Last Tuesday evening, Building A on the campus of the Florida Keys Community College was filled not only with staff, administration, and the Board of Trustees, but also with emotions, accolades and accusations. When Dr. Susan Ford Hammaker took the podium, she referred to her own dealings with life in the public eye and said, “I have thick skin.”

We can use this space however we want. Editorials are simply opinions. We can applaud, moan, or offer just few of our cents. None of which appeals to me. I prefer to use it to inspire.

I’m not going to focus on the content of the meeting like “who said what,” or the scandalous, juicy details that make tabloids so popular. Because this is a small town and I enjoy sleeping well at night. In addition, I’m heeding the advice given to me by Key West Vice Mayor Mark Rossi: Just remember. Whatever you say and do, you might have to come face to face with the issue in the grocery store aisle. If you feel like you could face it there, then have it out. Otherwise, be diplomatic.

Back to Dr. Hammaker’s remark, growing as a professional, I heard the phrase on a daily basis.

“You better grow a thick skin,” they say on a daily basis.

I have learned from a decade of cutthroat experience that growing thick skin when faced with controversial issue elevates the status of any business or individual.

Yes, I’ve feared for my own life in some professional arenas. I’ve watched colleagues pack up their desks, new teams brought in, billboards torn down, general managers return to Kansas and Vice Presidents abandon their posts without severance.

All because an environment could be, described by some, as “hostile.” I disliked some of my co-workers, and some loathed me. Others are my best friends and trusted colleagues for life.

Turbulence in the workplace simply isn’t uncommon.

Making money or achieving success is not easy; otherwise, everyone would be on permanent vacation or enjoying a 35’ Contender with triple Mercury 300s.

Being at the top will always place a giant “X” on your back – from the President of the United States to the Bureau Chief of a locally owned (and influential!) newspaper.

If you think it’s true only in your workplace, hop on a boat with Captain Spencer Slate, the new chairman of the Board of Trustees for FKCC. Watch the frenzy surrounding his boat.

Ride up to Miami and sit around a newsroom after the 6 o’clock news airs.

Everyone wants to be at the top, but being reprimanded is a slam to the ego.

Thick skins are one workplace wardrobe essential, which separates the professionals from the amateurs and should be worn by everyone from custodians and dishwashers to CFOs and Art Directors. If there is one lesson to be learned repeatedly, especially in the Keys, is that small town politics is a tough racket. Let’s remain civilized. As my mentor used to tell me, “I’m going to save you from yourself.”
Josie Koler is the Bureau Chief for The Key West Weekly. You can send your thoughts by emailing her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


Kim Bassett, CEO of Fishermen’s Hospital in Marathon assumes the new role of Vice Chairwoman at FKCC. Captain Spencer Slate, owner of Captain Slate’s Atlantis Dive Center is the new Chairman of the college’s Board of Trustees.



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