2017 Go Blue Awards Finalists – Blue Friend of the Year Nominees

Congratulations to all of this year’s finalists!
The winners will be announced at the Ninth Annual Go Blue Awards Luncheon,
being held at PGA National Resort & Spa on Friday, October 27, 2016.


Blue Friend of the Year Finalists:

The recipient of the Blue Friend of the Year Award exemplifies significant contributions in marine conservation through work-related activities. Local and National entries recognized.

Bethany Augliere

I am writing to nominate Bethany Augliere for the Blue Friend of the Year award. Bethany embodies the Loggerhead Marinelife Center’s mission to “promote conservation of ocean ecosystems” as a scientist, wildlife photographer, and active conservationist. With higher education degrees in both marine biology and scientific communication, Bethany bridges the gap between scientific research and the general public. She advocates for basic research while informing the public about the importance of conservation.

As a Master of Science graduate from Florida Atlantic Ubniversity, Bethany has been contributing to ocean conservation efforts in South Florida since 2009. Working with the Wild Dolphin Project, she conducted scientific research on the spatial ecology of spotted dolphins in the Bahamas, meanwhile managing the project’s blog and social media content. Bethany’s stunning underwater photography and compelling articles shed light on the beauty of marine life and inspire wonder in her readers. During her time at FAU, Bethany also worked with the FAU Elasmobranch Research Lab examining the sensory biology of sharks, the West Indies Marine Animal Research and Conservation group studying leatherback turtle nesting, and the Key Largo Marine Lab teaching groups of children about ocean ecosystems. These experiences make Bethany a well-rounded scientist and communicator, and she is highly regarded in both the field of marine biology as well as conservation journalism.

In pursuing her passion for marine conservation, Bethany returned to school in the Science Communication Program at the University of Santa Cruz. She interned with the Stanford University News Service, the Santa Cruz Sentinel, and Nature News and Comment. During this time, she photographed and wrote on topics ranging from ocean acidification, to solar storms on Mars, to unraveling the giraffe genome. In these pursuits, Bethany has been exposed to many different scientific fields and approaches, giving her the unique ability to synthesize science, conservation, and the community.

Since moving back to South Florida, Bethany has focused on conservation projects based in this region. She works closely with the Florida Manta Project, helping to document a population of juvenile manta rays along the South Florida coastline, and was recently featured in conversationocean.org, discussing how people can do their part to help conserve marine life. She is currently writing an article for Oceana about the biology staff and ongoing research at Loggerhead Marinelife Center. Through her journal articles and social media presence, Bethany brings much needed attention to the important research occurring along our coastline.

Bethany is an excellent candidate for this award because her work strives to promote and bring clarity to important and often controversial topics such as conservation. She has the technical background to understand the science and the communications expertise to entice readers in a meaningful way. Additionally, she has excelled as a young woman in historically male dominated fields. Bethany has devoted her life to exploring and conserving the ocean and she is a rising star in the field of conservation journalism.

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Brian Buckley

It is with great pleasure that I nominate Brian Buckley, Recreation Director at the Palm Beach Marriot Singer Island Beach Resort and Spa, for the 2017 Blue Friend of the Year Award! Brian has sincere appreciation for marine life and has become an advocate for the conservation of sea turtles. He consistently shares information with guests about their nesting habits as well as what species swim off our coast. In addition, Brian provides awareness about the threats to their nesting and hatchling periods. He spearheaded a project to ensure this information is also featured in our weekly hotel brochure, as well. Brian is passionate about the conservation of marine life and wants it to become contagious. He always encourages guests and employees to observe the hatchling experience and describes the importance of this memorable event. Brian has taken education on Loggerhead and its contributions to marine conservation to ultimate levels at our resort. He dedicates more than 40 hours a week to ensuring this is an inclusive part of daily resort operations.



