She just wanted to go to Cuba, in fact had planned the trip with her mother before she passed. But as things happen, life happens, Christine Latronico’s mother was gone before they could make the trip to mom’s homeland. Then two things happened simultaneously — a friend told her about a group trip to Cuba sponsored by League of Women Voters, and she received a small inheritance.
“It just seemed like it was meant to be,” Latronico said.
Latronico was completely upfront and apologetic with the other members of the League at the very first meeting she attended in the Upper Keys. This was just about the trip. But as civic life happens in the Keys, before she knew it, she was elected secretary. Then president and secretary.
“I found these women — Catherine Bosworth and Carol Betts-Keller — to be very refined, very gracious women,” she said, smiling, “women that I wanted to emulate.”
In 2015 she assumed the presidency of the Upper Keys League of Women Voters (while retaining club secretary duties) and continues to this day. In five years, the club has increased its membership by more than 50 percent, to about 20 regular members, and increased its community outreach by organizing solar programs and inviting speakers to its meetings.
Full name: Christine Latronico. My friends call me Chris.
When did you come to the Keys? In 1974. My late husband fished here in the ’60s and was a commodities driver. We moved down here with a fully assembled aluminum shed and a 17-foot boat in the back of the trailer. It was like the covered wagon of the 20th Century. I think there were about 3,000 people here back then. It felt like I was a pioneer.
How much time do you spend on League business? Mmmm. About one day a week. More than that to prepare for a meeting. Maybe 10 days a month.
What other clubs do you belong to? I am also the secretary for the Historical Preservation Society of the Upper Keys and a literacy volunteer. In January I am going to help a couple study for their citizenship test. Believe it or not, everybody should study for that test. We all know something about it, but not everything. This is a wonderful country and we should be grateful.
What are your thoughts going into the primary? As a league officer, I can’t talk about specific candidates. But I would like to see a lot of working together across the aisle and a focus on education. I know how good schools can be with dynamic principals and good leadership.
What issues are important to you? Well, the League has worked hard on Amendment 4 which would restore felons’ voting rights. While Florida has a process to do that, you need to look at Gov. Scott’s record — only a minuscule amount of the thousands that have applied have had their rights restored. It can take up to 15 years. Florida’s law has already been ruled unconstitutional this year by a judge because of the enormous delays. The League is also challenging Amendment 8, which would allow schools in a district with no local control.
What happens when you don’t agree with a League of Women Voters position? Honestly, I haven’t run into that. But the League has something like 20 issues they are working on at a time. There’s always something to be passionate about, and an issue to become involved in.
What is the local club doing? Well, we just participated in a solar energy cooperative initiative. We held three meetings for homeowners associations and about 250 people attended. I think about 20 homeowners are signing contracts to have solar energy installed.
If you could have any super-power, what would it be? I would be Wonder Woman, she puts her bracelets up and can stop anybody.
You’re sitting at a diner … someone walks in and sits down next to you. Who is it and what are you eating? Susan B. Anthony and breakfast.
What did you think you were going to be when you grew up? I thought I would join the Navy and become a doctor until my mother pointed out that all of my patients would be men. That didn’t sound so good to me. Instead, I got married at 18 and spent 35 years at Key Largo School in the front office. I did registration, bookkeeping and was office manager over the years. It was a very nurturing place. I also have worked part-time at the Shell World since the ’80s.
What were the last three books you read? Well, I belong to three book clubs and a Shakespeare reading group. Recently, I’ve read “Hillbilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance, “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt, and “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah.
My friends and family would call me … the alpha woman. I am the oldest of seven daughters and always ran the show. I just thought that was the way it was!
Do you have a life motto? Well, I don’t think that mistakes are always bad things. You can learn from them. Edward Caputo, a former principal at Key Largo School, said, “When you prune a tree, it comes back twice as full.”