Takeaways from Tallahassee — New sheriff in town

Blue Tally Takeaways (5)
A PR pro offers backup for Florida Sheriffs, and there's a whole lot of slitherin' going on.

New sheriff in town

Logan Lewkow is leaving one of the top PR agencies to take over as communications director at the Florida Sheriffs Association.

Lewkow has been working at the Moore Agency since 2017, handling the needs of the firm’s many clients, including the Sheriffs Association.

The Moore Agency has grown in stature during his time at the firm. Last year, O’Dwyer’s PR News placed the Tallahassee-based firm in the No. 1 spot for Public Affairs firms, Agriculture firms and Healthcare firms operating in the Sunshine State. The firm was also ranked as a top-200 agency by PRovoke Media.

The job has provided him with experience in all aspects of communications, from grassroots engagement and media relations to digital strategy and crisis communications.

Congratulations to Logan Lewkow on his move to the Florida Sheriffs Association.

“It has been an honor and an incredible opportunity to learn from the leaders of Florida’s top public affairs and public relations agency. I am forever grateful to everyone at the Moore Agency, especially Karen Moore, who always took time and a genuine approach to ensure that the growth and development of my skills were optimized and created a family-first environment,” he said.

“With that experience, I have been able to represent the Florida Sheriffs Association over the past four years, and it has been a true passion for me personally and professionally. The opportunity to become FSA’s Director of Communications is a dream that is now a reality.”

“I am looking forward to working with Steve Casey, Matt Dunagan, Sarrah Glassner, the entire FSA team, the sheriffs throughout Florida, and our incredible partners like the Moore Agency in a deeper way to humanize the badge and continuing to highlight the great work our sheriffs are doing nationally. Florida is a positive role model for the entire nation when it comes to law enforcement and public safety, and I am pumped to continue telling the story why.”

Lewkow holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from Florida State University and an MBA from Mississippi State University. Before joining the Moore Agency, he spent nearly eight years working as the sales director for LobbyTools.


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:

Education, Health departments approve mask-optional rules — The Department of Education and Department of Health on Friday issued rules stemming from Gov. Ron DeSantis’ order targeting school mask requirements. DOE’s rule would allow parents whose children face “COVID-19 harassment,” including mask mandates, to apply for vouchers to transfer schools. That piggybacks off DOH’s order that schools let parents opt their children out of wearing masks. “At times, it may appear to be in conflict with what’s best for other groups, but we focus on what’s best for the kids and the students and the system for which we’re responsible,” said Board of Education Chair Tom Grady. Meanwhile, DeSantis’ order drew a challenge from parents of children with disabilities, who argue it forces children with cognitive disabilities to risk their health for a proper education.

Record COVID-19 hospitalizations in Florida — Florida saw three consecutive days of record-breaking hospitalizations for COVID-19 as the delta variant continues to surge. As many as 13,427 hospital beds were filled with COVID-19 patients, according to federal data updated Friday. Some hospitals have announced plans to limit elective surgeries as several hospitals approach capacity. Pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations are also rising, with 174 suspected or confirmed hospitalizations, 157 of which are confirmed. The number of vaccinated people is also increasing, although there have been more breakthrough cases than some officials, like DeSantis expected.

Feds approve Seminole Compact — Federal regulators approved the Gaming Compact between Florida and the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The notice of approval from the U.S. Department of Interior for Indian Affairs paves the way for the decadeslong deal to bring in a guaranteed $2.5 billion over the first five years. However, No Casinos and others are expected to sue the state, charging that it violates the constitutional amendment that Florida voters approved in 2018. IGRA and Secretary Deb Haaland had 45 days to act. But that deadline lapsed Thursday with no action from her department, allowing the Compact to take effect.

“Governor Who” and Biden spar over COVID-19 — After President Joe Biden told DeSantis and other Republicans to “get out of the way” of local governments trying to combat the virus on Tuesday, DeSantis responded Wednesday by telling the President that he was “standing in your way” and “I don’t want to hear a blip about COVID-19 from you.” The next day, Biden feigned ignorance when asked about DeSantis’ response, asking “Governor who?” in response. But DeSantis saw fit to remind Biden who he was. “I’m the Governor who answers to the people of Florida, not to bureaucrats in Washington,” DeSantis said in part of his canned response.

Fried wades into pandemic response battle — Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is stepping up after what she views as an absence of leadership from the Governor’s Office. After launching her own televised pandemic addresses last week, this week, she accused the Governor’s Office of delaying COVID-19 data and asked the federal government to provide financial relief for school districts impacted by DeSantis’ executive order. “You know, I am running for Governor of the state of Florida, but I never expected to start the job now,” Fried quipped on MSNBC’s “Katy Tur Reports.” However, federal dollars, as Fried requested, requires legislative approval or the Governor’s emergency approval.

