I was looking towards the front door that had just opened, cocked my head and said, “that looks like Governor Rick Scott…that is Rick Scott.”
To say I was surprised is an understatement. No one had told me the governor would be coming.
A surge of contradictory emotions ran through my head, frustration for policies that have not favored wise growth management or environmental policy, and thanks for recommendations of monies towards lifting the Tamiami Trail, so more water can “go south” and the completion of the C-44 reservoir in Martin County.
I stood there thinking, wondering, watching this man, our governor…
I had been invited to the home of Kevin Powers, long time family friend, and vice chair of the Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District, a position that is appointed by the governor. There were four other people from Stuart in the room, all men, and myself, standing around on a Friday afternoon in Kevin and Marsha Power’s living room looking out onto the St Lucie River. Not my typical Friday afternoon.
“Holy cow,” I thought, “I am going to have the opportunity to speak face to face with our governor… Hummm?…..”
I tried not to stare but I noticed the governor was sitting on the couch. The couch looked deep and he was closely seated next to others in the group, kind of falling into the area between the two cushions. He had on a blue button down shirt, no tie, dark suit pants, and black cowboy boots. He looked human, out of place actually, and kind of shy.
I had kindly been given a sturdy chair at his right side. As I walked to the chair, I looked at the governor and said, “would you like this seat? It seems like you should have a chair….”
He smiled shyly, head low and eyes smiling and said, “No thank you; I’m fine right here.”
I sat down, taking my place in the comfortable and homey living-room and sat back in my chair while the governor fell in-between the cushions.
I learned over closer to him, got my courage up and said. “Thank you for coming here.”
He nodded and asked me what I did to be here today.
“I am a commissioner and former mayor of a small town named Sewall’s Point.” I replied.
“How many people live there?” he asked.
“There are about 850 homes and around 2000 residents,” I replied.
“He perked up, scooting away from the division in the cushions, “you manage a town that only has town 850 homes?” he inquired, looking envious, as the state of Florida has over 19 million people.
“Yes sir, but the 2000 people are very demanding…”
I told him about the first time I was berated at a public meeting, and the challenges of not being able to walk my dogs or go to the grocery store with out running into my constituents.
Rule number one: “Find a common identity factor.” Of course I knew that the governor had been heckled and screamed at by angry crowds in Martin County at the Locks and Dam last summer.
“Martin County is tough,” he said, mentioning two counties in the state that had displayed such raging anger…
“Sir, I said, “please understand, and I know it’s difficult, but here in Martin County this emotion, this anger comes out of love. For our river…”
He looked at me straight in the eye, longer than normal. I held my gaze. We were connected.
Kevin Powers, finally sat down, and the meeting started. Each member of the group was allowed to share. One hundred percent of the focus was on the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
I will only speak of my part, but I can say that each person spoke with passion from a business and quality of life perspective. The governor had a yellow legal pad and a blue Sharpie pen, he listened, asked questions, and took notes. Secretary Hershel Vineyard and Lieutenant Governor, Lopez-Cantera were also there. Yes, it is a reelection year; yes, there are lots of things to criticize; nonetheless, it was an incredible opportunity to speak to those in power.
When my time came around the circle, I discussed that Martin County has literally been “dumped on” for decades; that as a business man it seems the governor could relate to the enormous waste of money in that 1.7 billion gallons of water on average per day is wasted to tide through the estuaries and other canals; I said “we sent a man to the moon in 1968, there is no excuse to not find a way to save, store and send some of the water south;” I told him about the River Kidz and how parents were getting involved through their children and that our movement was not going to go away; I gave him a picture book of the photos my husband and I took from an airplane that says “it all” in one photo.
I was great to have my time with the group to speak, but I felt the best communication happened when I talked to the governor “one on one.” When I told him Martin County is angry because of the destruction of something that is dear to them, I think he heard me. CEO or not, everyone understands the power of love.
ABOVE PHOTO: Kevin Powers shows Governor Rick Scott and Lt Governor Lopez-Cantera muck from the bottom of the St Lucie River that in some areas is over 12 feet deep. This sediment build up comes from years of destruction of the areas three canals: C-44, C-23 and C-24 and releases from Lake Okeechobee.