Quality Cities | 2023 Membership Edition

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Investing Together for Local Benefit Are your investments properly diversified in today’s current environment?


Protecting the Retirement of Those Serving the Public Could hidden fees be derailing your retirement plans?


Making Your Dollars Do More for Local Communities Debating a new construction project or refinancing an existing loan?



Jeremy Langley • Account Executive jlangley@flcities.com • 859.552.5224


Providing local governments with

E D I T O R I A L S TAT E M E N T: Stories that spotlight Florida cities, celebrate their impact on our quality of life and inspire city leaders to advocate for local Quality Cities Magazine Volume 97 | Number 2 PUBLISHER Jeannie Garner SENIOR EDITOR Joy Dickinson DIRECTOR, COMMUNICATIONS Kelli Gemmer GRAPHIC DESIGNERS Sydney Fraser Bonnie Hacker CIRCULATION Eryn Russell Stay informed: Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. Visit our website at flcities.com. Quality Cities (formerly Quality Cities ’90) (ISSN 0892-4171) (USPS Number: 201-780) serves as a medium of exchange of ideas and information on municipal affairs for the public officials of Florida. The views expressed and the data presented by contributors and advertisers are not to be construed as having the endorsement of the Florida League of Cities unless so specifically stated. No material from this publication may be reprinted without the express permission of the editor. The mailing address for the publishers of Quality Cities is P.O. Box 1757, Tallahassee, FL 32302-1757. The telephone number is 850.222.9684, and the email address is jdickinson@ flcities.com. Offices are located at 301 S. Bronough St., Suite 300, Tallahassee, FL 32301-1722. Quality Cities is published twice a year by the Florida League of Cities. Postage Paid at Tallahassee, FL, No. 669. Postmaster: Send address changes to Quality Cities, P.O. Box 1757, Tallahassee, FL 32302-1757. The yearly MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION rate for members is $10.00, other governmental agencies – $15.00 and nonmembers – $20.00 for two issues.

voices making local choices.

B OA R D O F D I R E C T O R S PRESIDENT Greg Ross, Mayor, Cooper City FIRST VICE PRESIDENT Michael Blake, Mayor, Cocoa SECOND VICE PRESIDENT Holly D. Smith, Councilmember, Sanibel DISTRICT DIRECTORS (1) Mark Franks, Mayor, Shalimar (1) J.B. Whitten, Mayor, Crestview (2) Thomas DeVille, Mayor, Penney Farms (2) Jake Hill, Councilmember, Lake City (3) Don Burnette, Mayor, Port Orange (3) Bill Partington, Mayor, Ormond Beach (4) Mindy Gibson, Councilmember, Satellite Beach (4) Sarah Stoeckel, Councilmember, Titusville (5) Louie Davis, Mayor, Waldo (5) Cal Rolfson, Councilmember, Mount Dora (6) Nathan Blackwell, Mayor, St. Cloud (6) Joseph McMullen, Commissioner, Oakland (6) Rosemary Wilsen, Commissioner, Ocoee (7) Dorothea Taylor Bogert, Mayor, Auburndale (7) Sam Fite, Vice Mayor, Bowling Green (8) Tyler Payne, Mayor, Treasure Island (8) Trish Springer, Councilor, Seminole (9) Ed Dodd, Councilman, Sebastian (10) Brian Williams, Commissioner, Palmetto (11) Joanne Ribble, Vice Mayor, Estero (12) Julia Botel, Councilmember, Riviera Beach (12) Kimberly Glas-Castro, Vice Mayor, Lake Park (12) Lawrence Gordon, Vice Mayor, Haverhill (12) Chelsea Reed, Mayor, Palm Beach Gardens (13) Felicia Brunson, Mayor, West Park (13) Traci L. Callari, Commissioner, Hollywood

(13) Joy Carter, Commissioner, Coral Springs (13) Todd Drosky, Commissioner, Deerfield Beach (13) Bob Mayersohn, Commissioner, Parkland (13) Iris Siple, Commissioner, Pembroke Pines (13) Susan Starkey, Councilwoman, Davie (14) Joseph Corradino, Mayor, Pinecrest (14) Karyn Cunningham, Mayor, Palmetto Bay (14) Rodney Harris, Mayor, Miami Gardens 10 MOST POPULOUS CITIES Vacancy, Jacksonville Vacancy, Miami Luis Viera, Councilman, Tampa Robert Stuart, Commissioner, Orlando Kenneth T. Welch, Mayor, St. Petersburg Vivian Casals-Muñoz, Councilmember, Hialeah Stephanie Morgan, Councilwoman, Port St. Lucie Dianne Williams-Cox, Mayor Pro-Tem, Tallahassee John Gunter, Mayor, Cape Coral Dean Trantalis, Mayor, Fort Lauderdale PA S T P R E S I D E N T S Scott Black, Commissioner, Dade City Frank C. Ortis, Mayor, Pembroke Pines Joy Cooper, Mayor, Hallandale Beach Patricia Bates, Mayor, Altamonte Springs Leo E. Longworth, Mayor, Bartow Isaac Salver, Council Member, Bay Harbor Islands Antonio “Tony” Ortiz, Commissioner, Orlando Jolien Caraballo, Vice Mayor, Port St. Lucie FCCMA EX-OFFICIO MEMBER Michael Pleus, City Manager, DeLand Jeannie Garner, Executive Director/CEO Kraig Conn, General Counsel/Chief Legal Officer Penny Mitchell, Board Relations Administrator


The Florida Municipal Insurance Trust’s exclusive Employment Law Advisor program offers access to a Floridabased attorney with significant publicsector employment law experience. And, the best part is there is no cost to members of the FMIT with liability coverage for employment practices. Help is only a phone call away. FMIT members can speak with an attorney Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. ET, by calling 888.368.FMIT (3648).

We can help with a wide range of employment-related matters, including: ∙ Hiring ∙ Discipline ∙ Promotion/Demotion ∙ Transfer ∙ Reassignment ∙ Layoff ∙ Termination ∙ ADA Compliance ∙ Complaints of Discrimination, Harassment, Unfair Treatment and Retaliation.




C OV E R F E AT U R E 3 2 Serving Our Cities

FLC President's initiative has three components


1 6 Municipal Achievement Awards 1 6 City of Dunedin 2 0 City of Groveland 2 4 Town of Jupiter


Officials Recognized for Milestones Mayor John Land Years of Service Recipients Announced

1 2 On the Case

Update on FLC "friend of the court" briefs for cities

1 5 Employee Profile

Rosa M. Garay: Positive, Caring and Lifelong Learner

2 8 City of Miami Beach 3 8 Michael Blake

FLC First VP at a glance

3 9 Holly D. Smith

FLC Second VP at a glance

4 0 Smith Receives the

League's Highest Award


Meetings Calendar F E AT U R E S C O N T I N U E D

NOVEMBER 15-18, 2023 National League of Cities City Summit Atlanta Contact Allison Payne NOVEMBER 30-DECEMBER 1, 2023 Florida League of Cities Legislative Conference Hilton Orlando Contact Mary Edenfield

4 4 Gibson Wins Common Grounds Advocate Award

4 6 Officials Earn Certificates in New League Program

5 0 2023-24 FLC Board of Directors 5 4 Winners Announced for City Catalyst Grants

5 6 Prepare with FMIT

Ian Showed: It Takes Only One Hurricane

5 9 Employee Profile

Karen Todd is known for her Hard Work and Humor

6 0 Youth Councils Awarded

Alachua, Fort Pierce and West Park win community service contest

6 2 Youth Essay Winners Announced

JANUARY 27-FEBRUARY 1, 2024 Florida Local Government Information Systems Association Winter Symposium Embassy Suites Orlando Lake Buena Vista South Contact Becky Brennan JANUARY 29-31, 2024 Florida League of Cities Legislative Action Days Tallahassee Contact Mary Edenfield FEBRUARY 8-9, 2024 Florida City and County Management Association Winter Institute Renaissance World Golf Village – St. Augustine Contact Carol Russell MARCH 9-13, 2024 National League of Cities Congressional City Conference Washington, DC Contact Allison Payne APRIL 4-6, 2024 Florida Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials Annual Conference Embassy Suites by Hilton Orlando, Kissimmee Contact Caressa Andrews-Moye

"If I Were Elected Mayor" contest encourages civic engagement Go to flcities.com/education-and-events/ calendar-of-events or call 850.222.9684 for more information.



The crime everyone pays for Insurance fraud costs the average family $400-700 annually. Help reduce these costs by reporting fraud.

UP TO $5,000 REWARD For information leading to the arrest and conviction of any person found guilty of a crime involving insurance fraud against the Florida Municipal Insurance Trust.




Recognizing and Celebrating Our Members

T Jeannie Garner Executive Director/CEO

his issue of Quality Cities highlights the importance of our members. We are very grateful for your strong commitment to your cities. We had a successful annual conference in Orlando, and Greg Ross, Mayor of Cooper City, took the President’s helm. We’re excited about his Serving Our Cities initiative. Read about it on p. 32. We also welcomed a new Board of Directors. (See p. 50.) We have other conference coverage in this issue, including John Land Years of Service Awards, the E. Harris Drew Municipal Official Lifetime Achievement Award and information about our First and Second Vice Presidents. This year, FLC University recognized 131 elected city officials who earned gold, silver or bronze status in the inaugural year of the Certificate Program for Elected Municipal Officials. We include the names of those officials in this issue. (See pages 46-48.) We’re excited to share information about the winners of this year’s Florida Municipal Achievement Awards. We hope you enjoy the articles about the City of Dunedin, City of Groveland, Town of Jupiter and City of Miami Beach. The League held its first-ever statewide FLC Insurance Summit this year with a strong presence from the Florida Municipal Insurance Trust (FMIT). We highlight the FMIT’s efforts after Hurricane Ian on p. 56. Also, we want to congratulate two other Trusts celebrating important milestones of serving our members. The Florida Municipal Pension Trust Fund (FMPTF) is celebrating 40 years, and the Florida Municipal Investment Trust (FMIvT) is celebrating 30 years. Thank you, members, for your participation. This issue also mentions several videos posted on our newly redesigned qualitycities.com website. Please check out the city news on the site, and see the “share your story” button to submit your events and videos/photos. The 2024 Legislative Session begins January 9. We look forward to seeing you at the Legislative Conference on November 30 as we prepare to protect local voices making local choices. Respectfully,

Jeannie Garner



Do you love our fresh, modern look? Our newly redesigned QC magazine hits mailboxes twice per year. This issue focuses on Membership, including a look at our new President and First and Second Vice Presidents; a list of members who achieved certification; award-winners from the annual conference; highlights from our Youth Councils and more! Our spring/summer issue will focus on Advoacy. If you’re looking for our city spotlights and stories submitted by cities about their recognitions, head to QualityCities.com.

New look! Check out our redesigned website at qualitycities.com!



Mayor Cecil E. “Gene” Melvin


Town of Brooker



Mayor Michael E. Botos

Village of Golf

Mayor Roger D. Hagan

Town of Wausau

Councilman Dale Swain


City of Bushnell Council President Danny Taylor

Town of Campbellton


Officials Recognized for Milestones Mayor John Land Years of Service recipients announced

By Eryn Russell Florida League of Cities


he Florida League of Cities is recognizing elected city officials across the state who have reached a milestone number of years serving their communities. The Mayor John Land Years of Service Award Named is named in honor of longtime Apopka Mayor John Land, who served his city for over 60 years. The award honors municipal officials for their years of dedicated public service on a city council or commission. The award recognizes CONTINUED ON PAGE 10







Mayor Keith W. Babb Jr.

City of Pahokee

Commissioner Winston F. Barnes

City of Miramar

Commissioner Richard L. Bennett

Town of North Redington Beach

Mayor Pro Tem Nathaniel J. Birdsong Jr.

