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Pensacola community creates campaign to reopen the National Naval Aviation Museum to all citizens

Some of the civic leaders behind the campaign include retired Navy Capt. Dean-o Fournier, former Pensacola mayors Jerry Maygarden, Ashton Hayward, Mike Wiggins and John Fogg, retired Marine Lt. Col. David Glassman with Freedom Quest, and Nancy Fetterman – widow of the late U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Jack Fetterman who served as president & CEO of the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation

“Jack worked tirelessly for decades to transform the Naval Aviation Museum into the national treasure that it is today. He’d be so disappointed to know that the public is still being denied access to it,” said Fetterman. “The entire purpose of the museum was for everyone to experience its magic and wonder, to inspire all.”

For two-and-a-half years the public has been restricted entry to a National Museum whose operations are paid for, in large part, by their hard-earned tax dollars.

Following a terrorist attack on base in December of 2019, access to the National Naval Aviation Museum, as well as the Pensacola Lighthouse, Fort Barrancas and the Blue Angels practices, has been restricted to only Department of Defense (DoD) cardholders and veterans who possess a Veterans Health Identification Card. All other U.S. citizens are still not allowed access. 

The community campaign hopes to change that.

Founded in 1963 onboard Naval Air Station Pensacola, NNAM tells the story of how Pensacola became the “Cradle of Naval Aviation” and has been at the cutting edge of aerospace history for more than a century.

Since its founding, NNAM has grown to become the second-largest aviation museum in the United States. Featuring more than 150 fully-restored military aircraft, thousands of artifacts, and dozens of military exhibits on display, plus a giant screen movie theater, virtual reality flight simulators, interactive rides, and more – NNAM is considered a top 10 attraction in Florida and the leading tourist attraction between Orlando and New Orleans. Its visitors come from every state in the U.S., with more than 70 percent visiting from outside Florida.

A recent economic impact study done by Matrix for the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation (NAMF) found that NNAM’s visitorship declined by 64% in January and February of 2020 due to restricted base access. That equates to approximately 342 total jobs and $11 million in labor income lost due to the enhanced security measures stemming from the December 2019 terrorist attack on base. The NAMF study also found that local industry sectors lost an estimated $31.5 million in gross sales between 2019 and 2020 directly related to declining visitor traffic.

Visits to the Pensacola base’s historic attractions have always been treasured by tourists and locals alike before access became locked off. Tens of millions of citizens have visited the National Naval Aviation Museum, and other base attractions, for decades without the occurrence of a single significant security incident.

“It’s time to cut through the red tape and get our museum reopened to everyone, once again,” said Fetterman.

For more information, visit openourmuseum.org.

Law Enforcement Appreciation Day honors those who serve

Thursday, May 12, was an opportunity for local organizations to show the community’s support for the officers at Law Enforcement Appreciation Day at the Black Water Golf Course.

The event was the brainchild of SEAS (Seaside Engineering and Surveying LLC) owners Brad Mainor and Johnny Gustin as they sought to show those in local law enforcement that people cared about them. Both men attend Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church in Baker where the Pastor Geoff Prows also serves as a chaplin for the Crestview Police Department and Okaloosa County Sheriff Department and went to him asking how they could encourage local officers.

“We talked with Brother Geoff because he’s our pastor since he’s a Chaplin for the Crestview Police Department and the Okaloosa County Sheriff Department,” Mainor said. “We heard the stories he would tell about the different responses he would have and what they are with the men and women of law enforcement going through daily. “We just thought it would be a good idea to show our appreciation. We started this several years ago and we’ve been fortunate enough to build from that. Everyone (in law enforcement) from Okaloosa County is invited. They are our modern-day heroes and I consider them all friends.”

Prows, who is the son of a retired police officer in Tennessee got involved with the event through Mainor and Gustin.

“I’m the pastor for Brad (Mainor) and Johnny Gustin the asked me as a chaplin (for local law enforcement) how they could be a blessing to local law enforcement,” Prows said. “Since I’m pastor of Pilgrim Rest we became a sponsor. We are always looking for more sponsors as we want to bless the law enforcement community and make it bigger and better.”

Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden expressed his appreciation for the community show its support for local law enforcement.

“We are so blessed to have support like this,” he said. Up here in Crestview we have incredible support for our law enforcement. All of our citizens are really supportive of us.
“We don’t have the negativity that you see play out in large cities. I truly believe it’s because we try to give the best service we can. We hire the best people we can.”

Aden continued by saying the support is from community leaders down to average citizens.

“Our leaders in our community believe in what we do as well as the citizens,” he said. “Nothing speaks volumes more than a day like today when they put on an event like this. It lets those deputies, those jailers and those police officers know our community supports us.”

FWC reaches major milestone

In 2018, Hurricane Michael depleted more than 90% of the shoal bass population in the Chipola River. As a direct management action following the hurricane, the FWC passed an Executive Order that suspended harvest and possession of shoal bass. In 2019, FWC staff recommended this regulation be adopted into rule to support ongoing conservation efforts for this species. Currently, harvest and possession of shoal bass in the Chipola River and its tributaries remains prohibited. 

“This project embodies the necessity for strategic long-term thinking in conservation and the vital role it plays, not only in word, but also in being able to implement these actions,” said Chris Paxton, Regional Fisheries Administrator for Florida’s northwest region. “Thankfully we had already been working on how to spawn these fish in case ‘something happens one day’ to this isolated population. Well, it happened in the form of a Category 5 hurricane.” 

Shoal bass are one of four of Florida’s native black bass species, and this effort marks the first time genetically pure shoal bass have been successfully raised in an FWC fish hatchery. Shoal bass are also a Florida Species of Greatest Conservation Need, which refers to native animals whose populations are of concern and are at risk or declining. The goal of raising and releasing these fish is to enhance the wild population of shoal bass to help maintain the population’s genetic purity and aid in the long-term conservation of this unique species of Florida black bass. 

The unique conservation management action of raising and releasing thousands of shoal bass fingerlings is a result of collaborative work by dedicated staff from the FWC’s Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management and Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. The shoal bass were raised at FWC’s Blackwater Fisheries Research and Development Center near Holt.  

“Shoal bass have very specific habitat needs and it is a major milestone to successfully spawn and grow these fish to a size suitable for stocking,” said Bob DeMauro, Hatchery Manager at FWC’s Blackwater Fisheries Research and Development Center. “It is an incredible success to raise these riverine fish in a still-water hatchery pond when they are used to flowing water and limestone shoals in their natural habitat.” 

FWC’s freshwater fisheries biologists will continue to monitor the Chipola River shoal bass population and evaluate the contribution of these stocking efforts through genetic testing. 

“This is a great example of research and management partners working together to protect and conserve this native black bass species,” said Andy Strickland, freshwater fisheries biologist with FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.

The Chipola River is the only waterbody in Florida with a known naturally reproducing shoal bass population. This spring-fed river originates just north of Marianna, flowing south for 95 miles through Jackson, Calhoun and Gulf counties, where it joins the Apalachicola River.

Leader in life: Maj. Gen. Robert ‘ChedBob’ Chedister passes away at 72

It typified ChedBob’s take-charge personality when the need arose, whether throughout his 33-year career in the Air Force, or during his civilian life.

ChedBob — his call sign during his pilot years, the result of an ally from a foreign air force misunderstanding his name, he said — passed away May 2 while home recuperating from a medical procedure.

“All pilots going through Test Pilot School come out with call sign names,” his wife of 49 years, Trecia, said. “He was very proud of his.”
“A true people-person and motivator, his leadership style was contagious, as he set the example from the front, encouraging and empowering others to perform at their very highest levels,” his family stated in his obituary.

ChedBob is survived by Trecia and sons Dr. Gabriel Chedister, Bradley Chedister and Oluyomi Faminu; sister, Barbara Cowan; and grandchildren Allie Chedister, Gabriel Faminu and Brooke Hancock.

