FISH discusses future options, reviews work

The Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage Turner Maritime Challenge’s executive director Sean Wardell is approaching one year on the job.

He was hired in 2012 at $34,000 a year to give the program full-time attention and has since renewed the Sea Scouts of America program in Cortez, a subsidiary group of the Boy Scouts of America.

Bell brought up at the Sept. 9 FISH board meeting the fact that Wardell has not yet had a review, but it was his suggestion to skip the first six-month review.

“He didn’t feel like he accomplished everything he wanted to do at six months, so he didn’t feel like a review was necessary,” said Bell. “We are approaching one year now, and he would like us to review what he’s accomplished or not.”

FISH board members appointed a review committee of Bell, Linda Molto, president Kim McVey and treasurer Jane von Hahmann. McVey said she would ask Manatee County Clerk of Circuit Court and board secretary R.B. “Chips” Shore to chair the committee and bring a recommendation back to the board.

Wardell was reminded that his salary was taken from a $320,000 fund donated by the program’s namesake, and that it also is part of his responsibility to raise money.

He said he is seeking corporate sponsorship but needs $500 from FISH to hire a company that generates sponsorship opportunities.

Von Hahmann said Wardell should have created a subcommittee of FISH members to keep them up to date with his needs.

Board member Jim Kelly disagreed.

“I don’t understand that,” he said. “He’s the director. He can do whatever he needs to do. We don’t need to micromanage everything he does.”

Wardell said he is raising more interest in the Sea Scout program by promoting and starting a Facebook page, but needs corporate sponsors to reach his goals.

FISH agreed to spend the $500, but von Hahmann said Wardell is running out of time.

“You probably have one more year to really crank this up,” she said.

“You need to come up with a plan shortly, and this is why we need to have a subcommittee,” she said. “Your dollars are shrinking fast. I don’t want to see it go away, and I don’t think you’ll get it done at the corporate level alone.”

Of the $320,000 donated to the TMC, von Hahmann said about $173,000 remains.

Esperanza in Spanish means “hope,” and a sailboat by that name first came to the United States in the 1990s filled with hope.

But FISH hasn’t had a lot of luck in its ongoing search for a home for the restored Esperanza, which brought six Cuban refugees to the U.S. shore seeking asylum.

The boat was discovered in bad condition on the Atlantic coast in the upper Florida Keys near Windley Key and brought to Cortez for renovation.

FISH has continued to maintain the Esperanza in the hope it will find an appropriate home, but boatworks committee members have previously asked that it be removed from their facility, where it takes up space needed to work on other boats.

FISH members lamented at the meeting that options for the Esperanza and a search for a new home have not been fruitful.

There had been some discussion about an outside exhibit at the Florida Maritime Museum, 4415 119th St. W., Cortez, but Manatee County Clerk of Circuit Court deputy clerk Cathy Slusser told FISH there is no funding for such a project at the museum.

The county clerk’s office oversees the operation of the museum.

In the meantime, organizers of the Nov. 2 Sarasota Bay Water Festival have asked FISH to display the Esperanza at the event. Kelly said the festival was attended by about 3,000 people in 2012 and might be an opportunity for FISH to share information.

FISH member Karen Bell suggested fliers include the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival, which takes place in February. Bell said she would help design the flier.

The board approved moving Esperanza outdoors with a protective tarp and agreed to spend up to $200 to have a flier prepared.


FISH mulls full-time director proposal

Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage board member Karen Bell suggested in August the nonprofit consider hiring a full-time director.

Bell said it’s too difficult for FISH to address things on a day-to-day basis when the board only meets once a month. Bell brought the subject up for discussion again at the Sept. 9 meeting at Fishermen’s Hall in Cortez.

“It would be a good idea to find someone who would be dedicated to overseeing everything,” said Bell. “I realize we have no budget for it, but if we get the right person, that person could create that.”

Bell suggested that the board begin looking for someone with the time to volunteer to begin with, and then let that person develop fundraising activities to fund their salary while promoting FISH.

“It would take someone who can think outside the box,” she said. “It just seems like we talk about a lot of things and don’t follow through with them. I think our intentions are good, but it’s hard to do when we only meet once a month and have all of our own obligations outside of FISH.”

The board was agreeable to authorize Bell to pursue the parameters of the proposed position and begin searching for candidates who would be willing to start as a volunteer.

Anyone interested in volunteering as FISH director with the opportunity to turn it into a full-time position should contact Bell at A.P. Bell Fish at 941-794-1249 or

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