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Glades Electric Cooperative

AU G U S T 2013


Gatorama Ben Register feeds the gators during a show at the roadside attraction in Palmdale. The sign notes “Fast Hands or No Hands.” See page 4 to learn how Gatorama has evolved into an agribusiness while remaining true to its roots.

Small Measures = Real Savings PAGE 7

Prized Loyal Connections PAGE 28

Glades Electric

Neighbors Working for Neighbors

Members acknowledge that $3.96, plus actual postage, is the cost to publish 12 issues a year of Florida Currents (USPS-8300). Published by Ruralite Services Inc., 2040 A St., Forest Grove, OR 97116—a not-for-profit Oregon cooperative corporation—the magazine serves the communications needs of consumer-owned electric utilities in Florida. Preferred Periodicals postage paid at Forest Grove, OR 97116 and at additional mailing offices. Postmaster: Please send address corrections to P.O. Box 558, Forest Grove, OR 97116. HOW TO CONTACT FLORIDA CURRENTS

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Seminole Welcomes New CEO

Seminole Electric Cooperative’s Board of Trustees has selected Lisa D. Johnson as its new CEO and general manager. Johnson assumes her new role August 1. She succeeds Timothy S. Woodbury, who will continue to advise Seminole and its member cooperative systems until his retirement in December. Seminole is one of the largest generation and transmission cooperatives in the country. Headquartered in Tampa, its mission is to provide reliable, competitively priced, wholesale electric power to its 10 members, which includes Glade Electric Cooperative. Four of the largest distribution cooperatives in the United States are members of Seminole. Approximately 1.7 million people and businesses in parts of 45 Florida counties rely on Seminole member distribution cooperatives for electricity. “Johnson’s utility expertise,

leadership abilities and progressive vision will position Seminole and its member distribution cooperatives for the future so that we can continue providing affordable and reliable electricity to our member consumers,” said Seminole Board President Malcolm V. Page. Since 2011, Johnson has served as senior vice president and chief operating officer of Old Dominion Electric Cooperative in Glen Allen, Virginia. She joined ODEC in 2006 following an 11-year tenure with Mirant Corp. and Southern Co. Johnson holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and materials science from Duke University. She serves as a board member and chairwoman of the Cooperative Research Network and was named one of Virginia’s most influential women in 2012. Woodbury has been with

Seminole Electric CEO Lisa D. Johnson

Seminole since 1979. He has been CEO the past six years. “Tim’s service to the cooperative throughout the past 34 years has been exemplary, and his tenure as CEO has been extremely successful,” said Page. “We look forward to Lisa taking over as CEO and continuing to build on the strong foundation that has made Seminole such a success story.” 


August 2013 Vol. 2, No. 10

The Quest for Treasure 12 Continuing the legacy of the world’s most famous and successful treasure hunter, Mel Fisher’s family dives for remnants of the Atocha. Also In This Issue Side Roads 10 In the Kitchen 16 Florida Gardener 18

Travel Journal 19 Festival Roundup 22 Outdoor Pursuits 24

Your utility pages: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 25, 26, 28, 29, 32

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Glades  Electric

Neighbors Working for Neighbors

Banking on Nature Gatorama has drawn tourists to its iconic Florida experience for 56 years By Chelsea Levine


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The year is 1957. Gas is 24 cents a gallon. You and your family are cruising down U.S. Highway 27 in your brand new Chevy while listening to the king himself, Elvis Presley, on the radio. You are headed to South Florida for a vacation. While en route, you pass a number of roadside tourist attractions and decide to make a few stops. Roadside attractions became popular during the ’50s and ’60s, drawing in families traveling along main highways. Cecil Clemons founded one of these attractions—Gatorama—in rural Palmdale in 1957. U.S. Highway 27 was still a two-lane road. Cecil believed that when tourists traveled to the Sunshine State they were interested in seeing three things: orange groves, beaches and alligators. Since Cecil lived in a Florida swamp, he decided to open a roadside alligator attraction. Nine years later, he expanded the attraction to include crocodiles. After retiring from the U.S. Army in 1986, David Thielen and his wife, Marietta, moved back to his childhood home after buying Gatorama from Cecil. David’s main interest was to develop a working