City of Winter Haven

Commissioner Chris J. Bell

City of Fruitland Park

Councilman Richard L. Block

Commissioner John L. Gunter Jr.

City of Fruitland Park

Councilmember Jim H. Nolan Sr.

City of Indian Harbour Beach

Village of Virginia Gardens Mayor Michael C. Brown

Town of Hypoluxo

Mayor Gib Coerper

City of Alachua

Commissioner Michael S. Sparkman

City of Plant City

Councilwoman Debra A. Conover

Village of Virginia Gardens

Commissioner Brian T. Williams

Councilmember Aaron Edmondson

City of Palmetto

Town of Bronson

Mayor Joe Kyles Sr.



Mayor Gary A. Blair

City of Orange City

Councilman Rick Butler

City of Pinellas Park

Mayor Keith A. Dowdell

City of Quincy

Vice Mayor Bob Elliott

City of Fort Meade

Councilmember Jacquie Hepfer

City of Inverness

Councilmember Peter A. Noble

City of Greenacres

Vice Mayor Mike Satterfield

Town of Oakland

City of South Bay

Commissioner Bobby Lynch

City of Davenport

Deputy Mayor David A. Panicola

City of Indian Harbour Beach Mayor Judith “Judy” Paul

Town of Davie

Mayor James L. Pittman

City of Clewiston

Commissioner Brian D. Sackett

City of Longwood

Councilwoman Janet Shaw

Town of Callahan

Councilor William F. Smith

Town of Indian Shores

Councilwoman Elizabeth Taylor-Martinez

Village of Virginia Gardens

Alderman Ingrid Van Hekken

Town of St. Lucie Village

Commissioner John Wilson

City of South Bay



members of a city, town or village’s governing body who have reached a milestone of 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45 or 50 years of elected service. This annual award has been hosted by the League since 2004 and has recognized over 400 municipal officials across the state. Mayor Cecil E. “Gene” Melvin from the Town of Brooker is celebrating 45 years of service to the Town this year. “It’s been an honor to serve the Brooker community,” Melvin said. “We’re getting water to customers, picking up garbage, repaving streets, and our community school is reopening this August.” Elected officials recognized through this program receive a resolution and lapel pin marking their years of service. See pages 8-9 for this year’s honorees.

▴ Mayor Gib Coerper was recognized for his 20 years of service to the City of Alachua. From left, Commissioner Jennifer Blalock, Commissioner Shirley Green Brown, Florida League of Cities Membership Programs Specialist Eryn Russell, Coerper, Vice Mayor Dayna Miller and Commissioner Ed Potts.

Eryn Russell is a Membership Programs Specialist at the Florida League of Cities. QC

◂ Councilman Rick Butler was recognized for 25 years of service to the City of Pinellas Park.



▸ Former Commissioner John Wilson (left) and Mayor Joe Kyles Sr. were recognized for their 20 years of service to the City of South Bay.


It’s been an honor to serve the Brooker community. We’re getting water to customers, picking up garbage, repaving streets, and our community school is reopening this August. – Mayor Cecil E. “Gene” Melvin

◂ Mayor Cecil E. “Gene” Melvin was recognized for 45 years of service to the Town of Booker. PHOTO COURTESY OF FLORIDA LEAGUE OF CITIES



▴ Mayor Michael C. Brown was recognized for 20 years of service to the Town of Hypoluxo.

Grassroots Advocacy Expands

Residents can advocate for local decision-making! Help us spread the word about Local Voices United by encouraging residents to:

Visit localvoicesunited.com where they can learn about legislative issues, reach their local lawmakers and access advocacy tools and resources

Text Local Voices to 50457 to receive issue updates right to their phone

Like our Facebook page: Facebook.com/LocalVoicesUnited



On the Case Update on FLC ‘friend of the court’ briefs for cities By Kraig Conn Florida League of Cities


he Florida League of Cities (FLC) Legal Department provides a wide array of legal services to the League and its members. These services are designed to ensure that Florida’s cities remain apprised of legal matters affecting their operations and that municipal interests are advanced at the various levels of government. In addition to general “in-house” legal services, the Department provides counsel on the development and effect of legislation, files original court and administrative actions on behalf of municipalities and files amicus curiae – “friend



of the court” – briefs in the state and federal appellate courts. Legal staff members can also consult with Florida’s city attorneys on legal problems facing their particular municipalities. The League is currently involved as an amicus curiae in six cases. As an amicus curiae, the League is not a named party to the particular matter. Instead, the League’s role is to provide a court with a perspective on how its decision in a case may have a statewide impact. A summary of the six cases is provided below. At the time of publishing, all of the cases except two are pending, which means the particular court has not yet decided the matter.

DISTRICT COURTS OF APPEAL (DCAS) CASES Testa v. Town of Jupiter Island (Florida’s 4th DCA)

In this case, the Town delayed taking action on a proposed ordinance until the next scheduled town meeting. The Town made no changes to the ordinance and took action at the next meeting. Testa challenged the action because the Town did not readvertise the ordinance. The trial court determined the Town provided proper notice under state law of the ordinance adoption. The League’s brief supported the Town. The 4th DCA found the Town did not follow the proper ordinance adoption procedure and determined the ordinance was void. However, the 4th DCA did certify this matter to the Florida Supreme Court for further review as a matter of great public importance. If the Supreme Court accepts jurisdiction of the case, the League will file an amicus brief with the court. In a related development, the Florida Legislature passed a law during the 2023 Legislative Session to clarify that the action taken by the Town in adopting the ordinance was proper and consistent with the law. City of Hallandale Beach v. Rosemond (Florida’s 4th DCA)

In this case, the trial court granted non-economic compensatory damages to a city employee who brought an action under the Florida Public Whistleblower Act. The League’s brief argues these damages are not specifically provided for under the law and should not have been awarded. Hillsborough County Aviation Authority v. Bob Henriquez (Florida’s 2nd DCA)

In this case, the property appraiser imposed property taxes on property owned by the Authority (similar to a city owning the property) and used by lessees to provide services at the airport. The League’s brief informed the court that in the context of governmental property, there is a legal presumption against imposing taxes on governmental property (as that would result in a government taxing another government, which under tax law theory should be avoided). The 2nd DCA determined the properties serve a governmental purpose and are not subject to property taxes. However, the 2nd DCA did certify this matter to the Florida Supreme Court as a question of great public importance.


Roldan v. City of Hallandale Beach (Florida’s 4th DCA)

This case involves when a person may seek attorney fees and costs in a civil action relating to a public records request. In 2017, the Florida Legislature amended the public records law to require a person to provide pre-suit notice before seeking to obtain attorney fees and costs. The plaintiff did not provide the required notice to the City, and the trial court did not award fees or costs. The League’s brief supported the trial court’s decision. The 4th DCA agreed with the trial court and determined the plaintiff did not provide the required notice under the law and was not entitled to fees and costs.



FLORIDA SUPREME COURT CASES City of Weston v. State of Florida

This matter involved a challenge to a state law that imposes penalties on local officials and local governments for violating the state preemption of regulating firearms and ammunition. The trial court determined the law was unconstitutional because it violated the absolute legislative immunity of local officials and violated governmental function immunity. The 1st DCA upheld the penalty law and determined that, in the context of an express legislative preemption, legislative immunity and governmental function immunity did not apply. The League and the Florida Association of Counties filed a joint amicus curiae brief with the Supreme Court and argued the penalty law is unconstitutional. The Florida Supreme Court agreed with the 1st DCA and upheld the penalty law. City of Gulf Breeze v. Brown

In this matter, the 1st DCA determined that city-owned property (a golf course and other buildings) operated under a management agreement with a private company is subject to ad valorem (property) taxes. The 1st DCA certified this matter to the Florida Supreme Court as a question of great public importance. The League’s brief at the Supreme Court supports the City’s position that no taxes should be imposed. The League will provide periodic updates on the resolution of these cases and other court activities it undertakes. Kraig Conn is General Counsel/Chief Legal Officer for the Florida League of Cities. QC

Municipal Home Rule Resource The Florida League of Cities (FLC) has developed a document listing express legislative preemptions of municipal Home Rule powers. The document is intended to be a working document and serve as a resource for identifying express preemptions. The current version has been updated to include preemptions passed during the 2023 Legislative Session. The document has been widely distributed to municipal attorneys. If you would like to receive the Express Preemptions document or additional information on any of the League’s legal activities, please contact the League’s Legal Department at 850.222.9684.






Rosa M. Garay: Positive, Caring And Lifelong Learner

veryone knows when Rosa M. Garay , Claims Adjuster, arrives at the Orlando office of the Florida League of Cities (FLC). She turns on the lights and says, “Good morning, everybody!” Having a positive attitude is how Rosa, age 66, lives her life, according to her co-workers. “There are days I might have started the day on the wrong foot, and it seems that nothing is going right, but all it takes is a short motivating conversation with Rosa, and all the negative energy disappears,” said Maura Soler, Workers’ Compensation Claims Manager. Nelly Vera, Workers’ Compensation Claims Service Representative, agrees. “She’s always happy, and if she hears music, she’ll start singing and dancing without hesitation.” Rosa’s love of music means she greatly enjoys participating in the worship group at her church. When someone she knows is going through a difficult time, she invites them to join her at church. But her faith isn’t displayed only on Sundays. Her home has provided refuge for family members, friends and people in her church community. For people who have been displaced due to financial hardship or other circumstances, Rosa and her husband have taken them in and provided them with a place to sleep and eat while they get back on their feet, Maura said. Rosa and Carlos have been married for 27 years. Rosa’s caring personality is evident, according to her co-workers. “Rosa is the type of person who would not hesitate to give someone a helping hand,” Nelly said. Vernell K. Goodridge, Director of Claims, said she’s “genuine

and passionate, and it shows in the way she interacts with others.” She has a passion for learning, Nelly said. For example, when Rosa learns a new word, she’ll think of different ways to use it for the next couple of weeks to ensure she doesn’t forget it. Vernell added, “She is always wanting to learn something new, learn a better way to complete a task, always taking a course to better herself.” Rosa, who has worked at the League for more than 11 years, sat outside Vernell’s office for several years. He was always impressed with how she dealt with members and injured workers. Rosa’s responsibilities include calling members who have a new Notice of Injuries to investigate and determine compensability. She also handles calls with members and injured workers. “I knew they were in good hands with her,” Vernell said. Her other responsibilities include evaluating claims for reserve review, paying any indemnity benefits that apply to the claim, filing electronic data interchanges (EDIs) and completed forms and approving medical bills and invoices for payment. She is a certified workers’ compensation litigation adjuster and a certified insurance representative. In 2015, she won the first Subro award, a one-time award when the subrogation program was rolled out. “She is one of the hardest-working people that I know in the industry!” Vernell said. Rosa stands out because of her dedication to her work, her family and her community, her co-workers said. “She is one of those people that I’ve met in life whom I will remember forever,” Vernell said. “Personally and professionally, she is one of a kind.” QC


Dunedin Protects Preserve Community volunteers and donates money to save habitat By Vince Gizzi City of Dunedin






he City of Dunedin underwent a community collaboration to acquire and protect the Gladys E. Douglas Preserve, an area with unique ecosystems and biodiversity. The preserve is one of the remaining undeveloped parcels in the Dunedin planning area. For its efforts, the City recently received the Florida League of Cities (FLC) Florida Municipal Achievement Award for Local Action. The preserve is 44 acres of pristine environmentally sensitive habitat, with an 80-acre adjoining lake and wetlands. The City worked with Pinellas County in a regional collaboration of time, expertise and funding “to provide the best model for environmental stewardship and conservation,” said Jennifer K. Bramley , City Manager. The community outpouring was unprecedented and historic. “The efforts to protect and preserve this beautiful property was nothing short of magical and monumental,” Bramley said. “The entire community came together to make this happen with volunteer efforts and donations. In total, there were over 1,700 unique donors, and $4.5 million in funds were raised.” The preserve was originally the homestead property of Gladys E. Douglas. Her home was situated along the shore of Jerry Lake and surrounded by a natural forest. In 2020, the property was under contract to a developer who intended to clear it for residential development. Individuals started a Facebook page to preserve the property and quickly gained over 1,700

members. Citizens volunteered to wave signs on the street corner to raise awareness. Local nonprofit organizations assisted with the preservation efforts, including the Pinellas and Florida chapters of the Florida Native Plant Society, Florida Suncoast Sierra Club and Blue-Green Connections. The developer walked away from the project. This situation happened in the middle of a fiscal year during the height of the pandemic. While neither the City nor Pinellas County had the necessary funds set aside, they allocated $5.5 million in land preservation funds at the expense of other projects. The City and County applied for and received a Florida Communities Trust (FCT) grant for $2.4 million to assist in the acquisition. The Pinellas Community Foundation’s Fund Advisory Committee includes representatives of several environmental stewardship organizations. They needed to raise $4.5 million toward the purchase price. They reached this ambitious goal through the generosity of 1,100 donors. The property is now owned by Dunedin and managed in partnership with the County. An interlocal agreement outlines cooperative efforts, including the development of park amenities, conservation of environmentally sensitive areas, exotic plant removal, restoration of disturbed lands with native plantings, park maintenance and educational programming. In February, the City opened the preserve. Hundreds of residents came to celebrate, along with City and County officials and local donors.