Teal Kawana

Since her early career, Teal Kawana has worked to defend sea turtles and their habitats. Teal earned her bachelor’s degree in Biology at Westminster College in 2007. She then continued her education, earning a Master’s degree in Marine Biology with a concentration in sea turtle conservation and biology from Nova Southeastern University in 2013. She earned her Master’s degree while employed full-time in the marine conservation field, displaying her diligent commitment to protecting marine environments through every outlet available to her.

Teal has contributed to marine conservation at several different jobs throughout her career. In 2011, she worked as an FWC certified Wildlife Observer on a marine dredge boat, ensuring the safety of wildlife during construction. From 2011-2015, Teal worked as an Oceanfront Lighting and Marine Turtle Protection Code Enforcement Officer for Key Biscayne, FL. Her efforts to work with property owners, managers, and municipalities on lighting compliance resulted in the entirety of Key Biscayne altering their lights to turtle-safe options by the end of her time working there. Key Biscayne is now Miami-Dade County’s darkest beach, which is likely correlated to the fact that it is also the beach with the highest sea turtle nesting density. Teal then took her efforts to Collier County, FL, working as a Code Enforcement Officer from 2015-2016 there, where her duties expanded beyond sea turtle lighting to other environmental codes, such as mangrove protection, protected species regulations, and vegetation preservation. While working in code enforcement, Teal simultaneously served as a Marine Turtle Specialist with the Broward County Sea Turtle Conservation Program from 2008-2015. As such, she participated in morning nesting surveys to identify crawls, monitor nests, and collect data, as well as responding to strandings and participating in educational events.

In 2016, Teal took her experience and passion for sea turtles to Miami-Dade County, where she now is the Program Manager and Permit Holder for the Miami-Dade County Sea Turtle Conservation Program (MDCSTCP). In a coastal city as urbanized and densely populated as Miami, taking on the job of a lead conservationist can easily become overwhelming; Teal’s dedication to sea turtles has enabled her to not only fulfill her job’s requirements but to go above and beyond in order to protect this endangered species and inspire others to do so, as well. Teal has brought new life to a formerly outdated conservation program, working tirelessly to obtain funds for new equipment, train staff and volunteers, improve communication with other county and municipality entities, and educate the public. Not to mention, she has done all of this while taking on the demanding role of leading a nesting survey on 18.5 miles of nesting beach.

Throughout this nesting season, Teal has coordinated and participated in an organized nesting survey, during which surveyors identify sea turtle crawls by crawl characteristics, collect data on each crawl, monitor nests daily, and conduct post-hatch nest excavations. In conjunction with coordinating the nesting survey itself, Teal has worked tirelessly this season to communicate and work with county and municipality officials to improve permit and code compliance throughout Miami-Dade County to ensure the protection of sea turtle nests, nesting mothers, and emerging hatchlings. She is also responsible for all stranding events in Miami-Dade County, organizing a response team for each stranding event to data collect and transport live turtles to rehabilitation facilities.

Teal has exceeded the duties of Program Manager, working to make the MDCSTCP a well-rounded sea turtle conservation program by encouraging and taking on supplementary facets that complement nesting surveys. She is currently working with several graduate students to conduct research projects related to sea turtle lighting, which has created an opportunity for diligent data collection that can be used to improve lighting in Miami-Dade County, as well as our understanding of sea turtle behavior in relation to artificial light sources. She also regularly creates and takes advantage of opportunities to reach out to the public and share her love of sea turtles, inspiring people to protect them and their habitats. She organizes regular public hatchling releases, as well as participates in school, summer camp, and other community events. By doing so, she has created a community more aware of turtle-safe practices and inspired others to care about turtles as much as she does herself.

As the Program Manager and Permit Holder of the Miami-Dade County Sea Turtle Conservation Program, as well as through her previous endeavors, Teal Kawana exemplifies her dedication to marine conservation in her commitment to the continued growth of sea turtle conservation, research, and education efforts. Her passion and perseverance merit recognition, as not only has she had a positive impact on her staff and community, but she’s made a lasting impact on Florida’s nesting beaches and sea turtle population.

