Mike Forster takes to the podium during a debate among candidates for the board of county commissioner’s District 5 seat in fall 2020. WEEKLY FILE PHOTO

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis directed the lowering of flags to half-staff to honor Monroe County Commissioner and former Islamorada Councilman Mike Forster, who passed away following a battle with COVID-19. Meanwhile, DeSantis’ office continue to receive applicants for Forster’s seat on the commission. 

A memorandum was issued last week to Monroe County Mayor Michelle Coldiron, Islamorada Mayor Buddy Pinder and Florida Real Estate Development and Management Director Tom Berger. DeSantis’ memo directed U.S. and state of Florida flags to be flown at half-staff at the Murray Nelson Government Center in Key Largo and the Islamorada Administrative Center and Public Safety Headquarters from sunrise to sunset on Sept. 17. 

Forster served the village of Islamorada for 12 years, serving twice as mayor and twice as vice mayor. He was elected to the Monroe County Board of County Commissioners in November 2020.

“Forster was well-known in the Florida Keys as an owner and operator of Mangrove Mike’s Cafe and Catering, established in 1998. Forster will be remembered for his passion for the Keys’ environment and people,” the memorandum read. 

DeSantis will need to appoint someone into Forster’s seat through 2022. An election would then take place for the District 5 seat, which represents Key Largo and Tavernier. While a timetable for a decision remains unknown, those interested in serving can now apply. Former State Rep. Holly Raschein submitted her application to the governor’s office last week

And so did Tony Allen, owner of Allen-Beyer Funeral Home and chairman of the Key Largo Fire and EMS District, who publicly announced his application submission to the governor’s office for Forster’s seat. Allen told the Weekly he wanted to run for county commissioner years ago. He said former Commissioner Sylvia Murphy and he talked about it for years. 

“When I found out Mike was running, I just kind of felt he was the better person for the job, so I didn’t want to interfere with that. I didn’t see any point in running against Mike,” he said. “Unfortunately, Mike is gone now. I thought he was doing a great job, and I’m throwing my hat in the ring because I know the job. I’m already doing similar stuff for the fire district, and I wanted the opportunity to continue what he started, giving Key Largo and Tavernier a voice.”

Rhonda Rebman Lopez recently sent her application to DeSantis’ office for consideration. A former candidate for state representative, Rebman Lopez said she’s passionate about the community and has the time to serve the people. 

“I think the county commissioners are trying hard, but I definitely think there’s room for improvement,” she said. “We need some fresh blood with some fresher perspective to bring in new ideas.”

Rebman Lopez added that she’s looking to run for election to Forster’s remaining two years of office. Allen said he’d run for election, if he’s appointed by DeSantis and the residents like the job he’s doing. 

Jim McCarthy is a Western New Yorkers who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 3-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, mixed martial arts and golf. He loves to hit the links and play some softball with his Make A Play team. He also enjoys time with family and his new baby boy, Lucas, who arrived Oct. 4, 2022.