It’s the bicentennial, charter county talk and the budget in Monroe County

Holly Merrill Raschein, Mayor Pro Tem for Monroe County, joined Good Moring Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s been going on in the county.

The 200th anniversary of the founding of Monroe County was held on July 3, where a world record was broken for the largest key lime pie.

Raschein said, “It was such a neat celebration. There’s not another community that can say that they celebrated their 200th Bicentennial with the world’s largest key lime pie. We’re one of a kind all the time, but particularly on Monday. It was our day to shine. It was it was just such a neat event. Tons of people turned out from all over the Keys. A huge shout out to the Boy Scouts. They helped us put the pie together. Can you imagine trying to put together an over 13 foot pie? God bless the Boy Scouts. I couldn’t have a more proud moment. Shout out to our parks and beaches division and to all my colleagues on the commission. It was neat that we could get all of us together. Then of course we pivoted to our nation’s birthday.”

Everyone was able to celebrate the bicentennial.

Raschein said, “We wanted to make sure that every family, every person, every resident, every visitor had a chance to celebrate. So the format was just excellent and I’m sad that it’s over, to be honest. But 2023, we still have some days left, and we can keep the celebration going.”

The Florida Association for Counties had their annual conference recently and a lot of information was discussed.

Raschein said, “We’ve got 67 counties, and I want to say just about all of them, there might have been one or two that couldn’t participate, attended. It’s a chance to network, it’s a chance to learn. It’s a chance to educate our peers and our colleagues. The counties are an important part of the governing of our state. Each county is very different. Certainly, Monroe County. They actually love to hear from the people from the Keys, from Monroe County. They know that we’re there, due to our hard work. We’re innovative. We have to be creative about how we solve challenges in our community. So we’re typically part of panels and workshops, we certainly take advantage of the networking opportunities that are available during the three days, and we share. We also learn from other communities, especially coastal communities or communities that are facing similar issues to ours. Traffic, housing, resiliency, environmental water quality, you name it, we’re not alone out there. But we are sometimes very, very unique in how we deal with our challenges. It makes me so proud to be from Monroe County when I attend events like this, because we are superstar. I think that that is that’s recognized in the eyes of our colleagues in other counties.”

Some items discussed included a legislative wrap up as well as campaign ideas.

Raschein explained, “How to run an efficient and consistent campaign, how to message. That’s part of being a public official. You’ve got to make sure you get out there and work. One of my favorite parts was listening to former Governor Jeb Bush. He was the first governor that I had the opportunity to work under and I just think he’s an incredible public servant. His Spirit just sort of resonates through the entire hall. He was our keynote speaker and he was with us for like 45 minutes. It was just really a rewarding experience.”

Considering a charter county for Monroe County was also in the back of people’s minds.

Raschein said they had a “cheat sheet of counties that are current charter counties, counties that have considered being a charter county in the past, some that have tried and have been successful, some that have tried and been unsuccessful. So we were able to reach out on a one on one basis to ask those questions. It was very eye opening. I think the big takeaway was that if this is something that we’re really going to move forward with, without the buy in, from our constituency, from our voters, from the residents, there’s just no way that that’s possible. I’m certainly not going to fight a losing battle. So the big takeaway was let’s get some help here. Let’s get out. Let’s reach out into the community and let’s figure this out. So we’ll be able to take the temperature. I want to assure people, this is not the boogey man. This is not a scam. This is going to be transparent and open and if it’s going to be beneficial for our community, and people believe that, then we move forward. It’s not that we don’t.”

Plans for the upcoming budget have just begun.

Raschein said, “I think this is the initial stages when we start having our budget hearings, up and down the Keys to make sure everybody, public and nonprofits and business community and homeowners associations, whoever wants to come out and listen to how we’re planning on moving forward with the budget. This is the opportunity. We’ve also heard from different agencies, like our county courts, the sheriff, other departments that utilize county dollars have come to us and laid out their priorities. Right now, our finance director and her team are whittling out those numbers because obviously we never operate at a deficit. We’re always above board. We are looking at I think a relatively robust year.”

A big budget topic are the helicopters that the Sheriff’s Department will need.

Raschein said, “And rightfully so. It’s the, I think, the busiest air ambulance program in Florida, if not the southeast. That is something that’s a life saving service that we need to remain committed to and make sure that it’s in tip top shape. So that’s a huge ticket item.”

Trauma Star is a free service for residents in Monroe County.

Raschein said, “Yes. And that 45 minutes or that golden hour can make a difference in somebody’s life and recovery. I encourage folks to take a look (at the budget).”