A community continues to grieve following the loss of Mike Forster from a weeks-long battle with COVID-19. His passing on the morning of Sept. 6 remains fresh and in the hearts of many, as social media posts remember his community spirit. 

As the healing continues, the process begins for Gov. Ron DeSantis’ to decide who will fill Forster’s county commission seat for the remainder of the term through November 2022. While a timetable for a decision remains unknown, those interested in serving can now apply. One of the people applying for the seat, which represents Key Largo and Tavernier, is former state representative for the Florida Keys, Holly Merrill Raschein. 

Serving on the Keys’ behalf for eight years in Tallahassee, Raschein is no stranger to the political scene and the issues facing the island chain. Last December, she started her new job with AshBritt Environmental as director of governmental relations. And she remains an active community member in the Keys, with service on the Monroe County Education Foundation’s board of directors, Key Largo Rotary Club and Young Philanthropists of Baptist Health, to name a few.

Raschein said she’s known Forster since her early days in politics as a legislative aide. Forster’s public service began in the early 2000s as an Islamorada Local Planning Agency member. He would then serve five terms, or 12 years, as an Islamorada council member before going on to become a county commissioner in November 2020. 

Raschein submitted her application to the governor’s office to serve Forster’s remaining term on Monday morning. 

“I wish I did not have the opportunity to serve as the governor’s appointee to the Monroe County Board of County Commissioners. I wish Mike Forster were still alive; that COVID had not taken him too soon as it has taken far too many,” she said. “He was doing an outstanding job, and I will never take his place. 

“However, I would like to believe that out of this tragedy, I can continue his legacy by leveraging my two decades of service to the Florida Keys. I know our people, our issues, our past and our potential. If given the opportunity, I will work tirelessly to make Mike proud,” she continued. 

Raschein added that serving in office has been a big part of her life, so much that she missed it. And she said her base is the Upper Keys, a place she’s built her life around. 

“It’s something that I actually know how to do,” she said. “I know the issues, obviously, and I know most if not all the players. And it’s in my backyard.”

Monroe County Mayor Michelle Coldiron and current state Rep. Jim Mooney are among the elected officials who sent recommendation letters for Raschein to the governor’s office. 

“Commissioner Forster and former Rep. Raschein not only collaborated on many unique issues within the Florida Keys — they were friends who supported each other, and it is my belief that Commissioner Forster would be comforted to see Holly as his replacement,” Coldiron wrote. 

Former state Rep. Holly Raschein speaks with Monroe County Commissioner David Rice during a Mote Marine Laboratory event in Islamorada in May. JIM McCARTHY/Keys Weekly

As the governor’s decision looms, the Monroe County Board of County Commissioners will gather for a regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 15 at the Murray Nelson Government Center in Key Largo. 

“I know Mike would appreciate it and would support it,” Raschein said following her decision to submit her name to the governor for consideration. Forster deferred to me before he even ran (for county commission).

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Jim McCarthy believes in community reporting, giving back and life on the water. A workout fanatic, diver and a bogey-golfer, Jim loves chicken wings, Marvel movies and sports.