Takeaways from Tallahassee — Salute the Flagg

Salute the Flagg

While a well-modulated voice was his stock-in-trade, Rick Flagg loomed large — literally — during his 43-year tenure covering the ins and outs of state government in Tallahassee.

You can’t miss him in photos of the media scrum around Governors, legislators and other notables. His 6-foot, 3-inch height makes him easy to find anywhere, but Flagg has a most distinctive look that includes one white eyebrow, a long beard and even longer hair, and an ultra-casual wardrobe that stands out in the reportorial swarm of suit jackets.

After a final installment of the Sunrise podcast on Tuesday, Flagg — the Dean of the Capitol Press Corps — will turn off his microphone and retire.

Like Flagg, Gary Fineout is an alumnus of the Florida Flambeau student newspaper, but his tenure there was several years after the soon-to-be retiree. Crossing paths for Fineout’s past 25 years in the Capitol, the POLITICO reporter came away with this description of his compatriot:


“He was his own guy. He didn’t feel the need to follow the protocols of others,” Fineout said. “His hair was long, and he wore what he wanted to wear that made him comfortable.”

Farewell to Rick Flagg, a truly unique voice in Florida politics. Image via The Workmans.

Flagg says his appearance does make him stand out. Originally it was born of necessity, but over the years became his trademark. “When I first started working, I was still a lowly college student, didn’t have money for anything. So, when other people were going out to lunch, I was bagging it and wearing jeans and flannel shirts,” he explained. “No one knows the radio reporter, but everyone knows Rick. Give people or persona to latch onto, and they’ll remember it.”

For most of his career, Flagg was the sole voice of the Florida Radio News Service, which started while attending Florida A&M University — at its high point serving 14 radio stations around the state — and doing news reporting for local stations. For the past two years, he has served as host of the Florida Politics podcast, Sunrise.

He has worked through profound changes in the reporting process.

“We have to generate a lot more content now. Back in the old days, you could work on one story a day …” he said. “Nowadays, there is no time for that. It’s just crank it out the door, cover it superficially and get it done, move on, get the clicks. And if you can work a Simpsons reference into it or some kind of topical thing that might make one more click, gosh, they just love that.”

He’s also not too thrilled about the transformation of state leadership throughout the years.

“Politicians used to have a sense of humor. I mean Bob Graham,” who he once asked if a U.S. Supreme Court decision on a Georgia sodomy law would have any impact on his personal behavior. “You could play with Bob Martinez. You could play with Lawton Chiles. God almighty, he loved playing with us,” he reminisced. “But after that, it’s like, Jeb (Bush), Charlie (Crist), Rick Scott, (Ron) DeSantis. Is there any wonder I’m leaving?”

Flagg turns 64 on Sept. 3, a little early for traditional retirement, but his mother’s death in July drove his decision. “The passing of my mom sort of catalyzed in me that I have family responsibilities and it’s time to step up …. Frankly, there was a little money, not much, but enough that I can take a couple of years and not work,” he said. “Mom’s final gift to me was an early retirement.”

Those family responsibilities include being there for his 40-year-old daughter, Kate, who has Down syndrome. She has doubled her original life expectancy and lives independently but has health problems and other needs that require on-call help. Flagg also has another daughter, Jenny, and two teenage grandsons who inherited his height, but not his bulk. “They’re very lanky,” he explained.

Flagg’s other plans for retirement should take him no farther than his Frenchtown backyard.

He plans to work on his backyard garden in Frenchtown with his fiancee, Debbie Campbell, who he describes as “the hippie/granola lady I’ve been looking for all my life.” She grows and sells everything from peppers and herbs to figs and satsuma oranges at the Red Hills Farmer’s Market. Flagg was known around town for his beekeeping, but disease has wiped out all but one of his hives. He plans to let that one die off and rebuild them again in a year or so.

As his reports have been for four-plus decades, Flagg’s parting shot is disarmingly honest and slightly acerbic:

“I will be perfectly fine. Don’t worry about me. There are plenty of things to fill my time, and I will not miss state government one tiny bit. I guess that’s a good way to sign off, isn’t it? Adios suckers. Ron DeSantis is someone else’s problem now.”


Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Peter Schorsch, Drew Wilson, Renzo Downey, Jason Delgado and the staff of Florida Politics.

