The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 9 No. 15 - December 31, 2008


Privateers bring Christmas to military family
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/LAURIE KROSNEY Sgt. Tami Kemper-Pena, a Holmes Beach
woman who was wounded in Iraq, sits by Santa in his sleigh. On
Santa’s lap is her grandson, Gabrielle, 2. Other family members
from left to right are Ali Kemper, 18, Shannon, 13, and
Genevieve, 8, with Brian, 1, on her lap.

HOLMES BEACH – It was Christmas Eve.

Shoppers were running in and out of Publix getting last minute items for their holiday feasts. They couldn’t help rubbernecking a little as they saw a beautiful sleigh stacked high with gifts and people in pirate garb milling around in the parking lot.

It was the Anna Maria Island Privateers getting ready to bring a memorable Christmas to Sgt. Tami Kemper-Pena, her three children and her two grandchildren.

"We wanted to do something special for someone for Christmas, and we wanted to do it for someone who was serving our country," Privateers Secretary Bekka Stasney said. "We called the Manatee County Armed Forces Service Center and they gave us Tami’s name."

Kemper-Pena was wounded in a mortar attack while serving in Iraq. She sustained a brain injury as well as neck and back injuries.

After months of treatment, including 14 surgeries with more to come, she got leave to come home to her family for a few days at Christmas.

"It’s so good to be home," she said on Christmas Eve as the Privateers carried load after load of goodies, including a bed and money for a new stove into her house. "I just wish my husband could be here."

Her husband, Roland Pena, is still on active duty in Iraq, though he’s connected to the family by Web cam.

The children have been largely in the care of Kemper-Pena’s oldest daughter, Ali, who is 18, and her fiancé, Jeffrey Roberts, a marine who was awarded a Purple Heart after serving two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.

Shannon, 13, held her nephew Brian, 1, and smiled gently at all the activity while Genevieve, 8, stayed as close to her mother as she could get.

Gabrielle, 2, was really into the Christmas spirit. He climbed right up in to Santa’s sleigh and perched himself on the red-suited lap while everyone else was sorting out what was happening.

When he climbed down, he got on a brand new bicycle with training wheels that was just his size and he jumped right on. He knew just what to do.

When everything was finally carried in, Dennis Poteet, the Privateers president, asked for quiet so he could say a few words.

"We all want to thank you for your service to our country," Poteet told Kemper-Pena. "And we want to thank your husband and your daughter’s fiancé, too. Thank you."

The Privateers, some surreptitiously wiping tears from their eyes, all responded with thanks as well.

Kemper-Pena thanked the Privateers, and everyone wished Pena a Merry Christmas in Iraq.

Several people were making videos of the event, which will be shared with Pena overseas.

With a rousing round of "We wish you a Merry Christmas," the Privateers left, only to return on Christmas day to deliver a fully cooked Christmas dinner.

2008: The good the bad and the ugly
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

FILE PHOTO The Anna Maria Island bridge renovation and closure was not
as inconvenient as Island residents and business owners feared.

As the year 2008 draws to a close, we look back on the events that made it another memorable year on the Island. We’ve had it all from bridge closings to Bridging the Gap, pipelines and Pine Avenue and fires and flooding. Here are a few month-by-month highlights:


• Island business owner Sue Normand returns to the Island to recover from a shattered hip after being shot by Mark Koenigs while tending her store in December.
• The Anna Maria Island (AMI) Bridge rehabilitation was delayed until February, and officials lobby to limit bridge openings during the planned 45-day fall closure.
• Bradenton Beach’s former mayor and current commissioner, John Chappie, announces that he will run for Jane von Hahmann’s Manatee County Commission District 3 seat.
• Cortezians raise concerns about a development of three- to five-story residential buildings blossoming on Manatee Fruit Company’s flower farm.
• Anna Maria officials are told to offer more beach parking or their renourishment funds will blow away.


• Work on the AMI Bridge begins and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) initiates a study for its replacement, covering all bases.
• Shoreline Builders applies for a building permit for the first two buildings for Tidemark’s marina residences.


• Anna Maria’s Pine Avenue Restoration group submits its first site plan. Principals Michael Coleman and Ed Chiles envision a corridor of small shops, residences and restaurants from the city pier to the Gulf.
• Limited openings on the Cortez Bridge and Gulf Drive improvements are expected to make the planned fall closure of the AMI Bridge easier on motorists.


