behavioral health needs and $3 million for the 211 helpline, Gov. DeSantis has taken an important step in ensuring all Floridians have access to the behavioral health care they need to live healthy and productive lives,” said Natalie Kelly, CEO of the Florida Association of Managing Entities.

Not least, the Governor provided $1.4 million to continue behavioral health services for Floridians rebuilding in the wake of Hurricane Michael.

In all, Michael claimed the lives of 50 Floridians and caused $25 billion in damage, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The new budget takes effect July 1.


Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Peter Schorsch, Drew Wilson, Renzo Downey, Jason Delgado, Haley Brown and the staff of Florida Politics.

Take 5

The “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Board of Education bans critical race theory — DeSantis scored a win in his crusade against critical race theory this Thursday when the State Board of Education voted to ban the controversial teaching method. DeSantis has made a significant issue targeting critical race theory, calling it an attempt to “bring ideology and political activism under the guise of education.” But critics say avoiding the curriculum, based on the premise that racism is embedded within American society and institutions, whitewashes history. Within hours, DeSantis’ political committee was raising money off his victory against “cultural Marxism.” Critical race theory could teach kids to attack cops, he added Friday.

DeSantis signs foreign influence bills — The Governor signed a pair of bills this week to thwart foreign meddling in Florida’s government and education system. Those measures were priorities of both him and House Speaker Chris Sprowls. The Chinese Communist Party is the packages’ primary target. One measure (HB 1523) creates the crime of “trafficking in trade secrets” and enhances criminal penalties if the secrets are stolen and provided to a foreign government. The second (HB 7017) aims to curb foreign influence in the state’s academic research institutions. Along with China, that bill takes on Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Syria and Venezuela.

Twitter suspends Rebekah Jones’ account — Twitter suspended Rebekah Jones’ account from its platform Monday. According to the former Health Department data worker turned DeSantis critic, Twitter suspended her for oversharing a recent Miami Herald story. The account, she added, would likely be reinstated soon. The DeSantis administration released a statement after the suspension, calling her “the Typhoid Mary of COVID-19 disinformation.” Through her Instagram account, Jones appeared to announce she would run for U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz’s seat before backpedaling that statement. In a subsequent statement, she said her announcement was an attempt to point out “the hypocrisy” in DeSantis celebrating her suspension despite signing the recent social media bill.

DeSantis signs property insurance bill — DeSantis signed a law Friday to overhaul Florida’s property insurance regulations by cracking down on contractors pressing customers to make unnecessary repairs. Proponents say the bill will address skyrocketing premiums in Florida by reducing the court costs and financial risks facing insurance companies. Sen. Jim Boyd, the bill’s chief sponsor, predicted it would take a year to 18 months for the reforms to start driving down rates. Earlier this week, DeSantis said more needs to be done to address property insurance rates. On Friday, Boyd agreed, adding that it could be a project for the next year or two.

DeSantis blamed in Jacksonville Pride lights tussle — Jacksonville has turned back on its Pride Month lights over the Acosta Bridge after FDOT reversed its order that the lights get turned off. The department’s initial stance drew criticism from Democrats, including LGBTQ members of the Florida House. The DeSantis administration said those lights and others weren’t approved and that the decision was made at the district level. When asked about the bureaucratic battle Friday, DeSantis denied involvement. “I think they’re just doing it based on code,” he said. “I don’t think they’re getting involved in any messaging on that.” The controversy followed DeSantis signing a bill to ban transgender women from women’s’ school sports on the first day of Pride Month.

Grants awarded

DeSantis announced a pair of grants funded through the Florida Defense Support Task Force Grant Program this week.

“These Florida Defense Support Task Force grant awards will directly support those who serve our country and protect our freedom each and every day,” DeSantis said. “Combined with the previous round of awards, we have now invested more than $1.5 million in Florida’s military communities since 2020. I am proud to lead the most military-friendly state in the country, and I remain dedicated to supporting our service members and their families.”

One of the grants heads to the Northeast Florida Fire Watch Council, which will receive $160,000 to fund educational programming to prevent veteran suicides.

Among the grants announced by Ron DeSantis is money to raise awareness of veteran suicides.