Night Out

Attorney General Ashley Moody is highlighting recent efforts to increase ahead of this week’s annual Night Out Against Crime.

According to the Attorney General’s Office, Florida’s crime rate is down for the 50th consecutive year. But it flagged a rising number of homicides in major cities across the country.

“Protecting Floridians is my top priority,” Moody said. “It’s a mission I have dedicated my entire career to advancing — first as a federal prosecutor, then as a judge, and now as Florida’s Attorney General.

Moody said her office had improved existing crime-fighting programs and invented ways to strengthen relationships between law enforcement and their communities.

These include a statewide anonymous tip line, a service program to help young crime victims, Thin Line Tribute to recognize law enforcement officers’ courage, and Back the Blue to forge stronger relationships between officers and the communities they serve.

Additionally, the Attorney General’s Office oversees the Division of Victim’s Services that administers the Victims of Crime Act assistance grant and additional specialized funds. Injured crime victims may be eligible for financial assistance for medical care, lost income, mental health services, funeral and other out-of-pocket expenses directly related to the injury.

“All of these programs work toward our mission of reducing crime, improving public safety and building a Stronger, Safer Florida,” Moody said.

To learn more about the National Night Out, click on the image below:

Back-to-schoolers beware

Scammers could be targeting back-to-school shoppers, warns Moody.

As students prepare to head back to the classroom, student scams could become more prevalent. In a news release, Moody’s office warned of fraudulent school supply ads on social media and increased scam emails and phone calls offering student loan forgiveness plans.

Moody released a written statement urging parents to report scams.

“As a mother, I know firsthand that sending your kids back to school is an exciting, yet stressful event. It takes a lot of planning and shopping to make sure your student has the supplies they need to succeed in the classroom. Scammers may try to exploit the back-to-school shopping rush through fraudulent ads on social media or through direct email solicitations. Don’t fall for their tricks and report any suspicious activity to my office by calling 1(866) 9NO-SCAM or visiting MyFloridaLegal.com,” read Moody’s written statement.

Moody’s office offered tips to parents to avoid scams during the back-to-school season:

— Use a credit card when shopping online rather than a debit card;

— Before providing sensitive information online, make sure the website is secure by checking for a padlock symbol by the URL or the HTTPS;

— Ask a “trusted loan servicer” about the legitimacy of student-loan forgiveness plan offers;

— Know that legitimate companies will never solicit personal or sensitive information over the phone, by email or by text.

Florida’s Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday ends Monday. The holiday allows consumers to be exempt from sales tax when purchasing qualifying back-to-school supplies.

Lunch lady

Fried announced household size and income guidelines for free and reduced-price meals and free milk under federal school meal programs.

Fried and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Food, Nutrition and Wellness’ announcement includes National School Lunch, School Breakfast and Special Milk Programs guidelines. Children from households that meet the federal guidelines on household size and income are eligible for free or reduced-price meals or free milk.

Nikki Fried announces new guidelines for the state’s school lunch programs.

“Ensuring that all children in Florida have access to fresh, healthy foods remains one of my top priorities,” Fried said. “I’m proud that our partnership with USDA serves free and reduced-price school meals to nearly 3 million children in Florida, providing dependable nutrition that helps students stay focused and succeed academically.”

Households receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) only need to list the participating child’s name and SNAP or TANF case number when parents sign and apply. However, other eligible households must fill out the information, including the household income.

Parents must submit an application per student.

Tropical wave

Patronis warns Floridians to prepare for tropical storms as the state watches two tropical events in the Atlantic.

In early July, Tropical Storm Elsa developed quickly and brought heavy rainfall to Florida’s Gulf Coast.

“While the tropics have been quiet for the last several weeks following Tropical Storm Elsa, this activity is a stark reminder that we are in the height of hurricane season,” Patronis said.

Jimmy Patronis urges Floridians not to wait until the next big storm hits. Image via FWC/Flickr.

This week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration revised its already high estimate for the number of named storms upward.

“Preparing for a storm before it arrives can make all the difference, and I encourage Floridians to visit my PrepareFL.com website for information and resources to ensure you and your family can recover quickly,” Patronis said.

That link includes disaster preparedness tips, including conducting a video-recorded home inventory that documents valuable items. Other suggestions include keeping important financial and insurance documents in a memorable spot and in waterproof containers or bags. Patronis also suggests understanding the flood claims process and how to report losses to your insurance company.