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Dr. Brian Lapointe

I am nominating Dr. Brian Lapointe for his longstanding work to help protect and preserve Florida’s beautiful coastal ecosystems, my nomination is for the Blue Friend of the Year Award.

Dr. Lapointe’s research interests include algal physiology and biochemistry, seagrass and coral reef ecology, eutrophication, marine bioinvasions and marine conservation.

He has extensive experience in water quality research in South Florida and the Caribbean region. As Chief Scientist on numerous Caribbean and western North Atlantic Ocean research expeditions, he has amassed valuable field experience in assessing relations between water quality and the health of tropical seagrasses and coral reefs. Dr. Lapointe’s long-term water quality monitoring at Looe Key reef in the Florida Keys represents the longest low-level nutrient record for a coral reef anywhere in the world. His work in the Keys led to a strong phosphate ban and new state regulations for Monroe County requiring greater nutrient removal from sewage effluents.

Dr. Lapointe’s work in Florida Bay and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary in the 1990s, which utilized stable nitrogen isotopes to “fingerprint” nitrogen sources, was the first to demonstrate the importance of agricultural nitrogen from mainland sources to development of algal blooms in the Keys. He developed the first “ridge-to-reef” water quality monitoring program for the European Union in Negril, Jamaica, a model that has been adopted by Marine Protected Areas around the Caribbean region. Dr. Lapointe has advised the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, State of Florida and the governments of Monroe County (Florida Keys), Palm Beach County, Lee County, Bahamas, Tobago, Turks & Caicos, Jamaica, Bonaire, Curacao, Martinique and St. Lucia on development of water quality monitoring programs for assessing the impacts of land-based pollution.

Dr. Lapointe’s Sargassum research has yielded novel insights into the ecology of this macroalgae, the Sargasso Sea and associated communities, including symbiosis with juvenile fish marked by exchange of habitat and nutrients.

Beginning in 2011, Dr. Lapointe and his team began researching nutrients and HABs in the Indian River Lagoon. That work, supported by the “Save Our Seas” Specialty License Plate, provided the first evidence that these blooms were being supported, in large part, by sewage. Recent support from Martin County has allowed additional studies of how nutrient pollution from septic systems are discharged into the St. Lucie Estuary where they can support growth of HABs.

Dr. Lapointe is regularly featured on news programs and at community forums and his work helps elected officials, community organizations, NGOs, and community members better understand and advocate for more responsible watershed solutions.

More Information: http://hboihablab.weebly.com/brian-cv.html

Mikki McComb-Kobza

It is with great pleasure that I nominate my friend and colleague Dr. Mikki McComb-Kobza for the Blue Friend of the Year Award. I have known Mikki for almost a decade. I first met her when she was a graduate student at Florida Atlantic University. On any given day Mikki might be giving a university lecture or talking to youngsters an elementary school. Her passion for ocean science and communicating wonders of marine life conservation became very clear from the start. She has a long-standing zeal to share her science and the importance of conservation with wide ranging audiences. Getting the message out to know, appreciate and value marine life is her calling.

During her Ph.D. training, Mikki worked tirelessly in the field studying sharks and highlighting incredible stories of their biology, but also their plights and the risks they face from people. She completed her Ph.D. on shark sensory biology and followed up with postdoctoral training at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution, yet throughout found time to talks with students, professionals and the general public about marine conservation. It was Mikki’s effectiveness and her scholarship that convinced me to bring her to the LMC as a volunteer on the research committee then for a short time she served on the board of directors. Yet her time with the LMC was short as she and her family (a family of wildlife scientists) moved to Boulder, Colorado.

