Leon Abood: Meilssa Meeker has background to do great job at South Florida Water Management District.
Leon Abood of Stuart is a founding member and chairman of the Rivers Coalition, a 55-member organization of business, environmental and civic groups. Abood represents the Realtor Association of Martin
Saturday, July 9, 2011
We have been cautiously optimistic since we received the news a few weeks ago that Melissa Meeker was appointed as executive director of the South Florida Water Management District.
Optimistic because she knows us better than anyone else who could have gotten that job. Cautious because Ms. Meeker will be dealing with huge budget restraints unlike anything her predecessors had to work with — not to mention the all-too-familiar political wrangling and influence-pedaling that has plagued us for decades.
Back to being optimistic: Her ties to us locally date to at least 1998, when the huge, damaging discharges from Lake Okeechobee caused the now-infamous "sick fish" outbreak. Ms. Meeker was stationed in the Florida Department of Environmental Protection mobile lab at the Snook Nook in Jensen Beach collecting lesioned fish and shipping them off for examination. She was in the room with us at the Realtor Association of Martin County when the Rivers Coalition was formed as a result of that outbreak.
She lives here. She knows all too well about the crippling economic ramifications of a sick and polluted St. Lucie River. Knowing Melissa Meeker as a result of working with her over many years in the different positions she has occupied, I can tell you that she is brilliant, a skilled politician and a deeply caring individual. How she steers this giant ship and maneuvers it through the rough and complicated waters of our time will set the stage for environmental restoration and effective water management generations to come.
We have a national treasure at stake in the Everglades. We have local treasures at stake in our beloved St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon, two of the most biodiverse ecosystems in North America.
Environmental restoration, moving water south out of the lake and creating storage reservoirs all are critical pieces of a very complicated puzzle that includes properly managing water for all of South Florida. There are huge demands for this fragile natural resource, our water. Agriculture, municipalities, environmentalists, everyone wants it, but not too much. There are huge monetary consequences for everyone involved.
Let's also not forget that public safety is the No. 1 mission of the district. A gigantic ship to be steered indeed, yet because we know the captain we can't help but feel optimistic, cautiously so.