alligator farm, but Cecil made him promise to keep the attraction open. The Thielens’ daughter, Patty Register, and her husband, Allen, are the current owners of Gatorama. Under the Thielens and now the Registers, Gatorama remains a tourist stop, but also is a flourishing alligator farm, selling meat and leather goods onsite and online. “Families can make a living on nature-based tourism,” Patty says. Gatorama shares that success, giving students in the Hendry/Glades leadership program a real-life agribusiness experience. Patty and Allen participate in the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. They also have been involved with a number of community programs, including the wild game dinner hosted by the Lake Placid Noon Rotary Club. Patty and Allen moved to the farm in 1989, managing it while raising their two children, Benjamin and Erica. Now grown, the kids still are involved in the family business. A certified firefighter and EMT, Ben also is the head trainer and entertainer at Gatorama. Erica—a school teacher in Ohio—is the education and field trip coordinator for Gatorama. She writes the curriculum for visiting school groups. Gatorama is home to 2,500 alligators and 450 crocodiles. Both species of alligators—American and Chinese—and seven of the 21 types of crocodiles can be found at Gatorama. During tours, visitors also can see a Florida panther, kinkajous and parrots. A newly renovated deck allows Gatorama to host special events and provides a spot for the sit-down

portion of educational field trips. Fencing along the boardwalk also has been replaced. “We’re proud of the improvements we’ve made this year,” Patty says, noting she and Allen have worked hard to attract tourists from throughout the United States. “Most locals don’t understand there’s a new face on Gatorama. Our biggest challenge still remains that we are a mom-and-pop business.” Gatorama raises and harvests about 1,000 alligators a year for their meat and hide. Most is sold online and shipped throughout the United States. The Registers hold two of only 30 permits the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission issues each year to alligator farms, allowing them to take eggs or hatchlings from the wild. Most commercially farmed alligators come from 10 family farms across the state, Patty notes.

Ben Register, head trainer and entertainer at Gatorama, draws a crowd of hungry gators, above, and spectators, opposite page, during one of the twice-daily feeding shows. Left, Julia Mineart is fascinated by the baby alligator Ben shows her, as brother Dillon and mom Bethany look on. The family visited from Westfield, Indiana.

Continues on page 6

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Gatorama Continues from page 5

In 2007, Gatorama was featured on the television show “Food Finds” for its alligator tail and ribs, which can be purchased onsite or from the website, Patty says Gatorama is the first alligator farm to market its business through a website and sell its products online. In 2004, when south Florida was hit by three major hurricanes—Charley, Frances and Jeanne—the only thing that kept the business running was online sales and marketing, she notes. The Registers also use Facebook and their website to keep visitors informed about special events. Although much of their business is devoted to alligator farming, Patty and Allen have not lost sight of Gatorama’s status as a roadside attraction. She says they and their employees are passionate about providing educational tips about alligators and crocodiles to tourists.

Visitors stroll across a covered walkway at Gatorama.

Tammy Bellrichard of Iowa visited recently with her son, Henry Thomas, and parents, Judy and Richard Heinrichs. Henry and Judy held an alligator. “We really had a nice time looking at all of the gators and crocs,” Tammy says. “All of the staff were so friendly and knowledgeable. We spent the whole ride home talking and quizzing each other about the gator talk.”  Glades Electric Cooperative is proud to provide service to great local companies such as Gatorama, and is pleased to have members like Patty and Allen as our neighbors.

Hatching Festival Coming August 17

Gators lay their eggs in late June or July. The eggs take about 70 days to hatch. Visitors can witness alligators emerging from their shells and even hold the hatching egg.