He was selected by former Crestview Mayor David Cadle to represent him in the community’s Sister City, Noirmoutier-en-l’Île, during May 2015 celebrations commemorating the cities’ 20-year partnership under Sister Cities International.

Upon retirement he eschewed his uniform, explaining, “Uniforms are for the people on active duty.” This confounded his French hosts, who delight in pomp and ceremony. On the morning of a commemoration of the 70th anniversary of France’s World War II liberation, ChedBob was not found among military veterans and dignitaries.

“Zhenerale Shedistair? Zenerale Shedistair? Where eez zee Zhenerale Shedistair?” called a frantic official over the PA, who wouldn’t let the ceremonies begin until the American military representative took his place up front.

ChedBob, instead, was socializing with his French hosts in the back of the throng, never expecting he should to be up front. Once found, he presented himself promptly to the ranks of standard-bearing French military veterans, civilian dignitaries, and uniformed public safety officials.

During his Laurel Hill church’s activities such as its annual Arts & Heritage Festival and Living Nativity, he’d often take charge of the volunteers, directing teams to erect tents, props and fences, then sitting back to let everyone do his or her task, much as he did in the Air Force.

At church suppers, he’d regale people at his table with stories of his hunting and fishing prowess or his flying years, once telling of the time a jet’s joystick came off in his hand while in midflight. As he described searching for a screwdriver to put it back in place, he commented, “I was getting a little nervous about staying up.”

“I would’ve been more nervous about coming down,” one of his fellow congregants replied.

His sense of humor delighted all who knew him. Giving a tour of his and Trecia’s rambling Laurel Hill country home — a veritable museum of his Air Force years — he proudly showed off one of the bathrooms that overlooked the wooded property.

“It makes a great deer hunting blind,” he said. “And it’s handy if you have to use the pot while waiting for the deer.”

It was not unusual during Laurel Hill Presbyterian’s “life in the church” moment for ChedBob to announce, to chuckles and mock admonition from the pulpit, “You won’t see me the next couple Sundays because deer (or turkey) season is opening.”

Another time, when a guest pastor failed to show up, a couple elders held the service themselves, with ChedBob offering a sermon on self-reliance he adapted from a recent professional presentation.

“ChedBob was a great man, a dedicated patriot, and an extremely loved father and grandfather,” Trecia said. “His legacy is honored to be carried on by his family, and all were blessed for the time spent in his company.”

The family is planning a July 29 memorial service for Gen. Chedister at the Hsu Educational Foundation in Fort Walton Beach.

Citizens paying more in taxes without rate increase

The Florida Department of Revenue website lists a documentary stamp tax as one that is imposed on documents “executed, delivered or recorded” in the state of Florida, most notably deeds and notes, such as mortgages. When the document is recorded, the tax must be paid to the Clerk of Court.

Julie Richardson from the Santa Rosa County Clerk of Court said, “[The Recording Department] actually records the documents, and they’re receded into a documentary stamp account.” From there, administration remits the funds to the state, who deals with the distribution of those funds.

“The [Florida] statutes do not provide for automatic escalation or adjustment to the tax rates,” the Communications Director for the Florida Department of Revenue, Bethany Wester, said in an email. The current doc stamp tax on deeds is 70 cents on each portion of $100 of the price. The doc stamp tax on notes is 35 cents per each $100 portion. According to the Santa Rosa Clerk of Court, those prices have been the same since August of 1992.

And yet, the community may feel like prices are going up. In Okaloosa County for the fiscal year of 2018-2019, $18.3 million was collected in taxes on deeds, while $8.5 million was collected on notes. For that same year, Santa Rosa saw collections of $11.8 million in doc stamps on deeds and $6.1 million in doc stamps on notes.

In the 2019-2020 fiscal year, some numbers went up, while other numbers went down in both counties. In Okaloosa, doc stamps on deeds and mortgages were $16.8 million and $11.2 million, respectively. The doc stamps on deeds decreased, while the notes increased. The trend stayed true for Santa Rosa—deeds and notes, respectively, were $2.5 million and $16.7 million.

