Tallahassee locals, including some closely involved in the Process, are teeing off a new youth development organization in the capital city.
First Tee Tallahassee is the latest branch of First Tee, an organization that strives to enable children to build strong character to prepare them for life’s challenges. The team of leaders putting First Tee to Tallahassee include Founder and Chairman Chuck Urban, Executive Director Tracy Marple and Board Member Alia Faraj-Johnson — president and CEO of Alia Strategic Group.
“A lot of people think First Tee is just about teaching children to play golf. But really, it’s about character development through golf,” Marple told Florida Politics.
The program provides students through a curriculum that teaches nine values through golf. Meanwhile, Southwood Golf Club is volunteering to loan their facilities to the organization.
“Our single focus is to impact the lives of young people by providing educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values and through the game of golf,” Faraj-Johnson said in a statement.
After three years of dreaming up ways to give back to the community, Urban officially founded First Tee in July, but the organization finally hit the fairway last weekend, ahead of Leon County Schools first day of classes and the girls and boys golf season. First Tee Tallahassee worked with Sabal Palm Elementary, a community partnership school, for a “back-to-school bash” on Saturday.
Sabal Palm Elementary School Principal Davis Shannon helped bring the program to her community development school. Shannon also has a special connection with golf — her son went to Florida A&M University on a golf scholarship.
Before First Tee Tallahassee expanded into the capital city, Tallahassee was one of the last few large cities without a chapter, of which there are 150 nationwide. The Tallahassee branch is the only affiliate between Jacksonville and Pensacola.
First Tee Tallahassee plans to cover all of Leon County and hopes to extend into Jefferson County next. Next, they aspire to cover Wakulla and Gadsden counties, and even Thomasville, Georgia.
Marple has a list of 21 elementary schools that at one point had some involvement in First Tee. Others like Fort Braden Elementary have reached out to her or Urban directly.
“I think the more we get the word out, the more the news spreads, the more people will want to get involved,” Marple said.
First Tee Tallahassee is ramping up this month, which is also National Golf Month.
“We are in fundraising mode, and donations are what we’re after,” Urban said.
First Tee Tallahassee is also seeking volunteers and coaches, and there’s no golf experience necessary to get involved.
After one event, Marple is already seeing signs of success. One kid who caught her eye was a little girl who picked up a club despite her broken arm.
“She just had that spark,” Marple said.
Coming up, the usual assortment of news, intel and observations from the week that was in Florida’s capital city by Peter Schorsch, Drew Wilson, Renzo Downey, Aimee Sachs, Christine Jordan Sexton and the staff of Florida Politics.
But first …
The “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
Florida pols react to Mar-a-Lago raid — Following Peter’s big-time scoop on the FBI’s raid at Mar-a-Lago, Republicans expressed outrage over the “weaponization” of the federal government. Chief among them was Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose office said he had no advanced knowledge about the warrant served in Palm Beach. “The raid of MAL is another escalation in the weaponization of federal agencies against the Regime’s political opponents, while people like Hunter Biden get treated with kid gloves,” DeSantis tweeted. “Now the Regime is getting another 87K IRS agents to wield against its adversaries? Banana Republic.”
Christina Pushaw moves to campaign side — DeSantis Press Secretary Christina Pushaw says the “gloves are off” after departing her administrative role Friday to join the Governor’s re-election campaign as Director of Rapid Response. Deputy Press Secretary Bryan Griffin will be elevated to lead Press Secretary in her place. Both begin in their new roles on Monday. “You gave me latitude to respond to media narratives in direct and often unconventional ways, allowing me to redefine this role for a leader whose actions speak for themselves,” Pushaw wrote, addressing DeSantis and her superiors. Pushaw’s arrival in the DeSantis administration ushered in a combative approach to the state’s communications operation. “Like Christina did so well, I will ensure the Governor’s message is amplified and that false narratives are debunked,” Griffin tweeted.
Escambia teacher resigns over Black hero controversy — The Pensacola News Journal on Wednesday reported that an O.J. Semmes Elementary School teacher emailed a letter to DeSantis and district leadership accusing a district employee of removing depictions of “Black heroes” from his classroom, prompting the teacher to resign. Politicians such as gubernatorial candidate and U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist tied the employee’s actions to DeSantis and a recent law against “woke” education, which critics say whitewashes history, particularly Black history. “Of course, it would be appropriate to discuss civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. in the classroom,” the Governor’s Office said in a statement. “Anyone who asserts otherwise or pretends this is an unresolved question is either mistaken or misrepresenting the truth.”