In Boulder, she started a nonprofit organization, Ocean First Institute. The mission of the Institute is ocean conservation through research and education. To date, her team has travelled over a million virtual miles to reach over 100,000 students in 35 countries through their virtual outreach program, sharing “The Truth About Sharks” effectively turning fear into fascination. The Institute team has also reached nearly 3,000 local students in Colorado with their marine science in-school programming. They teach students how to protect the ocean and their own local environment by living more sustainably. Her organization and she teach that the littlest actions can add up. This positive message resonates well and engages people to make a difference. Mikki also takes the most ambitious students with her on research expeditions to provide hands on experience and training. She has mentored over 200 middle and high school students in sea turtle tagging, shark laser measuring, reef fish identification and and underwater photography (these accomplishments are not easy or minor).

Mikki’s energy and commitment seem limitless. She also developed numerous summer camps and recently found great joy in running a “Girls in Ocean Science” camp. It was sold out and was an incredible opportunity to empower young girls to embrace science.

Together lines of evidence make Mikki worthy of this award. While she is a shark researcher at heart, her passion extends to the conservation of many kinds of marine organisms through engagement of kids (including adult kids) and their curiosity. Her goal is help others find their passion and their own personal strength that will contribute to making the world a better place.

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Jeff Pantukhoff

Jeff is an international award-winning marine life filmmaker and photographer specializing in dolphins, whales and sharks, and is the founder of The Whaleman Foundation and its Save the Whales Again! Campaign.

In 1995, Jeff founded The Whaleman Foundation (Whaleman), a non-profit oceanic research, conservation, and production organization dedicated to preserving and protecting cetaceans (dolphins, whales, and porpoises) and our oceans. The Foundation’s primary mission is to raise public awareness while educating key decision-makers on the issues that effect cetaceans and their critical habitats. Whaleman is accomplishing this through its films, public service announcements, and outreach campaigns.

Since Whaleman’s inception, Jeff has written, directed, and produced 7 films on the critical issues facing cetaceans and their environment including “Gray Magic: The Plight of San Ignacio Lagoon”, “Orcas in Crisis: The Plight of the Southern Resident Orcas”, and “Deadly Sounds in the Silent World” which won “Best Short Film” at the 2003 Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival.

Jeff’s latest film featuring Hayden Panettiere is titled “Whale Entanglements: A Deadly Problem” and was premiered and shown to the delegates attending the 2012 meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) resulting in the IWC creating the “International Whale Disentanglement Response Team” of which Jeff is a proud member.

Jeff’s unique images and words have appeared in Ocean Realm, Sport Diver, Discover Diving, and Dive International magazines. His photographs have won several international awards.

Jeff has had the privilege of working with some of the most respected names in the world of underwater filmmaking including Howard and Michele Hall, Bob Talbot, Hardy Jones, and Norbert Wu. Jeff’s film credits include IMAX’s “Into the Deep”, Discovery Channel’s “The Ocean Acrobats” and “Extreme Machines: Raiders of the Deep”, PBS’s “Secrets of the Ocean Realm”, CBS’s Survivor, and Outdoor Life Network’s “Deadly Waters: Whales in Danger”. Jeff’s feature film credits include “Dallas 362”, “Shanghai Kiss”, “Class of 83”, “Whaledreamers” and the Oscar winning documentary “The Cove”. Jeff is currently working on a feature length documentary film.

Jeff is also a dolphin and whale researcher. Since 1996, Jeff has been researching humpback whales with Dr. Marsha Green of the Ocean Mammal Institute studying their social sounds and behaviors and the impacts that vessel engine noise is having on them. In 2009, Jeff partnered with Dr. Roger Payne of Ocean Alliance and Dr. John Wise of the Wise Laboratory of Environmental and Genetic Toxicology at the University of Southern Maine to investigate and research chemical contamination in cetaceans. Since 2010, Jeff has been working with the Hawaiian Islands National Humpback Whale Marine Sanctuary on its 10-year study determining the overall health assessment of North Pacific Humpback whales. Jeff’s latest research project is in conjunction with Alicia Amerson of Scripps Institute studying the gray whale migration from Mexico to Canada to help determine the best international guidelines for whale watch companies.