“The grant will support Educational and Outreach programs focused on increasing awareness of veteran suicide, engaging the community and encouraging veterans to access the resources available to them in our region and Resource Coordination programs designed to identify and close weaknesses in those resources and services,” said Nick Howland, Executive Director of the Northeast Florida Fire Watch Council.

The second grant, totaling $164,277, heads to the Bay County Board of County Commissioners to support the ongoing rebuilding of Tyndall Air Force Base. It allows for continued support in helping facilitate the bed down of new F-35 and possible MQ-9 missions. It focuses on continuing community involvement, increasing communication with surrounding communities, identifying funding available for future grant opportunities, and providing briefings to develop strategies and best practices for new potential growth.

“This partnership with the FDSTF is yet another example of our strong focus on working with Tyndall leadership in rebuilding from the effects of Hurricane Michael,” Bay County Commission Chair Robert Carroll said. “We are committed to facilitating communication and developing mission growth and community partnership opportunities for long-term military and defense resiliency.”

Enterprise Florida administers the Florida Defense Support Task Force Grant Program, and grants are awarded annually on a project priority basis.

Safety first

During National Safety Month in June, Attorney General Ashley Moody is giving safety tips to Floridians.

“During National Safety Month, take stock of your general safety routine. Many crimes are crimes of opportunity, so reduce the chances a criminal might have to wrong you — keep your doors locked, try not to walk alone late at night and park in well-lit areas. Be aware of your surroundings and notify law enforcement if you see something suspicious,” Moody said in a written statement.

Moody’s office praised law enforcement in a news release but said the public should still be aware of their own safety.

Ashley Moody offers tips for Floridians to stay safe during National Safety Month.

“Our law enforcement officers work so hard to serve and protect our communities, but they can’t be everywhere. Show support and gratitude for the risks they take to protect us all by taking charge of your own personal security,” Moody said.

Moody’s office included a list of safety tips in the news release to encourage people to take a proactive approach to their safety.

— Be aware of surroundings;

— Travel in groups — when going out, bring a friend or family member along;

— Avoid using headphones at a loud volume if walking alone;

— Avoid leaving valuables in parked vehicles;

— Park in well-lit areas;

— Get in the habit of keeping all windows and doors locked when not in use;

— Let a family member or friend know of plans and estimated time of arrival and return.

‘Woman of the Year in Agriculture’

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried this week put out the call for nominations for this year’s “Woman of the Year in Agriculture” award.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has given the award annually since 1985 to recognize women who have made outstanding contributions to Florida agriculture. The award is sponsored by FDACS and the Florida State Fair Authority.

“As Florida’s first woman elected Agriculture Commissioner, I’m proud that our department has for 36 years recognized the contributions of women leaders in agriculture,” Fried said. “Women are breaking barriers in every industry, at every level, every day — that includes the growing share of female agriculture producers, dedicated to serving their communities through their outstanding leadership. I’m encouraging all achieving female farmers to apply for our 2021 Woman of the Year in Agriculture award to honor the accomplishments of women leading the way from the barn to the boardroom and everywhere in between.”

Recipients of the “Woman of the Year in Agriculture” award have come from all parts of the industry, including cattle, vegetables, timber, citrus, row crops, equine, horticulture, tropical fruits, sugar cane, dairy, agricultural journalism, and agricultural education and outreach.

In 2001, the award program was enhanced to help heighten awareness about the women who have helped make Florida agriculture into the important industry that it is today. Since then, a documentary video about each new recipient is shown during the award ceremony, and attendees get a booklet outlining her contributions to agriculture.

The deadline to apply or nominate someone for the 2021 Woman of the Year in Agriculture Award is Aug. 1. Application forms can be submitted online or through the mail.

To watch the video of the 2019 winner, Dr. Jennifer Taylor, click on the image below:

Back on top

Florida is taking back its lead as the nation’s top orange producer this month.

California barely passed Florida in orange production in May, but recently released citrus production forecast from the USDA for June shows the Sunshine State taking back its rightful ownership of orange production for the U.S., even if it does remain neck and neck with California. Florida beat out California in this month’s projection by just 700,000 boxes of oranges.

Fried is happy about Florida’s top spot.