• The spring season for Island motels, restaurants and businesses is phenomenal. Show me the money.
• Renourishment funds wash out with the tide for Anna Maria’s bayside.
• The Holmes Beach Skate Park is named for the late Officer Pete Lannon.
• Pa and Kent Davis’ Holmes Beach home is destroyed by a late night fire that stared when an oily rag in a trash can ignited.
• Former Anna Maria Commissioner Linda Cramer is beaten in a home invasion.
• Residents announce they will purchase the Cortez Trailer Park after fearing that a developer would buy it and they would lose their homes.


• Two suspects, Michael Gambuzza and Christopher Dresher, were arrested in the Cramer case.
• Officials sound the alarm that Port Dolphin’s planned natural gas pipeline will threaten the county’s beach renourishment sand source.


• Opposition to the natural gas pipeline grows and includes 14 members of Congress. A couple of weeks later, Port Dolphin proposes a new route.
• TECO surprises Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach officials with its plan to install a natural gas line in their cities.
• Island cities learn they will lose 11 to 14 percent of their taxable property value.
• Plans begin for Bridging the Gap, a series of events to be held during the AMI Bridge closure.
• Trolley service to Longboat Key and Sarasota begins.
• The county begins replacing aging water pipes in the city of Anna Maria, causing a traffic jam lasting until October.


• For the first time in many years, there were no fireworks at the Sandbar restaurant in Anna Maria on July 4 due to a request from the Island Fireworks Task Force, which hoped that the request coupled with a plan that included education and confiscation would help control the use of illegal fireworks. The plan had mixed success.
• TECO began installing its natural gas line along Gulf Drive in Bradenton Beach.
• A multi-agency law enforcement team investigates illegal sewage dumping in area waters.


• Manatee County received a $2.2 million check from the Florida Communities Trust to purchase the Neal Preserve on the south east side of the AMI Bridge.
• Koenigs was convicted on all three counts against him.
• A new environmental group, Sarasota Bay Watch, held its First Sarasota Bay Great Scallop Search, which was a huge success.
• Chappie beats von Hahmann in the primary to win the county commission seat.


• With no advance notice, Shells closes its Holmes Beach restaurant, one of 10 in the state, after the company filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.
• The FBI requested records from all three Island cities on GSR Development, Inc., which filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code two years ago.
• On its way to Galveston, Hurricane Ike created a tidal surge that inundated the Island, flooding homes and streets, collapsing seawalls, eroding beaches and delivering the best waves that Island surfers have seen in ages.
• Anna Maria’s Pine Avenue Restoration project began construction on its first two buildings.
• The Anna Maria Island Bridge closes for 45 days. Drivers are totally surprised by the absence of traffic jams. Much ado about nothing.


• Bridging the Gap, a series of events to draw people to the Island and entertain Island residents during the bridge closure, begins.
• The new Anna Maria city water line was hooked up and promptly blew out the line, making residents boil water for four days. Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.
• The Coquina Beach Club was fined $2,283 for turtle lighting violations.


• The AMI Bridge reopened a week ahead of schedule. "Get your motor running; head out on the highway." Apparently so many people did so that the bridge had to open three hours ahead of schedule.
• Sabine-Musil Buehler, co-owner of Haley’s Motel was reported missing. Her boyfriend, William Cumber, said he last saw her on election night. The next day, Robert Corona was found driving her car, which he said he stole from a bar parking lot in Bradenton.
• Koenigs was sentenced to a minimum of 28 years and a maximum of 40 years.
• A suspicious fire destroys a duplex at Haley’s Motel.


• A freak storm damages trailers in the Sandpiper Mobile Home Park.
• Manatee County may include a section of Anna Maria beach from the Sandbar restaurant to Bean Point in its upcoming renourishment project.
• Island churches rally to meet the needs of Island residents who are going hungry due to the national economic downturn.
• The FDOT presents residents with options for the AMI Bridge replacement.
• Blood found in Sabine Musil-Buehler’s car was determined to be hers. She remains missing.