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the annual Hatching Festival at gatorama happens every August. Dates vary depending on when the gators lay their eggs. the 2013 festival runs August 17 through september 1. the first festival was in 2005 when Allen Register had some eggs in the incubator and brought them out for tourists to hold while they hatched. Allen and Patty decided they should allow tourists to hatch alligator eggs during their visit, and it became an annual event. Visitors are able to partake in the unique experience for $10. Alligator eggs take about 70 days to hatch from the day they are laid. Patty says to follow gatorama on Facebook (gatorama and Crocodile Adventures) for updates on the hatching. gatorama will accept reservations for the Hatching Festival beginning August 1 for families and groups. to reserve your spot, call (863) 675-0623 or visit online at

Glades  Electric

Neighbors Working for Neighbors

Auditing Energy

Small Measures = Real Savings By Magen Howard

No matter the age of your home, it could benefit from an energy audit. You can get started with your own audit by finding low-cost solutions that could save money on your monthly electric bill. First, ask yourself a simple question: Does my home feel drafty and cold in the winter, or stuffy and hot in the summer? If yes, it probably experiences air leakage. To track down the location of those spots, start with the usual suspects, such as damaged seals around doors and windows. If you see daylight or feel air, apply caulk and weather stripping to keep outdoor air where it is supposed to be. Don’t forget recessed canister lights and electrical outlets. Outlet insulation kits can be purchased for as little as $2, and you can caulk around the edges of your canister lights. Also look where walls meet the ceiling. Cobwebs mean you have drafts. Next, peek into the attic and inspect the crawl space or basement for sufficient insulation. How much you need depends on your climate. Check out the insulation calculator from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory at ZipHome.html. Keep in mind insulation will not do its job well if you don’t have a proper air barrier working in tandem. That means all joints and cracks must be sealed between your living space and insulation. Finally, look to your light fixtures. Compact fluorescent lights are up to 75 percent more efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs. They have come a long way in light quality, design and affordability. You can buy CFLs in a variety of shapes and hues. They cost more up front, but you will make your money back in less than nine months and, after that, start saving money. Make sure to buy a CFL that carries the Energy Star label— the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s program identifying products that meet specific energy-efficiency criteria. Energy The energy-saving light-emitting diode bulb (right) General Electric designed to replace the 60-watt incandescent (left) is engineered with the familiar size and shape, while providing a crisp white light that brings out more vibrant colors and patterns.

How Americans Use Energy New data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows heating and cooling still account for the largest amount of electricity consumption in American homes. But as we use more electronic gadgets, that segment is closing the gap.

34.6% Appliances, electronics, and lighting

47.7% Space heating and cooling

17.7% Water heating

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

Star-rated CFLs typically last 10 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs producing the same amount of light. LEDs—light-emitting diodes—are in the next wave of residential lighting. An Energy Star-rated model is estimated to use only one-quarter the electricity consumed by traditional bulbs and can last for 25 years. As with many new technologies, the up-front cost for an LED bulb is still much more than even a CFL, but prices are expected to drop as new products are developed. To learn more about ways to reduce your electric bill, visit, call Glades Electric Cooperative at (800) 226-4024 or visit the GEC office to pick up brochures with great ways to save on your bill. n Sources:, Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative, Magen Howard writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Virginiabased service organization for the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives. au g u s t 2 0 1 3


Glades Electric

Neighbors Working for Neighbors

Operation Round Up Monthly Report Charitable Trust Board of Directors Barbara Hughes District 1 Moore Haven Beverly Eaves District 2 Hendry County Kelly Brantley District 3 Ortona/Palmdale Dori Evans District 4 Lakeport Lori Thompson District 5 Venus/Hicora Lee Andrus District 6 Highlands Park Jane Stokes District 7 Lorida David McCadam District 8 Lake Josephine Angela Hodges District 9 Okeechobee The next meeting of the Charitable Trust Board of Directors is 1 p.m. July 23 in the Moore Haven office.


