Working on my fabulous politics and spring break smash-up feature, I did some cyber-surfing and found some anonymous comments regarding our Chamber of Commerce and the cleanliness of Duval Street. We’re not going to re-hash the details of what was said, the name of the website, or the specific tab to click on to read the comments.

On this two by four mile wide island such a task is unnecessary and I don’t spout off just because we have tons of paper and barrels of ink. Plus, I haven’t been through a real hurricane yet.

Which leads me to my next point.

My family’s business was member of the Key West Chamber of Commerce before I moved here and I am appalled by the deplorable ravings posted online in this community about the entity. The chamber works for the community and the businesses of Key West.

Chamber dues pay for themselves three-times over in any given week and the networking opportunities are endless.

At the last Business After Hours hosted at the Blue Bar at Marriott Beachside, Kelly Rabe, the affable new General Manager for our Greene Street Divers Direct, asked me, “So, do you know anyone here?”

“Oh, yeah,” I replied confidently!

A member receives from our chamber what they put into the group. One has to use the chamber in the same fashion as you would a college fraternity or sorority. The structure is in place, the onus is up to the member to establish their own relationships, attend events, and practice sound business philosophies.

When I am told by youngsters, “I’m going to the Miami University Business School,” I laugh out loud and think, “You don’t need to spend $120,000 for an education in business – just pay close attention to those who found success in Key West.” 

My MBA professors are Virginia Panico, Diane Gibson, Richard Toppino, Don Lanman, Bascom Grooms, Jack Niles, Esther Tupino, Greg Sullivan, and our Vice Mayor Mark Rossi. These business leaders are accessible and willing to share ideas with anyone who shows enthusiasm about this community.

Especially, Executive Director Virginia Panico. She has told me numerous times, “Any time, Josie just pop in, I’ll make time for you.”

She’s a pro. She’s a businesswoman. She isn’t running a daycare, and she doesn’t have time for amateurs. Some cyber-numbskulls who are still living in their parents’ illegal, downstairs enclosures and playing Advanced Dungeons and Dragons find that offensive.

She and her staff work diligently to make our island appealing to the entire globe, while at the same time helping out those wishing to live and work in Key West. They have been nothing but helpful and welcoming to The Weekly Newspapers.

The lashings that spill out onto web pages leave a salty taste in my mouth. My suggestion, get over it, get involved. Anonymously spouting off about someone you probably don’t even know is similar to stoning someone in the village square. Would you participate in such violent behavior? That’s what your criticism sure seems to emulate.

I am Josie Koler and this is my editorial!



Membership and Special Events Coordinator Kerry Baker, Executive V.P. Virginia Panico, and 2010 President First State Bank’s Diane Gibson at the Chamber Installation and Awards Banquet. Photo by Jason Koler.



Josie Koler is the Key West Bureau Chief for The Weekly Newspapers, the island’s only family owned and operated news source in the Florida Keys.



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