A contingent of about 75 representatives from the Florida Keys headed to Tallahassee this week. Set for Tuesday and Wednesday, Feb. 6-7, the annual Florida Keys Day meeting is geared toward sharing Keys needs and issues with state powers.
The annual event grew out of a Leadership Monroe class project in 2009, when now-state Rep. Holly Raschein was still a legislative assistant for then-Rep. Ron Saunders. The event and itinerary is organized by her office.
“We have so many important issues on the table this year, especially regarding hurricane recovery issues,” said Erin Muir of Raschein’s office. “We were a little worried that the group from the Keys wouldn’t be as large this year, but the opposite is true. People are energized.”
Upper Keys resident Sue Woltanski of Common Ground, an education advocate, is going this year, as she has the past four years. She is also currently enrolled in the Leadership Monroe class of 26.
“It’s a good way to bring Keys issues to the legislators, as well as hear what issues are important to Keys leaders,” she said. “I go because I believe education is an important issue for all communities, and that is not often a top concern represented up there.”
Florida Keys Days starts with a reception on Tuesday night, an icebreaker before a long day of presentations and meetings on Wednesday.
Muir said attendees will hear from many agencies, including the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the state’s Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, Florida Housing Finance Corporation Executive Director Harold “Trey” Price and Speaker Pro Tem Jeannette Nunez.
“Patronis’ presentation should be interesting because his office is heavily involved in insurance from the consumer’s standpoint,” Muir said. “And Nunez is the chairperson of the Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness.”
Some representatives of Keys municipalities break off from the schedule for arranged meetings with key legislators about specific issues.
Woltanski said one of the “don’t miss” events of Florida Keys Day is the courtyard party on Wednesday evening. She said the servers are often Florida State University students from the Keys, and local musicians also play.
“It’s a really Keys vibe. The party is a great place to lobby because it reminds everybody what the Keys is all about,” she said. “Plus, the free food is really good and everyone turns out.”