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More than 72 percent of Glades Electric Cooperative members participate in Operation Round Up. This worthwhile program helps people in GEC’s service area who have exhausted normal avenues of financial assistance. Sign up today, and your electric bill will be rounded up to the nearest dollar. The extra is placed in the fund for deserving individuals and organizations. As of July 2, your Charitable Trust Board of Directors has approved $774,502.48 in disbursements. These funds have provided assistance with food, emergency lodging, disaster relief and specific

emergency needs for 519 individuals and/or families and 103 community organizations. The trust does not fund utility bills (electric, phone, water and gas) or budgets of organizations. Organizations in our service counties may apply for funding for a specific need or project. The Charitable Trust Board of Directors meets monthly to review applications for funding.  If you know of people who need and deserve assistance and live within our service area, please encourage or help them complete an application. Applications can be picked up at each of our three offices: Moore Haven, Lake Placid and Okeechobee. Applications are considered once a month.

High-Quality Surge Protection Offered by GEC Glades Electric Cooperative is proud to offer members a new choice in home surge protection with Meter Treater, manufactured by M-Ti. This Florida-based company’s meter-base protection devices have been protecting Florida homes since 1986. M-Ti also manufactures superior surge protection devices for commercial and industrial applications. The company has earned a reputation for innovative design, high-quality workmanship, and friendly, responsive customer service. Our members deserve nothing less! Contact a GEC office for more information. GEC is offering free installation of Meter Treater units in August. Please contact your local office for details.


Credit Winners Jessica Wagner No. 116949-001 Maria Yanes No. 102997-001 Winners should call (800) 226-4024 or sign their name on this page and mail it to: Florida Currents $25 Credit Glades Electric Cooperative P.O. Box 519 Moore Haven, FL 33471

Church of the Month St. Joseph Catholic Church 24065 U.S. Highway 27 Moore Haven, FL 33471

Florida Rural Electric Credit Union Our members can receive great discounts on new Chevy, Buick and GMC vehicles. Find out more at

Are You Ready to Cruise? FRECU can put you in that perfect car at a great rate!


Annual percentage rate on new cars

3.27% Annual percentage rate on used/refinanced cars

Offer subject to removal without prior notice.  Refinance applied to cars financed at other institutions. Current FRECU loans do not qualify.  Subject to credit approval. 

Federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration

Call FRECU at (800) 542-1246.

Glades  Electric

Neighbors Working for Neighbors

RUS Still a Great Bargain for the Nation U.S. government benefits from its loans to electric cooperatives


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As of year-end 2012, electric co-ops had invested more than $150 billion to build critical infrastructure spanning 75 percent of the United States. This network includes 66,500 miles of bulk transmission lines and 2.5 million miles of distribution lines—42 percent of the nation’s total. Co-ops also own all or part of 200 power plants, with a combined installed capacity of more than 50,000 megawatts. They generate roughly 5 percent of U.S. electricity capacity, distribute 10 percent of all kilowatt-hours sold, employ more than 70,000 and pay more than $1.4 billion annually in state and local taxes. The linchpin behind these numbers—and the key to helping electric co-ops “keep the lights on” in some of the most sparsely populated and rugged regions of America for more than seven decades—has been a small amount of support through the federal Rural Utilities Service. Of course, federal assistance for electric utilities is not unique. For-profit, investor-owned utilities receive tax breaks, while city-owned municipal electric systems issue tax-exempt bonds. A comparison of electric utilities shows: •  Privately owned electric co-ops serve an average of 7.4 consumers and receive annual revenue of $15,000 per mile of line. Based on current interest rates, RUS loans (with an average interest rate of 4.57 percent, compared to the government’s cost of borrowing at 3.91 percent) make money for the U.S. Treasury—$163 million combined from 2009 to 2011, more than $274 million during fiscal year 2012 and a projected $369 million in 2013. •  Stockholder-driven IOUs average 34 customers and collect $75,000 in revenue per mile of line. In virtually every case, IOUs charge rates that include amounts for presumed federal tax liabilities. However, available tax breaks (investment tax credits and accelerated depreciation) allow IOUs to retain most of the taxes collected, roughly $124 billion to date. At a cost to the government of $4.8 billion in 2011 (the last year available), this federal subsidy works out to about $47 per customer.

