Delray Beach and Boca Raton News and Insight

We've got our fingers firmly on the pulse of everything that is Delray-Boca.

And while we're not out to replace the local news media, we think you'll agree we have a very unique perspective to offer on some of the most important stories that affect current and future local residents.

Subscribe to our updates so you never miss a thing in Delray-Boca. Have a tip? Send it to us here.

Mingling With Some Mayors

Lots of stories inside this building.

Recently, six Delray Beach mayors had lunch with the new class of Leadership Delray at the Delray Beach Golf Club.

The mayors spent 90 minutes sharing, listening and answering questions from the next generation of local leaders. It was a lot of fun.

Leadership Delray is a program of the Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce.

I graduated many moons ago and the program has included future commissioners, mayors, business, city and non-profit leaders. It’s a good program. And an important one because we desperately need leadership in our community.

The mayors brought a perspective from 1990 to the present, but since all were active in local affairs before being elected, the history represented really dates to the late 1960s and early 70s.

Considering the city is still young–the town was incorporated in October 1911—so covering 50 plus years of local history is pretty significant.

Which means we were here for the tumultuous 80s—which was marked by political division, crime and drugs —but also by great vision and the establishment of important institutions such as the CRA and Old School Square.

Tom Lynch and Jay Alperin, who led our city through the Decade of Excellence, were in the room to tell the Leadership class about their triumphs and struggles as they beautified the downtown, laying the ground work for the renaissance that came as a result of a lot of hard work and immense public investment.

David Schmidt and I were there to share stories about the Downtown Master Plan, the move of Atlantic High School, the rezoning of Congress Avenue and our desire to improve schools and race relations.

More recent history was covered by Tom Carney and our current Mayor Shelly Petrolia.

Tom Lynch and I were seated together at a table with an engaging group of emerging leaders who worked for the city, CRA and Police Department. Many were fairly new to Delray but they asked really great questions.

I think the mayors who attended would agree that it is important to share local history and the context that informed certain key decisions.

It’s also important to listen to the views of emerging leaders and so we asked our lunch table for one word that they felt was essential for successful leadership. We heard words like integrity, courage, commitment and compassion. Those words sum it up.

As we ended the lunch, I was sad to see the Leadership Delray class go and the mayors—my predecessors and successors— scatter back to their lives.

I think that history can be used as an educational and community building tool.

We don’t have to look far for a great example: Boca.

The same week the Delray mayors gathered, the Downtown Boca Raton Rotary Club held its 5th annual “Mayors Ball.”

Here’s how the Boca Rotary describes the event.

“The Boca Raton Mayors Ball is the one of the signature annual fundraising events of the Rotary Club Downtown Boca Raton. This enchanting black-tie event celebrates all that is great about Boca Raton. Through our partnership with the Boca Raton Historical Society we highlight the storied history of our favorite Florida small town. Each year at the Mayors Ball we present the George Long Awards to individuals and institutions that have gone above and beyond to make Boca Raton the greatest place to live, work and play.

 Proceeds from the Boca Raton Mayors Ball are directed to local nonprofits focused on health and wellness initiatives through our “Service Above Self” grant program. “

I’m told that the event raises six figures for charity. Six figures!

I know Delray has the need. Maybe, we ought to do our own event and support Delray charities.

Twice before, Delray Mayors past and present gathered for an evening to raise money for the Delray Public Library and the Delray Beach Historical Society. These “Mingle With the Mayors” events were staged kind of the like the TV show “Inside the Actor’s Studio” allowing audience members to ask questions. They were fun events and well attended.

The concept doesn’t have to be limited to mayors—but could include evenings with locals who can provide a historical perspective on past and current issues.

These are bonding and educational opportunities. These types of celebrations build community—which is never a bad thing.

 

 

 

Things We Loved in November

Marie Horenburger was a Delray city commissioner, Tri-Rail board member and former Boynton CRA commissioner.

Things we loved in November 
Well it was a busy month and this month will only be busier. We wish everyone a happy and safe holiday season…
Good to see former 32 East and Tryst chef John Thomas resurface at a new restaurant in West Palm Beach.
While he will be missed in Delray, it looks like his latest concept Sassafras, which features southern cuisine has great potential.
It’s the latest offering from the always interesting Sub Culture Group and is located on Narcisssus Avenue.
Sassafras also features sous chefs who have worked at Dada, Farmer’s Table and 32 East. 
The first and hopefully annual 65 Roses on the Avenue event to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation was a smashing success.
The event was held at the Old School Square Fieldhouse and featured catering by Jimmy’s Bistro.
I’m proud to note that our companies; CDS International Holdings and Celsius were presenting sponsors.
The event was an eye opener about a disease that affects tens of thousands of people. Researchers recently made a major breakthrough which is validation that support of the foundation’s efforts makes a big difference.
Kudos to the Delray Chamber of Commerce for featuring western businesses.
The 2019 West Delray Business Expo held in November at the Big Apple Shopping Bazaar is an important step as the chamber has long sought to include and represent businesses in the greater Delray area. Bravo.
Welcome aboard Shannon Eadon.
Eadon took the reigns as the new CEO of Old School Square after a successful stint as Development Director at the Bergen Performing Arts Center.
OSS has been without a CEO since May 2018 when Rob Steele resigned.
We’re looking forward to seeing Ms. Eadon take Old School Square to new heights.
Congratulations to Joe Hart on his retirement after 30 terrific years as a Delray Beach Police Officer.
Joe has made a tremendous difference in our community and will be missed. Just a nice guy and a super cop. We wish him well on his future endeavors.