The next year, the changes were drastic. Okaloosa went up to $27.1 million and $17.2 million for taxes on deeds and notes in the 2020-2021 fiscal year. For Santa Rosa, those numbers were $6.7 million and $28.5 million for doc stamps on deeds and notes.

For Santa Rosa in the last documented fiscal year, the jump in taxes collected on deeds was over 150%. The leap in taxes on notes was almost 70%. For Okaloosa, those respective increases were 60.6% (deeds) and 53.1% (notes).

In the state of Florida for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, $2.4 billion were collected on doc stamps for deeds, and $1.3 billion were collected on doc stamps for notes.

The Department of Revenue addressed who is responsible for paying doc stamp taxes. “All parties to the document are liable for the tax regardless of which party agrees to pay the tax,” Wester said. “If a party is exempt, the tax must be paid by a non-exempt party.” So, according to the Department of Revenue, doc stamps are not assigned specifically to the buyer or the seller—that issue must be worked out between the two parties.

Members of the community might also wonder where that money is going and what the state uses it for. According to Florida statute 201.15, some of that money goes to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, which involves Florida Forever and Everglades restoration bonds.

More money goes to the State Treasury, where it is used for funds like the State Transportation Trust Fund, the Grants and Donations Trust Fund, the State Housing Trust Fund and the Water Protection and Sustainability Program, among others. Anything remaining after those percentages are taken out goes to the State Treasury through the General Revenue Fund.

With prices in the housing market going so high, the community has more to pay with the doc stamps, even as the taxes have not gone up in almost thirty years. Those tax rates are set for the state, not county by county, so the true rates calculated depend on the respective Okaloosa and Santa Rosa County housing markets.

Q&A with U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz

How did you meet your wife, Ginger?
I met Ginger at Mara Lago. Ginger was there with her mother attending an event supporting Trump. I was there because Kimberly Guilfoyle and Donald Trump, Jr. had invited me there to Kimberly’s birthday party. Kimberly joked that I didn’t have a date and Ginger offered to go with me as my date for food and dancing and President Trump immediately said that was the one for me and I needed to do whatever I could to get Ginger to hang out with me. In a lot of ways, it was COVID love. She was from California and typically not easy to execute a courtship across an entire continent, but since California was shut down and Florida was wide open, since her work was remote, I said why don’t you come to the panhandle, our beach is open, and restaurants are open – that was a big part of my pitch. As much as it was my own magnetism – I have Gavin Newsom and Ron DeSantis to thank for very different reasons. If Cali had been open, I don’t know that I could have gotten her here.
I just love being married. You hear throughout your life as a single in your 30’s – marriage is the old ball and chain. I found marriage to be the greatest institution that I’ve been able to be a part of. You are in the same canoe with someone. There is teamwork and love that grows from that that is unlike anything else I have ever experienced in my life.

What are you working on for our district right now?
Two big priorities: Accelerating the delivery of new helicopters to the Whiting Field mission and expanding the role of Northwest Florida in developing hypersonic weapon systems.
I questioned the secretary of defense very rigorously where America falls vs. China with hypersonic weapon systems. And from what I can tell you unequivocally is that we are behind. One reason we are behind is because we spent so much time on the global war on terror figuring out innovative ways to engage in urban warfare and counterterrorism and we lost sight of our pacing challenge. China wasn’t trying to install democracy in the caves of central Asia, they were developing and deploying hypersonic weapon systems. Russia has now in the Ukraine war used hypersonic weapons for the first time in the history of the world in combat. Our challenge is how to go from research and development to fielding those systems. Today, we do far too much of this testing in the Pacific Rim. And that presents real intelligence vulnerabilities. It is not a good idea to be testing the weapons we might have to one day use, God forbid, in a conflict with China over the Pacific Rim. The northern Gulf provides the perfect platform for this work but because hypersonic weapons go a lot farther and a lot faster, the envelope we have for testing must expand. I spent eleven years of my public life fighting against oil drilling in the northern Gulf, but it isn’t just about protecting what we already have, we actually have to grow southward beyond the Florida Keys to protect the mission here and to grow our mission at Hurlburt, Eglin, and NAS Pensacola. We work every day to try to get more funding to upgrade the telemetry and the radar systems, not just on Navarre Beach and Okaloosa Island but actually in Panacea and the Keys because that’s what allows that mission to utilize the full Gulf. During my time in Congress, we have obtained tens of millions of dollars in additional resources to build out that testing envelope. And, we have by order of President Trump a ten-year ban on any additional energy exploration off the coast of Florida. So now, I want to grow that, and I want to build a first of its kind weapons-integrated technology center in Northwest Florida so that this becomes the hub of hypersonic research and development. We got the first $40 million for that center in the last National Defense Authorization Act but that is a half billion dollar project so I have to work against that goal to get more and more money to build out a weapons center here. That is a major feature of the military mission in Northwest Florida.