◂ The Gladys E. Douglas Preserve includes signage describing the project.




The preserve contains approximately 12 acres of Sand Pine Scrub and 2.7 acres of Rosemary Bald, a rare species. To the City’s knowledge, this rosemary scrub is the last one in the County. The preserve is also home to otters, a golden eagle, bobcats and an active and healthy gopher tortoise population. To the north of the property is Jerry Lake. Combined, these newly acquired properties greatly support the water quality in the region and provide freshwater recreational access. The first phase of preservation includes a halfmile of walking trails that wind through the conservation area. Visitors find trail markers, maps and interpretive signage describing the trees, plants and wildlife. A field fence was installed along some walking paths to protect the conservation area and important native plants. Tom Mahoney , Chairman of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee, said, “A park such as this property will add to all residents’ health and well-being and add to the beauty of the City.” The park protects the City’s shrinking greenspace, Mahoney said. The second phase, expected to open in 2025, will include access to the lake, a kayak launch, a fishing pier, a picnic pavilion, a wildlife observation platform, a nature museum and restrooms. Bramley said, “We believe the Gladys Douglas Preserve is a shining example of public/public/ private partnerships, amazing community support, exceptional characteristics and a model for regional governmental cooperation.” (To see a video about the preserve, go to bit.ly/3pNjUo1.)

◂ Education and community engagement were key to the success of the project.

▴ Residents of all ages were involved in the preservation effort.

Vince Gizzi is the Parks & Recreation Director for the City of Dunedin. QC

Dunedin Wins a Florida Municipal Achievement Award The City of Dunedin recently received the Florida League of Cities (FLC) Florida Municipal Achievement Award for Local Action. This award is given to a city for a specific, single citywide effort that successfully addresses a local need.




In February 2023, the City opened the Gladys E. Douglas Preserve with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

A Guide for Replicating The Project in Other Communities The City of Dunedin’s efforts to preserve the Gladys E. Douglas Preserve are the type of preservation project that can be duplicated in any community. The key factor is obtaining community buy-in. Once people saw the beauty of the property and the risk of losing it, members of the community were willing to help in any way they could. Small and large donations came in. People lent their support with photography, scientific studies, artistic talents, writing and event planning. The Florida Native Plant Society hosted an outdoor fundraiser. The event raised over $30,000, despite being held during the height of the pandemic and in torrential rain. Media outlets regularly covered the community’s actions. The events inspired a documentary titled “Instructions for Conserving an Ecosystem.” There is a dire need for scrub habitat preservation, conservation and restoration in Central and Southwest Florida, said Jane Graham, Conservation Chair of the Pinellas Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society. “Introducing local citizens to this unique and endangered community of species and engaging them in conservation activities is essential for the long-term well-being of this rapidly disappearing part of natural Florida and the many rare and endangered plant and animal species that it supports.”




Residential neighborhood in Groveland features street lighting that is dark sky-friendly and low Kelvin temperature.

Groveland Recognized for City named Dark Sky Conservation first Community in the Southeast Initiative

By Andrew Landis City of Groveland



he City of Groveland has become the first city in the Southeast designated as a Dark Sky Community by DarkSky International. Fewer than 50 cities worldwide have achieved this status, and Groveland is one of the largest. Led by the City’s Conservation and Strategic Initiatives Division, the Dark Sky Initiative is designed to limit excessive lighting and light pollution. The initiative doesn’t eliminate lights; it simply promotes the right lights: those that don’t disrupt animal migration patterns, cause habitat degradation and raise carbon dioxide emissions. For its efforts, the City was recently awarded the Florida Municipal Achievement Award for Environmental Stewardship by the Florida League of Cities (FLC). Groveland couldn’t have done it without the support of the entire community, Mayor Evelyn Wilson said. “This effort has been a true partnership between our City, residents



◂ Star Party? Or one of the many other events hled in Gtoveland ?

◂ Marty Proctor is an advocate for dark skies.


▴ A display featuring DarkSky-approved lighting fixtures was donated by a local retailer and established at The Annex, a downtown community hub.

and businesses, all committed to reducing light pollution and preserving the natural beauty and charm of the night sky,” Wilson said. The City’s initiative launched in 2020 as part of its new Community Development Code that serves as a road map for smart growth and enhanced quality of life. The Planning & Zoning Division conducted extensive research, explored more than two dozen municipalities with dark sky ordinances and developed an outline of specific measures to consider. In August 2022, the City Council adopted a robust Dark Sky Lighting ordinance based on DarkSky principles. To educate residents, Groveland launched a public outreach program that included social media engagement, tabling at farmers markets and community presentations at workshops and events. A display featuring DarkSky-approved lighting fixtures was donated by a local retailer and established at The Annex, a downtown community hub. Resident volunteers are now trained to monitor light pollution using city-issued Sky Quality Meters that help to measure the initiative’s progress. Perhaps the biggest success has been a Star Party event held in January 2023 at a local business, Cherrylake tree farm. More than 700 participants brought chairs and blankets to stargaze and enjoy being together as a community. Glow sticks, glow-in-the-dark games and other activities kept guests entertained. The



▾ The City Council of Groveland issued a proclamation recognizing the City’s achievement as the first certified Dark Sky Community in Florida.

▸ At a Star Party event, the Central Florida Astronomical Society demonstrated how to use telescopes.




Central Florida Astronomical Society demonstrated how to use telescopes. Since red light doesn’t contribute to light pollution, event staff used red-light flashlights to guide guests, exterior lighting on food trucks was covered with red filters, and red lights were installed to illuminate walkways. Planning is already underway for a 2024 event. The City’s efforts continue. A phased streetscape improvement plan has been developed, and staff will soon install dark sky pedestrian-scale lighting and streetlights. Staff is also curating a selection of exterior dark sky lights for downtown businesses, including sign lights, pendant lights, carriage lights, wall packs and parking lot lights. All lighting owned by the city will be DarkSky-compliant within five years. Existing residents and businesses will have 10 years to retrofit exterior lighting.

◂ Staff will soon install dark sky pedestrian-scale lighting and streetlights.

The City is working with utility providers to offer dark sky lighting to development projects. The first dark sky-compliant lighting fixtures will soon be available at a local hardware store, with incentives to encourage retrofitting projects. “Groveland’s continued commitment to environmental preservation and community engagement ensures the success of this innovative, forward-thinking program, and we couldn’t be more pleased with our collective progress,” Wilson said. Andrew Landis is the Manager of the Conservation and Strategic Initiatives Division for the City of Groveland. QC

Exterior lighting on food trucks was covered with red filters since red light doesn’t contribute to light pollution.

Florida Cities Join Efforts to Keep State’s Skies Dark The City of Groveland’s Dark Sky Initiative is inspiring other local governments to join efforts to save Florida’s night sky. The initiative seeks to educate and encourage other local governments to join the effort by adopting similar policies for dark sky lighting. The City is finalizing a Joint Planning Agreement with Lake County to include new dark sky lighting requirements in their land development code. DarkSky International has cited Groveland’s ordinance as one that other cities can consider. Groveland city staff members have met with the City of Okeechobee’s Mayor to discuss dark sky policy strategies and to share Groveland’s ordinance as a guide. In April, the Groveland City Council passed a Dark Sky Proclamation with the City of Orlando and Lake County to promote International Dark-Sky Week. The City has become a state leader in dark sky lighting policy and education. It will continue working with communities and partners across Florida to enhance efforts to minimize light pollution.

Groveland Wins a Florida Municipal Achievement Award The City of Groveland recently received the Florida Municipal Achievement Award for Environmental Stewardship from the Florida League of Cities. The Environmental Stewardship Award recognizes a city program that promotes conservation, improves and protects environmental conditions or provides environmental education and outreach programs.





FLORIDA CITIES A passport booklet includes stickers that serve as the “passport stamp.”

Passport to Jupiter Town boosts visitor and resident interest in area locations

By Shawn Reed Town of Jupiter


s the world began to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic in 2021, the Jupiter Town Council turned its attention to its strategic plan. The Town Council wanted to highlight the variety of interesting locations in the Jupiter area. As strategic planning progressed, the Council developed an initiative to establish “a program for the notable destinations in the community so that residents and visitors have access to a more guided experience to all Jupiter has to offer.” From this strategic initiative, the Passport to Jupiter was born. The passport program encouraged residents and visitors to visit multiple area sites. It led to Jupiter being awarded the Florida League of Cities (FLC) Florida Municipal Achievement Award for Public Engagement. The passport was produced in two forms: a booklet with stickers that serve as the “passport stamp” and an app for mobile devices that stamps the passport by geolocation services. “Our staff’s forethought to make the Passport to Jupiter in book format and as an app has helped increase the




appeal to all of our target audiences,” said Mayor Jim Kuretski. “The design and ease of use make the program accessible to everyone.” Town staff members identified 71 locations for the Passport program, including parks, art and beaches. To provide the most complete list of locations of interest, the program included nearby sites, such as a major county park just outside the Town boundaries and a popular turtle rescue hospital in a nearby municipality. To prevent the number of sites from being overwhelming for participants, staff used color coding to organize the locations by category. The booklet includes information about each site, and many participants keep their booklets after participating in the program. Since the program was based upon visiting, the idea was to create a passport booklet with passport “stamps,” stickers that participants placed on their booklets once they visited a site. To create the booklets, staff used a lot of information and images that they had on hand from history tours and website content. More photographs were taken by staff members, some of whom used their cellphone cameras. Town staff contracted with Eventzee (also known as Freeze Tag) to create the mobile passport. That app included a passport stamp that was added through geolocation or by participants checking in at the location. The app created a game out of the passport by introducing a scoreboard and awarding points for each location visited. The Town created a prize pack for participants who visited 30 featured locations. Once acquiring 30 “passport stamps,” a participant simply had to visit Town Hall with their stamped passport to claim this prize pack. The prize pack includes a compass with the contest branding, a coaster, postcards, stickers and a bag with branding. Launched in January 2022, the Passport to Jupiter was an immediate hit. Booklets could be picked up or requested via

the postal service, and they were mailed to 30 states, Canada and communities throughout Florida. The response to the program far exceeded all expectations. The Town handed out the entire initial order of 1,000 books from Town Hall in the first month. A second order of 2,500 books followed and was distributed by the end of March, which led to another order of 2,500 books. In total, more than 5,000 books were distributed within the program’s first year. Meanwhile, the mobile app launched in June 2022 and received more than 800 downloads in its first month. By the end of 2022, the app was downloaded more than 1,600 times. Developing a booklet and mobile app allowed the program to engage participants of all ages. Town staff researched and included sites often overlooked. Longtime residents spoke about finding locations they had never visited or hadn’t visited in decades. The program was innovative in several ways, which extended to its marketing. Town staff created postcards featuring the Passport to Jupiter with pictures of various locations. Participants mailed the postcards to friends and family and provided free marketing for the program. The decision to include the passport stamp proved to be one of the most talked about features of the program. Participants love to brag about the number of stamps they’ve collected. “The Passport to Jupiter has been a wonderful program for the Town of Jupiter as it has exposed Jupiter residents and visitors to a variety of locations of interest within our Town,” Kuretski said. “Our staff did a marvelous job in identifying a wide range of locations, which has helped introduce the users of this program to everything from local historical sites to the arts and other forms of entertainment to our beautiful natural areas and beaches.” Shawn Reed is the Community Relations Manager/Public Information Officer for the Town of Jupiter. QC

Town of Jupiter Receives a Florida Municipal Achievement Award The Town of Jupiter recently received the Florida League of Cities (FLC) Florida Municipal Achievement Award for Public Engagement. This award focuses on a city program that builds a more vital, participative community. The program must develop civic awareness, increase education and knowledge of local government functions or promote active participation among residents, businesses and visitors.