The CFO’s Office also maintains an Insurance Consumer Helpline to aid Floridians as they file claims.

Instagram of the week

The week in appointments

University of North Florida Board of Trustees — DeSantis appointed Allison Korman Shelton to the UNF Board of Trustees on Friday. Shelton is the former government affairs director under Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and was previously vice president of marketing and public relations for The Stellar Group. She is a recipient of the Jacksonville Business Journal’s Women of Influence Award. Currently, She serves on The Bolles School Board of Trustees and is a past president of the Jewish Community Alliance and graduate of Leadership Florida. Shelton earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from Florida State University.

University of South Florida Board of Trustees — On Friday, the Governor appointed Fredrick Rick Piccolo to the USF Board of Trustees. Piccolo is the president and CEO of Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport and is a U.S. Army veteran. He is a past chairman of the Airports Council International World, past chairman of the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce and a board member of the Bradenton Area Economic Development Council. Piccolo earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the State University of New York at Buffalo. In 2005, he was named the Florida Department of Transportation Aviation Professional of the Year.

School Board of Manatee County — DeSantis on Friday named Wesley Chad Choate to the School Board of Manatee County. Choate, of Sarasota, is a financial adviser at Edward Jones Investments. Previously, he was a teacher and football coach for the School District of Manatee County. Choate serves on the Leadership Manatee Alumni Association Board of Directors, Manatee County Aging Network Board of Directors, Kiwanis of Bradenton Membership Committee, and is trustees chair for Trinity United Methodist Church. He is an accredited asset management specialist and earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of South Florida.

Water wings

Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez will speak at Keiser University in West Palm Beach on Monday to celebrate recently passed legislation promoting children’s water safety.

The legislation (Every Child a Swimmer) is designed to provide parents with local swim lesson resources. Keiser University said in a statement the move would have a “lasting impact” on Florida’s children and families.

Jeanette Nuñez wants every child to be a swimmer.

At the event, Keiser University will also announce plans to launch a fundraiser to construct an aquatic center and Olympic swimming pool at the West Palm Beach campus.

“Keiser’s Aquatic Center will help bring world-class events to the region,” the news release said. “The Palm Beaches are home to some of the nation’s top sporting facilities, and the addition of an Olympic pool at Keiser University will help bring premier swimming events to the County, enhancing the economic impact and stimulating bed tax revenues.”

The event is scheduled for Aug. 9 at 3 p.m. at the Keiser University Flagship Campus Student Life Center Gymnasium.

In addition to Nuñez, several state and local officials will attend, including Sen. Lori Berman, Rep. Patricia Williams, Rep. Christina Hunschofsky, Rep. Dan Daley and Rep. Jim Mooney.

Safety first

For the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), back-to-school time doesn’t just mean reminding students to look both ways when they cross the street.

School commutes affect everyone, from children and parents to any driver on the road during the start and end of school days.

Motor vehicle crashes remain a leading cause of death among children nationwide. Last year, Florida saw a 30% decrease in children involved in crashes yet a 32% increase in child fatalities from crashes compared to 2019, according to an FLHSMV news release.

Back-to-school safety is everyone’s concern.

FLHSMV Executive Director Terry L. Rhodes is warning drivers to look out around school zones and bus stops.

“School buses will soon be back on the road transporting our leaders of tomorrow, kids will be walking in and around school zones, and parents will add school drop off and pickups back into their daily routines,” Rhodes said in a written statement. “As we prepare our families and community for this upcoming school year, we must remain vigilant around school buses and in school zones. As a reminder, the penalties for failing to stop for a school bus doubled this year, and it is against the law to use a phone in a handheld manner while driving in a designated school crossing or school zone.”

Child safety inside the car is also top of mind for Florida’s transportation officials.

“This month, it is paramount that all Floridians share the responsibility of being attentive and vigilant by exhibiting safe and mindful driving habits each time we’re on the road,” read a written statement from the Florida Department of Transportation Secretary, Kevin J. Thibault. “I urge all drivers to be alert on the roadways and always watch for children who may be walking or biking, remember to use the correct seat for children to ride safely, and never leave a child unattended in a vehicle for any reason.”

Another tip from FLHSMV is to make sure all children are out of the vehicle and accounted for before leaving. Florida’s hot temperatures can quickly lead to a tragedy if children or pets are left in a hot car.

Python party

More than 200 slitherin’ snakes have been removed from Florida’s Everglades, and DeSantis is calling it a victory.