At Whiting, we have to get more new aircraft to do our training mission.
When I was first elected to this job, I went to Whiting for my first visit and the instructors were telling me that those were the aircraft that they trained. Not, those were the platforms, those were the exact aircraft. We have endeavored to get the Navy to get an off-the-shelf solution, not the procurement of a new aircraft that may take a generation but an off-the-shelf solution from a commercial entity so that we can have high end digital assets for training. Leonardo won that award and we used Triumph funds to ensure Leonardo wasn’t doing building, operations and maintenance in some other place for our mission and that they were doing it at Whiting in Santa Rosa. Great plan – the problem is that we have had a half dozen aircraft delivered. We are behind. Part of that, Leonardo is saying supply chain issues and the manufacturing of these systems. But I’m going to Whiting in the next couple weeks to get a mission brief on how we can accelerate that. It is a major safety issue for our pilots, but it is also a way to deepen the roots of that training mission in Santa Rosa County. The Army would love to have all of the helicopter training at Fort Rucker and so we need to fend them off with a chair on most days. However, if we get that investment and get faster delivery of those aircraft, then the mission at Whiting is more up to date and more capable and secure for a generation.

Those two are at the top of the list.
You find me today preparing for the testimony of the homeland security director, Mayorkas, and what I expect is that democrats in this hearing will try to over-emphasize what the Biden administration is trying to do to combat white supremacy and I think they will under emphasize the crisis at the border. I was at the border in Yuma, Arizona several weeks ago and about half of the migrants I encountered were on their way to Florida. I told them to follow the sun west until they found it. We are not just a magnet for people escaping the liberal governments of Minnesota, New York, Connecticut, and Jersey. We are also a magnet for illegal immigration. This shows us when you have hundreds of thousands of people every month coming into our country illegally, we are going to get a really high share of that. We are a border state, too, in that regard. I try to figure out how to ask sharp questions. In the Congress I am known as someone who asks tough questions. I view the five minutes I have as a very precious resource of Northwest Florida, and I want to make sure that we use it well.

Next week: Topics include Florida Power and Light (FPL) and Transportation

And people are on paths that they don’t even know they are on, it is a path that God has set out for them. I find that my faith is a way to inspire my imagination about the good that can be done. In government and politics, the daily grind can often get you down. For me – it raises the ceiling and frankly, the floor. In tough times for our country, the district, whether it is an oil spill or a hurricane and a local matter, I always believe that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle. In my life that has been true and the path for Northwest Florida, that has been true.