Congratulations to Ron Tarro for being awarded Maverick Mentor of the year at FAU Tech Runway, a startup incubator in Boca Raton.

Ron is a tech veteran, Delray resident and all around nice guy.

We continue to be impressed with Elisabetta’s.
We celebrated several birthdays there this month. Excellent service, great food and the atmosphere can’t be beat.
Congratulations to the three newest members of Boca’s Walk of Fame. 
Philanthropist Arthur Adler, former Fire Chief Kerry Koen (who also served as Delray’s Chief) and Florida Atlantic University which was represented by President John Kelly are the newest honorees.
There are now 81 members of the Walk of Fame which is truly a terrific idea.
We were terribly saddened to learn about the passing of former City Commissioner Marie Horenberger.
Marie was a bright light, always so friendly and positive.
She was deeply interested in local government and was a fixture at the Palm Beach County League of Cities. She was deeply involved in both Delray and Boynton Beach serving on that city’s CRA.
She was also a lobbyist with a gentle touch. A kind woman who always asked about your children and family. Regardless of what was going on in her world she always found something positive to focus on.
We will miss her smile and kindness.
We were also touched by the loss of a special young man that we learned about. Here’s the story from a gofundme campaign set up in his memory.
“On Wednesday, November 13th at around 7 am the world lost a truly special soul. Rodney Cox Jr. passed away just feet away from his bus stop as he was on his way to school. Before he could make it, he was tragically struck and killed by the Brightline Train. We will miss his joyful spirit and his contagious smile will remain in our hearts forever.

To show our Love for Rodney and his family Directors from 505 Teen Center, EJS Project and Milagro Teen Center came together to create this GoFundMe to assist with expenses while allowing the family the opportunity to support each other during this difficult time.

Rodney was such a talented and kind young man with an infectious positive attitude towards life. His family held a candlelight vigil and a large crowd showed up to pay tribute to his life and to support his loved ones. There were so many great memories shared about the type of person Rodney was and the lifelong impressions’ he left during his short time here in the physical.

Rodney aka @foreign.rich3 (his artist name) was an extremely talented artist with a gift of turning his lived experiences into stories through his music. He always talked of being a star one day to share these stories but most importantly he wanted to “Take care of my family, we are going to be Rich one day”. To know him was to believe him because he put in the work and stayed committed toimproving his craft.

Even though we all mourn during this difficult time we must reflect on his memory and smile because that’s is exactly what he would have wanted!

Amen…
We finally went up on the roof, with a visit to the rooftop bar at the new Courtyard Marriott on US 1 just south of Atlantic Avenue.
The rooftop features a great happy hour from 4-7, picturesque views looking west, fire pits and friendly bartenders.
Really cool addition and they make great margaritas.
Dishes We Dig
We remain fans of the pecan crusted chicken at Sazio. It has been too long.
Love the southern chicken sandwich at Granger’s, which is fast becoming my go-to place. Great food, wonderful service, easy parking and fair prices. Bravo.
Three vegetarians and three carnivores walked into Harvest…
Sounds like the beginning of a joke but it’s a true story and all six of us came away happy with our meals.
Harvest on Linton and US 1 remains a really great and healthy dining option for palates of all persuasions.
We enjoyed an amazing Thanksgiving at the wonderful La Cigale.
Great food, attentive service and a wonderful ambience made for a terrific holiday. P.S. There is no better biscotti in all the land.
We also recommend Baciami in Boynton Beach.
The Italian restaurant is owned by a Delray family and features a large menu, great service and ridiculously good cannoli cheesecake. Just a fabulous experience.
We also dined with friends at City Oyster and enjoyed the ambience of the avenue a few steps away not to mention some really great food. It’s good to rediscover a long time favorite.
Have a great December and thanks for reading.

The Arts Garage: Fulfilling Its Vast Promise

Unique experiences such as a reading and “playwright talk back” distinguish Delray’s Arts Garage.

When Marjorie Waldo took the reigns of The Arts Garage three years ago the organization was in crisis.

While The Arts Garage had earned a lot of applause  for its edgy programming and for presenting a wide range of jazz and blues artists in an intimate setting, the organization had become a political lightning rod with messy finances.
Enter Ms. Waldo.

Thanks to her leadership, a stellar board of directors and a dedicated corps of volunteers today the Arts Garage is on solid footing and is no longer a political punching bag.

When Ms. Waldo, a former school administrator, came aboard one of the initial “fixes” was to cancel  the theater season, a necessary financial decision but not an easy one for someone who has a degree in theater from the University of Virginia and is passionate about the magic of the stage.