Take 5

The “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Mask mandate ban defeated in court — Leon County Judge John Cooper ruled against Gov. DeSantis’ mask mandate Friday, calling his executive order “arbitrary and capricious.” He ruled that the state did not fully follow the Parents’ Bill of Rights by preemptively issuing a blanket ban on mask orders. Moreover, the DeSantis administration followed a small minority of health experts when they said masks didn’t mitigate the spread of COVID-19. But the fight’s not over. The DeSantis administration will look for a redo in the 1st District Court of Appeals. “This ruling was made with incoherent justifications, not based in science and facts — frankly not even remotely focused on the merits of the case presented,” a DeSantis spokesperson said.

Rivkees leaving DeSantis administration — The Surgeon General will leave the DeSantis administration on Sept. 20, the Governor’s Office made clear Thursday. Dr. Scott Rivkees’ time in government was marked by his absence from public view throughout much of the COVID-19 pandemic. Plus, the news comes as Florida continues trudging through the pandemic with peak cases and hospitalizations on account of the delta variant. Because Rivkees was on an employee interchange agreement with UF, under state law, he could only sign a two-year contract with the administration. State law also allows him a three-month extension, which he took in June when his contract was initially set to expire.

FDLE opens investigation into SD 9 allegations — The Department of Law Enforcement is investigating another high-profile State Senate race from 2020, this time in Central Florida’s SD 9. The Orlando Sentinel reported that FDLE is reviewing allegations into that race, but the agency didn’t detail the allegations. Sen. Jason Brodeur ultimately defeated Patricia Sigman by more than 7,600 votes. Little-known independent candidate Jestine Iannotti received nearly 5,800 votes. A dark-money nonprofit called “The Truth” with ties to a fake candidate scheme in South Florida’s SD 40 boosted Iannotti with ads that appeared tailored to appeal to left-leaning voters.

DeSantis responds in Associated Press feud — In a strongly worded letter to The Associated Press, DeSantis criticized the news organization for writing and defending its “political smear” against him. DeSantis wrote the letter after the news wire reported press secretary Christina Pushaw to Twitter for “abusive behavior” that led to threats against reporter Brendan Farrington. Twitter locked her account for 12 hours late last week. “You succeeded in publishing a misleading, clickbait headline about one of your political opponents, but at the expense of deterring individuals infected with COVID from seeking lifesaving treatment, which will cost lives,” DeSantis said. “Was it worth it?”

Disney cruises buck state law for Bahamas policy — Disney Cruise Lines on Tuesday became the latest cruise company to announce it would defy Florida’s ban on COVID-19 vaccine passports and require passengers to provide vaccine proof. While Disney’s rules violate state law, it puts it in compliance with The Bahamas’ emergency order essentially blocking cruise ships from Florida unless the ships provide proof that everyone on board who is eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations has had their shots. Disney Cruise Line announced it will require all cruise ship passengers ages 12 and older to be fully vaccinated to get on a Disney ship headed for The Bahamas, starting with the Sept. 3 cruise of the Disney Dream out of Port Canaveral.

End human trafficking

Attorney General Ashley Moody urged those near and far this week to attend the upcoming 2021 Human Trafficking Summit.

The virtual summit features experts who will host breakout sessions on law enforcement and health care topics to policy and research.

The goal: end human trafficking.

“Human trafficking will not be eliminated if we all work as individual units — we must unite in Florida and throughout our great country,” Moody said. “By joining forces, we can stop trafficking and rescue survivors — that’s the goal of the Human Trafficking Summit, and I encourage all stakeholders in Florida and nationwide to attend.”

Ashley Moody says if Florida unites, we can end human trafficking.

The Human Trafficking Summit is free and will launch on Oct. 5.

It will also highlight the distinguished efforts of some to end human trafficking. Awards to be presented include the Survivor Advocate of the Year, Community Advocate of the Year, Prosecutor of the Year, and Law Enforcement Official of the Year.

“That is what our upcoming summit is all about — continuing to coordinate across agencies, industries, and state lines to stop trafficking and rescue survivors,” Moody said this week after meeting with members of the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking.

More information and registration details can be found online.

Treasury’s interest

Florida’s state treasury generated $553.6 million in interest last fiscal year, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis says.

The Division of Treasury’s top priority is to protect taxpayer dollars while being effective stewards of the operational moneys and financial assets. Since Patronis took office in 2017, the Division of Treasury has earned more than $2.4 billion in interest. The half a billion in interest came between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021, a fiscal year in which Florida recovered economically from the COVID-19 pandemic faster than anticipated.