“I’m glad to see Florida restored as the nation’s leading producer of oranges, as we hope for a strong finish to the season for grapefruit and specialty citrus. We at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services are proud to continue supporting our state’s citrus growers with ongoing funding, research, innovation and partnership,” Fried said in a written statement.

Nikki Fried is encouraged by Florida’s rosy citrus crop projections.

The June forecast projects a 2% increase for Florida oranges, a 1 million box increase to 52.7 million boxes, up from 51.7 million boxes in May. This includes a 3% increase in Florida Valencia Oranges.

Fried also attributed an increase in demand for oranges to consumer health trends.

“Health-conscious consumers are continuing to fuel demand for citrus and its immunity-boosting properties, and Florida’s citrus growers are meeting that demand with the world’s finest citrus,” Fried said.

But Florida grapefruit production is projected to decrease by 100,000 boxes to 4.1 million boxes, and specialty citrus is projected to decrease by 10,000 boxes to 890,000 boxes.

In a news release about the USDA report, Fried touted citrus funding in the 2020-21 state budget, including $8 million for citrus research projects, $7.4 million for citrus health and fighting pests and diseases and $19.2 million to pay outstanding Citrus Canker claims to Lee County.

Phone fraud

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis wants Floridians to double-check their app downloads because a surprising number of the top phone apps are some form of scam.

Patronis cited recent information publicized as part of a court case involving Apple that indicates nearly 2% of the top-1,000 App Store downloads are bilking users out of money. Those 18 apps alone have skimmed $48 million from iPhone or iPad users.

Check your apps, Jimmy Patronis says.

Fraud and shady sales tactics are just as common — perhaps more so — among the App Store’s B-Sides.

“Every day, consumers become more dependent than ever on our mobile phones and the apps we download. While many apps are legitimate, some are created to steal your personal information and possibly your hard-earned money,” Patronis said.

“Florida consumers must be on the lookout for app scams and know the warning signs to avoid falling victim to a fraud scheme. Parents should educate kids on apps to avoid and closely monitor app downloads in your household. If you feel you have become the victim of an app scam, delete the app immediately and monitor your financial accounts closely for any fraudulent charges.”

Patronis has a few tips to help prevent Floridians from forking over money to App Store scammers.

First, check app reviews to see if others have reported anything suspicious. Make sure to read a bunch, because if devious developers are good at anything, it’s astroturfing.

Second, double-check the app names. Many of the worst offenders are “spoofed” apps named similar to more popular and legitimate mobile apps.

Third, try before you buy. Many apps will allow you to try them for free before paying to use them regularly. This will enable you to give the app a good walk-through before you purchase.

Finally, ask a friend or family member. Advice from people you know is usually better than possibly faked App Store reviews. Asking around could save you from a scam.


Instagram of the week

The week in appointments

Florida State University Board of Trustees — DeSantis appointed Coral Gables attorney Vivian de las Cuevas-Diaz to the board. She is a partner at Holland and Knight, where she works as the firm-wide deputy section leader of their real estate section. De las Cuevas-Diaz is also a Past President of the Cuban American Bar Association, a member of the Florida Federal Judicial Nominating Commission for the Southern District, and volunteers with the Coral Gables Community Foundation, Beacon Council, Commercial Real Estate Women of Miami and the Latin Builders Association. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Florida State University and her law degree from Tulane University.

5th Judicial Circuit — DeSantis appointed Joel Fritton, of Spring Hill, to serve as a judge in Florida’s 5th Judicial Circuit. Fritton has served as General Counsel for the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office since 2013. Previously, he was an Assistant State Attorney in the 6th Judicial Circuit. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University at Buffalo and his law degree from Florida Coastal School of Law. Fritton fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Edward Scott.

Duval County Court — The Governor appointed Julie Taylor to serve as a judge in Duval County Court. Taylor has served as General Counsel for the 4th Judicial Circuit Court since 2017. In 2021, she became a Special Magistrate and Civil Traffic Infraction Hearing Officer. She has also worked as an Assistant State Attorney, private attorney and Assistant Public Defender. Taylor received her bachelor’s degree from UF and her law degree from Samford University Cumberland School of Law. Taylor fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Ronald Higbee.