Jeff’s passion, commitment, and dedication keep him on the forefront of marine related issues and interests worldwide. He strongly believes that international cooperation is the key to solving the many issues that face our marine environment and he demonstrates this by donating the use of his images and film footage while working closely with other environmental organizations working on behalf of marine life including Ocean Alliance, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Scripps Institute, and others.

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Dr. Sam Purkis

I am nominating Dr. Sam Purkis for the Blue Friend of the Year Award for his long standing efforts to research and improve marine conservation globally.  For many years Dr. Purkis was a Professor at the National Coral Reef Institute at Nova Southeastern University where he led a lab of M.Sc. and Ph.D. students, and post-doctoral and visiting scientists, dedicated to the application of Earth Observation technologies and GIS to coastal monitoring and conservation. Responsibilities stretched from air- and space-borne optical instruments to vessel-mounted acoustic tools and bathymetric LiDAR. Ran a diverse portfolio of externally funded projects employing remote sensing technology to resolve seabed architecture of modern and ancient carbonate landscapes, with attention to the detection of change through time. Research relevant to modelling degradation of marine ecosystems and the development of management plans to promote sustainability. Daily responsibilities stretched from field monitoring to software development and mathematical simulation. Dr. Purkis conducted work in the U.S.A., Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, U.A.E., Indonesia, Malaysia, Madagascar, the Mariana Islands, Chagos, and throughout the Caribbean. Dr. Purkis lectured extensively to M.Sc. students and mentored at the bachelors, masters and doctoral level all the while authoring 85 publications, three books and securing extramural research funds exceeding US$7,000,000.

In 2016, Dr. Purkis’s joined the University of Miami with the rank of Professor where he is pursuing the diverse research interests he has developed over the last 20 years while teaching frequently.

In addition to his role as Professor, Dr. Purkis is the Chair and Co Founder of Chagos Conservation Trust (USA).  The scientific consensus is that a third of the ocean must be protected from human pressures, and the bigger the continuous area the better. Dr. Purkis takes great pride in being Co-Founder and Chair of the Chagos Conservation Trust – US, a charitable foundation that successfully lobbied for the declaration of Earth’s largest protected area, the Chagos archipelago, that sprawls across 600,000 sq. km of the pristine central Indian Ocean. Through partnership with the National Geospatial Agency he is archiving an unparalleled database of remotely sensed information for this vast area of ocean and initializing projects to process the imagery into a publicly accessible GIS web-portal. The work is unfunded and should remain so. Big ocean conservation is his passion and his life is committed to preserving the ocean for future generations.

Dr. Purkis is a wonderful candidate for the Blue Friend of the Year Award!

Sean Russell

Sean Russell, while only 25 years old, has had tremendous impact on the lives of thousands of young conservationists throughout the country. He is a youth engagement strategist dedicated to empowering young people with the tools and motivation they need to become involved in leadership initiatives. Sean is the founder and director of the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit, an annual event held at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Fl which is also modeled in cities across the United States in partnership with conservation organizations. Currently there are satellite summits in Savannah, St. Louis, North Caroline, New York City and Baltimore. Through these programs, Sean works to empower young people with the knowledge, skills and resources needed to address ocean conservation issues in their local communities. The Summit event grew out of Sean’s ongoing work on marine debris prevention and fishing line recycling through the Stow It Don’t Throw It Project, an initiative he launched as a high school student. He has awarded countless students mini-grants which enable them to put their ocean conservation ideas into motion.

