DEP Secretary Hershel Vinyard Resigns; What Will This Mean for the Indian River Lagoon?

Hershel Vinyard, head of the DEP, speaks to river activist Benjamin Davano, TMDL Announcement,  Downtown Stuart, 2013.
Secretary Hershel Vinyard, of the DEP, fields questions  from river activist Benjamin D’Avano about a toxic SLR/IRL, “TMDL Celebration” Downtown Stuart, 2013.

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…

Clifford Wilson, interim Secretary for the DEP.
Clifford Wilson, interim Secretary for the DEP.

 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 ( clean up the St Lucie River (; 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.

Group shot,
Group shot, Town of Sewall’s Point Commissioner, Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch; Stuart Former mayor and Commissioner, Jeff Krauskoph; SFWMD Board Member, Kevin Powers, DEP Secretary Hershel Vinyard; SLC Commissioner, Chris Dzadovsky ; Martin County Commissioner, Ed Fielding; River Kidz member, Mary Thurlow, 2013.
Speakers talk about the clean up of the SLR, 2013.
Speakers talk about the clean up of the SLR, 2013.
Mary, Secretary Vinyard and me.
Mary, Secretary Vinyard and me, 2013.

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: (

5 thoughts on “DEP Secretary Hershel Vinyard Resigns; What Will This Mean for the Indian River Lagoon?

  1. One of the many things that I admire about you Jacqui, is your innate ability always find a few good qualities in almost everything. This is not to say that I think you’re just a complacent observer, or that I haven’t seen you get angry or speak your mind when something (or someone) is wrong.

    The longer I stay involved in this movement, the more I’ve come to realize that it’s success depends solely on our relationships, and the amount of time and energy we’re willing to invest on all sides of the table.

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