Revenue from interest is shared between the general revenue and individual state trust funds.

Jimmy Patronis says there’s a lot of interest in Florida.

“As your CFO, I’m committed to ensuring that Florida’s fiscal health remains strong and that investments provide a good return for every Florida taxpayer,” Patronis said.

The Department of Financial Services’ Treasury Division ensures that cash and other assets held for safekeeping within the Treasury are accurately accounted for, effectively invested, and competently protected. The Florida Treasury uses pooled investments for all funds not immediately needed for State of Florida business. It invests that money with short, intermediate and longer-term fixed income investment strategies.

“While the main mission of the Treasury Division is to keep the state coffers safe and secure, I appreciate the hard work and dedication of our staff who were able to generate a tremendous amount of interest for the state,” Patronis said. “This is yet another way Florida can keep the tax burden off hardworking families and businesses and help our economy grow.”

Instagram of the week


The week in appointments

St. Johns River Water Management District Governing Board — DeSantis on Friday named Ormond Beach resident Maryam Ghyabi-White to the SJRWMD Governing Board. Ghyabi-White is a previous member of the SJRWMD Governing Board who currently works as CEO of Ghyabi Consulting and Management. She is also a member of the SunTrust Bank Board of Trustees and the PACE Center for Girls Volusia-Flagler Board of Directors. She earned her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Central Florida.

Florida Southwestern State College District Board of Trustees David Ciccarello and William Banfield were appointed to the board on Friday. Ciccarello, of Fort Myers, is an attorney and owner of Private Client Title and Escrow. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business from Florida State University and his law degree from Stetson University. Banfield, of Estero, is the former president of Moran Wealth Management. He has served on the Bonita Springs Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and Catholic Charities of Lee, Hendry and Glades County Board of Directors. Banfield earned his bachelor’s degree in English from the College of the Holy Cross.

Palm Beach State College District Board of Trustees — DeSantis appointed Palm Beach Gardens resident Patrice Bishop to the board. Bishop is the executive vice president of human resources and risk management for Kitson and Partners Management Services. She is a member of the Executive Women of Palm Beaches, the Babcock Ranch Foundation’s secretary, and the former vice president of HR Palm Beach County. Bishop earned her bachelor’s degree from Western Kentucky University.

Pasco-Hernando State College District Board of TrusteesMarilyn Pearson-Adams was reappointed to the Board of Trustees by DeSantis on Friday. Pearson-Adams is the current Chair of the board and also the president and owner of Century 21 Alliance Realty of Spring Hill, a trustee of the First United Methodist Church of Spring Hill, chair of the Florida Realtors’ Legislative Think Tank, and a past chair of the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce. Pearson-Adams was inducted into the National Association of Realtors Hall of Fame in 2020.

Pensacola State College District Board of Trustees — DeSantis appointed Dr. Troy Tippett to the PSC District Board of Trustees. Tippett, a neurosurgeon, is the medical director and owner of The Neurosurgical Group. He served in and received honorable discharges from the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army Reserve. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri and his medical degree from the University of Tennessee.

Polk State College District Board of Trustees — The Governor named Teresa Martinez and Mark Turner to the Polk State College District Board of Trustees. Martinez, of Lakeland, is the president and founder of the Institute of Spanish Communication. Previously, she was a Spanish and ESOL teacher with Polk County Schools. She earned her associate degree from Polk State College and a bachelor’s degree in Spanish education from UCF. Turner, also of Lakeland, is an attorney and partner with Straughn and Turner. He is a past Chair of the Polk State College District Board of Trustees and has supported the Polk State College Foundation. After studying at Polk State College, he earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and his law degree from Stetson University.

Going national

Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee was elected to a leadership position this week in the National Association of Secretaries of State.

Lee will serve on the Executive Board, the chief governing body of NASS.

“I am honored to have been elected to serve as a member of the executive board by my peers,” Lee said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues from across the country to continue to secure our nations’ elections, to effectively serve and promote businesses and corporations, and to support the many other programs and services led by Secretaries of State.”

Laurel Lee becomes secretary — of Secretaries.

The National Association of Secretaries of State is the nation’s oldest nonpartisan professional organization for public officials.

A former judge and a University of Florida graduate, DeSantis appointed Lee as the 36th Secretary of State.

She began serving in February 2019.