Democratic lawmakers request investigation into FPL — Four Democratic lawmakers called on Attorney General Ashley Moody to investigate Florida Power & Light following repeated scandals involving the utility company, Florida’s largest. Reps. Anna V. Eskamani, Joy Goff-Marcil, Yvonne Hayes Hinson and Carlos Guillermo Smith said recent reports have exposed ample evidence of malfeasance at FPL. The Attorney General’s Office referred their request to the Department of Law Enforcement. “The corruption, influence peddling, and breaches of the public trust by FPL and its senior executives should be of grave concern,” the quartet wrote.
Cannabis centers given 60 days to follow website rule — Medical marijuana treatment centers have 60 days to ensure their website and website purchasing services comply with a new emergency rule from the DeSantis administration. The rule comes after the state lost a legal battle last year to ban licensed dispensaries from contracting with third-party websites that offer “website purchasing” services to 740,213 qualified patients and their caregivers. Former DOH Chief of Staff Courtney Coppola sent a memo in February 2021 telling licensed dispensaries that using third-party e-commerce vendors runs afoul of Florida law and threatened $5,000 fines against companies that used the e-commerce services.
Tallahassee Community College (TCC) was awarded nearly $1.6 million for enhancements to its health care workforce training programs at its campuses in Leon and Gadsden counties.
TCC will use the Florida Job Growth Grant Funds to expand its surgical technology, dental hygiene, and dental assisting programs by purchasing new equipment to enroll and train students. TCC’s goal is to double the number of students it’s able to teach with the expansions and has set a goal of graduating nearly 1,300 students.
“I am proud to award this funding to Tallahassee Community College to enhance the skilled workforce in the Big Bend region and to provide Floridians with another pathway for success,” DeSantis said. “My administration will continue to invest in workforce development and equip Floridians with the skills necessary to thrive in the workforce and support their families.”
TCC President Jim Murdaugh thanked the Governor and his administration for supporting TCC’s workforce program as well as the state college system.
“This generous grant will allow us to continue our work of providing students and adult learners with the skills needed for jobs in in-demand industries here in our community,” Murdaugh said.
The Florida Job Growth Grant Fund is an economic development program designed to assist in the promotion of public infrastructure and workforce training. The 2022-23 Florida Job Growth Grant Fund Cycle is open and accepting applications for workforce training and infrastructure grants.
Proposals are reviewed by the Department of Economic Opportunity and Enterprise Florida. Ultimately, the Governor chooses which projects should receive the grants.
“Under Governor DeSantis’ leadership, Florida’s workforce continues to grow, and strategic investments made through the Job Growth Grant Fund continue to pave new career paths and expand job opportunities for hardworking Floridians across the state,” Department of Economic Opportunity Secretary Dane Eagle said. “These healthcare programs will serve as an economic catalyst in the region, encourage individual advancement, and develop a stronger workforce throughout the state.”
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried appointed former state Rep. Jennifer Webb to the Florida Commission on the Status of Women.
Webb was elected to the House of Representatives in 2018 and was the first LGBTQ+ woman to serve in the Legislature. During her brief tenure, Webb sponsored bills to provide incarcerated women with health care products and to increase resources for mental health. She also sponsored a bill to bring a universal breakfast program to public schools, filing the proposal on behalf of Fried’s office.
“In these unprecedented times, it is crucial members of this commission are champions for women and are invested in finding real solutions that will improve the lives of future generations of women,” Fried said. “Based on her record as a legislator and community advocate, I am confident Representative Webb will be a valuable addition, and I look forward to seeing all she will do on the Commission.”
Webb, who lost her re-election bid in 2020, is the managing partner at OmniPublic, a global strategy, public affairs and public relations firm with offices in Tampa and New York City.
Fried announced the appointment on Friday at a media event where she was joined by Webb, Caitlyn Peacock, Executive Director of the Tampa Bay Network to End Hunger, and Jennifer Yeagley, CEO of the St. Petersburg Free Clinic.
Established in 1991, the Florida Commission on the Status of Women is a 22-member nonpartisan board housed in the Office of the Attorney General that is charged with studying and making recommendations to the Governor, the Cabinet and the Legislature on issues impacting girls and women in Florida.
The Governor, the House Speaker, the Senate President and the Attorney General each appoint four members to the commission. The Chief Financial Officer and the Commissioner of Agriculture each appoint three members. Appointees serve four-year terms.
As students return to school, Moody wants Florida parents to know the best ways to keep their children safe.
To that end, Moody’s office released Back to School: Digital Dangers to help parents protect their children from dangers they may face.