The removal of invasive Burmese pythons made it onto the Governor’s agenda because the nonnative species is causing so much harm to Florida’s ecosystem. In some parts of the Everglades, the advent of the pythons has decimated native birds, mammals and other reptiles.

Florida’s Annual Python Challenge asks snake hunters to remove the nuisance snakes from the area and hands out cash prizes to the hunter who pulls the most pythons and the biggest python. The competition is run by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and South Florida Water Management District.

Charles Dachton won the $10,000 Ultimate Grand Prize for removing 41 pythons. The longest python removed in the competition was 15 feet, 9 inches, removed by Dusty Crum.

Lots of slitherin’ going on at Florida’s Annual Python Challenge. Image via FWC/Flickr.

DeSantis, who traveled down to the Everglades to shed light on the competition during its registration phase, issued a written statement after the contest’s outcome.

“Invasive Burmese pythons have wreaked havoc in the Everglades, negatively impacting the ecosystem and biodiversity. At my direction, FWC and the South Florida Water Management District have taken steps to increase python removal efforts, and the unprecedented success of the 2021 Florida Python Challenge is a great example of the progress Florida has made battling these invasive species. Removing more than 200 Burmese pythons is a victory for our state as well as for the native animals that live here,” read DeSantis’ statement.

Burmese pythons can grow up to 20 feet in length and reach 200 pounds.

More than 600 people participated in the 10-day competition, resulting in the removal of more than 223 Burmese pythons.

You can see the complete list of competition winners here.

Antler points

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission data shows hunters have more opportunities to harvest deer with larger antlers thanks to FWC regulations.

FWC biologists found a shift in the age of harvested antlered deer with a 23% decrease in the harvest of 1.5-year-olds. Allowing yearlings to grow and mature contributed to increases in the harvest of older age-class deer.

Meanwhile, the average number of branches of deer’s antlers, known as antler points, increased from 4.9 to 6. Antler quality also increased, as did the average weight of the deer.

Hunters will get more opportunities to score some antlers. Image via FWC.

FWC manages whitetails at the deer management unit level, tailoring antler point regulations and more based on habitat quality, characteristics of the local deer herd and stakeholder preferences. Most of Florida’s Deer Management Units require that antlered deer have at least three antler points on a side or a main beam that’s 10 inches or more to be legal to take. The remaining units have a two-point-per-side rule.

FWC says it will continue to monitor the results of antler point regulations, bag limit rules, and more through its annual scientific survey of licensed deer hunters in Florida, which measures deer harvest as well as hunter participation and satisfaction.

Train and retain

The elderly population in Florida continues to grow and with that, so do the needs of the long-term medical care industry. The federal government has recognized and awarded the Florida Health Care Association (FHCA) a grant to do just that.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services awarded FHCA a $1.8 million grant to retain and attract more Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) into the profession.

The grant will support a two-year project that will raise awareness about long-term care as an opportunity for career growth, enhance the recruitment and retention efforts of Florida’s nursing centers and build partnerships with statewide educational, workforce and veterans’ organizations to encourage individuals to make long-term care their chosen career path.

Called the CaregiversFL Career Program, the endeavor will be supported by an interactive website that will launch in October to connect job seekers with career opportunities in Florida’s long-term and post-acute care profession.

Emmett Reed says there are plenty of opportunities for trained caregivers. Image via Facebook.

“As our elderly population increases each day, so too does the need for trained caregivers,” FHCA Chief Executive Officer Emmett Reed said in a written statement. “We want to thank our state and federal partners for recognizing the workforce challenges that are occurring in our long-term care centers across Florida. With this grant, our goal is to educate the public about the employment opportunities available in our long-term care facilities and, in turn, support providers in their efforts to attract more front-line heroes to meet the needs of the residents entrusted to their care.”

The CaregiversFL Career Program will partner with the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). It will use funds from the Quality of Long-Term Care Facility Improvement Trust Fund, created within AHCA, to support activities and programs directly related to improving the quality of care for nursing home residents.

Simone Marstiller, secretary of AHCA, said the partnership aligns with the priorities of the agency.

“Florida is home to one of the largest elderly populations in the country. Ensuring our seniors are well cared for has been and will continue to be a priority for the Agency,” Marstiller’s written statement read.

Unsung heroes

Know any “unsung heroes?”

The Florida Commission on the Status of Women (FCSW) asks for help selecting women for its annual Spirit of Community Awards.

The award is to recognize community members who go above and beyond to improve the lives of, inspire and serve as role models for women and girls in their communities.