So I was intrigued when I saw tickets go on sale for “The Monroe Doctrine”, a new play by Mark Scharf (remember that name) a celebrated American playwright.
Was theater making a comeback at the Arts Garage?
Yes, but in a wise move, the Arts Garage will dip it’s toes back into the theater world in a measured and financially sustainable way.

“The Monroe Doctrine” was a play reading, featuring a very talented cast of local actors. It was not a full fledged production with sets, producers, a full run etc.
The reading was a great success. The play is wonderful, the audience was engaged and the playwright was there to answer questions and share insights. In short, it was a unique experience. Intimate, unique and special.
This is how theater could work at the Arts Garage.

Perhaps readings, new works, playwright “talk backs” and opportunities to talk to the cast is the formula for success.

The Arts Garage has a wonderful “black box” theater nd there is clearly an audience for smart plays and readings.

So keep your eye on The Arts Garage. The organization remains an important player in Delray’s arts and cultural scene.

Many of the people in the audience were acting students at the Arts Garage which was a cool footnote. (I always wanted to act, but I have a face for radio).
After all the turmoil and tumult, it’s heartening to see The Arts Garage emerge on sound footing and firmly focused on the mission with an engaged leader who clearly loves her job.

Ms. Waldo is a former school administrator, I got to know her when she ran the Youth Enrichment Vocational Center, an innovative charter school founded by two close friends from the Delray Beach Police Department Johnny Pun and Fred Glass. As an educator, Marjorie has the requisite mix of warmth and passion mixed with an ability to manage what can be at times an unruly environment. It’s a great skill set to run an arts organization.

Still, while the finances have improved, this is a non-profit we are talking about. One that relies on the good graces of our Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), the city and generous patrons.

So if you’re looking for a cool and important place to invest your time and charitable dollars, you may want to consider this wonderful organization.

A Legacy & An Ecosystem

BDB President Kelly Smallridge honors Brendan, Tom and Connor Lynch for their business leadership as Plastridge Insurance celebrates its 100th year.

Eight years ago, while serving on the board of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County, I had the opportunity to co-chair a brand new task force focused on entrepreneurship in our community.

While the BDB is well-known and highly respected for its economic development efforts and its ability to recruit, retain and help businesses expand we felt there was a gap when it came to helping and celebrating local entrepreneurs. So we created a task force and held a successful event that filled the vast ballroom at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach. We clearly had tapped into something.

The task force continued on and eventually my good friend Connor Lynch, the talented and super smart CEO of Plastridge Insurance became chair. I’m proud to report that Connor, the task force and the BDB have taken the effort to a whole new level.

The recent “Entrepreneurship Luncheon” presented by JP Morgan Chase & Co., attracted a large crowd, included a hallway full of booths featuring new companies and was graphic evidence that something special is happening here. And that’s a good thing.

The entrepreneurs are here. They see Palm Beach County as fertile ground to grow their companies and they are impressed with the talent that is available in the local job market.

For sure, we aren’t Silicon Valley, Boston, New York or Austin. But we don’t have to be. We can grow something special here. Something unique. Something sustainable.

Groups like Palm Beach Tech, 1909 and yes the BDB are playing a critical role as are our universities and the FAU Research Park.

The luncheon’s two keynote speakers were two young entrepreneurs who are proving that companies can start here, grow here and thrive here using local talent and attracting talent from other markets.

Ryan Gay, CEO of Levatas, an AI solutions firm and Shay Berman, founder and president of Digital Resource were beyond impressive to listen to—they were downright inspiring.

Mr. Gay started out in 2006 with a small team: a visionary, an operator (himself) and someone with a big brain. They paid their first employee with Taco Bell meals—he was joking (I think). But from those humble beginnings, Levatas now has 80 employees and does digital work for clients such as IBM, Intel, Dell, Office Depot and Nasdaq.

Mr. Berman came from the cold of Michigan to West Palm Beach and started a company on a couch that has twice made the Inc. 500 list as one of America’s fastest growing companies. He has stayed true to his adopted hometown, growing his company while remaining in downtown West Palm.

He started the company with $5,000 and a dream. Today, at age 27, he is growing by leaps and bounds.

At the luncheon, my friend Connor, his brother Brendan (another super smart businessman) and their dad Tom, a former Delray mayor (among the very best in my opinion) were recognized for Plastridge’s 100th anniversary—an astounding achievement in today’s complex and fast changing world.

All three Lynch’s are devoted to Palm Beach County making significant marks in business, entrepreneurship, government, education, philanthropy and economic development. They are writing an amazing legacy. I’ve been fortunate to watch them and occasionally work alongside them.

Brendan and I serve on the board of a company we’ve both invested in and 30 years since meeting Tom, I still find myself seeking out his advice and counsel. Connor and I have served on several non-profit boards together and he’s always brought good ideas and insight to the table.

Kelly Smallridge, President and CEO of the BDB, noted that she if ever wrote a book about the history of economic development in Palm Beach County Tom Lynch would be at the top of the list of contributors.