Moody’s office says the document is designed to help parents start what can be difficult conversations with children including the dangers of online predators and illicit drugs commonly laced with deadly fentanyl. There’s also a section on the dangers of texting and driving.
“New challenges have emerged in the tech age — including digital drug dealers selling deadly fentanyl over social media, human traffickers who attempt to lure children online, and even texting while driving jeopardizing road safety,” Moody said. “As schools start, I am releasing Back to School: Digital Dangers to warn parents about these threats and encourage them to talk to their children about how to stay safe.”
The online document also includes references to other resources published by the AG’s office, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles as well as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
With inflation at historic rates, Floridians don’t have time to deal with coding errors tanking their credit scores, says Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis.
Patronis wrote Equifax CEO Mark Begor this week, urging him to detail how the company will make customers whole who were issued incorrect credit scores this spring.
Because the error could’ve led to consumers paying higher interest rates on loans or being denied, Patronis believes “this error equates to money being stolen directly out of the pockets of innocent consumers by no fault of their own,” he wrote Begor on Thursday.
“With U.S. inflation at historic levels and interest rates increasing steadily, the last thing Florida consumers need is to have their financial data impacted by a botched coding error of this magnitude. Therefore, it is crucial Equifax provide the state of Florida with more information related to this coding error and detailed steps on how to make affected consumers whole again,” he added.
Patronis’ letter came after a Wall Street Journal report revealing the incorrect scores, which were issued to potentially millions of consumers over a three-week period in March and April. Equifax blamed an “internal coding error” for the incorrect scores and said the number of consumers seeking loans affected by the mistake was low.
Instagram of the Week
The Week in Appointments
Volunteer Florida — DeSantis has appointed Josefina “Josie” Tamayo as CEO of Volunteer Florida. Tamayo most recently served as General Counsel at the Agency for Health Care Administration. “Josie has served the state for many years, and I know that she will continue to serve to the best of her ability in this new role,” DeSantis said. “Josie will be a great asset to the Volunteer Florida team.” Tamayo was born in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba. After fleeing Cuba under Fidel Castro, she and her parents settled in Milledgeville, Ga. She received her bachelor’s degree from Emory University and her law degree from Georgia State University. Tamayo has 33 years of experience as a public servant serving as an Assistant State Attorney, and General Counsel for five state agencies. She also served as the first Cuban American woman appointed to serve as Circuit Judge on Florida’s 2nd Judicial Circuit Court.
The Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve is getting bigger, to the tune of 240 acres.
The purchase by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), approved in March by DeSantis and the Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund, protects some of the largest remaining coastal uplands in Duval County. The city of Jacksonville also provided funding.
“This property not only offers visitors increased recreational access to hiking, wildlife viewing and fishing, but it also plays a crucial role in creating climate resilience against extreme weather events like hurricanes through protection of marshes and native forests,” Doug Hattaway, senior project manager for the Trust for Public Land, said in a statement. “We’re proud to be part of this effort to expand Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve and the historic, natural and cultural significance it holds.”
The Trust earlier purchased the property on Black Hammock for conservation purposes. DEP will administer these 240 acres as part of the Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve, while the rest of the property goes to the National Park Service as part of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve.
The area’s known as one of the more northerly destinations for manatees, along with being a home to the endangered wood stork and other wading birds. It also helps supply the Nassau and St. Johns rivers with clean water.
“Along with the increased public access, this property encompasses four known archaeological sites containing evidence of human history dating back 4,000 years,” DEP Secretary Shawn Hamilton said.
Florida International University bestowed its Champion Award upon Sen. Ileana Garcia, who this year helped secure $5 million in state funds to build FIU’s new 25,000-square-foot Engineering Center.
“Florida International University is a great source of pride not just to South Florida, but to our state. It’s been very rewarding to fight for these additional funds for FIU knowing that they will go toward growing the stellar campus and creating greater opportunities for our community,” Garcia said in a release announcing the recognition.
With the funding, FIU will be able to complete its $63 million phase II construction of its Engineering Center (EC). The EC houses FIU’s College of Engineering and Computing and is located two miles north of FIU’s Modesto A. Maidique Campus.
The $5 million will be used to install classrooms and collaborative spaces in the EC. FIU maintains that it can become the headquarters for world-class breakthrough research in architecture, medical technology and cyber surveillance.
During her time in the Legislature Garcia has helped secure $33.5 million for the EC.
Democratic Rep. Daisy Morales met with Louisiana Republican State Rep. Beau Beaullieu about introducing legislation on educational opportunities for disabled veterans in the Pelican State.