Sun’s Person of the Year: Cindi Harrison
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

FILE PHOTO Cindy Harrison is the liaison between the Kiwanis Club
and the fifth graders who participate in the Grandparents program.
Here she clowns around with Kiwanis member Bob LoPiccollo
at their annual picnic and softball game.

HOLMES BEACH – When she was introduced to an audience of parents a few years ago, Anna Maria Elementary School Guidance Counselor Cindi Harrison explained why she considers herself so lucky.

"The others at this school teach your children’s brains; I teach their hearts."

That’s why Cindi Harrison is The Sun’s Person of the Year for 2008.

Cindi Harrison began teaching 23 years ago in Michigan, not knowing what her future held. She explained that she began teaching the hearing impaired using high-tech amplification equipment and the students were so excited to have such a big impairment breached that she decided she needed to learn the emotional side of teaching.

She and her husband, Tom, moved to Manatee County 23 years ago after purchasing a home on Anna Maria Island and Cindi became a guidance counselor at Bashaw Elementary School, although she dreamed of one day teaching at the little school on the Island.

That dream came true when AME Principal Jim Kronus hired her 13 years ago.

Since then, she has gone from counseling and offering classroom guidance, coordinating the assessment testing, coordinating the child study teams and coordinating the volunteers to new programs as needed. They include the annual celebration of world peace at the school’s Peace Pole, involving students in the Literacy in the Garden program in which they take care of plants, learn about them and write essays about it. There are others that came about as a result of involving herself with groups such as the Rotary Club of Anna Maria Island and the Island Kiwanis Club.

"She is the first honorary Rotarian in the history of our club," said past president Jim Dunne. "We made her our first because of all the things she has done for the school and the kids."

The Peace Pole came as a result of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. That year, two students enrolled at AME after moving from New York. They were able to see the Twin Towers that were leveled in the attacks from their classrooms.

“The Rotary Club had some money it wanted to donate to the school for a project and it was her idea," Dunne said.

Dunne and his wife, Nancy, are both volunteer tutors at the school and have been able to raise the number of volunteers from the Rotary Club to around 15.

"She has the ability to match the right volunteer with the right student," he said. "She set my Nancy up with the perfect match."

Nancy can attest to Harrison’s abilities and how she performs.

"Cindi is the epitome of a counselor," she said. "She gives constantly to the kids and treats them as her children."

The Dunnes both talked about a bereavement program she has for kids who lost grandparents and parents.

"She’s really made an impact on these kids," Nancy Dunne said. "She’s such an upbeat person."

Jim Dunne said that she sets the whole tone of the day for everyone at the school when she hosts "The Morning Show," the school’s closed-circuit program.

"I don’t know what I would do without her," said AME Principal Tom Levengood. "She’s one reason I transferred here because she has an excellent reputation."

Levengood said he consulted with former AME Principal Tim Kolbe before making the move.

"He let me know who were the leadership teams at the school and he said he relied on her the most."

Levengood said that he works so well with Harrison on so many levels.

"She’s one of the best sounding boards I’ve ever had," he said, "I would be lost without her."

Harrison is also known for raising money and presents for needy families with the help of Jackie Estes, owner of Paradise Bagels in Holmes Beach. Estes has a giving tree there and when people in need ask for things for their children or themselves, their requests are written down and put on the tree for people to take and fill the requests.

Estes’ daughter, Cindy Thompson, is a former PTO president at the school and she had more praise for Harrison.

"She’s a blessing for Anna Maria Elementary School and for the Island," she said. "She holds that quest for peace and that really brings the school and the community together."

Whether it’s in the classroom, in front of the TV camera at the school, handing out awards to fifth-graders at the end-of-school-year assembly or helping a student who needs someone to talk to as much as special tutoring, Cindi Harrison thrives on making our lives a little bit better.

School gets first natural gas hookup
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/TOM VAUGHT Jim De Unger, of Bayside Gas,
adapts an oven in the Anna Maria Elementary School kitchen
so that it will use natural gas instead of propane.

HOLMES BEACH – Christmas came a little early for the Island’s only public school last week. It wasn’t a visit from Santa that brought the good news. It came in the form of three pickup trucks with toolboxes on back and workers on a mission.

They arrived around 9 a.m. to replace the propane gas service that ran the kitchen appliances, water heaters and boiler with natural gas.