After graduating from the University of Florida in 2013 with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology, Sean has worked with a diverse set of organizations to elevate the roll of youth leadership in the fields of marine science, education and conservation. Currently Sean works with SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment on initiatives designed to inspire the next generation of conservation leaders. Through this work, Sean Launched and coordinates the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Youth Advisory Council, a group of young leaders tasked with providing strategic input and guidance to the organization from a youth perspective. Sean also serves as the program manager for the EarthEcho Water Challenge, a program designed to connect people around the world to their local waterways through water quality monitoring and equip them with the tools to take action to protect their water resources. Sean is a member of the National Marine Educators Association Board of Directors, and a former member of the State Farm Youth Advisory Board, and the Board of Directors of Youth Service America and the Florida 4-H Foundation. He is a recipient of the Brower Youth Award, PeterBenchly Ocean Award and Sarasota Bay Estuary Program Blue Dolphin Award for his conservation work. In his spare time Sean enjoys hiking, kayaking, SCUBA diving, traveling and photography.

We hope you will find Sean’s achievements worthy of consideration for the Blue Friend of the Year Award. Sean has been crucial to the success of many of our endeavors at Wild Over Wildlife. He is honest, knowledgeable, approachable and dedicated to education and conservation.

Dr. Ken Simmons

Dr. Ken Simmons is a person who truly gives of himself and possess a deep love of the marine environment.  Trained as a veterinarian, he committed his life to the preservation of the health and life of animals, often at personal cost.   Beginning at a very young age, he celebrated the coastal lifestyle of South Florida, appreciating fishing and snorkeling as a privilege. Dr. Simmons love of the sea eventually grew into a need and responsibility to actively protect the ocean for future generations.

In 2015, Dr. Ken Simmons founded Healthy Aquatics Marine Institute, a 501c3 not for profit committed to promoting the preservation of ocean resources through education, research, and technology. Dedicated to sharing the mystery and magic of our oceans with the local community, Ken built the center with his very own hands, even enduring several injuries to his back requiring corrective therapy. He has donated a large quantity of his time, money, and energy breathing life into this new organization.

With his outstanding dedication to educating youth, Healthy Aquatics Marine Institute reached over 1500 students during its first year through marine science based educational programming.  More than 41 research based aquaponics aquariums were used to teach students about Florida’s unique ecosystem and how the ocean impacts our daily lives. This innovative “hands on” STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) based program promotes stewardship and sustainability of our local marine environment while also promoting science based standard learning to students in Palm Beach County.

The Healthy Aquatics also acts a coral conservation farm and aquarium education center with local fish species to highlight and inform the public about the biodiversity found along our shores.  More than 300 different species of fish and 150 different types of corals are housed in the conservation and education wing of Healthy Aquatics. School groups and the local public can visit the center free of charge to learn about our local marine environment and how they can become stewards of our oceans.

Dr. Simmons continues to volunteer his time and energy to the growth of this young organization and, as Board Chair, is always enthusiastic about sharing his passion for the ocean with each new person he encounters. Dr. Simmons consistently works to collaborate with other ocean protectors and organizations to help identify ways to better protect and preserve marine resources. He has indeed proved himself a true friend our blue planet!

Richard Walesky

Nomination 1:
Richard (Rich) Walesky has shown extraordinary leadership in marine conservation for over three decades. He began his career as a biologist at the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation (now DEP). In 1987, he was named Director of the newly formed Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources Management (PBC ERM) where he served until his retirement in 2011.

As new Director, Rich recognized the uniqueness and value of the marine resources in PBC. He understood that development pressures threatened the natural features that make Palm Beach County and its offshore waters one of the most desirable places in the world to live and visit.

He knew that these pressures created an urgency to his task of directing the County’s environmental protection efforts and restoring habitats degraded by dredging and other development-related activities.

Rich was a visionary, tenacious, persuasive, and daring Director who put in place many of the policies and programs that make Palm Beach County a model in marine conservation. Thanks to Rich’s leadership, PBC has hundreds of acres of restored mangroves and seagrasses, improved water quality in the Lagoon, thriving artificial reef systems and effectively managed shoreline.