Real Estate Appraisal Board Jared Hirsch and Prakash “Paul” Patel were appointed to the board by the Governor on Wednesday. Hirsch, of Davie, is Chief Legal and Compliance Officer at Niznik Behavioral Health, a national provider of behavioral health services for adolescents and adults. He earned his bachelor’s degree in general management from Michigan State University and his law degree from Nova Southeastern University. Patel, of Port Orange, is a licensed Realtor with Weichert Realtors. He is a BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir member of Orlando, where he is a government relations lead. Patel earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda.

Board of Professional Engineers — The Governor named eight people to the board this week. Jeb Mulock, of Bradenton, is president of ZNS Engineering and an alumnus of The Citadel and the University of South Florida. Denise Ramsey, of Jacksonville, is vice president of architecture and engineering for The Haskell Company’s Haskell Architects and Engineers. She earned her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from USF and her MBA from Jacksonville University. Dylan Albergo, of Tampa, is a project engineer with the Wantman Group. Albergo earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from FSU, and his master’s in structural engineering from UF. John Pistorino, of Pinecrest, is president of Pistorino and Alam Consulting Engineers. He earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from UF and his master’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Miami. Charles “Kevin” Fleming, of Tallahassee, is vice president of McGinniss and Fleming Engineering and the current Chair of the Board of Professional Engineers. Fleming earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from FSU. Babu Varghese, of Davie, is president and principal engineer at Abtech Engineering. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Cochin and his master’s degree in engineering from Florida Atlantic University. Pankaj Shah, of Clearwater, is president and CEO of Cumbey and Fair. He earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Baroda and his master’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Oklahoma. Yassi Myers, of Windemere, is president and owner of TLP Engineering Consultants. Myers earned her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Louisiana State University.


Crystals in jet fuel

Rep. Toby Overdorf is praising DeSantis for signing HB 77, the first bill of its kind to address jet fuel safety.

It’s the first bill in the nation to prevent jet fuel contamination, which has led to multiple aircraft in Florida losing power at altitude. The Governor signed the measure last week.

“HB 77 is the first language of its kind in the United States that regulates the storage and usage of several engine chemicals on airports,” Overdorf said Monday. “This bill makes Florida No. 1 in jet safety, and I am proud that the Florida Legislature passed this language unanimously and our Governor took a firm stand to make Florida the first in the nation to address this issue.”

At Opa-locka in Aug. 2018, more than a dozen planes were affected when airport servicers mistakenly loaded diesel exhaust fluid into jets’ anti-icing systems instead of their fuel system icing inhibitors.

Toby Overdorf is praising the state’s move on jet fuel safety rules.

With updated policy stemming from the Clean Air Act, modern ground vehicles use the fluid in the catalytic converter to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions, a major pollutant.

As public airports update their ground equipment, the fluid has become necessary to keep on airport grounds. But that introduces the risk of accidental mixing of a fluid.

Fuel system icing inhibitors are infused into jet fuel to prevent it from freezing. But diesel exhaust fluid crystallizes in jet fuel, possibly blocking the fuel line and eventually setting the engines ablaze.

“I look forward to seeing our Federal partners step up to the plate in the near future to ensure we are protecting lives even above 30,000 feet,” Overdorf said.

The bill goes into effect in October, but it will require the full compliance of airports by next year.

Chambliss’ food distribution

Rep. Kevin Chambliss is hosting a drive-thru food distribution this morning at his district office in West Perrine.

The event runs from 10 a.m. till 1 p.m.

Chambliss is partnering with Farm Share and the West Perrine Community Builders to make it happen.

Farm Share is a nonprofit organization that has been distributing food daily throughout Florida. Lawmakers frequently partner with the group to host food distributions in their communities.

The Representative lives in Homestead, but his district stretches up U.S. Route 1.

Chambliss is also partnering with the Kristi House, Build Your Own Legacy, Miami-Dade Florida Keys Crime Stoppers, Head Start, the Affiliated Healthcare Centers, Children’s Home Society of Florida, the Future Leaders of Tomorrow Academy, Miami Bridge, CareerSource South Florida and Miami-Dade County.

Chambliss’ district office is located at 17502 SW 104th Ave. in West Perrine.


Guess how many hours it takes to get around 50% of Floridians vaccinated?

The Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) has used a digital identity verifying platform to track nearly 850,000 professional hours across more than 100 state-run COVID-19 vaccination and testing sites since January.