Other Communities Can Adapt Jupiter Passport Program The Passport to Jupiter program is easily adaptable to other municipalities. Regardless of its size, each town has areas of interest, from historical locations to parks and natural areas, that residents and visitors enjoy visiting. The program is especially successful in highlighting locations that are often overlooked but are a point of pride for a town. Working with staff in other departments, including Zoning, Parks and Recreation, and Engineering, is useful for identifying sites for a passport program. These departments also can help confirm the accuracy of the information for the passport.

◂ An app for mobile devices stamps the passport by geolocation services.




Miami Beach Makes Bold Move Successful ad campaign beckons entrepreneurs and businesses

By Alina T. Hudak City of Miami Beach



amous for beaches, world-class hospitality and a vibrant cultural scene, the City of Miami Beach is quickly becoming one of the nation’s most sought-after business relocation hubs, with a special focus on the finance, tech and health care industries. Every year, for the past decade and beyond, 75% of venture funding has gone to California, New York and Massachusetts. But the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated a shift in funding outside of these concentrated areas as firms turned toward rising cities and vibrant locales. Tech talent spread everywhere, and South Florida was one of the country’s top beneficiaries. This shift is due in no small part to the City’s “Make a Bold Move” campaign. The campaign led to the City recently receiving the Florida League of Cities (FLC) Municipal Achievement Award for Economic Advancement. The campaign encapsulates two of the City’s most successful business incentive programs: the Job Creation Incentive Program (JCIP) and Expedited Plan Review and Permitting Program. The JCIP program rewards companies that create a minimum of 10 full-time jobs that pay 125% of the average wage in Miami-Dade County. Expedited plan reviews are available for companies in the financial services and technology sectors that undertake renovations or construction of offices or ancillary spaces. The perk is also available for any company that establishes a corporate or regional headquarters in the city. The campaign highlights why Miami Beach has become an attractive location for entrepreneurs and businesses seeking to expand their operations or establish new ones. It also focuses on ensuring that the City continues to nurture and grow the talent base in the community and gives top employees a reason to move to Miami Beach and set up a remote work environment with their existing employers.


◂ Promotional materials for the Make a Bold Move campaign visually communicate the year-round tropical warmth in Miami Beach.

Moreover, the Make a Bold Move campaign showcases the City’s one-of-a-kind vibrant culture and energetic lifestyle. It also promotes the ease of doing business in the City and the lifestyle benefits that workers expect, such as access to professional sports teams, a focus on health and wellness as well as beautiful weather. The campaign highlights what makes the City the most ideal destination for business relocation and remote working, including its focus on existing infrastructure, qualified workforce and work/life balance. Seeking to retain top talent, Miami Beach businesses can incorporate wellness into the daily lives of their employees with top-rated schools, dozens of parks and pristine beaches that run along the 7-mile Beachwalk. Miami Beach is a family-friendly destination with free activities and programs for all ages, numerous cultural institutions and one of the nation’s largest and most notable public art collections. “Make a Bold Move” is the umbrella tagline promoting superior quality of life. The campaign promotes all that Miami Beach offers as a place to live, work and play. Ads visually communicate the year-round tropical warmth in Miami Beach, which suggests that working from this location is akin to a permanent vacation. Headlines include “Say Hello to Your New Boardroom” beside images of ocean waves and surfers and “Elevate Your Workday” with images of people enjoying health and wellness initiatives in the fresh air. Designed for business leaders and the creative class workforce, the



FLORIDA CITIES campaign has successfully stimulated economic investment as established companies seek to provide their executives with a better work-life balance.





The campaign’s initial phase launched on digital and social channels in May 2022 and targeted key finance and tech hubs around the state and the country with a total spend of about $43,000. The first phase was executed across digital and social channels at specially targeted industries: finance, health care, financial technology, startups and wealth management. Ads targeted key markets including Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Chicago and Connecticut. The City measured success based on its predetermined key performance indicators (KPIs), including unique impressions, website visits, engagements and cost per thousand (CPM). These statistics were monitored through digital programmatic ad platforms such as Google Ads Manager (search and display ads), Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube and Reddit. The campaign was innovative in that it was optimized across digital channels only, where it could hypertarget ads to an exclusive audience. The City set a goal to deliver 3.5 million impressions and 30,000 website visits with an average CPM of $9. The campaign’s leaders knew they were seeking a premium, niche digital audience that would require a higher-than-average bid for keywords and topics. The City was competing against many top destinations and Fortune 500 companies for the same share of voice. Ensuring that most of the media used for promotional ads were videos helped to optimize performance across all channels, as the algorithms were naturally drawn to this format. Through continuous optimization across all ad sets, the City far exceeded its KPI and drove nearly 6 million impressions of the message, half a million views and more than 71,000 website visits, with an average of 1.48 sessions per user. The overall campaign CPM was $7.48 across all channels. Twitter ads performed

so well that they achieved a 29% click-through rate (CTR) by the end of the campaign. Through continuous optimization of keyword targeting and bids, the campaign’s cost per click (CPC) decreased from $3.68 at the onset to an average of $0.34 by the end. Similarly, the CTR went from 0.16% to 3.74% throughout the campaign. Completing the paid advertising campaign also served as a catalyst for a complete redesign of the City’s business website (MBBiz.com) to ensure that the website offered a look and feel similar to the campaign. The restructuring of the information architecture, navigation and content was completed in March 2023. The new page launched in April 2023 and saw a 200%

increase in traffic during the first month. The City’s success is reflected by the country’s top firms making “a bold move” and opening in or expanding their businesses to Miami Beach. City leaders are committed to creating a thriving economy that fosters balanced growth by connecting businesses, communities, people and jobs. Miami Beach provides businesses with assistance and resources to thrive in the City’s diverse economy and resilient community. Alina T. Hudak is the City Manager of the City of Miami Beach. QC

How Other Cities Can Adapt This campaign could easily be adapted by other cities, especially those with similar amenities as the City of Miami Beach. The essence of the creative was communicating that a work-life balance is nonnegotiable in the current professional environment. In promoting the campaign, the City continues to invite everyone to elevate their workday, make lunch breaks mandatory and say “hello” to their new office … poolside. Sunshine-filled days in a place with no personal income tax is an offer that most Florida communities can make. The City promotes its connection to world-class infrastructure and status as an arts, entertainment and cultural hub. Campaign copy and visuals have been adapted for the City’s business website (MBBiz. com) to serve as a year-round promotion for the business hub even when the City isn’t actively advertising. Beyond using campaign creative for paid advertising, the “Make a Bold Move” designs also became the style guide for economic development collateral used at special events, conventions, trade shows and other engagements, which further increased awareness of the Miami Beach business brand.

City of Miami Beach Wins a Florida Municipal Achievement Award The City of Miami Beach recently received the Florida League of Cities (FLC) Florida Municipal Achievement Award for Economic Advancement. This award focuses on a city program that supports, highlights or partners with a city’s local business community to improve the economic well-being of a city.





Serving Our Cities FLC President’s initiative has three components By Kelli Gemmer Florida League of Cities


t the Florida League of Cities (FLC) 2023 Annual Conference, the membership elected Cooper City Mayor Greg Ross to serve as the League’s President. Ross will lead the League for the 2023-2024 term alongside First Vice President Michael Blake, Mayor for the City of Cocoa, and Second Vice President Holly D. Smith, Councilmember for the City of Sanibel. (See information about Blake and Smith on pages 38 and 39.) “I’m grateful to be chosen to serve as your 2023-24 President,” said Ross immediately following his installation. “For over a century, the Florida League of Cities has been a powerful advocate for the needs of Florida’s cities. Together, we will positively shape the future of the cities we serve.” Ross’ goals during his presidency center around his initiative: Serving Our Cities. “As city leaders, we should constantly ask: How can we generate momentum and make our cities even stronger?” he said. “Serving Our Cities focuses on the essentials of municipal leadership and the core values that bind us together.” Serving Our Cities has three pillars: ▸ Intentional collaboration ▸ Expanded education ▸ Respectful public service.

The first pillar, intentional collaboration, centers around reinforcing relationships with state and federal lawmakers and continues to build on the




INTENTIONAL COLL ABOR EXPANDED EDUCATION RESPEC TFUL PUBLIC League’s focus on local voices making local choices. “Through intentional collaboration with lawmakers and fellow city officials, we can continue to promote local self-governance,” said Ross. As this last year showed, advocacy starts at home. Ross is encouraging local elected officials to continue to meet their representatives in their hometowns. Set meetings, make unexpected visits, invite them to City Commission meetings – connect with them wherever and whenever

▴ Respectful Public Service Handbook



possible. “A deep understanding of the issues results in successful advocacy,” said Ross. Expanded education, the second pillar, focuses on aiding local elected officials to become even more effective communicators through comprehensive leadership training and new tools provided by the League. The League’s FLC University offers several resources that local leaders can access to expand their education. (For more information, go to bit. ly/3P4q50I.) Ross hopes to boost outreach, particularly to newly elected officials, and provide customized training. He wants to help them understand their roles and enable them to start strong. He also wants to hear input from his peers on the resources they need to succeed. In addition, the League will debut FLC Leadership Class I. Participation will be capped to ensure full class engagement, and the program will include interactive segments as well as keynote presentations. Maintaining a commitment to respectful public service is the final pillar of Serving Our Cities. Addressing all challenges respectfully and productively is a critical attribute for local elected officials. This means valuing civility, maintaining decorum and learning how to disagree agreeably. “The League will provide resources to help us navigate even the toughest situations while


FLC President Greg Ross at a Glance

ATION SERVICE we serve our cities,” said Ross, who moderated the workshop on this topic at the 2023 FLC Annual Conference. With this initiative, the League launched the “Respectful Public Service Handbook.” This resource provides tools to help city officials build leadership, character and public trust in their communities when running public meetings. “I hope a copy of this handbook sits at the right hand of every municipal elected official in Florida. It provides guidance and wisdom we all need.” (View the Handbook online at bit.ly/3LCYCB9.) “Serve” is the keyword that links these three pillars. “It’s our collective goal,” said Ross. “It’s why we’re here. It’s what inspires us to give our best each and every day. No one person can do it

▸▸▸ Learn more about Florida League of Cities (FLC) President Greg Ross in this exclusive video interview at youtu.be/ G4wX_Culjf0.