Florida lawmakers passed HB 45 early this year. The law provides an educational benefit to some disabled veterans, allowing those who qualify as residents to attend state universities or career centers, and if they’re not qualified for 100% eligibility tier federally, remaining tuition fees can be waived.
Morales hopes Florida could become a national model on veteran education.
“It’s great to work as partners to help disabled veterans who have sacrificed so much for our country with educational opportunities to eliminate challenges they face when they have given so much for our country and allow them to support their families,” Morales said. “My office will work closely with other State Legislators looking to pass legislation for educational tuition assistance.”
What a beauty
The Florida Highway Patrol wants to be named “Best Looking Cruiser” and it needs your help.
Voting for the American Association of State Troopers annual “Best Looking Cruiser” is open until August 25. FHP submitted a photo of a parked cruiser at sundown in Marathon, a 10-mile-long island community in the middle of the Florida Keys.
Taken at sunset, the shiny two-tone Dodge Challenger cruiser is parked alongside clear, cerulean-blue water and the yellow-orange rays of the setting sun peek through the remains of a summer sky. In the background is a white fishing boat.
Support the Florida Highway Patrol by visiting the contest website here. Select “Florida” from the drop-down menu at the bottom of the page and click done when finished. That’s it.
The winner of the contest will be featured on the cover of the AAST’s “America’s Best Looking Trooper Cruisers 2023” Wall Calendar.
Calendar sales benefit the American Association of State Troopers Foundation, which provides educational scholarships to dependents of member troopers. The winner also will be presented with the “Best Looking Cruiser Award.”
The Capital City Chamber of Commerce has announced the development and sponsorship of a new member grant program with 223 Agency, of which Leon County Commission District 5 candidate Dustin Rivest is the CEO.
“This is a win-win situation for the new member, the Capital City Chamber grows through increased membership growth, and the grant-sponsoring businesses gain new business friendships,” Rivest said.
The membership grants will allow members to underwrite initial membership dues for potential new members to join the Chamber upon their qualification through what is called the Membership Empowerment Grant.
“We are most grateful to the 223 Agency and Dustin Rivest for this innovative initiative,” said Chamber President Katrina Tuggerson. “The Membership Empowerment Grant and the support it will provide to other small businesses will foster the growth of the mission of the Capital City Chamber of Commerce. This is how local businesses can truly help others.”
The nonprofit public charity has distributed more than $37 million in grants to local nonprofits since its inception 25 years ago. The board assists the Foundation in managing its assets, which are in excess of $100 million. Along with Cohn, CFNF recently appointed Capital City Bank COO Beth Corum, Stearns Weaver Miller shareholder Kelly O’Keefe, and SBA senior investment officer John Bradley to its board.
“We’re honored to welcome Ryan Cohn as a member of our Board of Directors,” said Katrina Rolle, President and CEO of the Community Foundation of North Florida. “He brings a fresh and meaningful perspective as one of Florida’s preeminent PR and marketing experts. His extensive knowledge of and commitment to our local community will help take our leadership team to new heights.”
This isn’t Cohn’s only experience with nonprofit agencies. He is the immediate past chair and a continuing board member at the Institute for Nonprofit Innovation and Excellence (INIE), North Florida’s nonprofit resource center. He co-led INIE’s Executive Director Search Committee in 2021-22.
“I love supporting nonprofits that act as force multipliers in our community, providing other nonprofits with the tools and resources they need to maximize their impact,” Cohn said. “The Community Foundation of North Florida has fit that mold for 25 years, serving a vital role as North Florida’s go-to connector of donors and charitable causes. “I’m proud to join the CFNF Board of Directors and look forward to helping increase the visibility and recognition of its significant and important work.”
Cohn founded and served as the CEO of What’s Next Marketing, a social media marketing agency that was acquired by Sachs Media 10 years ago. In the decade he’s been at Sachs media, Cohn has served as a senior communications adviser and media strategist and has headed the public relations firm’s health care and digital media practice groups.
The SalterMitchell public relations firm won its third award for its work on a fundraising campaign.
SalterMitchell PR received the Award of Distinction from the Florida Public Relations Association at the 2022 Annual FPRA Conference.
The “Imagine Freedom” fundraising campaign aimed to raise awareness of human trafficking in the local community. The firm exceeded its fundraising goal.
SMPR founder April Salter and President Heidi Otway were also installed to the 2022-2023 FPRA Executive Committee, for which Salter will serve as chair of its education foundation. Otway will be the vice president of the conference.