How did you meet your wife, Ginger?
I met Ginger at Mara Lago. Ginger was there with her mother attending an event supporting Trump. I was there because Kimberly Guilfoyle and Donald Trump, Jr. had invited me there to Kimberly’s birthday party. Kimberly joked that I didn’t have a date and Ginger offered to go with me as my date for food and dancing and President Trump immediately said that was the one for me and I needed to do whatever I could to get Ginger to hang out with me. In a lot of ways, it was COVID love. She was from California and typically not easy to execute a courtship across an entire continent, but since California was shut down and Florida was wide open, since her work was remote, I said why don’t you come to the panhandle, our beach is open, and restaurants are open – that was a big part of my pitch. As much as it was my own magnetism – I have Gavin Newsom and Ron DeSantis to thank for very different reasons. If Cali had been open, I don’t know that I could have gotten her here.
I just love being married. You hear throughout your life as a single in your 30’s – marriage is the old ball and chain. I found marriage to be the greatest institution that I’ve been able to be a part of. You are in the same canoe with someone. There is teamwork and love that grows from that that is unlike anything else I have ever experienced in my life.

What are you working on for our district right now?
Two big priorities: Accelerating the delivery of new helicopters to the Whiting Field mission and expanding the role of Northwest Florida in developing hypersonic weapon systems.
I questioned the secretary of defense very rigorously where America falls vs. China with hypersonic weapon systems. And from what I can tell you unequivocally is that we are behind. One reason we are behind is because we spent so much time on the global war on terror figuring out innovative ways to engage in urban warfare and counterterrorism and we lost sight of our pacing challenge. China wasn’t trying to install democracy in the caves of central Asia, they were developing and deploying hypersonic weapon systems. Russia has now in the Ukraine war used hypersonic weapons for the first time in the history of the world in combat. Our challenge is how to go from research and development to fielding those systems. Today, we do far too much of this testing in the Pacific Rim. And that presents real intelligence vulnerabilities. It is not a good idea to be testing the weapons we might have to one day use, God forbid, in a conflict with China over the Pacific Rim. The northern Gulf provides the perfect platform for this work but because hypersonic weapons go a lot farther and a lot faster, the envelope we have for testing must expand. I spent eleven years of my public life fighting against oil drilling in the northern Gulf, but it isn’t just about protecting what we already have, we actually have to grow southward beyond the Florida Keys to protect the mission here and to grow our mission at Hurlburt, Eglin, and NAS Pensacola. We work every day to try to get more funding to upgrade the telemetry and the radar systems, not just on Navarre Beach and Okaloosa Island but actually in Panacea and the Keys because that’s what allows that mission to utilize the full Gulf. During my time in Congress, we have obtained tens of millions of dollars in additional resources to build out that testing envelope. And, we have by order of President Trump a ten-year ban on any additional energy exploration off the coast of Florida. So now, I want to grow that, and I want to build a first of its kind weapons-integrated technology center in Northwest Florida so that this becomes the hub of hypersonic research and development. We got the first $40 million for that center in the last National Defense Authorization Act but that is a half billion dollar project so I have to work against that goal to get more and more money to build out a weapons center here. That is a major feature of the military mission in Northwest Florida.

At Whiting, we have to get more new aircraft to do our training mission.
When I was first elected to this job, I went to Whiting for my first visit and the instructors were telling me that those were the aircraft that they trained. Not, those were the platforms, those were the exact aircraft. We have endeavored to get the Navy to get an off-the-shelf solution, not the procurement of a new aircraft that may take a generation but an off-the-shelf solution from a commercial entity so that we can have high end digital assets for training. Leonardo won that award and we used Triumph funds to ensure Leonardo wasn’t doing building, operations and maintenance in some other place for our mission and that they were doing it at Whiting in Santa Rosa. Great plan – the problem is that we have had a half dozen aircraft delivered. We are behind. Part of that, Leonardo is saying supply chain issues and the manufacturing of these systems. But I’m going to Whiting in the next couple weeks to get a mission brief on how we can accelerate that. It is a major safety issue for our pilots, but it is also a way to deepen the roots of that training mission in Santa Rosa County. The Army would love to have all of the helicopter training at Fort Rucker and so we need to fend them off with a chair on most days. However, if we get that investment and get faster delivery of those aircraft, then the mission at Whiting is more up to date and more capable and secure for a generation.