It was heartening to me to hear that, because I believe that Kelly is right and that Tom is immensely responsible for so much of the good we see in Delray and also in Boca where he was also very active as a past chamber chair and School Board chair.

To see his sons run with that legacy of civic achievement makes my heart sing with gratitude.

In order to build a better community one that will support entrepreneurs and everyone else frankly—we need civic leaders. We need champions and long term thinkers who focus on the horizon and then do their best to make things happen.

It’s called leaving a legacy.

The job is never done. Success is never final. We will never arrive at the destination but we still need to commit ourselves to the journey.

Check out www.bdb.org and make sure you get tickets to next year’s entrepreneurial event. Better yet, let’s commit to helping grow entrepreneurs—whether it’s trying out a new product, spreading the word, becoming an angel or seed investor, starting your own company or encouraging someone who has done so we all have a meaningful role to play.

 

Honoring Two Very Special Public Servants

Larry Garito had a memorable career at Delray Beach Fire Rescue.

It was a weekend of love, affection and appreciation in Delray Beach.
Two well-known and beloved community servants were honored: one at a memorial at the Elks Club and one at a retirement party at the Delray Beach Golf Club.
We attended both events and came  away with a feeling that The Beatles were right: “And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make.”
Indeed.
Retired Delray Beach Fire Rescue Lt. Larry Garito was remembered as someone who was devoted to two families; his real one and his extended family at Delray Fire Rescue.
In cruising the room and talking to old friends gathered at The Elks Club, it seemed that everyone remembered Larry’s warm smile, friendly personality and desire to bring people together.
He found a great outlet at Delray Fire Rescue where he was one of the more visible firefighters working in the community and teaching children and adults about fire safety. He was a great ambassador to the outside world and did his best to take new firefighters under his wing.
Larry and his late wife Barbara, the former city clerk, were devoted to Delray. His son, son in law and grandchildren work or have worked at Delray Fire Rescue creating a legacy of service that few families can match.
Larry mentored younger firefighters and was well known by generations of elected officials who welcomed his advice and insights.
I valued our conversations and the many laughs we shared over the years and I absolutely adored his wife Barbara, one of the warmest people I’ve ever met. During my years in office, if I ever needed a pick me up or a dose of happiness, I would wander over to the City Clerk’s office where you could count on kindness and smiles.
I admired the closeness of the Garito family and when I lived in Sabal Lakes, Larry would often ride his bike to my house so we could talk shop. He loved his city and his fire department.
A wide cross section of Delray turned out to pay respects to this kind man: active duty firefighters, retirees, fire chiefs, the retired assistant city manager and retired city attorney, a former commissioner, business leaders, neighbors and of course a slew of Elks.
Larry Garito was a special man. He loved his city, his job, his family and his friends and they loved him back.

Dorothy Ellington led the Delray Beach Housing Authority with kindness and a passion for people,

Later that night, a large crowd filled a banquet room at the Golf Club to celebrate the retirement of Dorothy Ellington after 32 years of service to Delray Beach including more than two decades as head of the Delray Beach Housing Authority.
Dorothy cleaned up a troubled agency and  positively impacted the lives of so many by providing affordable housing to families she genuinely cared for and took the time to know. She also enriched the lives of her staff whose outpouring of love was truly touching to see.

Dorothy got along with everyone. She cared deeply about housing and was passionate about the people she served.
She had an extraordinary career in a tough field rife with regulations and challenges.
She led with love.
She left us wanting more.
The great ones always do.
They also lead with love, have passion for the mission and touch lives.
When they pass that doesn’t go away. And when they retire they are remembered. They leave a legacy for all who follow.
Delray has been blessed with some extraordinary people who have given this town their all.
That’s our  secret sauce.
It isn’t about buildings or the issue du jour. It’s about loving and serving your community.
And it’s vitally important to thank those who do.

Talking to Legends: Denny Laine Edition

Denny Laine is coming to Boca.

Editor’s note: Long time readers of this blog know that I am passionate about music.
While I like a wide variety of music, my favorite is classic rock— the music I grew up with.
As the co-owner of a local newspaper (the Delray and Boca Newspapers), we are often pitched interviews with musicians who pass through the area playing at local venues ranging from Funky Biscuit in Boca or The Arts Garage and Old School Square in Delray Beach.
When time permits– or if I simply can’t resist– I jump at the opportunity to talk to some of my musical heroes. So far that has included Martin Barre’, guitarist for Jethro Tull, Jesse Colin Young and of course the Mighty Max Weinberg of the E Street Band who has become a friend. Don’t miss Max’s upcoming show at The Arts Garage Nov. 30, it will be awesome.
Last week, I had the pleasure to talk with Denny Laine the guitarist for Wings and The Moody Blues two bands I love. I thought I’d share our conversation.

Denny Laine has had an amazing life.

He spent 10 years working with Paul and Linda McCartney as the lead guitarist for Wings, played on a bill with Jimi Hendrix, was a member of the Moody Blues, toured with Chuck Berry and sang lead vocals on a number one hit: “Go Now.”