FCSW describes ideal candidates like this:

“The recipients of the Spirit of Community Awards are those unsung heroes who work tirelessly and selflessly in service to their communities and who are not always recognized for their hard work. These leaders may not make big headlines, but they make big differences.”

If you know a woman who would be a good fit, nominate her here.

FCSW is a nonpartisan body of 22 Commissioners who focus on raising awareness and celebrating the contributions and successes of women. The group is celebrating its 30th anniversary in November. FCSW was created in 1991 by the Florida Legislature.

To learn more about the FCSW, click on the image below:

Main Street

Secretary of State Laurel Lee praised 48 “Main Street programs” across Florida after they were recognized by the National Main Street Center.

“Congratulations to this year’s nationally recognized programs,” she said Thursday. “I am proud to celebrate the hard work and dedication of all of Florida’s Main Street programs. Your commitment to your local communities is inspiring, and I look forward to your continued achievements.”

All participating Florida Main Street programs complete an annual evaluation by Florida Main Street staff to determine their accreditation status. Accredited programs must meet National Main Street Center and Florida Main Street standards. Programs that don’t meet those standards are recognized as affiliates.

Main Street programs celebrate the heart and soul of small-town Florida.

Florida Main Street is part of the Department of State’s Division of Historical Resources. The program revitalizes historic downtowns and encourages economic development through historic preservation.

Historic main streets were also highlighted this week when the Department of Economic Opportunity awarded $58 million to communities in the Panhandle to continue rebuilding after Hurricane Michael. Government and business leaders praised rural downtowns and main streets during DeSantis’ news conference in Panama City announcing the award.

History Class Brewing Company’s co-founder, Allan Branch, called rural downtowns the heartbeat of communities and perfect for “bumping into folks.” Main Street is central to Panama City’s origin story, he added.

“We have a government that recognizes that they don’t build these buildings the way they used to and you cannot replace them, and you don’t abandon communities after Cat. 5 hurricanes,” Branch said.

Make it so

Florida State University’s Center for Advanced Power Systems received a $31 million contract from the nation’s Naval Sea Systems Command for R&D on shipboard electrical power and energy systems.

“My team and I are extremely excited about the new contract from NAVSEA,” said Mischa Steurer, the FSU principal investigator of the contract. “It is a great testament to the quality of our work and the credibility of our team in the community. We have the opportunity to make a tangible impact for the Navy’s fleet and the taxpayers as our methods are aimed at lowering risk in the research and development cycles of advanced power and energy technologies necessary to provide ships the capabilities they need in the future.”

FSU’s Center for Advanced Power Systems will supply brainpower for the U.S. Navy. Image via FSU.

CAPS researchers and their partners at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, University of South Carolina, University of Alabama and the University of Texas at Arlington will develop approaches incorporating advanced modeling and simulation techniques into the Navy’s strategy for future digital engineering.

“This contract is a great show of faith from NAVSEA about the quality of work that CAPS has provided for them in the past and will continue to do so in the future,” CAPS Director Roger McGinnis said. “The team here has done a tremendous job in working with the Navy over the past two decades, and we are thrilled to continue that partnership.”

White House HBCU Scholars

This year, two Florida A&M University students are among the White House’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities scholars.

Stephen Bowen, of Tallahassee, and Kerra Kelly, of McDonough, Georgia, are members of the eighth cohort of scholars announced by the White House Initiative on HBCUs. That program recognizes 86 undergraduate, graduate and professional students for academic accomplishments, leadership, civic engagement and more. Bowen and Kelly were selected from a pool of more than 200 students.

Bowen is a third-year doctoral student pursuing his Ph.D. in educational leadership at FAMU’s College of Education.

“I am incredibly grateful and honored to be chosen as an HBCU Scholar. I look forward to representing the FAMUly,” said Bowen, assistant deputy commissioner of Data Systems, Florida Department of Education. “I am excited about the opportunity to learn and to grow from such a talented group of HBCU scholars.”

Kelly is a junior pre-dentistry student.

Kerra Kelly and Stephen Bowen will represent FAMU as White House scholars. Image via FAMU.

“My growth at FAMU is a testament to the importance of HBCUs to equitable outcomes in our country,” Kelly said. “I plan to contribute in a manner that is consistent with the heritage of FAMU by striving to support the next generation of HBCU students and administrators.”

Applications required the signature of their university president, adding a level of prestige to this application process.

“We congratulate our outstanding students on being selected as White House HBCU scholars as well as those students from other institutions. This is recognition of what they’ve accomplished and their potential in the years ahead,” FAMU President Larry Robinson said. “This experience will go a long way in preparing them for successful careers.”

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