As a result of the Division’s technology-forward approach to disaster response and mitigation, and explicitly recognizing these digital time-tracking procedures, FDEM has been named a StateScoop 50 Award winner in the State IT Innovation of the Year category. According to the awards website, the StateScoop 50 Awards honor “the most innovative and influential projects in state government,” according to the awards website. StateScoop is a media company.

FDEM Director Kevin Guthrie was also nominated in the Golden Gov category alongside state CIOs and Governors for leading state government into a new technology landscape.

Kevin Guthrie is recognized for leading his department into a new tech landscape.

“By implementing innovative technology in the state’s COVID-19 response, the state is streamlining processes and improving future disaster responses. We look forward to continuing this progress and are honored to be recognized for our work in IT innovation,” Guthrie said in a written statement.

FDEM and Merit estimate that nearly 1 million staff hours will be digitally accounted for by the end of June. This statewide use of a digital system with real-time reporting signals an end to the reliance on physical timesheets and state-resource-consuming processes to account for hours worked.

The company behind the technology is a California-based company called Merit.

“Responding to a statewide emergency involves many moving parts, and being able to utilize Merit’s digital verified identity platform to keep track of when and where our medical professionals are coming and going has greatly improved efficiency and accuracy in our statewide vaccination efforts. We appreciate this great partnership bridging the public-private divide to better serve Floridians,” Guthrie said in a written statement.

New plates

The newly minted Conserve Florida’s Fisheries license plate is now the latest specialty tag to hit Florida roads.

Approved by the Legislature in 2020, the revenue generated from the plate will support the Coastal Conservation Association of Florida.

The association’s local mission includes habitat enhancement and restoration, saltwater fisheries conservation and education.

Fishy: Florida’s latest specialty license plate.

The association also aims to “advise the public on the conservation of marine resources, and to promote and enhance the present and future availability of those coastal resources for the benefit and enjoyment of the general public,” the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles said.

Specialty license plates are available to motorists willing to pay a roughly $25 fee in addition to regular taxes. In all, approximately 120 specialty license plates are in circulation today.

Notably, each specialty plate requires buy-in from the public before coming to fruition.

Within 24 months after presale vouchers become available for a tag, at least 3,000 vouchers must be sold before the plate is manufactured. If not, it will not be manufactured.

The Conserve Florida’s Fisheries plate pre-sold 3,207.

Two other plates are also on the way: a Walt Disney World plate and a Navy Blue Angels plate.


Student branding rules

In addition to cracking down on critical race theory, the Board of Education on Thursday approved a set of rules to help implement legislation taking effect next month that will benefit student-athletes.

Through the upcoming law, students will be able to profit from their names, images and likenesses.

Under the plan, the 28 schools in the Florida College System can’t prevent or restrict student-athletes from earning compensation for the use of names, images or likenesses. State colleges and associated programs like boosters or foundations cannot provide compensation.

Students must advise the school of any contracts. “The only requirement for that contract is it doesn’t conflict with anything that is part of the team contract where they’re playing sports,” Florida College System Chancellor Kathryn Hebda said.

Kathryn Hebda is shaping up rules to allow student-athletes a revenue stream.

The rules largely mirror the proposal going before the state university system’s Board of Governors later this month. The Board of Education oversees state colleges, while the Board of Governors oversees state universities.

Under the Board of Education’s rules, the schools must fund and provide “financial literacy and life skills” workshops to all student-athletes, including those not seeking off-field compensation. That requirement isn’t in the Board of Governors’ rules.

State lawmakers have anticipated that the National Collegiate Athletic Association would allow students to profit from their names and images. When the Legislature passed the state law last year, they pushed back its implementation to July 2021 to give the NCAA a chance to act first.

However, with that deadline quickly approaching, Florida will be taking matters into its own hands.

Florida best beaches

This week, Dr. Beach named St. George Island State Park and Caladesi Island State Park among the nation’s 2021 Top Ten beaches.

Dr. Beach, known formerly as Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, is director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University in Miami. And for over 30 years, his Top 10 picks have been based on scientific studies of the shore and environment, among other criteria.