He also was a band mate of the legendary Ginger Baker, co-wrote (with McCartney) “Mull of Kintyre” which became the best- selling single in U.K. history and has spent his entire life doing what he always wanted to do—play music.

But when you ask Laine to talk about the legends he has worked with he’s almost reluctant to talk—- not because he isn’t friendly (he is) but because he’s afraid of leaving others out of the conversation and he doesn’t want to slight musicians he knows and admires. He has worked with members of The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Hollies, ELO and more.

But he will give you some cool tidbits such as:

“Paul is great to work with. He’s easy. We knew each other for years before Wings so when he formed the group it was really easy to work together. There was a comfort level and a great rapport.”

He and Paul went to a London club to see Hendrix play and came away impressed. But did he ever talk to Jimi about the guitar? You know two great guitarists just talking shop?

“Not really, Jimi was very nice but knew his band mates Mitch (Mitchell) and Noel (Redding) better . Jimi was shy but friendly. But no we never did get around to talking music.”

As for the mercurial Ginger Baker, the legendary Cream drummer, Laine knew him well and performed in a group called Air Force with Ginger.

“He was a great band mate,” he says. “I know he has a reputation, but he had a big heart and was great to work with. He was good person once you got to know him.”

Laine who will turn 75 at the end of the month is still playing, writing and touring.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer will visit Funky Biscuit in Boca Raton, Saturday, Nov. 16 for a show at 8 p.m.

For tickets visit https://www.funkybiscuit.com/e/denny-laine-trio-74178440713/

Denny in his Wings days.

We spoke to Laine recently from his home in New Jersey. He told us he will be moving to Florida this winter in search of sunshine and warmth.

He also mentioned that South Floridians will be able to catch him live more often now that he’s relocating. He plays three types of shows: a solo act which includes songs and stories, as the Denny Laine Trio (the Funky Biscuit show) and as part of a band called the Moody Wings, a nod to his two most famous bands.

While he’s written a slew of songs and still writes, Laine sees himself first and foremost as a guitarist. His distinctive sound can be heard on classic albums including Band on the Run, Back to the Egg, London Town and early Moody Blues material, work that earned him entry into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

 

“I’ve been playing in bands since I was 12 and I still feel like I’m growing as a musician,” he says. “I always have a guitar with me and I still have the drive to improve and evolve.”

Laine says he listens to a wide variety of music—jazz, blues, rock and that he’s exactly where he wants to be:  playing music in front of fans.

“I’ve had a great life,” he says. “Lots of things just seem to come to me which is great because I didn’t want to do anything else with my life.”

As for hit songs, he says there’s some magic involved.

“The songs have to be good and as musicians we know when they are,” he says. “But there’s so much more that must happen. There needs to be promotion, you have to know what do with the song in the studio and when you perform it. I knew ‘Go Now’ was a great song, but a hit? I don’t know. We were touring with Chuck Berry when that song came out. All of Chuck’s fans must have bought it, because they heard it and it became number one. It was a thrill for us.”

So what can the fans in Boca expect?
A variety of songs spanning Denny Laine’s career—Wings material, Moody Blues songs and solo material as well.

“It’s a fun night,” says Laine. “Because we just love playing live.”

 

 

 

Mother To Son: A Poem for Libby Wesley

Ida Elizabeth Wesley

She was known by some as the “mother of Delray Beach.”

To others she was the founder of the Roots Cultural Festival, the namesake of a plaza on West Atlantic Avenue and a legendary retired educator who touched so many young lives.

To most people she was simply Libby.

To me, she was a guardian angel and I adored her.

Elizabeth Wesley passed away last week and I feel this loss deep in my bones.

It’s a big loss for Delray Beach because Libby was more than an icon, she was an inspiration, a visionary, a community leader and a role model.

She made her biggest impact on the youth of our community because she believed in them and that’s why her Roots Cultural Festival featured oratorical contests and other events that showcased the intellectual talents of local children. She was proud of her community and she wanted the world to see the potential that she saw in every child.

She was a big believer in education and was always teaching.

She was a big believer in community so she was always seeking ways to bring people together and strengthen Delray Beach.

Libby led with love, like all the great ones do.

Many people have their own Libby stories. And I’ve heard a few of them over the years. The common thread was that she made you feel special. Everyone felt special and loved in her presence. That’s what the great ones do, they move you and inspire you to do more, be more and love more.

Here’s my Libby story.

I got to know her when I was a reporter writing about the Roots Festival but our relationship deepened when I was elected to the city commission.

From the beginning of my term in 2000, Libby would speak of a “covenant” between city government and its citizens. I have to admit I wasn’t totally sure what she meant, but she asked the commission not to break the covenant and told us that we needed to work together to move the city forward. As a government, we shouldn’t move forward without considering the needs of the people. All of the people.

We met frequently and at every meeting I would learn something. Our meetings were often emotional—at least they were for me. I can’t say I experienced that with too many other people but something about Libby touched me very deeply. It was her depth of feeling. Her concern for others. Her insights. Her inherent goodness. It was also the way she spoke and the way she looked at you.

