During February of 1966 while the Cold War raged around the world, members of the Key West Chamber of Commerce felt there shouldn’t be one on our island. The Navy was a predominant presence at the time but largely removed from local life. The social chasm between the military and civilians was growing as two separate entities were living and working but not sharing the same community. Key members of the Chamber of Commerce, such as Frank and Phil Toppino, Joe Pinder, John Spottswood, Earl Duncan and Ed Knight, came together and formed the Military Affairs Committee (MAC) exactly fifty years ago this month.
The goal was to bridge the gap between the servicemen and the locals, build and strengthen relationships and raise awareness to the value the military could have on such a small island. And it worked.
“Key West today is recognized by the military nationwide as the most military friendly community in the USA, “ said Phil Goodman, President of the MAC. Phil is retired Army and serves as Commissioner for District II of Mosquito Control as well as USCG auxiliary.
Friday, February 26th, the top brass, both military and civilian, will gather and celebrate 50 years of working together. Looking back the MAC has helped fund and facilitate the annual Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride, Military Balls, sponsored Sigsbee Charter School, Military Day for Leadership Monroe and Southernmost Air Spectacular. Other special projects the MAC has helped assist: the new Bayview Vietnam Memorial and Veteran’s Day and Holiday Parades. And each year, the MAC honors up to 60 military personnel living in Key West for their outstanding leadership and service.
In turn, the military has contributed and supported countless hours of service to our community. The MAC created Military Volunteer Appreciation Day with the Chamber of Commerce honoring servicemen who volunteer as coaches, mentor local students, assist charities with fundraisers, oversee local marathons and shoreline clean up.
“The MAC provides the forum for continual sharing of information between the local leaders and is also the forum for recognition of the great contribution the military members and their families make to the community during their tours of duty in the Keys.” commented Jim Scholl, Key West City Manager and former Commander of NAS 2003-2006.
“All total, the military members contribute tens of thousands of hours each year.” said Phil Goodman.
MAC maintains fifty civilian members with board members who work closely with all heads of Military Command (NAS, USCG, US Army, Joint Interagency Task Force and NCO). Also, there are special membership positions for City Mayor, City Manager, President of FKCC, School Superintendent, Sheriff and Chief of police to just name a few.
Friday at Oceanside La Trattoria, MAC will celebrate their fifty years of success with two founding members, Ed Knight and Frank Toppino and other vital members of our community both military and civilian. To learn more about the MACgo to www.keywestmac.com.
“All of us who served here during our military careers feel honored to have been so positively welcomed into the Key West community and so positively supported by the community leadership member of the MAC.” Jim Scholl, Key West City Manager.