“While we have some of the most unspoiled, sandy, sun-kissed beaches in the world, they are much more than just a tourist attraction, albeit a very lucrative one,” said Gil Ziffer, president of the Florida State Parks Foundation. “Beach parks contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to the state’s economy and support thousands of local jobs.”

St. George Island suffered a big hit in 2018 but rebounded to become Florida’s top beach in 2021. Image via Dr. Beach.

Beyond economics, there are many important reasons to support the ecosystem and its species, Ziffer said.

Florida hosts the largest population of nesting loggerhead sea turtles in the world. Additionally, the Florida Keys are the third largest reef system in the world.

“It is crucial that our world-class beaches continue to receive the investment needed to restore, maintain and protect our state’s coastal resources,” Ziffer said.

Dr. Beach’s Top 10 list can is available online.


Welcome aboard

There’s a new Board of Directors for the Florida City and County Management Association (FCCMA).

FCCMA is a professional organization of practicing public administrators from Florida’s cities and counties.

Board members for the 2021-2022 term elected and installed during the Association’s annual business meeting.

Horace McHugh, interim city manager for the City of North Miami Beach, was elected president of FCCMA and will serve a one-year term.

Horace McHugh was tapped to lead the Florida City and County Management Association.

“I’m honored to be elected FCCMA president and to lead this incredible organization of my peers,” McHugh said. “I’m eager to get started, and I’m looking forward to working together as we continue moving forward as an Association.”

The purpose of the FCCMA Board of Directors is to provide leadership to the FCCMA and consists of 15 members, including the president, president-elect, secretary-treasurer, immediate past-president, eight district directors and three at-large directors. Each board member serves a two-year term.

Here is the list of 2021-2022 FCCMA Board of Directors:

President: McHugh, Assistant City Manager, North Miami Beach

President-elect: Lori LaVerriere, City Manager, Boynton Beach

Secretary-Treasurer: Michael Grebosz, Assistant City Manager, DeLand

Past President: Micah Maxell, Assistant City Manager, Clearwater

District I Director: Elmon Lee Garner, Town Manager, Sneads

District II Director: Sarah Campbell, Town Manager, Orange Park

District III Director: Jack “Al” Butler, Jr., Director of Support Services, Ocoee

District IV Director: Christine Thrower-Skinner, Village Manager, Golf

District V Director: Sharon Ragoonan, MIT (“Manager In Transition”)

District VI Director: Terry Atchley, City Manager, Wauchula

District VII Director: Matthew Spoor, City Manager, Safety Harbor

District VIII Director: Al Minner, City Manager, Leesburg

At-large Director: Brad Johnson, Assistant County Administrator, Sarasota County

At-large Director: Michael McNees, City Manager, Marco Island

At-large Director: Alan Rosen, County Manager, Lake County

Hospitality training

Brenda Moons is joining the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association as operations director of its hospitality industry training company.

RCS Training is a subsidiary of RCS training founded in 1984 to provide risk management and regulatory compliance training programs for the industry. The company also offers professional development training.

Moons served the American Hotel and Lodging Association Educational Institute for more than two decades. She brings executive-level experience in hospitality training, product development, sales, and marketing.

Congratulations to Brenda Moons for her move to the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.

“RCS Training enjoys a well-established statewide reputation for high-quality compliance and performance-enhancing training, and with this outstanding addition to our team, we look forward to deepening our service to industry,” FRLA Senior Vice President Geoff Luebkemann said.

Moons is native to central Florida and graduated from Florida Southern College. She holds a certificate in interactive courseware development from the American Film Institute and is a member of the Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers.

“We are fundamentally committed to efforts that strengthen and protect our industry, and with the arrival of this proven industry veteran and leader, we will continue to do so as we move beyond the challenges of the pandemic and refocus on the excellence of Florida hospitality,” FRLA President and CEO Carol Dover said.


Timeshare together

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, leisure travelers continued to travel to timeshare resorts for their spacious accommodations, amenities, and outdoor areas conducive to social distancing, and high levels of safety and cleanliness.

Now, with business travelers eager to hit the road and meet in person, timeshare has delivered again.

Last week, the American Resort Development Association (ARDA) hosted its 2021 spring conference, Timeshare Together, at the J.W. Marriott Grand Lakes in Orlando.