“We are excited for the future of FPRA and look forward to serving in these leadership roles,” the firm said in a news release.
The SMPR creative team also designed the “You Belong” theme logo for 2022-2023.
Keeping it clean
CDR Health donated more than 10,000 bottles of hand sanitizer to the Leon County Schools Foundation for use in K-12 schools across Tallahassee.
CDR Health CEO Tina Vidal-Duart announced the donation Tuesday and was joined by Leon County Superintendent of Schools Rocky Hanna, Deputy Superintendent Dr. Michelle Gayle, Foundation of Leon County Schools Executive Director Eric Clark, Leon County Schools Communications Director Chris Petley and Leon County Schools Marketing Director Heather Thomas.
CDR Health is one of the leading COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatment, testing, and vaccination providers. CDR Health has provided more than $500 million in COVID-19 support services, 4 million COVID-19 tests, 3 million COVID-19 vaccinations, and 150,000 monoclonal antibody treatments. In January 2021, CDR health opened a COVID-19 testing and vaccination facility in Tallahassee and also offers telehealth services.
“Tallahassee quickly became our second home in early 2020 as we served communities across the state and we are proud to be able to give back to a community that was so welcoming to us,” said Vidal-Duart. “Leon County Schools has been a great partner over the last few years and we look forward to keeping kids safe and healthy as they begin the new school year.”
Nearly 250 Leon County elementary school students went back to school this week with new clothes, shoes and a backpack filled with school supplies as part of the Kid’s Boutique initiative spearheaded by the Tallahassee Junior League.
The Junior League partnered with Kohl’s for this year’s shopping spree, which occurred Aug. 7. AMWAT Moving Warehousing Storage, the Williams Group Broker by Superior Realty Group, The Cookie Boutique, Governor’s Club, Arbor Properties, District 850, Chicken Salad Chick, Costco Wholesale, Mardi Gras Sno-Balls and Drip Drop Fitness were the donors that helped make the annual event, now in its 26th year, possible.
The Junior League worked with guidance counselors in Leon County elementary schools to identify the children who were most in need of items for the start of the academic year.
“Kids boutique is a project the Junior League is incredibly proud of and this year’s team of volunteers executed a fantastic shopping event for families in our Tallahassee community,” said JLT President Becca Piers. “With support from our sponsors and community partners nearly 250 students went back to school shopping with our volunteers picking out brand new outfits to start the upcoming school year with confidence and style.”
Ron DeSantis — Down arrow — Oh, he’s worried about weaponizing state agencies now? Or does he just realize the raid helped Trump 2024?
Ron DeSantis — Up arrow — Manatee should hold off on buying signage for Gov. Ron DeSantis Park. They might have to rename it after 2024.
Nikki Fried — Down arrow — ‘Historic’ rarely means good. Just ask Glades residents.
Jimmy Patronis — Up arrow — Why pay for TrueBill when Patronis will fix your credit score for free?
Cord Byrd — Down arrow — Everyone, please stop voting. You’re making his job harder.
Randy Fine — Down arrow — r/thatHappened has taken human form.
Christina Pushaw — Down arrow — You have it backward. If AP just signal-boosted overlong quotes from state officials, then they would be American Pravda.
Bryan Griffin, Jeremy Redfern — Up arrow — Upgrayedd, with two Ds for a double dose of promotions.
Rebekah Jones — Down arrow — So, she’s as much a Democrat as she is a “data scientist.”
Citizens Insurance — Down arrow — Let’s start calling it what it is: the state-backed economic depression piñata.
Demotech — Up arrow — It’s the corporate equivalent of the Juaquin Phoenix thumbs-down gif.
State universities — Crossways arrow — Sit tight until mom and dad get on the same page.
Floridian Partners — Up arrow — Toby Philpot makes them a go-to firm for health care lobbying.
Florida Sheriffs Association — Up arrow — Sometimes the best defense is a good offense.
Trulieve — Up arrow — Inhale. Exhale. Just got a petition in the mail.
Slots — Up arrow — If the state coffers could talk, it’d say “jackpot.”
Brittany Dover — Up arrow — Volunteer Florida snagged a good one.
Jennifer Webb — Up arrow — A slam dunk appointment for the Florida Commission on the Status of Women.
Jay Revell — Up arrow — Someone get him a new pair of trainers.
Scott Maddox — Down arrow — This is the lamest car seizure since the Federales took El Chapo’s Jetta.
Tallahassee police — Down arrow — Gallagher III took prop comedy to a really sadistic place. Next time, hire Leo or Ron.