Florida League of Cities (FLC) President Greg Ross grew up in Brooklyn, NY, and relocated to Florida in 1977 to attend law school in Fort Lauderdale. After earning his juris doctor, he became Broward County Assistant State Attorney from 1980 until he opened his Fort Lauderdale law practice in 1984. Ross has served as Cooper City Mayor since 2012. During his 11 years as Mayor and a member of the FLC, Ross has met hundreds of people, but he looks forward to even more engagement during his presidency. “The thing I enjoy most about being Mayor of Cooper City is meeting the people and helping them,” said Ross. His involvement with city government began in 2002 when he was appointed to the Cooper City Planning and Zoning Board, where he served for seven years, including the last year as Chair. From 2006-2012, Ross served as Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Coordinator for the City and Vice-Chair of Broward County CERT Coordinators. In 2009, he was appointed the City’s Special Magistrate and served until he was appointed Mayor. Since his election to the City Council, Ross has dedicated his time, service and leadership in multiple roles. He is an active member of the Broward League of Cities and previously served as President and Secretary. Ross has served on the FLC Board of Directors since 2015. He was previously Chair of FLC’s Federal Action Strike Team (FAST) Committee, a Director on the Florida League of Mayors (FLM) Board and Vice Chair of FLC’s Urban Administration Legislative Policy Committee. Ross works tirelessly to protect the Home Rule powers of Florida’s cities and has been honored with FLC’s Home Rule Hero Award every year since 2015. MEMBERSHIP 2023 | QUALITY CITIES 35

▴ Florida League of Cities (FLC) President Greg Ross, Mayor of Cooper City, led his first FLC Board of Directors meeting as President during the 2023 League Annual Conference in Orlando.

alone. It takes others to serve with us and to stand beside us and behind us.” For Ross, Serving Our Cities means better communication, collaboration and advocacy on behalf of all cities, towns and villages in Florida. He encourages members to get even more involved with FLC through educational opportunities and in-person events, such as Legislative Conference. Ross said they will learn the art of advocacy, which will help their city’s residents. (For more information about Legislative Conference, go to bit.ly/45as2yd.) “All 411 cities face the same difficulties when preemptions occur,” said Ross. “United, we can fight it together and advocate on behalf of Florida’s cities as one.” Kelli Gemmer is the Director of Communications at the Florida League of Cities. QC





How You Can Support the Initiative There are several ways that you can support the Serving Our Cities initiative from Florida League of Cities President Greg Ross within each pillar. Intentional Collaboration: Help elevate Local Voices Making Local Choices through intentional collaboration with lawmakers and fellow city officials. Stay engaged with the League’s advocacy efforts by attending Legislative Conference and Legislative Action Days. Expanded Education: Take full advantage of FLC University’s educational opportunities and be recognized for your efforts by participating in the Certificate Program for Elected Municipal Officials. Sign up today to earn points toward achieving bronze, silver or gold recognition. Respectful Public Service: Commit to respectful public service by valuing civility, maintaining decorum and learning how to disagree agreeably. Use the League’s "Respectful Public Service Handbook" as a guide, and consider adopting a pledge on decorum.

For more information, visit flcities.com/serving-our-cities.



Michael Blake, FLC First VP, at a Glance


t the Florida League of Cities (FLC) 2023 Annual Conference, League membership elected Cocoa Mayor Michael Blake to serve as First Vice President.

▸ Blake was first elected to the City Council in 1998 and served through 2001. ▸ In 2004, he was elected Mayor and served two terms until 2012. ▸ Blake was elected Councilman for District 1 in 2014 and served until June 2016. ▸ He was elected as Mayor in November 2020 and will serve until 2024. ▸ As Mayor, Blake has supported Cocoa’s redevelopment and economy, including supporting the City’s efforts on homelessness and affordable housing. ▸ Blake has served as a Cocoa Community Redevelopment Agency member. ▸ He has been a liaison to the Cocoa Housing Authority , Weed and Seed and Save our Neighborhood organizations. ▸ He is a past President of the Space Coast League of Cities. ▸ Blake served as a board member of the Florida League of Mayors. ▸ He has served as a committee member for the FLC. ▸ He is a board member of the Florida Municipal Insurance Trust (FMIT). ▸ Blake has been a resident of Cocoa his entire life. ▸ He retired from teaching at Cocoa High School after nearly 30 years. ▸ When first elected as an FLC officer in 2022, he said, “To whom much is given, much is required.” QC

Learn more about Florida League of Cities (FLC) First Vice President Michael Blake in this exclusive video interview at bit.ly/3ZHyjj4.




Holly D. Smith, FLC Second VP, at a Glance


olly D. Smith , Councilmember for the City of Sanibel , has been named Second Vice President for the Florida League of Cities


▸ Councilmember Smith is the Sanibel representative for the Lee County Tourist Development Council and Lee County Long Term Recovery Task Force and liaison to and past Chair of the Lee County Horizon Council (The Voice of Business in Lee County). She serves as President of the Horizon Foundation of Lee County. ▸ Smith is President of the Southwest Florida League of Cities. ▸ She has been a nonprofit volunteer for more than 30 years and is a Council liaison to the Big Arts Organization. ▸ At the FLC, Smith serves on three committees and chaired the Advocacy Committee in 2021-2022. ▸ She has long been a champion of improving the quality of the water in Florida. Smith is a Florida designee to the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, a bipartisan task force to restore and protect America’s Everglades. ▸ Smith and her husband of 36 years, Jason, are avid fishermen. They have two grown sons, Zane and Peyton. ▸ She and her husband own and operate two hotel properties. ▸ Smith was named 2023 Woman of the Year in Lee County at the Women of Distinction Awards. ▸ She has received the FLC Home Rule Hero award for six consecutive years. ▸ Smith is this year’s winner of the E. Harris Drew Municipal Official Lifetime Achievement Award. (See article on p. 40.) QC

Learn more about Florida League of Cities (FLC) Second Vice President Holly D. Smith in this exclusive video interview at bit.ly/3PHXhKE.







Smith Receives The League’s Highest Award


olly D. Smith, Councilmember for the City of Sanibel, was presented with the E. Harris Drew Municipal Official Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2023 Florida League of Cities (FLC) Annual Conference. This award recognizes local elected officials who have made lasting and worthwhile contributions to the citizens of Florida through their efforts and dedication in performing their duties at the local level. “If there is anyone who meets the requirements for the E. Harris Drew Award, it is Councilmember Holly Smith,” said Mike Miller, Vice Mayor of Sanibel.

▸ Sanibel Councilmember Holly D. Smith (right) and Jolien Caraballo, thenPresident of the Florida League of Cities.


Smith served the City as Mayor when Hurricane Ian made landfall in Sanibel on September 28, 2022. A storm surge of 8-15 feet washed over the entire City. Immediately following the storm, “Smith demonstrated calm and effective leadership in the face of extreme crisis,” Miller said. The causeway connecting Sanibel’s island community to Lee County’s mainland was breached in five places. Boats were the only access to the island. As City staff worked to secure boat access, Smith spoke to Governor Ron DeSantis concerning the breach in the causeway and the catastrophic damage to residential and commercial property. Smith explained the dire conditions: Water, sewer and electric utilities were out of service, with nearly 100% of electric utility poles destroyed. Without electricity, the other utilities that were damaged and operating on limited generator power could not properly function. Smith explained the need to quickly establish ferry/barge services to the island and restore the causeway. A plan was put in place to reconstruct the breached section of the causeway. On October 12, just 14 days after the hurricane made landfall, nearly 300 utility line trucks drove over the causeway after sufficient repairs were made to grant them access. On October 20, the causeway was opened to general traffic. Smith has been highly effective in keeping Sanibel’s significant issues in front of key elected and appointed officials. During the 2023 Legislative Session, Smith



▴ Smith (center) poses with former winners of the E. Harris Drew Municipal Official Lifetime Achievement Award.

◂ Smith is congratulated by attendees at the 2023 Florida League of Cities Annual Conference.

made multiple trips to Tallahassee to advocate for Sanibel. Her efforts contributed to the following decisions: ▸ The State assuming the cost of debris removal, which Sanibel couldn’t afford (current costs over $100 million) ▸ The State providing $13.1 million to Sanibel for beach restoration ▸ The State providing $33 million in sewer and stormwater grants to the City ▸ The Governor approving $2.75 million in appropriation awards for restoration projects ▸ The defeat of a vacation rental bill (SB 714). Smith was also the City Council’s lead voice in advocating for an earlier opening of the Sanibel Post Office with U.S. Sen. Rick Scott and U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds. Sanibel residents were



required to drive a 40-mile round trip to pick up their mail at a U.S. Post Office facility. When the Postal Service announced that Sanibel wouldn’t have a temporary post office on Sanibel until August, Smith strongly advocated for an earlier date with Sanibel’s federal legislative delegation. With the strong support of Scott and Donalds, the Sanibel Post Office was opened in a temporary trailer in February. The Lee County Recovery Task Force, Resilient Lee, was formed through the Lee County Board of Commissioners, and Smith serves as the City’s representative. “At the front of these recovery successes was Smith,” Miller said. “While her effective work post Hurricane Ian has been exceptional, Councilmember Smith has been an effective leader on Sanibel for 15 years.” Smith has served six years on the Sanibel City Council and,


▸ Smith with Sanibel leaders (from left) Vice Mayor Mike Miller, Mayor Richard Johnson and City Manager Dana Souza.

prior to her position on Council, nine years as an appointed member of the Planning Commission. Smith serves as a member of the FLC Legislative Committee and the FLC Municipal Administration Legislative Policy Committee. She has been appointed to the FLC Federal Action Strike Team (FAST). She also has served on the FLC Advocacy Committee, including one year as Chair. In 2023, Smith received the FLC Home Rule Hero Award for the sixth consecutive year. She has been a part of the League FAST Fly-Ins and has traveled multiple times during the state legislative session to speak with legislators and before House and Senate committees. “I travel around the state, to our state capital in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C., for local, regional, state and federal advocacy efforts that impact the quality of lives and livelihood on Sanibel,

Southwest Florida and throughout Florida,” Smith said. Smith served two terms on the Board of Directors for the Florida League of Mayors . She was a member of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. “I am extremely proud of my work with the Florida League of Cities and, when serving as Mayor, my involvement with the Florida League of Mayors,” Smith said. “My involvement with the League has been invaluable in building relationships and learning how to be an effective advocate for our City legislatively.” She attended the Institute for Elected Municipal Officials (IEMO I and II). “The League has helped me be the best leader I can be,” Smith said. She also has been named FLC’s Second Vice President. (See story, p. 39.) QC

Learn more about E. Harris Drew Municipal Official Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Holly D. Smith in an exclusive video interview at youtu.be/ DY6fB5lGrPM



Gibson Wins Common Grounds Advocate Award ▴ Port St. Lucie Vice Mayor Jolien Caraballo (left) presented Councilwoman Mindy Gibson with the Common Grounds Advocate award at the 2023 Florida League of Cities Annual Conference.



ouncilmember Mindy Gibson of the City of Satellite Beach has been named winner of the Common Grounds Advocate award from the Florida League of Cities (FLC). The award recognizes a municipal leader who has shown commitment and dedication to finding common ground and building relationships with state lawmakers to help support the League’s Legislative Platform. The award was presented at the 2023 FLC Annual Conference. Port St. Lucie Vice Mayor Jolien Caraballo, then-President of the FLC, described Gibson as an “amazing” public servant. “Mindy embodies the ideal qualities of a genuine advocate for Florida’s cities,” Caraballo said. “She takes a proactive approach to advocating for city-related issues and maintains regular communication with her legislators, fostering a strong relationship with her legislative delegation.” Gibson’s dedication to advocacy was evident as she participated in several legislative committee meetings during the legislative session, Caraballo said. She provided testimony on financial





disclosures and short-term rental bills, even with a 24hour notice. Gibson said she was surprised and honored to receive the award. “I truly believe that local government is the most important form of government,” she said. “What we do affects the everyday lives of all the people living in our communities. It is important that, above all else, we strive to do what is best not only for our communities today, but so that the choices we make are also looking at what may happen 10, 20, 50 years down the road.” Gibson is chair of the Space Coast advocacy team and addresses the Brevard County delegation on FLC issues. She is active on the FLC Advocacy Committee and other legislative policy committees. She has participated in events such as Legislative Action Days, the Legislative Conference and the FAST Fly-In to Washington, DC, where she met with members of Congress. (For more information on these activities, see the Advocacy issue of Quality Cities (QC) magazine at bit. ly/3QJJk0B).