Key areas of marine conservation impact during Rich’s tenure at ERM:

  • Established model shoreline protection program, integrating beach and dune restoration with inlet management to maintain recreational beaches and critical sea turtle nesting habitat.
  • Implemented marine sea turtle monitoring and data collection programs designed to protect and enhance turtle
  • Created programs to protect and monitor natural reef systems; provided funding and organizational support for the Palm Beach County Reef Research
  • Established artificial reef program to create additional marine habitat, relieve pressure on natural coral reefs, and provide unique diving and fishing opportunities. Forty-five vessels, 82,000 tons of concrete and 130,000 tons of limestone boulders have been placed under Rich’s
  • Established environmental restoration programs within Lake Worth Lagoon, a 20-mile long estuary in Palm Beach County that provides critical habitat for marine fisheries and many endangered species including Florida manatees, green sea turtles, and Johnson’s seagrass.
  • Acquired and preserved over 31,000 acres of conservation lands including wetlands and uplands that provide significant water retention and storage  benefits, reducing excessive fresh water surges to brackish estuaries and reducing pollutant loading associated with storm-water
  • Built public advocacy for marine resources through extensive outreach and education programs.

Rich would say that these successes were the result of talented teams working in partnership with management, County Administration and Board of County Commissioners and other governmental entities. That’s true. But it takes leadership, drive and creativity to design and complete successful programs that provide long lasting, positive impacts to the natural environment.

During Rich’s tenure at ERM, he:

  • Set a high bar for research-based marine conservation, giving ERM the considerable policy and program clout it conti’nues to
  • Modeled environmental leadership that has inspired a generation of professionals and civic leaders who have worked with Rich
  • Demonstrated resourcefulness in finding funds. Rich is a master at bringing partners together and matching funding sources in unique ways. Much of what ERM accomplished would never  have happened  without  his vision  and ability to  put deals
  • ·Understood that big ideas involve risk. Rich would complete risk assessments, and weigh the risk/reward and forge ahead if he thought the potential outcome was worth the risk, recognizing that his professional career could be threatened. Rich was willing to navigate political minefields that sometimes doom a person of lesser talent and intellect.
  • Modeled environmental leadership that has inspired a generation of professionals and civic leaders who have worked with
  • Institutionalized environmental management and stewardship into Palm Beach County government and created a foundation for public support for resource protection that hopefully will last well into the future.

Nomination 2:
To the Go Blue Awards Judging Panel: This letter supports Jon Van Arnam’s nomination (above) of Richard (Rich) Walesky for the 2017 Blue Friend of the Year Award for work-related activities on behalf of marine conservation.

As Rich’s resume shows, throughout his career he has worked to conserve our marine heritage.

His greatest impact came as a result of his last position. In 1987, he was named Director of the newly formed PBC Department of Environmental Resources, a post he held until 2011.

During those 24 years, Rich used his deep knowledge, drive, persuasiveness, and ability to see future challenges to get things done.

He set conservation standards, embarked on a myriad of sustainable projects — from beach restoration for sea turtle nesting and artificial reef installations, to cleaning up waterways — and institutionalized stewardship for our unique environmental assets in County policy. He educated the public, persuaded politicians, and provided expert environmental leadership for a new generation of leadership in the County.

Thanks to Rich’s tireless efforts, Palm Beach County residents and visitors can enjoy our green space, natural areas, clean waters, sand and sea. And the world’s sea turtles can return to nest on the PBC beaches where they were hatched!

During my 28-year tenure as County Commissioner, I worked closely with Rich.  No one has done more for marine conservation in Palm Beach County day in day out in the last three decades than Rich Walesky.

Since his retirement, Rich continues to advocate and act. He teaches students of all ages, models best practices, and serves on the Board of Sustainable Palm Beach County, where he brings his considerable energy and knowledge to bear on our marine conservation efforts.

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