The conference, which hosted over 700 in-person attendees and hundreds more via its virtual platform, highlighted the experiences of the industry throughout the pandemic, how it quickly adapted to continue delivering for consumers, and how it’s innovating to meet the needs of more families and vacationers in the years to come.

Attendees also heard from top guest speakers like Daymond John, CEO of FUBU Clothing and Shark Tank judge, and Sarah Thomas, the NFL’s first female official.

Daymond John is the keynote at a very energized in-person timeshare conference. Image via Inc. magazine.

There was a palpable energy in the convention hall throughout the week, and one thing is clear — big things are on the horizon for the timeshare industry.

Spotted at Timeshare Together: Attorney General Ashley Moody, Senate President Wilton Simpson, Robert Spottswood of Spottswood Companies, Travel + Leisure Co. President and CEO Mike Brown, Marriott Vacations Worldwide Corporation CEO Steve Weisz, Hilton Grand Vacations President and CEO Mark Wang, Holiday Inn Club Vacations CEO Tom Nelson, and Diamond Resorts President and CEO Mike Flaskey.

Big bonus

Florida A&M University faculty, administrators and staff will receive $2,000 checks under a plan approved by the university’s Board of Trustees.

Full details are forthcoming, but the one-time nonrecurring lump sum payment will include merit criteria based on performance and hire date.

“This is extremely important,” FAMU President Larry Robinson said. “I’ve seen the great work faculty, staff and students have done, not just this year but over the last several years.”

FAMU VP for Finance and Administration Alan Robertson said the university will pay for the payments to Education and General funded employees by using part of the 6% holdback from the Governor, which was released back to state agencies during the recent Legislative Session.

It’s bonus time at FAMU, says Larry Robinson.

The amount held back was $7.3 million. The lump-sum payments will cost the University $3.225 million in E&G and non-E&G dollars. Employees designated as Administrative and Professional (A&P), University Support Personnel Service (USPS), and graduate assistant employees will also receive payments prorated by Full-Time Equivalency (FTE).

“This wasn’t new money. These are moneys we already had. We got through the year by being quite frugal,” Robinson said. “We thought this would be an appropriate use of the funds. We are going to reward our employees.”

The payments were approved during the Board of Trustee’s first in-person meeting since the pandemic began. It was also the first in-person meeting for new trustees Michael Dubose, Kenward Stone, Otis Cliatt II and Student Government Association President Carrington Whigham.


Find of the centurion

The Museum of Santa Maria della Scala in Siena, Italy, has an immaculate collection of ancient Roman coins on view this summer, and the display wouldn’t have been possible without Florida State University.

The “Treasure of Chianti” exhibit features 194 silver coins unearthed by an FSU team in 2015 at the Cetamura del Chianti excavation site. Cetamura’s hilltop was home to Etruscans, Romans, and Italians during the Middle Ages. FSU’s International Programs supervises excavations at the site.

The coins on exhibition date back to the period of the Roman Republic in the second and first centuries BCE. Excavators theorize the coins may have been part of the separation pay of a Roman soldier who fought in the famous Battle of Actium in 31 BCE between Octavian (Augustus) and Mark Antony and Cleopatra.

Scholarship recipients and Classics seniors Jamie Fontana (left) and Nina Perdomo (right). Image via FSU.

“The treasure is undoubtedly our most important find at Cetamura and one of the most significant in the region of Chianti,” said FSU Department of Classics professor Nancy de Grummond, who led the excavation team. “It firmly documents the moment of Romanization of Cetamura, previously Etruscan, and is without parallel in Chianti.”

The exhibit includes 178 specimens of the silver denarius, the standard Roman coin of the Republican period, and 16 of the quinarius, worth one-half of a denarius. For those who didn’t take Latin or fell asleep during the lecture on currencies, the denarius coin is where the word “dinero” originates.

While the coins are on display in Siena, a student-designed show will also run concurrently at the Fine Arts Gallery of Palazzo Bagnesi. FSU students Nina Perdomo and Jamie Fontana, classical archaeology majors and recipients of Rodney Reeves Museum Scholarships have prepared the inaugural event for the gallery: an exhibition of photos and 3D printing of discoveries from FSU excavations at Cetamura.

The Palazzo Bagnesi exhibit will open to the public on June 11.

Capitol Directions


Staff Reports


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