Our Town with William Kelly: Exciting, informative and in-person: Civic Association launches its 2021-22 season

William Kelly  |  Civic Association  |  Our Town  |  November 3, 2021

It’s been 19 months since the Palm Beach Civic Association last held a public gathering on the eve of the global Covid-19 outbreak in March 2020.

The Civic Association responded swiftly and vigorously to the public health crisis by following Centers for Disease Control guidelines to keep its members and the public safe and healthy. Public events were cancelled, postponed or in some cases held virtually.

But that will end on Nov. 8, when Civic Association members and the public gather in person at 4 p.m. for a “Welcome Back Community Forum” at Royal Poinciana Chapel. It will be the first of many events in a season filled with dynamic speakers and community engagement on issues crucial to the quality of life in Palm Beach.

At the Nov. 8 forum, Bob Hamilton, president of Woods Hole Group, the town’s coastal engineering consultant, will talk about what sea level rise and coastal vulnerability and resilience mean for this barrier island.

Mayor Danielle Moore will be there to welcome returning seasonal residents back to the island, and everyone to the beginning of a new season.

“We have all been through so much over the last 19 months,” Civic Association President Mary Robosson said. “We are grateful to be able to gather again and serve the community that we cherish due to the sense of engagement that Palm Beach brings to each of us.”

Residents are looking forward to a return to normalcy and the chance to celebrate the new season together, said Michele Kessler, vice chair of the Civic Association’s Executive Committee.

“I think most people are really chafing at the bit to go out and get back to normal,” she said.

Authorities say the vaccination rate among town residents is virtually 100 percent. But the pandemic is still with us, and social distancing guidelines will limit in-person attendance to about 100 people at the Nov. 8 forum.

Ken Griffin, the billionaire hedge fund manager, entrepreneur and investor, was the first speaker to see his March 2020 engagement postponed because of Covid-19. He’s coming back.

Griffin’s rescheduled appearance – he will speak at the Civic Association’s Dec. 9 luncheon at the Four Seasons Resort – is sure to be a highlight of this season. The Florida native and part-time Palm Beach resident is the founder, chief executive officer and primary owner of Chicago-based Citadel LLC.

This season’s Civic Association Annual Award Event in February will also be packing a lot of star power and personality. Television journalist Willie Geist, who interviews the biggest names in the news and pop culture, will headline the Feb. 28 breakfast gathering at The Breakers.

Geist is the anchor of NBC’s Sunday Today with Willie Geist and fill-in anchor on both the Saturday and fill-in editions of Today.

A VIP dinner with Geist will be held the evening before at a private residence for donors of $5,000 or more.

On Nov. 16, the Civic Association and Citizens’ Association of Palm Beach will co-host a seminar on building structure safety at 3 p.m. at the South Fire Station. The seminar will focus on protective measures for buildings in Palm Beach following the June 24 partial collapse of a condominium building in the Surfside neighborhood of Miami. The tragedy killed nearly 100 people and injured others.

Speaking at the seminar will be Zoning Director Wayne Bergman; Ben Messerschmidt, engineer with Epic Forensics and Engineering; and Louis Caplan, an attorney with the Boca Raton law firm Sachs Sax Caplan.

On Nov. 17, the Civic Association will welcome its directors back for the new season with a Directors Luncheon at 11:30 a.m. at Club Colette.

On Dec. 13, the organization hosts its Annual Holiday Party for Civic Association members 5:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. at The Breakers.

Still to be determined are the date and location of a Town Council candidates’ forum in February for the three council incumbents and any challengers they may face in the March 8 town election.

The date and location are also still to be decided for the Association’s Major Donor Reception in March.

March is the month for this season’s Speaker Series, which will focus on personal safety and security. Louis Freeh, former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Michael Reiter, former Palm Beach police chief, will be the speakers. The date and location are being finalized.

The season will wrap up as it always does at the Annual Meeting and End of Season Celebration at 10 a.m. on April 11 at the Flagler Museum.

Robosson noted that, along with the many educational and social events lined up for this season, the Civic Association’s Executive Committee and 16 volunteer committees will continue to address the most important issues facing the town, including water quality, public safety and health care, to name a few.

Their work is consistent with the Civic Association’s mission to improve the quality of life in Palm Beach by educating and engaging residents on key issues facing the town and to work with local government and encourage citizen involvement in the community.

“Through the Civic Association, the residents of this town are volunteering their time, expertise and service to protect Palm Beach – a town and community jewel,” Robosson said.

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