Palm Beach Civic Association President submitted his Annual Report during the 2016 Annual Meeting. See below:
Palm Beach Civic Association President’s Report
Quite possibly, this was the best year ever for the Palm Beach Civic Association. Without doubt, we were more active, more engaged, and more relevant than ever before.
There was positive energy in our many activities. Events sold out as Civic Association members and friends turned out in record numbers. Programs like our Visionary Leaders Breakfast with Steve Ross were oversubscribed before formal invitations were sent. An enthusiastic upbeat crowd of more than 300 gathered for Mayor Gail Coniglio’s State of Palm Beach address at the Civic Association’s Annual Meeting and a champagne and mimosa reception in the Flagler Museum’s Grand Hall.
In December, more than 430 members celebrated the season at the Civic Association’s festive Holiday Party at the Breakers. This annual event has become wildly popular with residents who gather to greet their neighbors and friends.
Civic Association Director Wilbur Ross and his wife, Hilary, graciously opened their beautiful home in January for a special reception for Civic Association directors and major donors. More than 130 joined the party.
In December, Civic Association directors met for lunch with West Palm Beach Mayor Jerry Muoio who unveiled dramatic development plans for her city. Many who attended expressed concern that a building boom in our neighboring city would create unwanted congestion and traffic flow problems for Palm Beach.
In another meeting, directors heard from Town Council President Michael Pucillo on recruitment and retention in the police and fire-rescue departments, and Underground Utilities Task Force Chairman Jeff Smith.
This year, the Civic Association enjoyed the support of three major partners:
- The Everglades Foundation, a highly-respected, internationally-known organization dedicated to protecting and restoring the Florida Everglades.
- Good Samaritan Medical Center, an award-winning medical complex offering high level care to Palm Beachers.
- Scripps Florida, a world-renowned, bio-medical research center highly regarded for its life-changing contributions to science and health.
These worthy organizations expanded Civic Association horizons as members were treated to a VIP airboat tour of the Florida Everglades and behind-the-scenes looks at Good Samaritan and the Scripps research labs. Meanwhile, the Civic Association hosted special receptions for the new Scripps chairman at The Colony and for Everglades Foundation leaders at the Sailfish Club. And, Civic Association Director Michele Kessler graciously opened her beautiful home for a women’s luncheon featuring Good Samaritan’s medical staff.
In March, Civic Association Chairman and CEO Bob Wright was the keynote speaker at the association’s sixth annual Awards Luncheon at The Breakers. The event sold out as more than 300 members and friends gathered to hear Bob discuss his life experiences as head of NBC Universal and Autism Speaks co-founder, along with his wife, Suzanne. Members who attended received copies of Bob’s book, The Wright Stuff, compliments of First Republic Bank.
At the luncheon, the Civic Association Community Service Award in memory of former director Bill Brooks was presented to David Mack for his dedication to Palm Beach and his positive impact on the town. A VIP dinner in Bob Wright’s honor was held for the seventy-five Awards Luncheon underwriters at Michele and Howard Kessler’s beautiful home with the Kessler’s hosting and underwriting the exceptional evening.
This year, a popular Civic Association series called “Our Visionary Leaders” featured directors E. Llwyd Ecclestone, who discussed the history of Palm Beach, and Stephen M. Ross who spoke about his career in development and his role as owner of the Miami Dolphins football team. Other sold out events included a members-only tour and luncheon at the Ann Norton Sculpture Garden.
This season, the Civic Association partnered with Palm Beach Walks to raise funds for new palm trees along North County Road. The organization contributed to the Town Square project, joined with the Citizens Association to underwrite a scholarship for the child of a town employee, and helped fund the town’s “Employee of the Year” award.
Concerned about recruitment and retention in the police and fire-rescue departments, the Civic Association joined with the Police Foundation to underwrite a comprehensive compensation study for public safety employees. A nationally recognized research firm was retained to survey other communities on a wide variety of compensation issues such as salaries and pensions, and a final report was presented to the town.
In response to a proposal to raise the sales tax to fund county and school board infrastructure projects, as well as cultural and economic develop needs, Civic Association representatives met with county commissioners and the county administrator individually to express our concerns about the plan. Civic Association director Jack Borland spoke on our behalf at the county commission hearing.
The Civic Association played a key role in the successful underground utilities referendum in March:
- The association’s Undergrounding Committee sponsored two community forums on the issue and a walking tour to help residents get their questions answered.
- A special information page was created on the Civic Association web site.
- The Executive Committee appropriated funds to support both an educational and an advocacy campaign.
- A political action committee was formed with Llwyd Ecclestone as chairman and Jerry Frank as treasurer.
- The group retained an expert consultant and joined with other advocacy groups to mount a comprehensive town wide campaign that helped secure the necessary votes to move the project forward.
The Civic Association hosted Save Our Inlet Coalition meetings in 2015-2016. US Representative Lois Frankel and Palm Beach Mayor Gail Coniglio joined the group in expressing their concerns about Port and Inlet expansion. Our consultant, former county commissioner Karen Marcus, provided invaluable service with her vast knowledge of Palm Beach County government and Port of Palm Beach dynamics.
Civic Association committees played an active role in 2015-2016:
- Our Public Relations Committee, chaired by director Brian McIver, designed a series of full page color ads on the theme, “Working Together Works.” The campaign detailed the association’s role in key issues like Port expansion, the North Bridge, and shore protection.
- Our Beautification Committee, chaired by director Isabel Furlaud, supported the undergrounding referendum, backed the North County Road Tree Initiative and selected the Town Square Park and fountain for the 2016 beautification award.
- Our West Palm Beach Committee met with Civic Association members who live in West Palm Beach to discuss their concerns about excessive growth and traffic gridlock.
- Our Medical Care Committee, chaired by director Jeffrey Levitt, served as a liaison for Civic Association partners Scripps and Good Samaritan, meeting with representatives of both organizations and sponsoring tours of their facilities.
- Our Water Committee, chaired by director Harvey L. Poppel, continued to encourage the use of smart irrigation systems and help the town adopt water conservation regulations.
- Our Palm Beach County Committee, chaired by director Jack Borland, met one-on-one with each of the County Commissioners and the County Administrator to discuss the county budget.
- Our Tax and Finance Committee, chaired by treasurer Pat Cooper, reviewed the town’s budget and supported the town’s effort to address public safety compensation issues.
- Our Port Committee, chaired by director Robert Holuba, supported the efforts of the Save Our Inlet Coalition.
- Our Public Safety Committee, chaired by director David Duffy, called for a study of the police and fire-rescue departments to address public safety compensation concerns.
- Our Transportation Committee, chaired by director James Weiner, met with town staff to discuss parking and traffic flow issues.
- Our Underground Utilities Committee, chaired by director Jerry Frank, supported the campaign to secure funding for the town’s undergrounding program.
In 2015-2016, Civic Association staff—Susan Keenan, Mike Brown, Susi Trenery, and Karen Woodson—went above and beyond the call of duty in serving the needs of our lively community organization. They effectively produced a wide range of activities and programs, educated the public on key issues, welcomed new members, and helped residents address their individual concerns.
I would like to thank our chairman and CEO Bob Wright for his exceptional leadership, our treasurer Pat Cooper for his help in so many areas, our Executive Committee for their vision and guidance, and our directors and members for their enthusiastic support for our mission. It’s a privilege for me to join with so many exceptional people in such an important cause.