“I look forward to working with Secretary Lee over the next year and know that her sterling record as Secretary of State in the third-largest state will contribute to finding innovative solutions to the prevailing issues facing our states and nation in the coming years,” Louisiana Secretary of State and NASS President Kyle Ardoin.


This week, Veterans Florida announced plans with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to enroll transitioning service members into the university’s Aviation Maintenance Technology program.

The partnership, made possible by the U.S. Department of Defense’s SkillBridge program, will train transitioning service members in aviation maintenance and link them with aerospace industry partners committed to hiring veterans.

“Partnering with the world’s largest aviation and aerospace university to connect transitioning service members with career opportunities will bolster Florida’s workforce with highly-trained veterans and keep the state on the forefront of the rapidly growing aerospace industry,” said Veterans Florida Executive Director Joe Marino. “A pipeline of skilled military talent ensures aerospace employers turn to Florida when expanding or relocating.”

The DOD’s SkillBridge Program allows active-duty service members to gain work experience through internships, fellowships, and apprenticeships with employers during their final six months of service.

During the 2020 Legislative Session, legislation was passed to designate Veterans Florida as the primary organization to promote and facilitate the program.

“We look forward to working with Veterans Florida to promote aviation maintenance as a great career,” said Dr. John R. Watret, chancellor for Embry-Riddle’s Worldwide Campus. “For many years, the university has been educating and connecting transitioning service members, veterans, and military spouses to excellent careers in the civilian aviation and aerospace industry.”

More information is available online.

Watch an introduction to the program by clicking the image below.

Bucs plate redux

The Bucs are getting a revamped specialty license plate just in time for the team to defend their title as Super Bowl champions.

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced that the Buccaneers’ redesigned specialty plate is now available at all of Florida’s tax collector offices and license plate agencies.

This mark’s the plate’s third redesign. But it also follows the Bucs’ historic Super Bowl victory in February, in which the team became the first football team to win the NFL championship at their home stadium.

Another accolade for the Super Bowl champion Bucs.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers specialty license plate was enacted during the 1994 legislative session. As of July 1, there were 47,621 valid Buccaneers specialty license plates on the road.

The Department of Economic Opportunity received 55% of the proceeds from plate sales to attract and support major sports events in Florida. The remaining funds go to Enterprise Florida to promote the economic development of the sports industry.

Floridians interested in purchasing the newly designed Tampa Bay Buccaneers specialty plate, or one of the many specialty license plates offered in Florida, are encouraged to visit their local tax collector or license plate agency. A complete list of Florida’s specialty license plates can be found on the department’s website.

Casa Valentina

Sen. Ileana Garcia and Rep. Nicholas Duran toured Casa Valentina’s Coconut Grove facilities this week, where they met foster youth and program staff.

Casa Valentina, established in 2006, provides housing, educational services, and resources to help children transition out of the foster care system and build a solid foundation for a successful future. Their mission is to provide at-risk and former foster care youth with safe and affordable housing, life skills, and continued support so that they can achieve and maintain self-sufficiency and lead successful lives.

Ileana Garcia and Nick Duran help make sure Casa Valentina’s kids don’t fall through the cracks.

Garcia, a Miami Republican, stressed the importance of helping foster kids transition into society.

“Casa Valentina’s work is so important in making sure that at-risk youth are provided every opportunity that others are afforded so that they will not fall through the cracks,” Garcia said. “As a single mom, I understand the importance of preparing our children so that they can build themselves a stable foundation of economic self-sufficiency and have a proactive mentality for success.”

Garcia and Duran, a Miami Democrat, helped secure $175,000 to help Casa Valentina provide services to about 400 children, including group meetings and life coach sessions to improve their self-sufficiency.

“This program is so vital in nurturing and developing stability for transitioning young people as they move from a bad situation to better opportunities,” Duran said.

Surplus scholars

The Florida Surplus Lines Association offered a $30,000 endowment to the University of South Florida’s School of Risk Management and Insurance.

FSLA’s award is the first endowed scholarship dedicated to students in the RMI program and provides a $1,000 annual scholarship for full and part-time students based on merit and financial need.

“We are honored to be the first solely endowed scholarship donor for the USF School of Risk Management and Insurance,” incoming FSLA President Kathy Colangelo said. “We look forward to working closely with USF administrators and students in the risk management and insurance programs to introduce them to great opportunities for learning and growth in the insurance industry.”

Lines are now open: Steven Miller celebrates an endowment for surplus line studies.