My first advocacy efforts were to stop HB 17 from moving through the Florida House back in 2017. It was a blanket bill that essentially stripped local government’s ability to regulate businesses, and thankfully, we were successful in stopping that bill. Prior to this, I really did not understand the cultural differences between state and local government, and it pushed me to try to understand why they exist. What I found was that many at the state level have little to no local government experience. This motivated me to try to nurture relationships at the state level so that I can understand their “why” and try to help them understand our “why.” My biggest takeaways from that experience are that you have to fight the battles that are worth fighting and that there are some truly amazing people elected to serve our communities at both the local and the state level.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST REWARDING EXPERIENCE REGARDING ADVOCACY? WHY? I would say my most rewarding experience would be each time our efforts helped to kill a bill that would have been detrimental to our residents. There have been many, and I truly believe that if we did not work together, many of these bills would have passed, and our residents would have suffered.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO ENCOURAGE YOUR PEERS TO GET MORE INVOLVED IN ADVOCACY FOR FLORIDA CITIES? It is our responsibility to serve our communities in the best way possible. In order to do that, you need to be involved at both the state and federal levels – if for nothing else, to be educated on the laws that are being passed. But more importantly, to help all the levels of government uphold the Constitution and protect the rights of every citizen so that we can all pursue our own versions of happiness. That can be as simple as allowing a local government to regulate where a vacation rental can be, because I don’t know many people that want one next to their homes.

HOW HAVE YOUR EFFORTS HELPED THE CITY OF SATELLITE BEACH? Satellite Beach has had a vacation rental ordinance since 2006 – give or take a year. For my city, we have fought to keep the grandfathering in each time to protect our ordinance. I have also fought at all levels of government to bring awareness to and to fund the cleanup and studies of the “forever chemicals” known as PFAS. The military base located to the north of our city is the third-most-contaminated Department of Defense (DOD) site for the firefighting foam known as PFAS/PFOA/ PFOS, an unregulated chemical that never goes away. I have spent countless hours learning/speaking to industry leaders and speaking to legislators to figure out the best ways to approach this widely spread contaminant that seems to be in pretty much everything. Each step takes us closer to figuring out how to clean it up, how it affects our bodies and the food chain, and how to regulate it. QC



Certificate of


Officials Earn Certificates In New League Program


ozens of Florida city officials recently received bronze, silver and gold certificates from the Certificate Program for Elected Municipal Officials hosted by the Florida League of Cities (FLC) University. FLC University is the Florida League of Cities’ one-stop shop for municipal training needs. The new certificate achievement program rewards municipal officials for their commitment and dedication to training and continuing education. FLC University launched the certificate program to recognize elected officials participating in the League’s many training opportunities. The program offers three certificate levels: ▸ Level One: Bronze Certificate of Merit ▸ Level Two: Silver Certificate of Leadership ▸ Level Three: Gold Certificate of Excellence.




Certificate of


Diana Adams, Councilmember, City of West Melbourne David Alfin, Mayor, City of Palm Coast Omar Arroyo, Vice Mayor, City of Haines City Antonio V. Arserio, Commissioner, City of Margate Patrick Austin, Commissioner, City of Sanford Thomas Barnhorn, Councilor, City of Seminole Joyce D. Barton, Vice Mayor, Town of Melbourne Beach Dorothea Taylor Bogert, Mayor, City of Auburndale Rufus J. Borom, Commissioner, City of Palatka Justin R. Campbell, Commissioner, City of Palatka Coleen Chaney, Commissioner, Town of Belleair Ed Dodd, Councilmember, City of Sebastian Todd Drosky, Commissioner, City of Deerfield Beach Roger Eckert, Commissioner, City of Lake Helen Sam Fite Jr., Vice Mayor, City of Bowling Green Dave Gattis, Mayor, City of Belleair Beach Kimberly Glas-Castro, Vice Mayor, Town of Lake Park Penny Gold, Commissioner, Town of Longboat Key Sandy Golding, Councilwoman, City of Jacksonville Beach Mark Grill, Vice Mayor, City of St. Pete Beach Ted J. Hartselle, Councilman, City of Rockledge Denise Horland, Councilmember, City of Plantation Kenny Johnson, Councilmember, City of Palm Bay John S. Jones Jr., Councilmember, City of Monticello Willie Jones, Commissioner, City of Palatka Keith Keene, Deputy Mayor, City of Arcadia NanDrycka King Albert, Councilmember, City of Midway Lorraine Koss, Councilwoman, City of Cocoa Mel Lindauer, Commissioner, City of Daytona Beach Shores John L. Linden, Commissioner, Town of Lake Park Sarah Malega, Commissioner, City of Lake Worth Beach Bob Mayersohn, Commissioner, City of Parkland Tammie McCaskill, Commissioner, City of Palatka

Debbie McDowell, Commissioner, City of North Port Matt McMillan, Deputy Mayor, City of Longwood Jane Mealy, Commissioner, City of Flagler Beach Roger Michaud, Mayor, Town of Lake Park Mike Miller, Vice Mayor, City of Sanibel Nancy Miller, Mayor, City of Daytona Beach Shores Stephanie Morgan, Councilwoman, City of Port St. Lucie Janice D. Mortimer, Commissioner, City of Starke Christopher R. Nunn, Vice Mayor, City of Sebastian Bernard W. Oder, Councilmember, City of Mary Esther Jim Olliver, Councilor, City of Seminole Karen M. Ostrand, Mayor, Town of Ocean Breeze Lynda Owens, Councilwoman, City of Live Oak Nicholas Pachota, Mayor, City of Venice Lois Paritsky, Mayor, City of Venice Bill Partington, Mayor, City of Ormond Beach Stephen Phrampus, Deputy Mayor, City of West Melbourne Edward Potts, Commissioner, City of Alachua Angela Raymond, Mayor Pro Tem, City of Cape Canaveral Thomas B. Reid, Vice Mayor, City of South Pasadena Evelyn Riley-Goldwire, Commissioner, City of Gretna Greg Ross, Mayor, City of Cooper City Dan Saracki, Mayor, City of Oldsmar Nancy Sikes-Kline, Mayor, City of St. Augustine Joshua Simmons, Commissioner, City of Coral Springs Fortuna Smukler, Commissioner, City of North Miami Beach Latisha “Trish” Springer, Councilor, City of Seminole Sarah Stoeckel, Councilmember, City of Titusville Matthew D. Surrency, Commissioner, City of Hawthorne April Sutton, Councilmember, City of Mary Esther Alex S. Tiamson, Councilmember, City of Orange City David A. Vigliotti, Councilman, City of Satellite Beach J.B. Whitten, Mayor, City of Crestview

Keith W. Babb Jr., Mayor, City of Pahokee Liston D. Bochette III, Councilman, City of Fort Myers Anthony Bonna, Councilman, City of Port St. Lucie Phyllis Butlien, Vice Mayor, City of DeBary Michael Cadore, Councilman, City of Rockledge Christopher M. Cloudman, Mayor, City of DeLand Dennis Dawson, Councilmember, City of Mount Dora Jack Dearmin, Commissioner, City of Lake Alfred Thomas E. DeVille, Mayor, Town of Penney Farms Lisa Kane DeVitto, Commissioner, City of Crescent City Susy Diaz, Councilmember, City of Greenacres Yvette Drucker, Councilmember, City of Boca Raton Mark Franks, Mayor, Town of Shalimar Arnold S. Gaines, Commissioner, City of Fort Pierce Charlotte Gillis, Councilwoman, City of Edgewater Stuart Glass, Deputy Mayor, Town of Indialantic David Henson, Mayor, City of Casselberry

Anne Huffman, Commissioner, City of Haines City Curtis Johnson Jr., Commissioner, City of Fort Pierce Aimee Kelley, Commissioner, City of Boynton Beach Candace Kelly, Commissioner, City of Atlantic Beach Clara Murvin, Vice Mayor, City of Pahokee Tyler Payne, Mayor, City of Treasure Island Arthur Penny, Mayor, City of South Pasadena Kevin Reid, Commissioner, City of DeLand Arlene R. Schwartz, Commissioner, City of Margate Donna Smith, Councilmember, City of Paxton Joy B. Smith, Commissioner, City of West Park Suzy S. Sofer, Commissioner, City of Belleair Bluffs Fabiola Stuyvesant, Commissioner, City of Sunny Isles Beach Judith Thomas, Commissioner, Town of Lake Park Chris Via, Mayor, City of Holly Hill Delarian Wiggins, Council President, City of Pensacola Brandon L. Young, Councilman, City of South Daytona



Certificate of


Barbara Baldasarre, Vice Mayor, Town of Hillsboro Beach Nathan Blackwell, Mayor, City of St. Cloud

The certificate program runs for one year, from July to July. Officials earn points for participating in training events offered by FLC University, including monthly webinars, Online Orientation for Newly Elected Officials, the Institute for Elected Municipal Officials (IEMO I and II), the Online Advocacy Course, the State-Mandated Four-Hour Ethics training and the League’s Annual Conference and legislative events. Certificate recipients at all levels are featured at the FLC Annual Conference and listed on p. 47 and this page. Participating in the certificate program is one way to support FLC President Greg Ross and his Serving Our Cities initiative, which includes a focus on expanding education. (Read more about Serving Our Cities on p. 32.) For more information on the Certificate Program for Elected Municipal Officials, visit flcities. com/certificate. To read about personal experiences with the certificate program, go to bit.ly/3LerMWP. QC

Sandra L. Bradbury, Mayor, City of Pinellas Park Carolyn Cassidy, Commissioner, Town of Ocean Ridge Cory Coler, Mayor, City of Eagle Lake Joy F. Cooper, Mayor, City of Hallandale Beach Sue Ditty, Mayor, Town of Melbourne Village William Dryburgh, Councilmember, City of Punta Gorda Joshua D. Fuller, Vice Mayor, Town of Bay Harbor Islands Bertram Goddard, Commissioner, Town of Dundee Ronte R. Harris, Commissioner, City of Quincy Pamn Henderson, Mayor, City of Callaway William Hodgkins, Commissioner, Town of Pembroke Park Michael Hudak, Commissioner, City of Deerfield Beach Richard Dallis Hunter, Councilman, Town of Hilliard Jason Jones, Commissioner, City of Plant City Karen Rafferty, Commissioner, City of Belleair Bluffs Beth Ramsay-Vickrey, Vice Mayor, City of Key Colony Beach Jan Rodusky, Vice Mayor, Village of Royal Palm Beach Alexander Smith, Commissioner, City of Apopka Robyn Still, Vice Mayor, City of Marathon Mary Beth Taylor, Commissioner, Town of Lake Park Lynda Thompson, Commissioner, City of South Pasadena Patricia Trefry, Mayor, City of Key Colony Beach Jim Turney, Commissioner, City of Altamonte Springs Otis T. Wallace, Mayor, City of Florida City



Certificate of


Certificate of


Certificate of


Certificate Program for Elected Municipal Officials This multi-level certificate achievement program lets you earn points for Florida League of Cities activities in which you already participate! Earn or renew certificates annually based on a points system:

Level 1: Bronze Certificate of Merit – 10 points Level 2: Silver Certificate of Leadership – 20 points Level 3: Gold Certificate of Excellence – 30 points. • • • •

Sign up. Attend training events. Track your progress with reports twice a year. Be recognized at Annual Conference, by Quality Cities magazine and in a press release.

at flcities.com/certificate






hroughout its rich history, the Florida League of Cities (FLC) has been honored by the outstanding caliber of the municipal officials serving on its Board of Directors. The active participation of these dedicated and experienced city officials continues to be an important factor in measuring the League’s effectiveness. The result has been more than 100 years of progressive leadership and innovative programs for Florida’s local governments. The Board of Directors is the governing body of the League. It is composed of a President, First Vice President and Second Vice President; all past Presidents who are still in office; 35 directors representing 14 geographical districts; a seat for an official serving in his or her 50th or more year in office and one director from each of the state’s 10 most populous cities. A non-voting member is authorized from the Florida City and County Management Association (FCCMA), and the League’s Executive Director/CEO serves as Secretary-Treasurer. The duties of the Board and Executive Director/CEO are outlined in the League’s Charter and Bylaws. For a copy, visit flcities.com or call the League at 850.222.9684.

