13 apply for Heartland seat on SFWMD board

TALLAHASSEE — Thirteen people have submitted applications to the governor’s office for appointment to the South Florida Water Management District seat to represent the Heartland counties:

• George Hastings, of Kissimmee, is a partner in Business Brokerage Services. He owns Hastings Ranch and Farm LLC. “Living at the headwaters of the Florida Everglades for the last 50 years has offered me a great opportunity to see the health of our lakes, rivers and streams decline over time. I have worked locally to form the Family Boating Association to better coordinate state and local resources and educate the public about our natural resources. Since forming the Family Boating Association, I have aided county government efforts to preserve land and improve water quality,” he stated. He turned in his application Jan. 15.

• Alexander Johns, of Okeechobee, is employed by the Seminole Tribe of Florida as the natural resources director. “I have been involved in agriculture my entire life. I am a member of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The natural resources of Florida are very important to me and my tribe. I have managed natural resources for the Seminole Tribe for 25 years,” he stated. The application was completed on Jan. 23.

• Lee “Chip” Merriam of Orlando is vice president of the Orlando Utilities Commission. He worked for SFWMD for 19 years. “Having watched the governor since the election, it is my sense he wants knowledgeable persons with the ability to get things done without supporting any one organization. I am that person. With many other attributes, I have served as a member of the SFWMD responsible for regulating business and developers. I am now on the other side, being regulated, and understand the cradle-to-grave process as well as business impacts. I have a unique experience in both the energy and water industry, and am experienced in all that SFWMD faces on a daily basis from policy development to operating storm readiness, including completing large scale restoration projects on time and on budget.” He put in his application Jan. 22.

• Derrick Smith of Okeechobee is employed by the Seminole Tribe of Florida as the senior director of operations. “I have held numerous positions with the Seminole Tribe of Florida that has allowed me to work and oversee our Environmental Resource Management Department (ERMD). Through overseeing ERMD and working with our Tribal Historical Preservation Department and legal counsel, I have been involved in day-to-day policy discussions with SFWMD.” His application was completed Feb. 5.

• Frank H. Cawthon Jr. of Windermere is president and owner of FHC Development, which purchases, develops, manages and markets land in residential developments; timber management and investments; recreational tracts and multiple retail commercial uses. “Having been born and raised in Florida, and being a sportsman and an avid lover of water, no one appreciates the waters of Florida more than me. Being a professional land developer, I have provided thousands of lots of new homes including hundreds of waterfront lots. I live on a lake that is designated one of the pristine waters of the state as well as own a beach house on the Atlantic Ocean.” The application was completed on Jan. 11, 2019, just one day after Gov. Ron DeSantis publicly called for all of the SFWMD governing board members appointed by his predecessor to resign.

• Betty Osceola, of Ochopee, is employed by the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida as a consultant for the tribal government. “As an indigenous person, I have been an advocate for environmental rights and have provided countless written comments at public meetings on the environment and attended county meetings to speak against and stop projects harmful to the environment. As a member of the Miccosukee Everglades Committee, I have received an in-depth understanding of environmental issues in Florida and with specific knowledge of the Everglades restoration process.” Her application was completed on March 29.

• Suzanne Arnold, of Orlando, is a senior administrator with Environmental Science Associates. “I live on Lake Mary Jane in Orlando, which is part of the headwaters of the Kissimmee River. In 2006, I helped create the Lake Mary Alliance, which became one of the most respected grassroots organizations in Central Florida. We focus on protecting rural settlements by negotiating win/win situations for the residents, developers and the environment. Our first win was preserving and restoring 465 acres working with GREENPlace and the success continued from there.” The application was completed on Feb. 18.

• Benjamin “Ben” Bulter, of Lorida, is the manager and vice president of the board of directors of Butler Oaks Farm. “I have lived my whole life, with the exception of college, on my family’s farm. Our farm is on the banks of the Kissimmee River. I have lived, breathed and worked during a time of heightened environmental awareness. I have been actively involved on many projects that my family and farm have cooperated with different governmental agencies to improve our environmental footprint, such as SFWMD, Department of Environmental Protection, United States Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Services, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, etc.” The application was completed on Feb. 25.

• Carol K. Platt is a partner in Kissimmee Park Properties/Lazy S Cattle and Citrus. “My involvement within the crossroads of sustainability, conservation and education, economic viability and constitutional rights began at 16 as president of my high school ecology club, wining the state of North Carolina Award and traveling to a conference in D.C. I have spent much of my life building bridges and engaging stakeholders professionally, socially and in public policy advocacy. To move the agenda forward toward solving complex issues, particularly in water quality and quantity, for a future far beyond our own generation, I passionately want to use by broad experience, unique skills and calm resolve to build consensus for that agenda, providing oversight support to the district and our governor.” The application was completed on Feb. 28.

• James Hull, of Moore Haven, is the founder and owner of AIM Engineering and Surveying Inc. He is also the founder and owner of Devil’s Garden Golden Ox LLC and A.E.C. General contracting company. “Born in Fort Myers, raised in the cattle industry, I have seen almost all the watersheds in their God-given method, have worked in the engineering field for 61 years in most of the region of the SFWMD,” he stated. “I often see where SFWMD does not have the historic knowledge of SFWMD’s basins and flows necessary to arrive at the right conclusion. I have a picture of my grandfather rowing a boat into the front door of the LaBelle courthouse. That along with 61 years of surveying/engineering experience could possibly help to get a better solution.” The application was completed on March 18.

• Anacleto Paras, of Stuart, is the assistant service manager of Pep Boys Auto in Jupiter. “I worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development as an agronomist for one year in Sayaboury, Laos. My experience in the Philippines included as consultant to government projects in agriculture and educational development in the Mindanao State University and the National Grains Authority. Under the Overseas Technical Cooperation Agency, I studied Japanese agriculture including the 5-year Land Consolidation (mechanization) Plan.” The application was completed June 24.

• Michael Bausher, of Fort Pierce, is a plant physiologist with USDA-ARS. “I think living in this state is a complicated matter with a great deal of diverse opinions about its past and future. We have a unique environmental and economic problems which will have to be dealt with under microscopic scrutiny. Water use is a topic that most people measure by the cost of a monthly charge, but it is also certainly the lifeblood of a growing economy. The state is divided into its use by the needs of tourism (including part-time residents), agriculture and industry and preservation of natural system. Each of these industries is setting its future goals in part on the solutions which arise from diverse citizen input.” The application was completed March 18.

• Theresa Bowman, of Delray Beach, is an attorney and the vice president of Bowman Growers Inc., vice president of Beefy Tree Farm Inc., vice president of T&D Cattle and Exotics, and president of Good Fortune Farm LLC. She stated she is the fourth generation of a farming family with vegetable farms in Palm Beach, St. Lucie and Okeechobee counties, a cattle farm in Okeechobee county, a tree farm and horse farms in Palm Beach County. “As a member of a generational farming family, I have seen the results of water issues, droughts wet seasons and contamination. Farming in Florida is not sustainable without access to fresh water. Florida must manage freshwater and preserve the Everglades for storage and filtration of our water. I want to serve, collaborate and contribute to the delicate and difficult balancing of water storage, flow, discharge, improving and protecting water quality, restoring the Everglades and eradicating the harmful algae blooms that are destroying the environment and damaging the economy of the people of Florida,” she explained. Her application was completed on May 24.

Publisher/Editor Katrina Elsken can be reached at kelsken@newszap.com

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