Additionally, a member of FSLA will serve as a member of the USF School of Risk Management and Insurance advisory board, a student-focused organization designed to assist with mentoring and internship opportunities within the industry.

USF’s RMI program director Steven Miller thanked FSLA for their donation and their help to guide its curriculum.

“We are very appreciative of FSLA being the first solely dedicated scholarship donor for this budding program,” added Jennifer McAfee, senior associate vice president of development of the USF Foundation. “The scholarship will provide the opportunity for a student in the risk management and insurance school to be supported in their academic ventures and introduced to great career opportunities.”

Welcome to the board

Monte Stevens is the newest member of the Tallahassee Community College District Board of Trustees.

On Friday, Stevens was named to the post in a wave of gubernatorial appointments to boards across the state college system.

Since 2015, the Tallahassee resident has worked as a lobbyist at The Southern Group, the firm that has recently cemented itself as the top-earning lobbying shop in the state.

Before joining TSG, Stevens spent a decade-and-a-half working in high-level positions across various state agencies — he served as Deputy Chief of Staff at the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation and worked in legislative affairs at the Agency for Healthcare Administration and the Department of Financial Services.

Congrats to Monte Stevens, the newest member of the Tallahassee Community College board.

Stevens is an alumnus of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where he distinguished himself as an accomplished debater. During his time at UMKC, he helped lead the debate team to two national titles.

After graduating with an undergraduate degree in political science, the Niceville native attended Kansas State University, where he earned a master’s degree in speech communication.

Before returning to Florida, Stevens taught public speaking and coached the debate teams at Kansas State University and Harvard University.

He and his wife, Jodi, have two sons.

His appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Madam chair

Lewis, Longman & Walker president and shareholder Michelle Diffenderfer was recently elected chair of the American Bar Association Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources for a one-year term ending in August 2022.

“I am excited and honored to be named Chair of the Section. I grew up as an environmental lawyer in SEER and am thrilled to be able to give back to the Section that provided me with mentoring, leadership experience and so many friends through the years,” Diffenderfer said.

“My priorities include bringing us back together again in person at conferences to exchange information and ideas about environment, energy, and natural resources laws. I am also excited to continue the Section’s work on Diversity, Inclusion and Equity for all our members and helping our Section implement ABA’s Environmental Justice Resolution.”

Michelle Diffenderfer goes back to her environmental roots. Image via Lewis, Longman & Walker.

Diffenderfer has been an active member of ABA SEER for over 25 years and first took a leadership role at the Section as committee vice-chair in 2002. Since then, she has held various leadership positions within the organization, including education officer, budget officer, secretary, and most recently in her path to chair as vice-chair and chair-elect.

“Congratulations to Michelle on becoming Chair of the Section. Her extensive experience in the Section will serve our members very well this coming year,” said Howard Kenison, Immediate Past Chair of the Section.

With over 7,500 members, ABA SEER fosters the success of a diverse community of environmental, energy and resources lawyers, advisers and decision-makers and provides a premier forum for the exchange of ideas and information.

At LLW, Diffenderfer assists landowners, businesses and governments with local, state and federal environmental, natural resource and land development legal requirements. She also helps clients navigate laws and regulations in the permitting of their land development and infrastructure projects.

Fresh Access Bucks

The United States Department of Agriculture has granted a $4.9 million award to Feeding Florida to continue the state’s SNAP fruit and vegetable purchasing program, Fresh Access Bucks.

The distribution, part of the federal incentive program’s COVID-19 relief, extends Fresh Access Bucks by four years. Fresh Access Bucks helps low-income communities improve the affordability and consumption of fruits and vegetables by vulnerable participants in communities in need.

“Our Fresh Access Bucks program is an important asset to provide families on SNAP an incentive to access healthy produce,” Feeding Florida Executive Director Robin Safley said. “We are excited that this grant will allow us to continue the expansion of our Fresh Access Bucks into both farmers markets and traditional retail outlets in rural Florida.”

According to the Hunger in America study, 66% of households served by Feeding America reported choosing between food and medical care. When people make these hard choices, they don’t have enough food or choose inexpensive foods with low nutritional value, seriously impacting their health.

More than half the households the Feeding America network serves have at least one member living with high blood pressure, and more than one-third have a member with diabetes.

Aiming to make those choices easier and increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables, FAB plans to add 20 additional farm-direct locations and 13 additional grocery locations to the current 68 locations stretching across 26 counties in Florida.