President Greg Ross Mayor Cooper City

First Vice President Michael Blake Mayor Cocoa

Second Vice President Holly D. Smith Councilmember Sanibel

Patricia Bates Mayor Altamonte Springs Past President

Scott Black Commissioner Dade City Past President

Nathan Blackwell Mayor St. Cloud District 6 Director

Dorothea Taylor Bogert Mayor Auburndale District 7 Director

Julia Botel Councilmember Riviera Beach District 12 Director

Felicia Brunson Mayor West Park District 13 Director

Don Burnette Mayor Port Orange District 3 Director

Traci L. Callari Commissioner Hollywood District 13 Director


Jolien Caraballo Vice Mayor Port St. Lucie Past President

Joy Carter Commissioner Coral Springs District 13 Director

Vivian Casals-Muñoz Councilmember Hialeah Sixth Most Populous City

Joy Cooper Mayor Hallandale Beach Past President

Joseph Corradino Mayor Pinecrest District 14 Director

Karyn Cunningham Mayor Palmetto Bay District 14 Director

Louie Davis Mayor Waldo District 5 Director

Thomas DeVille Mayor Penney Farms District 2 Director

Ed Dodd Councilman Sebastian District 9 Director

Todd Drosky Commissioner Deerfield Beach District 13 Director

Sam Fite Vice Mayor Bowling Green District 7 Director

Mark Franks Mayor Shalimar District 1 Director

Mindy Gibson Councilmember Satellite Beach District 4 Director

Kimberly Glas-Castro Vice Mayor Lake Park District 12 Director

Lawrence Gordon Vice Mayor Haverhill District 12 Director

John Gunter Mayor Cape Coral Ninth Most Populous City



Rodney Harris Mayor Miami Gardens District 14 Director

Jake Hill Councilmember Lake City District 2 Director

Leo E. Longworth Mayor Bartow Past President

Bob Mayersohn Commissioner Parkland District 13 Director

Joseph McMullen Commissioner Oakland District 6 Director

Stephanie Morgan Councilwoman Port St. Lucie

Frank C. Ortis Mayor Pembroke Pines Past President

Antonio “Tony” Ortiz Commissioner Orlando Past President

Bill Partington Mayor Ormond Beach District 3 Director

Tyler Payne Mayor Treasure Island District 8 Director

Michael Pleus City Manager DeLand FCCMA Ex-Officio Member

Chelsea Reed Mayor Palm Beach Gardens District 12 Director

Joanne Ribble Vice Mayor Estero District 11 Director

Cal Rolfson Councilmember Mount Dora District 5 Director

Isaac Salver Council Member Bay Harbor Islands Past President

Iris Siple Commissioner Pembroke Pines District 13 Director

Seventh Most Populous City



Trish Springer Councilor Seminole District 8 Director

Susan Starkey Councilwoman Davie District 13 Director

Sarah Stoeckel Councilmember Titusville District 4 Director

Robert Stuart Commissioner Orlando Fourth Most Populous City

Dean Trantalis Mayor Fort Lauderdale 10th Most Populous City

Luis Viera Councilman Tampa Third Most Populous City

Kenneth T. Welch Mayor St. Petersburg Fifth Most Populous City

J.B. Whitten Mayor Crestview District 1 Director

Brian Williams Commissioner Palmetto District 10 Director

Dianne Williams-Cox Mayor Pro-Tem Tallahassee Eighth Most Populous City

Rosemary Wilsen Commissioner Ocoee District 6 Director

Jeannie Garner Executive Director/CEO

Kraig Conn General Counsel/ Chief Legal Officer

Penny Mitchell Board Relations Administrator


Winners Announced For City Catalyst Grants By Scott Dudley Florida League of Mayors and Beth Rawlins Business Watch


he Florida League of Mayors (FLM) and Business Watch have announced the three winners of this year’s City Catalyst Grants. FLM and Business Watch partner to offer grants that will be used to support projects or initiatives that help build community and/ or help enhance the lives of citizens in our municipalities. The FLM and Business Watch are committed to sharing common-sense solutions and helping strengthen our communities. Both are proud to once again host the City Catalyst Grants Programs.

CITY OF HOLLY HILL Mayor Chris Via, Imagination Library. Holly Hill schools have the lowest third-grade reading scores in Volusia County and are ranked in the fifth percentile statewide. Holly Hill’s solution is early enrollment of children in a free book program. This funding will support children living in Holly Hill, ages birth to 5 years old, who are enrolled in the Volusia Imagination Library, which is facilitated by The Early Learning Coalition of Flagler and Volusia Counties (ELCFV). This program is free to participants and fully funded by ELCFV. When a child enrolls in the program at birth, they’ll have a library of 60 books by the time they graduate from the program at age 5. Funding for the Imagination Library is constrained to fundraising efforts through individuals and support from charitable foundations. Volusia Imagination Library Champions and committee members help sustain the program by supporting fundraising events and community advocacy for the program and mission.






CITY OF OAKLAND PARK Mayor Aisha Gordon, Little Free Library boxes.

The City of Oakland Park’s Library is creating a network of free Little Free Library box structures throughout the City. Little Free Library is a national initiative of placing library boxes in neighborhoods that provide the opportunity to discover a personally relevant book that is not limited by time, space or privilege. Residents from each community take a book for free and leave one for another person to read. The Ethel M. Gordon Oakland Park Library has funding in its fiscal year 2023 budget to purchase five library boxes and has reached out to the homeowners and neighborhood associations to offer placement of a Little Free Library. Friends of the Ethel M. Gordon Oakland Park Library will partner with the homeowners and neighborhood groups to provide the initial books and refills if needed. Grant funding will be used to purchase another five boxes from the Little Free Library organization.

TOWN OF POMONA PARK Mayor Joseph Svingala, Memorial Park.

The Town of Pomona Park sought funds to establish a memorial park in the community. This park will play a vital role in honoring the local heroes, providing a serene space for residents and promoting community engagement. The park will feature a brick walkway and a central memorial monument to pay homage to those who have served the Town and nation in the military and made the ultimate sacrifice. The total estimated cost for the project is $10,000. The requested grant amount was for construction, memorial monument installation, signage and essential infrastructure.

Scott Dudley is the Executive Director of the Florida League of Mayors and Director of Field Advocacy and Federal Affairs at the Florida League of Cities.


Beth Rawlins is the President of Business Watch. Business Watch connects businesses and local government officials, leaders and managers to open dialogue and work toward common goals. QC



Prepare with FMIT Ian Showed: It Takes Only One Hurricane


he one constant with hurricanes is their unpredictability. All it takes is one storm to cause tremendous damage, which Hurricane Ian demonstrated. In the aftermath of the hurricane, the Florida Municipal Insurance Trust (FMIT) supported its member cities that were impacted by the storm. The FMIT TurnKey Recovery℠ Program Manager, SynergyNDS, provides numerous resources to ensure their members are protected from disasters. Kurt Waterman, Director of Field Operations at SynergyNDS, said, “FMIT makes a promise to its members to be there before, during and after a storm, and Synergy helps fulfill that promise.” FMIT produced a video in which members share their experiences during Hurricane Ian and discuss disaster recovery with the FMIT. “FMIT was extremely helpful during the storm,” said Mayor John Gunter, City of Cape Coral. “They were professionals. They knew exactly what they needed to do so we could concentrate on search and rescue and the recovery aspects of our city.” You can view the video on YouTube at youtu.be/3PZ79dx-jYY. For more information about the FMIT, go to insurance.flcities.com. QC



“We were able to temp in various roof sections [of the Cape Coral Southwest Reverse Osmosis Facility] within three days post-storm. Not only did this keep the plant operational, but it also protected millions of dollars of equipment inside the building.” – Kurt Waterman, Director of Field Operations, SynergyNDS, FMIT Recovery Manager

“I think the question that any city should ask is, in the event of a catastrophic event, what team do they have in place? You can see FMIT is a clear choice.” – Mayor John Gunter, City of Cape Coral

"Before the storm, the FMIT team contacted me to let us know ‘We’re here. We’re on standby.’” – Councilwoman Teresa Watkins Brown, City of Fort Myers

Watch the FMIT video at youtu.be/3PZ79dx-jYY.



Florida Cities Celebrate

ANNIVERSARIES The Florida League of Cities sends congratulations to the following cities and towns that are celebrating important milestone anniversaries in 2023:

50 years

100 years



75 years


The Florida League of Cities

welcomes all newly elected officials

Take advantage of our resources: • Institute for Elected Municipals Officials (IEMO) • Certificate Program for Elected Municipal Officials • Online Advocacy Course • Calendar of Events • And more at flcities.com!

Sign up to stay informed at bit.ly/48lOHtp 58




Karen Todd Is known For her Hard Work and Humor


aren Todd is known for the great work she does as a Lost Time Adjuster in the

Workers’ Compensation department at the Florida League of Cities (FLC). She’s also known for her laugh. “If you are ever in a bad mood, she can always make you smile and giggle,” said Kara Burns, Workers’ Compensation Claims Supervisor. “She has such an infectious laugh, you literally can’t stay mad.” Kim Zawodnik, Senior Claims Adjuster at the League, said, “She has a great sense of humor and is easygoing, which makes her enjoyable to work with.” Karen remembers when she was a medical only adjuster and was getting a statement about an injured worker. She asked if he was taken by ambulance to the hospital, but the word came out as “am-boo-lance.” She tried to correct herself but kept saying it wrong. She tried to stay professional, but she had to keep putting the caller on mute because she couldn’t stop laughing. It was contagious. Soon, her co-workers were giggling, too. While Karen loves to laugh as much as anyone, she also is known for being a self-starter, said Matt Norris, Workers’ Compensation Claims Supervisor. She “gets the work done before I even know it is there,” Matt said. She is always a team player and volunteers to help her co-workers, he said.