Those two are at the top of the list.
You find me today preparing for the testimony of the homeland security director, Mayorkas, and what I expect is that democrats in this hearing will try to over-emphasize what the Biden administration is trying to do to combat white supremacy and I think they will under emphasize the crisis at the border. I was at the border in Yuma, Arizona several weeks ago and about half of the migrants I encountered were on their way to Florida. I told them to follow the sun west until they found it. We are not just a magnet for people escaping the liberal governments of Minnesota, New York, Connecticut, and Jersey. We are also a magnet for illegal immigration. This shows us when you have hundreds of thousands of people every month coming into our country illegally, we are going to get a really high share of that. We are a border state, too, in that regard. I try to figure out how to ask sharp questions. In the Congress I am known as someone who asks tough questions. I view the five minutes I have as a very precious resource of Northwest Florida, and I want to make sure that we use it well.

Next week: Topics include Florida Power and Light (FPL) and Transportation

FWC approves proposed black crappie regulations

The approval took place at the FWC’s May meeting and was unanimous.

FWC’s freshwater fisheries management staff recommend removing the 12-inch minimum length limit on Lake Jackson in Osceola County and removing specific size and bag limits on Fish Management Areas at Montgomery Lake, Watertown Lake, Suwannee Lake, Hardee County Park, Bobby Hicks Park Pond, Gadsden Park Pond, Manatee Lake and Largo Central Park Nature Preserve.

In those areas, the FWC will return to statewide regulations of a 25 fish daily bag limit and no minimum size limit.

“Anglers fish for specks (black crappie) when they want to have a fish fry,” said FWC Commissioner Gary Lester. “Black crappie remains a popular target for anglers and we commend staff’s dedication to ensuring crappie fisheries thrive in Florida.”

FWC staff will advertise opportunities to provide additional public input before bringing final rule language for consideration at a future Commission meeting.

Anyone with questions can reach out to Crappie@MyFWC.com or visit MyFWC.com/crappiemanagement.

Fifth anniversary of the death of Anna Louise Brown

As the fifth anniversary of her death is nearing, the killer still has not been arrested. The family remains optimistic that there will be closure in this case and they continue to pray for justice.

Brown’s children are doing well and are thriving. Brown’s mother, Sue Brown, stated that, “Anna would be very proud of her children and her memory is very much alive through them.”

Even though almost five years has passed since this crime was committed, investigators are still active in locating and apprehending her killer. All tips could help lead to an arrest.

“Anna was a blessing not only to her family, but to her entire community. I feel confident that there is still someone out there with information that could help the investigative team find her assailant. Even a small thing could be the missing puzzle piece in this case so please share even the smallest tip.”

The family thanks every person who has been involved in this investigation and for the support that the community has given them as they continue to grieve.

Hail to Heroes event brings history to life

“We did an event in 2018 for the 75th Anniversary of D-Day (June 6, 1943, when the Allied Forces invaded France on the beaches of Normandy),” Brian Hughes, Cultural Services Specialist for the City of Crestview, said. “We did one in 2020 for the 75th anniversary for the end of World War II.

“Dako (Morfey, Reactor Coordinator) and I were walking around the park last year talking about when we could do another one and we decided on this,” Hughes continued. “We later realized that it was the week of the 80th anniversary of Doolittle’s Raiders attacking Japan.”

Displays and banners were set up around the park, telling the story of the war. There also were reenactments of World War II battles.

Morfey joked that getting participants to serve as reenactors isn’t as easy as it might seem.

“Working with reenactors is like herding cats,” he said. “It’s very difficult, but we’ve managed to pull it off and they’ve come here and put on a tremendous display.”

Morfey believes there’s an importance in showing a living history with events like Hail the Heroes as the generations that experienced that event passes from us.

“It brings things you would read about in textbooks or hear about in lectures to life,” Morfey said. “It gives you a physical, tangible thing to associate with history. And it gives it a human element so you can put yourself in the shoes of the individuals that participated in the event.