“At the High Springs Farmer’s Market, our community is excited about the opportunity they have using the SNAP/FAB program,” said Carol Rowan, market manager at Fresh Access Bucks participant High Springs Farmer’s Market. “This program makes it possible for the customers and their families to eat healthy and not worry about whether they have enough funds to feed their families.”

To learn more about the program, click on the image below:


Florida electrical lineworkers got a nod Thursday during Florida Lineworker Appreciation Day.

Since the Florida House of Representatives established the day in 2012, lineworkers have received an annual thank you for their work to maintain lines, including during high winds, rain and other inclement conditions. The Florida Public Service Commission highlighted its work with its annual #ThankALineman campaign.

“Lineworkers get called out at all hours of the night and work in all kinds of weather conditions while wearing heavy protective gear,” PSC Chairman Gary Clark said. “We appreciate and thank all of Florida’s lineworkers who continually put their lives on the line to help deliver reliable electricity to Floridians year-round.”

A day of appreciation for the crews that keep us powered up.

Lineworkers have several roles, including substation electricians, network specialists, meter mechanics, streetlight repair and more.

Even when there is no storm or hurricane, lineworkers toil daily with high voltage electric lines while strapped in high above ground. And when storms hit elsewhere across the country, lineworkers travel to restore power.

Collectively, lineworkers maintain the nation’s more than 5.5 million miles of local distribution lines.

“Let’s celebrate the hard work and dedication of our local lineworkers who keep our community running day or night, through all kinds of weather,” the City of Tallahassee tweeted.

“We proudly celebrate Florida Lineworker Appreciation Day today in honor of the skilled and brave men and women across Florida who work with thousands of volts of electricity atop power poles and lines to deliver safe and reliable power,” Tampa Electric tweeted.

Granting access

Thirty college and university students received $96,000 in scholarships to increase access to higher education for underserved students.

Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida and the Florida Independent College Fund helped distribute those scholarships on behalf of the Council of Independent Colleges and UPS Educational Endowment. CIC helped fund $1.4 million in scholarships nationwide.

“Florida’s independent colleges and universities are engines of opportunity for Floridians,” said ICUF President and CEO Bob Boyd. “That’s why ICUF strives to equip students with the assistance they need to receive an education that best suits their needs. We believe investing in the next generation of our workforce will ensure the Sunshine State continues to be a beacon of opportunity for generations to come.”

Bob Boyd says independent colleges are engines of opportunity for the next generation of Florida’s workforce.

This year’s round of scholarships recipients attend schools including Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Keiser University, and Saint Leo University.

Since 1985, more than 800 students in Florida have received over $2 million in UPS Scholarships. The CIC/UPS Scholarships Program has made a private college education possible for more than 21,000 low-income, first-generation, and minority students and has had a transformative impact on individuals, families, and communities across the country.

“The Council of Independent Colleges is proud to support nearly 450 low-income, first-generation, minority, and new American students in 26 states through the CIC/UPS Scholarships,” CIC President Marjorie Hass said. “Through our partnership with the Florida Independent College Fund, these scholarships help individual students pursue their education at one of Florida’s superb independent colleges and universities.”

Juvenile justice scholarship

The Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation and the Florida Prepaid College Foundation have put together $20,000 in higher education scholarships for four youth involved in the juvenile justice system.

These scholarships will provide tuition assistance to youth within the juvenile justice system who have successfully completed their Department of Juvenile Justice program. This year’s scholarship recipients include two DJJ probation youth, a student from the Hillsborough Girls Academy, and a student from the Cypress Creek Juvenile Offender Correctional Center.

The scholarships provide an opportunity for youth to further their education and covers tuition and fees at a Florida college.

The program that bears Stanley Tate’s name helps Florida students turn their lives around.

“This exciting partnership between the Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation and the Florida Prepaid College Foundation will enable youth who’ve made the commitment to turn their lives around to pursue their goal of receiving a college education,” DJJ Acting Secretary Josie Tamayo said. “With the help of the services provided in our programs and a college scholarship, these youth will continue to achieve success and thrive.”

The scholarships are a first-of-their-kind for youth involved in DJJ programs and are awarded through the Stanley Tate Project STARS Program.

“Through this partnership with the Florida Prepaid College Foundation, we can expand the career opportunities available to youth who have been served by DJJ and provide them with the knowledge and continued support they need to achieve their goals,” FJJF Chair Monesia Brown said.

