Right before Thanksgiving, I heard the news, “Secretary Hershel Vinyard announced he is retiring from the Department of Environmental Protection….”
Even though there were many times over the past few years, that I felt like the DEP was not doing its job, and that the Scott administration had “demoralized” the agency, I felt saddened to hear this news….
Why? Because Hershel Vinyard was someone who went out of his way to build relationships in Martin County. Who will I call now? Clifford Wilson, the 35-year-old interim Secretary for the DEP? Don’t think he’d recognize my name and maybe not even be that familiar with the problems facing the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon…
After thinking for a while, an image came to mind of the first time I saw Secretary Vinyard deal with an angry public. He did a good job and from that moment on I liked him.
It was July 18th of 2013, and Martin County officials and the DEP were “celebrating” the official Total Maximum Daily Load/Basin Management Acton Plan (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/central/Home/Watershed/BMAP.htm) to clean up the St Lucie River (http://depnewsroom.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/dep-local-officials-celebrate-restoration-plan-for-st-lucie-river-and-estuary/); the perfect and sad situation of that day was that is the estuary was full of toxic algae due to discharges from Lake Okeechobee exacerbated by runoff from local canals. It was our “2013 Lost Summer.”It did not seem like a time to celebrate.
I have to say that Secretary Vinyard did a good job handling an angry crowd and over time I came to know him and appreciated that he took the time to visit Stuart on many occasions and learn the history and polluted plight of the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon. He would listen. He helped bring Governor Scott here to see the river. He saw how much we cared and responded even though he could not single-handedly fix the situation. Martin County is not known for getting much attention–I am appreciative that it was given…you can’t start changing things until those in power know who you are.
One time, when I emailed the Secretary about the SLR/IRL, I made the mistake of writing “Secretary Walker…” as in “Hershel Walker,” a very famous Georgia football player from my era who tortured the Florida Gators. As always, Mr Vinyard was a gentlemen and did not make me feel like an idiot.
In spite of people or parties we “like or dislike,” we must remember that it is relationships that will help heal the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, and these must be built with whomever is in office. And although it may have been political, Secretary Vinyard was on the Army Corp of Engineer Calls at the end of this summer asking the agencies NOT TO RELEASE LAKE OKEECHOBEE WATER THROUGH S-308 into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. I will never forget these words….this is progress.
Yes, I am thankful for the times Secretary Vinyard took an interest in Martin County and since he resigned Thanksgiving week, I want to mention this. I hope that the next person who takes the position of Secretary of the DEP comes to know the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon too. We are entering a critical time with the possibilities of land acquisition in the Everglades Agricultural Area though Amendment 1; it’s a lot easier to work this with people we know or knew…
Miami Herald Vinyard’s resignation: (http://www.miamiherald.com/news/state/florida/article4159030.html)