“As the World War II generation passes it makes it that much more important because a lot of reenactors have had first-hand experience with people that were there,” Mofrey continued. “We sort of live to carry on that legacy, that knowledge and to share the details of that history and the strange little things we know about that event to the public.”

Hughes credited Morfey for making sure the reenactments were as authentic and safe as possible. Each morning Morfey makes sures all the modern packaging is free from display areas and that cell phones are hidden, and jewelry is consistent with the World War II era.

“The biggest thing is the educational value of this,” Hughes said. “At the World War II Victory presentation, we had a high school kid come up to me and say, ‘I’ve looked the pictures in books and we have our history books and I’ve read about it, but until we actually touch that Jeep and wear the helmet and put it on our head, it doesn’t come alive.’ This makes history come alive and we keep that in mind.”

FDOT, partners look to build next generation of workers with Construction Career Days

This year’s Construction Career Days marks the second in person version of this event in Northwest Florida. The first year of the event was 2019.

The event brings together students with contractors, Florida Department of Transportation workers, construction and engineering firms, and other representatives from the transportation and construction industries. In all, there are around 50 government agencies, consulting firms and contractors participating.

“We want to let people know their options,” Heather Baril said, “to put them in touch directly with companies.”

Baril is Milton operations engineer for Florida Department of Transportation District three and co-chair of the Northwest Florida Construction Career Days.

She says that there are Construction Career Days like this one across the state. According to the website for Construction Career Days, there are five regions in the Sunshine State: Northwest Florida, Northeast Florida, Central Florida, South Florida and Tampa Bay.

According to the state website for Construction Career Days, the Construction Career Days began in 1999 to create a nationwide educational outreach program that would cultivate interest in high school students for a variety of skilled construction careers. Funding for the event comes from company sponsors the Federal Highway Administration and other organizations related to these job fields.

The importance of Construction Career Days, according to Heather Baril, is the fact that the state has seen tremendous growth and has significant needs in career fields like engineering, construction and surveying.

In a video promoting the 2019 event, a narrator cited the importance of the event as the state has increased in population, a 14.6% increase from the 2010 census to the 2020 census, which has only exacerbated the need for good infrastructure like roads and bridges. The increased population also means that more homes need to be built.

Events like the Surfside building collapse and the threat of climate change also show the urgent need for newer or updated infrastructure in the state.

According to a March 2021 article from WUSF Public Media, a 2018 Department of Transportation study found that a two-foot sea rise, expected by mid-century, would imperil a little more than five percent — 250-plus miles — of the state’s most high-traffic highways. These coastal highways are crucial to industries like tourism, which rakes in billions annually. According to an infographic from VISIT FLORIDA, out of state visitors in 2019 added $96.5 billion to the state’s economy.

VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s official tourism marketing and travel planning organization, says on their website that “tax revenues generated by tourism-related spending represent a primary source of state government funding that helps to build roads, support schools, pay for health care and other vital programs and preserve nature settings.”

The need for these careers in Florida notwithstanding, the event acts as opportunity for high school students to explore possible pathways in a fun and exciting way.

“The biggest highlight, I think for attendees, is that they get to operate heavy machinery and equipment,” Baril said.

As participants in the event, students go around to different activities, booths and learning labs that showcase what the different job fields do, from asphalt and paving to drainage to bridge inspection.

There are 20 different learning labs, 15 exhibits and 25 pieces of equipment that the students get hands on experience with.

The students can take a ride in a bucket truck, use a manlift and operate an excavator, just to name a few types of heavy equipment.

“That’s an exciting part, you don’t get to sit on an excavator every day,” Kathy Harris said. “It’s what sticks out in people’s memory.” Harris is the media liaison for the event.

In addition to all the exciting experiences, $20,000 worth of scholarships will be handed out to participating students. To raise money for scholarships, Construction Career Days’ organizers hold golf tournaments and sport shooting.

Students in attendance who are over 18 years old can fill out applications the day of the event. In all, the Construction Career Days gives students the opportunity to see themselves filling an important role in our state.

“This is not your typical career fair,” Baril said.

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