Top Gunn

Former Florida Association of Nurse Anesthetists President Jose Delfin Castillo III snagged the 2021 the 21st Ira P. Gunn Award for Outstanding Professional Advocacy during the American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology’s 2021 Virtual Congress earlier this month.

The Ira P. Gunn Award was established in 2000 to recognize the accomplishments of Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists or non-CRNAs. They are involved in overcoming legislative, legal, and regulatory challenges to nurse anesthesia practice rights.

Castillo, who headed FANA from 2019 to 2020, led a robust campaign to remove supervision language from Florida legislation. Castillo was at the forefront of FANA outreach, authoring op-ed pieces, conducting media interviews, and participating in a news conference at the Capitol.

Jose Delfin Castillo III is honored for outstanding work in the field of Nurse Anesthetists.

Under his hands-on leadership, FANA was awarded the 2020 AANA Award for Excellence in State Government Relations Advocacy.

“During these active times in Florida’s Capitol, seeing the hope, motivation, and passion of every APRN in the state fueled every fiber of my being,” Castillo said. “As we continue to work toward benefiting Florida’s residents, I look forward to standing side by side with my APRN and CRNA colleagues.”

According to his nomination, as president, Castillo “[is dedicated] to protecting and advancing the CRNA profession while also inspiring others to do the same.”

Others cited his work during the COVID-19 pandemic to ready the state for ICU overload.

“Castillo worked with the Florida Department of Health to identify a ‘lead CRNA’ in each county in Florida to identify which free-standing surgery centers could be used as ICUs in the case of overload of the local hospital systems during the COVID-19 pandemic. This included ventilators on anesthesia machines training and proper transport methods,” the nomination reads.

Away from FANA, Castillo is an independent CRNA practitioner in the Naples area. He also is an assistant professor of nurse anesthesia at Texas Wesleyan University.

FAMU journalism dean

Florida A&M University has announced Mira Lowe as the next dean of FAMU’s School of Journalism & Graphic Communication.

Lowe, a veteran journalist and editor, will join FAMU on Oct. 22. She has been an assistant dean for student experiences at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications since 2019.

“I’m super excited to be joining FAMU, a leading institution of higher learning in the state and a beacon among Historically Black Colleges and Universities around the country. It’s an honor to have the opportunity to build upon its legacy of scholarship, professional preparation and cultural pride,” Lowe said. “Being SJGC dean is a chance of a lifetime to help expand its record of achievement and to play a proud part in this HBCU moment.”

Veteran journalist Mira Lowe takes the helm of FAMU’s J-school.

Previously, Lowe was an editor at CNN Digital Atlanta for five years before joining JET Magazine as editor-in-chief. She also held a senior managerial role at Ebony Magazine after working at Newsday in New York for 18 years.

Lowe is president of the Journalism and Women Symposium, a nonprofit organization serving women in journalism, from 2019 to 2021. She has also been active in the National Association of Black Journalists. The New York native earned a bachelor’s degree in radio and television at Brooklyn College.

Pubinars return

Florida State University’s College of Social Sciences and Public Policy has a lineup of three speakers set for this fall’s Policy Pub series.

The monthly public forum series brings together scholars and the general public for relaxed, interactive discussions about issues that affect everyone. This fall, the series will continue as a virtual event, beginning with Sept. 14’s “What’s over that Hill? Improving Disaster Intelligence and Decision-making,” presented by David Merrick, director of the Emergency Management and Homeland Security Program and the Center for Disaster Risk Policy.

Mackenzie Alston will be featured on the return of FSU’s virtual ‘Policy Pub.’ Image via FSU.

Assistant Professor of Economics Mackenzie Alston will present “Equal Opportunity? Discrimination in the Workplace and Marketplace” on Oct. 12. The third and final event, “Place-based Economic Development: Who Benefits?” — presented by Assistant Professor of Urban and Regional Planning Minjee Kim — will detail that economic development strategy on Nov. 9.

Merrick, whose team has worked in recent hurricanes and in Surfside’s condo collapse recovery efforts, will focus on the next generation of tools for emergency managers and how new methods and technologies are improving natural disaster preparedness, monitoring, rescue and recovery efforts.

Pub-goers are encouraged to ask questions and take part in discussions following the presentation. The virtual format makes it possible for the public to participate from the privacy of their own homes.

The public can register for this webinar free of charge at https://bit.ly/2TwmL4f. Registrants will receive a Zoom link to join the webinar at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 14.

Capitol Directions

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