Kim agrees and adds that “co-workers know they can count on her to get the job done.” In fact, her ability to respond quickly and handle tough situations has earned her the nickname “Johnny on the Spot.” Karen’s job includes investigating workers’ compensation claims and making compensability decisions. She works closely with defense attorneys and ensures her work is handled appropriately. With the help of the League’s Special Investigation and Recovery Unit (SIRU), she has successfully proven fraud on two claims. Her work helped lead to two arrests. When she isn’t working, this lifelong Floridian enjoys spending time with her two adult sons, Colt and Kyler. They enjoy watching Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fights and movies, especially anything related to Marvel. “I also love cooking big meals for them when they come over,” Karen said. Motorcycles are another hobby, and she has three! She also loves to bake, draw, walk her beagles and collect Minions to display in her office. Kara said, “There is a running joke that she can’t go anywhere because it would take her too long to pack them all up.” Perhaps her Minions are part of why Karen, who has worked at the League for 11 years, looks forward to coming into the office. “It’s always something new and interesting, and still, after all this time, I love my job.” QC


Youth Councils Awarded

Alachua, Fort Pierce and West Park win community service contest By Kelli Gemmer Florida League of Cities

▴ City of West Park Youth Council collected hygiene products for youths experiencing homelessness.


he Youth Council Community Service Contest, sponsored by the Florida League of Cities (FLC), invited municipal youth councils to submit projects that address a local need. Three winners were selected.


The City of West Park Youth Council hosted a hygiene product collection to assist youths experiencing homelessness in Broward County. Youth Council members collected items such as towelettes, feminine products, toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, face wipes, shampoo and body lotion. Each member contributed by donating at least five items and collecting items from family members, neighbors and friends. Youth Council members created and posted flyers throughout offices and city parks. They also placed several donation boxes at these sites. All donations are hand delivered to local shelters run by the Children’s Home Society of Florida – Broward. The Youth Council plans to continue the collection and make donations to other shelters in the area.


The Fort Pierce Youth Council planned, coordinated and hosted the Empower Youth! community event with the Boys and Girls Clubs of St. Lucie County, Indian River State College and the Children’s Services Council. The event aimed to empower and educate local youth about financial literacy, mental health, career development and planning in a conference-like setting. It addressed issues and concerns encountered by their peers. Youth Council members worked diligently to promote the event, secure sponsorships, garner community support and engage youth from diverse backgrounds. Their efforts resulted in the event surpassing their goal of 100 attendees. The event provided an environment where youth were equipped with skills to help them advance. Parents and guardians were provided tools to help youth achieve their goals by introducing them to the wealth of resources available in the community.





◂ The Fort Pierce Youth Council held an Empower Youth! event to educate youth about financial stability, mental health and careers.

▸ The City of Alachua Youth Advisory Council constructed a quilt to remember lynching victims in the area.


The City of Alachua Youth Advisor y Council partnered with the Alachua County Community Quilt Remembrance Project through the Equal Justice Initiative to construct a publicly displayed quilt to remember lynching victims in the area. The victims were represented with embroidered name blocks and quotes, which gave a voice to those whose voices were taken. The Youth Council played a major role in the planning, embroidering and quilting process with guidance from well-established quilters in the area. The students designed several of the name blocks, and the embroidery threads chosen by a Youth Council member are the colors in the City’s emblem. The quilt is being displayed at various locations in Alachua, including the City Hall front lobby. Municipal youth councils are special citywide councils composed of students from different schools within a city. They represent the voices of youth within their community and may serve as an advisory board to the city commission/council. For more information on youth councils, please visit flcities.com/municipal-youth-councils. Kelli Gemmer is the Director of Communications at the Florida League of Cities. QC


Council2College Scholarship Winners The Florida League of Cities (FLC) has selected two Council2College Scholarship winners. The first-place award was won by Addison Grosz with the City of Alachua Youth Advisory Council. Second place was won by Jasmeen Santos-Ramirez with the Largo Youth Leadership Council. The first-place recipient received $500, and the secondplace recipient received $250. This essay contest assists Florida municipal youth council leaders who are pursuing post-high school education. The councils also must be active in the League’s youth council programs.



Youth Essay Winners Announced ‘If I Were Elected Mayor’ contest encourages civic engagement By Scott Dudley Florida League of Cities


hree middle school students were recently recognized for their winning submissions in the annual “If I Were Elected Mayor” statewide es-

say contest. The contest is sponsored by the Florida League of Mayors (FLM) and the Florida League of Cities (FLC) to foster civic engagement and community pride among sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students. Civics education is taught in Florida public schools as a vital tool to encourage public participation. Students participating in the contest were required to submit a single-page essay of no more than 250 words that began with the statement “If I were



elected Mayor ...” and described how they would make a difference in their city if they were elected Mayor. The students were also asked to include information about how Home Rule helps make their municipality a great place to live. More than 750 submissions were received. Each student who submitted an essay received a certificate of participation, and the winners received gift cards and a joint resolution from FLC and FLM. The 2023 contest winners are: ▸ First place: Carmin Farrington , eighth grade, Championship Academy of Distinction of West Broward, City of Lauderhill ▸ Second place: Isabelle Jo Petit , eighth grade, Western Pines

Community Middle School, City

of Westlake

▸ Third place: Susanna Stille, seventh grade, Gulf Coast Classical Academy, City of Clearwater. The League and the FLM plan to hold this contest again during the next school year. For more information, go to floridamayors.org. Scott Dudley is the Director of Field Advocacy and Federal Affairs at the Florida League of Cities, and he serves as Executive Director of the Florida League of Mayors. QC

Essay Contest Winners FIRST PLACE Carmin Farrington — Championship Academy of Distinction of West Broward City of Lauderhill

If I were elected Mayor, I would focus on improving the infrastructure and transportation in the city. This would include updating and expanding public transportation options, such as buses and trains, as well as implementing bike-sharing programs and creating more bike lanes. Additionally, I would work to improve the city’s roads and sidewalks to make them safer and more accessible for all residents. I would prioritize affordable housing and work to create more affordable housing options for low-income residents. This includes implementing inclusionary zoning policies, which require developers to include a certain percentage of affordable units in new developments, as well as working with nonprofit organizations to create affordable housing units. Home Rule is a key aspect of my city’s government, as it allows our city to have more autonomy and control over our own affairs. This means that our city can pass laws and regulations that are tailored to our specific needs and priorities, rather than being dictated by the state or federal government. This allows our city to be more responsive to the needs of our residents and to make decisions that are in the best interest of our community. Overall, if I were elected Mayor, I would work to improve the infrastructure, transportation, affordable housing and recreational facilities in the city. By utilizing Home Rule, our city can continue to be a great place to live and work for all residents.

SECOND PLACE Isabelle Jo Petit — Western Pines Community Middle School City of Westlake

If I were elected Mayor of my city, I would take a proactive approach to make my city a great place to live. I would focus on improving the quality of life for all citizens by investing in public services, housing and education. I would work to create jobs, strengthen local businesses and attract new businesses to our area. I would also strive to make our city safer and more secure by investing in law enforcement and public safety initiatives. I would focus on promoting and strengthening our city’s Home Rule. Home Rule gives cities the ability to create and enforce laws that are tailored to their unique needs and circumstances. This allows our city to address problems and challenges that are specific to our area, which can lead to more effective and efficient policy solutions.




I would also prioritize expanding access to affordable housing for all citizens. I believe that everyone should have access to safe affordable housing, and I would work to ensure that our city’s housing stock is available to all residents. These are just a few of the things I would do if I were elected Mayor. Home Rule allows our city to create innovative policies that are tailored to the needs and challenges of our citizens. By investing in our city’s public services, housing and education, we can make our city a great place to live.

THIRD PLACE Susanna Stille — Gulf Coast Classical Academy City of Clearwater

If I were elected Mayor, my top priority would be to uphold the law and fix communal problems based upon the needs of the people. Who would want to live in a boring, poorly maintained community? That would not be a problem in my city. I would ensure that the best opportunities are provided to every city resident. With the city council and the authority of Home Rule, the city would be organized and safe. Home Rule means that city officials are elected by their fellow residents, so they live and work in the community and they get to decide how their city is governed. With the help of my city council, I would strive to make the community eco-friendlier. Small problems can grow quickly, so they need to be recognized and fixed. I would organize food drives and ask for community volunteers who are willing to help clean up the parks. I would do everything in my power to make sure the people of the city had all the food and shelter they need. I would make a law preventing people from littering and apply for a grant to make parks nicer and cleaner, roads safer and sidewalks wider. Additionally, I would start a construction project to create homeless shelters for those who need it. As Mayor, my goal is to make a beneficial, long-lasting impact. It is my duty to work diligently to follow and uphold the law, Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Florida.



G RA N TS ASS I STA N C E P RO G RA M FLORIDA LEAGUE OF CITIES The League is partnering with eCivis to provide Florida municipalities with FREE access to a database with more than 9,000 tracked grants. The nation’s largest professionally curated database of grant opportunities Tools to find, apply for and manage grants Customized searches – have them sent straight to your inbox A dedicated grant coordinator at eCivis for Florida municipalities Included with your membership to the League!

flcities.com/grants MEMBERSHIP 2023 | QUALITY CITIES 65


ONLINE ADVOCACY COURSE Your voice can make a difference in the lives of Floridians, and it already has. This virtual self-paced course from the Florida League of Cities (FLC) is designed to help city officials understand the legislative process and learn strategies to become strong, effective advocates.

Register for the $99 course at flcities.com/advocacy-course.

Register Today:



The Florida Municipal Insurance Trust provides local governments with a complete Employee Benefits Package. The Employee Benefits Package includes: ∙ Medical ∙ Dental ∙ Vision ∙ Life ∙ COBRA Administration ∙ Full Online Eligibility and Enrollment System

A CUSTOMIZED WELLNESS SOLUTION Contact Lindsey Larson Health Marketing Manager llarson@flcities.com 920.606.9716

PRST-STD US POSTAGE PAID Tallahassee FL Permit No. 669

The Florida Municipal Insurance Trust, with approximately 500 members, has been providing insurance to Florida’s local governments since 1977.

1.800.445.6248 insurance.flcities.com

∙ Property ∙ Workers’ Compensation ∙ General Liability ∙ Health ∙ Auto ∙ Cyber Coverage ∙ Public Officials Liability ∙ Law Enforcement Professional Liability ∙ Disaster Response and Recovery Services ∙ FMIT Employment Law Advisor (ELA)

Articles inside

Officials Recognized for Milestones article cover image

Officials Recognized for Milestones

pages 10-12
Youth Councils Awarded article cover image

Youth Councils Awarded

pages 62-63
QC SPOTLIGHT Karen Todd Is known For her Hard Work and Humor article cover image

QC SPOTLIGHT Karen Todd Is known For her Hard Work and Humor

page 61
Prepare with FMIT article cover image

Prepare with FMIT

pages 58-59
Winners Announced For City Catalyst Grants article cover image

Winners Announced For City Catalyst Grants

pages 56-57
Officials Earn Certificates In New League Program article cover image

Officials Earn Certificates In New League Program

pages 48-51
Gibson Wins Common Grounds Advocate Award article cover image

Gibson Wins Common Grounds Advocate Award

pages 46-47
Smith Receives The League’s Highest Award article cover image

Smith Receives The League’s Highest Award

pages 42-45
Holly D. Smith, FLC Second VP, at a Glance article cover image

Holly D. Smith, FLC Second VP, at a Glance

pages 41-42
Michael Blake, FLC First VP, at a Glance article cover image

Michael Blake, FLC First VP, at a Glance

page 40
Serving Our Cities article cover image

Serving Our Cities

pages 34-39
Miami Beach Makes Bold Move article cover image

Miami Beach Makes Bold Move

pages 30-33
Passport to Jupiter article cover image

Passport to Jupiter

pages 26-29
Groveland Recognized for Conservation Initiative article cover image

Groveland Recognized for Conservation Initiative

pages 22-25
Dunedin Protects Preserve article cover image

Dunedin Protects Preserve

pages 18-21
Rosa M. Garay: Positive, Caring And Lifelong Learner article cover image

Rosa M. Garay: Positive, Caring And Lifelong Learner

page 17
On the Case article cover image

On the Case

pages 14-16
Recognizing and Celebrating Our Members article cover image

Recognizing and Celebrating Our Members

page 8
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