•  Publicly owned municipal systems average 48 consumers and collect $113,000 in revenue per mile of line. The federal government loses revenue when municipals issue taxexempt bonds because interest paid to bond owners is not taxed. The cost of this subsidy in 2003 (the last year available) was $909 million, or $55 per consumer. “In short, RUS electric loans do not cost taxpayers a single penny,” says Mike Ganley, director of strategic planning and analysis for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade organization for America’s electric cooperatives. “Coupled with strong and innovative management and local, consumer governance, electric cooperatives have used RUS financing to build and maintain electrical networks capable of serving consumers across even the most remote terrain. More importantly, RUS loans have allowed electric cooperatives to keep rates affordable— a significant consideration because household incomes in co-op service territories are 11 percent lower than the national average, and one person in six served by co-ops lives in poverty.” With electric co-ops anticipating about $6 billion in capital needs annually during the next five years to upgrade aging infrastructure, connect new consumers and ensure reliable supplies of wholesale power, Ganley notes RUS loans will continue to assist co-ops. “The unique, long-standing relationship between electric cooperatives and RUS helps ensure that all Americans, no matter where they may live, have access to a vibrant electric grid able to meet 21st-century demands,” Ganley says. n Source: National Rural Electric Cooperative Association

Glades  Electric

Neighbors Working for Neighbors

Prized Loyal Connections Changing lives in the communities we serve

Right, partners push a competitor around the bases at Miracle Field. GEC is a proud sponsor for the Miracle League of Highlands County, providing opportunities for those with cognitive or physical challenges. Below, Mechanic Jeffrey Prescott donates during the co-op’s blood drive. Bottom right, the Glades Educational Foundation awarded scholarships to local high school seniors.


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Loyalty is a prized virtue: to country, family, even the schools we attend. Those ties remain strong throughout our lives. At Glades Electric Cooperative, we are loyal to the members and communities we serve. We have deep connections here because central Florida is our home, and you are our neighbor. When you signed up for service with GEC, you became a member, not a customer. Each of our members owns a portion of the utility. We care about improving the quality of life in the areas we serve. GEC invests in the places you live and work, sponsoring Miracle Field in Lake Placid and hosting a blood drive at our offices. Employees participate in Relay For Life and volunteer in community events. GEC doesn’t exist to make profits for distant investors on Wall Street. We exist to provide you with safe, reliable and affordable electric service— and doing so in a way that makes things better for future generations. Because electric co-ops operate on a not-for-profit basis, we have no need to increase revenues above what it takes to run our business in a financially sound manner. This structure helps keep your electric bills affordable. We take our jobs seriously, but we also take our community roles seriously. That’s why we offer scholarships to college-bound students, donate minigrants to local educators and send two high school juniors to Washington, D.C., every summer to learn about history and government.

We don’t participate in these activities simply because it is nice to do, or even the right thing to do. We do it because we remain loyal to our members, our neighbors, our home—and make it our mission to make life better in the areas we serve. Want to work with us? What would make life better in your community? Send your ideas to n

Accounting Specialist Erin Christle and Director of Business Development Paul McGehee wait to donate blood.

McGehee Earns Exclusive Honor

Above, CEO Jeff Brewington spends a Saturday morning volunteering at a family festival in Lake Placid. Below, the North Line crew donated more than $300 for GEC’s Relay For Life team. Bottom right, Carlos Padilla carries the GEC Relay For Life team sign. Employees and relatives walked in the Lake Placid event.

Paul McGehee, director of business development for Glades Electric Cooperative, was honored recently as the Florida Economic Development Council’s 2013 Richard McLaughlin Volunteer of the Year for the South Central Region. Paul was one of eight volunteers celebrated for their contributions to economic development in Florida. The award was presented in June. “In Florida’s economic development community we know the critical role our volunteers play as stewards for their communities,” said Amy Evancho, president and CEO of FEDC. “Every year, we thank and honor the work they do, not just as volunteers, but as investors in Florida’s growth. Being awarded Volunteer of the Year in FEDC’s economic development regions is a tremendous achievement.”