She was in a word: remarkable.

And I loved her very much. We all did.

I felt privileged to spend time with her. And I knew that with every meeting she would impart a lesson and I would be better for having listened.

She was close with so many of my friends—Bill Wood at the chamber of commerce, Lula Butler at the city, Joe Gillie at Old School Square.

She inspired all of us and our friends and children too.

For places to grow and for positive change to occur, they need to be shaped by people like Libby Wesley. Communities need people who are in it for the long haul and who lead with love.

We were so lucky that Libby came here from Defuniak Springs to lead and inspire us.

When I left office in 2007, Libby came to see me and she gave me the best gift ever.

It was a cassette tape of her reciting the Langston Hughes poem “Mother to Son,” a hopeful poem about not giving up. She softly sang that poem to me two years earlier after a tragic shooting took the life of a young man. The shooting challenged our community in ways I can’t begin to describe. She held my hand during those trying times and told me it was going to be OK. I guess I looked uncertain, so she said it again and I believed her.

Two years later, as I left office she signed off on the tape by telling me that she loved me like a son and that yes I had kept the covenant.

“You know that you hold a special place in my heart,” she said in a follow up email that I looked at after she passed. “That is why you were chosen to be one of my “children by love.”

She had many, but I still feel so lucky to have been one of her children. Mrs. Wesley could have had a million sons and it still would have been special.

What a gift she gave to me.

What a gift she was to Delray Beach.

Here’s the poem.

It’s beautiful.

So was Elizabeth Wesley.

Mother to Son

BY Langston Hughes

Well, son, I’ll tell you:

Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

It’s had tacks in it,

And splinters,

And boards torn up,

And places with no carpet on the floor—

Bare.

But all the time

I’se been a-climbin’ on,

And reachin’ landin’s,

And turnin’ corners,

And sometimes goin’ in the dark

Where there ain’t been no light.

So boy, don’t you turn back.

Don’t you set down on the steps

’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.

Don’t you fall now—

For I’se still goin’, honey,

I’se still climbin’,

And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

Remembering Bob Currie

Bob Currie

A number of years ago, I had lunch with a retired city employee who said something that resonated deeply with me.
She told me that while Delray was a wonderful town, we didn’t know how to say thank you to people who contributed greatly to our community.
I’m afraid that might be true.
So many good ones get away without formal recognition.
It’s not right and we should do something about it.
In fact, one of the reasons I write this blog and one of the reasons I invested in a community newspaper was to say thank you to special people who have enriched our community.
We lost Bob Currie last week and he was one of those special people. Very special.
Delray owes him a heaping debt of gratitude because his accomplishments are vast and his influence was widely felt.
If you like our public library, Bob is one of the people you should thank. He served on the library board for years and was dedicated to making sure we got a new one on West Atlantic.
He lived near the beach and was dedicated to the Beach Property Owners Association whose leadership adored and respected him.
He was passionate about Pineapple Grove and dedicated thousands of hours to the district, giving special attention to the design of projects in the neighborhood and to the gateway arch. I was with him the night it was first lit. We sat with half a dozen volunteers at a nearby restaurant and toasted the future—a future that people like Bob envisioned. He was a believer. A true believer in this town.
He was passionate about historic preservation and was immensely dedicated to the restoration and success of Old School Square.
He loved the “bones” of the place taking special delight in the Crest Theatre.
He loved the people who were similarly dedicated to Old School Square, especially founder Frances Bourque. He adored her and she loved him.
Bob gave so much of his time to the betterment of what I believe is Delray’s signature civic project.
Bob was a talented and experienced architect. His firm’s stamp can be found all over Delray and throughout South Florida and parts beyond.
Bob’s dad was an architect too and he was deeply devoted to the field.
He loved to paint, golf and travel.
He was smart, not afraid to argue for a position and earned his place as the dean of Delray’s architectural community.

Bob was a throwback to a time when dedicated volunteers made Delray Beach a very special place. They were long term players, deeply committed to Delray and able to work with others. They were interested in the big picture. Hence Bob’s interest in Pineapple Grove, the beach, OSS, the downtown and historic districts.
I miss those days.
Delray misses those days.
And Delray will miss Bob Currie.
He was a wonderful man. We were blessed that this is where he landed and that he decided to give his time and talents to Delray Beach.
Rest In Peace my friend.

Thank you….

Passion & Belief

“You need more to eyes to see, more brains to think, and more legs to act in order to accelerate. You need additional people with their own particular windows on the world and with their additional good working relationships with others, in order to truly innovate. More people need to be able to have the latitude to initiate—not just carry out someone else’s directives.”—John P. Kotter

Want to build a great team?

You need passion and you need to believe in the mission.

Passion and belief are what move people.

Always have, always will.

And moving people is what organizational success is all about.

I’ve been thinking a lot about culture these days.

Workplace culture, community culture and national culture.