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Offices Open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday 26733 U.S. Hwy. 27 East/P.O. Box 519 Moore Haven, FL 33471 (800) 226-4024 or (863) 946-6200 Fax: (863) 946-2150 214 SR 70 West Lake Placid, FL 33852 (800) 226-4025 or (863) 531-5000 111 SW Park St. Okeechobee, FL 34974 (800) 226-4023 or (863) 467-5111

Power Interruption Number Moore Haven..............................(800) 226-4024 Phones are answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including weekends and holidays. Please have your location or account number handy when you call.

Board of Trustees John “Jack” Coxe, President, District 8 Lake Josephine, (863) 655-3056 James “Jim” Aul, Vice President, District 7 Lorida, (863) 441-0441 Russell Henderson, Sec./Treas., District 3 Ortona and Palmdale, (863) 946-0865 Donnie Lundy, Trustee, District 1 Moore Haven, (863) 946-0402 Barney Goodman, Trustee, District 2 Hendry County, (863) 983-7324 Shannon Hall, Trustee, District 4 Lakeport and Brighton, (863) 946-3242 Ladd Bass, Trustee, District 5 Venus and Hicoria, (863) 441-2227 Lee Henderson, Trustee, District 6 Highlands Park, (863) 633-9281 Irene Lofton, Trustee, District 9 Okeechobee, (863) 467-1219 The next meeting of the Board will be at 9 a.m. August 29 at the Moore Haven headquarters office. Any changes to this schedule will be posted in the lobby of all three district offices.

Executive Staff CEO Jeff Brewington CFO Jennifer Manning Dir. of Business Development Paul McGehee Dir. of Employee Services Yvonne Bradley Dir. of Information Technologies Bradley Hill Dir. of Member Services Margaret Ellerbee Dir. of Operations Tracy Vaughn


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CEO’s Message

Weather and Political Storm Season Arrive

Storm season is upon us. As I write, Chantal is in the Atlantic moving our way. We remain concerned for our community and pray natural disasters such as Chantal pass us by. History has shown us, though, we must prepare for the worst. We’ve held our annual Storm Team meeting, our plan has been tweaked and we are prepared to respond to whatever storms come our way. Fortunately, we are not on our own in these battles. The sixth Cooperative Principle—Cooperation Among Cooperatives— means we are supported by nearly 900 other electric cooperatives as a member of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Jeff Brewington Association. This includes 16 other Florida electric cooperatives that are members of the Florida Electric Cooperative Association with GEC. Take comfort that these other “family” members are ready to help us should the need ever arise in the same way we would respond to them. We and our larger state and national cooperative family face another storm recently unleashed from our own government. I’m referring to our President’s persistence to institute climate change policy, once referred to as global warming. This policy is directed at the core of our least expensive and most abundant energy sources: coal and natural gas. Although this manmade storm may not destroy our individual homes like a hurricane, the legislation has the potential to devastate our fragile economy, close down industries, eliminate thousands of jobs and certainly relieve you, our member, from a significant amount of additional cash to pay your monthly energy bill. Do you remember the famous hockey stick graph showing temperatures rising at an unprecedented pace? It’s been debunked, showing too much dependence on unreliable data and data tilted toward the desired results. Another graph based on ice core data showed temperature and carbon dioxide linked, presuming CO2 levels drove temperature. It has now been shown the opposite is true: temperature actually drives CO2 levels. Why are these findings not published as judiciously as the initial publications? Recently, we were bombarded with communication about historically high temperatures in the West expected to exceed record highs from 100 years ago. When it didn’t happen, we heard nothing. More importantly, what was going on 100 years ago that caused the record-high temperature? It was not current CO2 levels. What is the real agenda with climate change policy? Our President came to office fighting for low- and middle-income Americans. Climate change policy will hurt those classes the most. This attack on our communities and the disturbing impact it will have on our neighbors is why I can’t understand his current actions. Join me in writing him and your members of Congress while we can still afford pen, paper and postage.

Glades Electric Florida Currents August 2013  
Glades Electric Florida Currents August 2013