I’m not talking about music or art, but culture in the sense of what it feels like to be part of a company, an organization, a neighborhood, a city, a state and a nation.

There’s a saying that culture eats strategy for lunch and I believe it.

Heck, I’ve seen it.

But if you marry the two—a good culture with a sound strategy—you’ve got magic.

I’ve seen that too.

Culture trumps good fortune, it overcomes money issues and it will get you over just about any obstacle.

I’ve been thinking about these things in the context of a recent panel discussion I attended at the Boca Raton Innovation Campus in which CEOs and executives from four local companies Celsius, MDVIP, Vitacost/Kroger and Body Details talked about the importance of engagement, culture, flexibility and pleasant work environments and how those things grow business by attracting and keeping talent.

Of course, they also talked about Artificial Intelligence, growth strategies and automation, but the executives—representing a beverage company, a laser hair removal company, an e-commerce platform and a health care company– all talked about the importance of the human touch—of developing a brand and value proposition that cares about people.

I can speak with a bit of knowledge about Celsius, which is one of the companies in our portfolio where I work.

We are proud of the company and the team and have invested heavily—both emotionally and financially– in Celsius because we believe in the brand’s mission which is to provide products (beverages, powders and coming soon—drum roll please…. protein bars) to help people “live fit.”

It has been a long and winding road to NASDAQ and to widespread international and national distribution with more than its share of peaks and valleys. But when you believe in the mission and the team—and we always have—you don’t give up and you will find success. It may take some time, you will suffer setbacks but you will make progress and we have.

Celsius CEO John Fieldly is a young guy and I often think about the pressures that are on him as the leader of a publicly held company that does business across the globe and with some of the world’s largest retailers.

As an insider/outsider at Celsius I’ve glimpsed their culture and the team is tight-knit and passionate about the mission. You have to be because the beverage biz is incredibly competitive and crowded too. Celsius has always been able to punch above its weight because the team is bought in to the mission which is creating products that help people live healthier lives.

Vitacost has a similar mission and Marketing VP Guy Burgstahler says the company has benefitted greatly by relocating to attractive space at BRIC.

Body Details CEO Claudio Sorrentino understands that social media is ubiquitous these days so he doesn’t sweat his employees indulging as long as the work gets done. The company also has Champagne Tuesdays where for the cost of a bottle of bubbly they celebrate things large and small. It helps to build camaraderie.

Andrea Klemes, Chief Medical Officer for MDVIP, says her company lets people work from home one day a week which has boosted morale and retention. The company was started to improve the experience patients have with their doctors—and as an MDVIP client I can personally attest that it would be hard to go back to a “regular” practice once you’ve experienced the VIP experience.

I have long believed that cities have cultures and values and if they are frayed or violated you pay a heavy price.

The new city manager in Delray—George Gretsas—has a wonderful opportunity to rebuild the culture at City Hall. Employees need to be empowered, staff needs to be feel valued and the community as a whole has to feel like it’s working on building a better city if that is to occur.

You have to stop majoring in the minor for good things to happen. The community has to come first and you have to be willing to think about doing what’s right versus doing the expedient. And you have to create a culture where it feels safe for people to invest their hearts, minds, time and emotion.

Is it easy?
No.

But it’s not impossible either and this is one area of life where trying scores you points.

Make it safe to fail. Make it safe to have an idea and say it out loud.

Celebrate success. Share credit. Give credit.

Be thankful. Be kind. The little stuff matters—a whole lot.

Creating and protecting a great culture makes all the difference.

Passion and belief are what move people.

Always have, always will.

Boca Lead Is A Revelation

Pastor Bill Mitchell traded a successful career in real estate for a spiritual mission. Boca is benefitting from his wisdom.

I’ve become a huge fan of Boca Lead, the monthly speaker series hosted by Pastor Bill Mitchell at Boca Raton Community Church.

Every month, 400 plus people gather to hear a positive message designed to help them live a better life, run a better business and build a better Boca. The demand is so strong that Boca Lead added a dinner series with a debut last week that attracted more than 200 people.

It’s an inclusive group—all faiths are made to feel welcome—and the message is not only smart it’s extremely relevant. My good friend Karen Granger turned me onto the series when she invited me to sit with her colleagues at 4 Kids. I owe her a debt of gratitude, because Boca Lead has become an important part of my month.

As a result of Karen’s intro, our company is buying a table most months so we can be inspired to lead, mentor and build a better community. We all have a role in making that happen.

In its 5 year existence, Boca Lead has attracted over 5,500 different people to the monthly talks and now with dinner sessions the audience is sure to grow and deservedly so, because in a word it’s awesome. And we desperately need to apply the lessons being taught every month.

I’ve gotten to know Pastor Mitchell since attending my first Boca Lead and I’m incredibly impressed by his insights, devotion to the community and his work across the globe. He and his wife, Elizabeth, are remarkable people and talented communicators. The ability to command a room month after month—to inspire, motivate and get us to stop our busy lives so that we may focus on what’s really important is truly something special to witness.

Every month, I don’t think he can top the prior month, but he seems to do so.

This month was no exception.

The title of the talk was “Drifting” which will soon be an e-book. I just finished “Shifting” another e-book by Pastor Mitchell that I found riveting. Again, the message is universal and this Jewish guy from New York can relate to the insights and better yet, can apply the principles to my life and business.

Drifting talked about how distractions, a lack of integrity and another assorted noise lead us astray.

The talk ended with four suggestions for building community—a subject I have been passionate about for as long as I can remember. A sense of community attracted me to Delray Beach, pushed me into a stint in public service and has kept me engaged since moving to Florida in 1987.

Pastor Mitchell posited that in order to build community you need four elements:

Proximity—you can’t build community from afar, people need to be brought together. But that’s just a start. We can all live in the same neighborhood, work at the same company or attend the same school but if we don’t mix we can’t build community. So proximity is a must, but it’s just a start.

Hospitality—is necessary to build community. We need to break bread with people, extend them courtesies, and invite them into our homes and lives if we are to grow close.

Relationship—we need to work on building relationships with our neighbors in order to build community. It’s not enough to just wave hello, we need to work on forging real relationships.

Peacemaking—this one fascinating. It’s not peacekeeping, it’s the ability to make peace not the ability to keep people from hurting each other. This is so important in a community. It struck me that we are lacking peacemakers in our world today and in our local communities too.

As Pastor Mitchell walked us through the list, a thought crossed my mind.

Social media—which pretends to build community does not possess any of the four community building blocks.

It’s not proximate, you can sit in your pajamas and spew venom on Twitter without ever having to face the target of your wrath, there’s no means of providing real hospitality other than maybe sending an emoji, social media doesn’t really foster real relationships beyond a post here and a reply there and finally social media does not seem to have any mechanism for peacemaking. People start a lot of wars on Facebook, but I have yet to see them make peace.

Now admittedly, I am a social media user. I enjoy Facebook for allowing me to share photos of my dogs and stay in touch with old friends and classmates. But I don’t enjoy seeing the posts about my town that seek to divide, label and malign. There are a whole lot of them, entire pages devoted to ripping the town apart.

Truth be told, I think it has harmed our sense of community and nearly destroyed civic pride. That’s a lot of damage to overcome.

We are not the only city that has suffered this fate and the fact is America is incredibly and maybe hopelessly divided at this point in our history. It’s a sad time, it really is.

I don’t see how this ends or how we can magically unwind some of the abhorrent behavior we’ve all witnessed.

But there was a time, it now seems so long ago, when I and many others viewed Delray Beach as an oasis in a desert. A place where you always felt the best was yet to come and that every problem could be solved.

Please don’t tell me it didn’t exist, because I experienced it and so have others. I have witnesses and these days most of them shake their heads when you mention the current state of affairs.

That doesn’t mean that we were conflict free, we surely weren’t.

Worthing Place, Atlantic Plaza part 1, the Jerrod Miller shooting—and on and on the list goes. There was a time when African Americans could not safely cross Swinton and couldn’t use the public beach but….despite those serious challenges there was this feeling that we could work things out, that we could and would somehow find a way forward even in the face of tragedy.

When I think back on how past controversies resolved themselves, I see Pastor Mitchell’s four pillars of community building come to life. Differences were solved because people got together, built relationships, extended hospitality and made peace.

C. Spencer Pompey was a peacemaker extraordinaire.

He knew the power of relationships and hospitality and so he got people together and eventually we opened up our beaches.

We were bitterly divided over development after Worthing Place so we got together and worked on a Downtown Master Plan.

When a developer wanted to put 10 pounds of you know what in a five pound bag on Atlantic Plaza, the city commission brought in designers and the community to try and find a plan that everyone could embrace.

Sometimes the efforts produce solutions (Mr. Pompey succeeded) and sometimes they fall short (the developer walked away from the plan the designers and community produced) but the effort always seemed to matter. You were extended credit for trying. You built relationships by coming to the table and working on issues large and small.

This kind of peacemaking doesn’t seem to be happening online and it’s destroying us—rapidly.

I’ve been going through old files in a sometimes futile effort to de-clutter my life.

I recently stumbled across a flier called the Atlantic Gazette that absolutely ripped me and some of my friends to shreds. It was anonymous and really ugly. You get these things when you are in public life or even if you just venture an opinion or an idea. I guess it comes with the territory.

When I was young and new to the game, I would cringe at this stuff. But I learned that despite the best efforts of critics, most people never saw the fliers, email blasts or in one case the banner flown over the beach.

Life went on, the people who know you laugh it off, the critics tell their friends “see, I told you so” and soon it’s on to the next subject.

But today, social media is ubiquitous. It’s hard to avoid the toxicity.

Joni Mitchell urged us to get “back to the garden” in her classic song Woodstock.

Pastor Mitchell reminds us that we need to get back to proximity, relationships, hospitality and peacemaking before it is too late.

Can we?
Will we?
What if we don’t?

For more information on Boca Lead. To view past talks (highly recommended) and for ticket information please visit http://www.bocalead.com