TECO People’s Gas, the company that has been installing bright yellow plastic pipes in the rights of way along Gulf Drive since early September, chose Anna Maria Elementary School as its first connection. Workers for Bayside Gas, the contractor who makes the conversion, put new burner orifices on the kitchen equipment and made adjustments to make sure everything worked at peak efficiency.

Meanwhile, a worker for TECO People’s Gas said that the company is planning on offering natural gas to residential customers in the future.

"It’s cheaper, safer and cleaner than propane," said Jeff Young of TECO People’s Gas. “We will make it available to condominiums and homeowners in the future.”

Frank Peppitoni, of the Manatee County School District’s Construction Services Division, said that about half of the district’s 56 schools use natural gas. He said they find it is much less expensive than using propane.

TECO People’s Gas of Tampa started installing underground natural gas piping in Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach for commercial customers such as restaurants and resorts after receiving the blessings of the city governments. The city of Bradenton Beach approved a utilities agreement with the company, which will pay a fee to the city. Bradenton Beach did not approve the proposed utility agreement the company sent the city commissioners. City Attorney Ricinda Perry has been working on an agreement with TECO People’s Gas attorneys and is expected to have a proposed agreement for the city commissioners to consider at the next city commission meeting.

Local woman dies in skydiving accident
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

PHOTO PROVIDED Laws and a wooden duck on a dive.

Former Anna Maria Island waitress Debbie Laws, 48, was killed instantly last Friday when she struck another skydiver as their parachutes opened.

"She was crazy about jumping," said her former employer, Paul Hoffman, owner of Hurricane Hank’s. "She moved out east so she could be near jumping."

Laws, who worked for Hurricane Hank’s for several years before moving to Pasco County, was well-liked by customers, according to Hoffman.

T.K. Hayes, manager of Skydive City Inc., where Laws caught the plane that took the jumpers up, said she was part of a formation that day.

"It was a Christmas sunset celebration," he said. "There were about 30 to 35 people in the formation."

Hayes said the other jumper, Walter Huminski, 72, was injured, but none of his injuries are life threatening. Hayes said he took a hit in the head and his helmet had a big gash in it, and he also suffered a broken wrist. Laws leaves a daughter, a son and two grandchildren.

SeaSide gets turtle-friendly features
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Anna Maria Island Resorts Operations Manager Dawn Betts points
out the turtle-friendly windows. SUN PHOTO/LAURIE KROSNEY

BRADENTON BEACH — SeaSide, a small beachfront motel on the "S" curve of Gulf Drive has always been one of the places on the Island that has worked hard to do what it could to help preserve the sea turtles that nest here.

When it was purchased by David Teitelbaum and added to his Anna Maria Island Resorts, which include Tortuga Inn, Trade Winds and Old Bridge Village, the trend continued.

"We have always worked hard to be responsible about turtles," Teitelbaum said. "SeaSide is directly on the beach, so we wanted to work especially hard at it here."

As the resort was being completely re-done, both inside and out, AMI Resort Operations Manager Dawn Betts paid special attention to making sure that the building would be "turtle friendly."

"And she knows about turtle safety," Teitelbaum said. "She was the code enforcement officer in Bradenton Beach, you know."

Betts said she made sure the outside lighting was recessed and that it pointed down, as is recommended by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

"We wanted to make sure that we didn’t have any point sources of light that would draw sea turtles," Betts said. "And we’re careful to keep the wattage low enough that we don’t have city glow happening."

City glow is caused by all the sources of light that can attract not only turtles, but also migrating birds, whose flight paths it can interrupt.

To get an example of city glow, take a look out over the Gulf at night. Then turn toward the east and you’ll have a clear idea of what city glow means, or log onto to find out more.

At SeaSide, the outside lights will not be drawing turtles or hatchlings away from the water, but all the rooms at the resort front on the Gulf and all the rooms have huge sliding glass doors opening onto the Gulf. Light from inside those rooms could also be a lure for turtles.

"So we went with ‘turtle glass’ on the windows," Betts said.

"It’s a film that cuts out certain wavelengths of light, and what’s left doesn’t affect the turtles," Teitelbaum said. "They can’t see the wave lengths that are left, or so the turtle experts say."

The film is applied to existing glass. It has a blue tint. The spectacular Gulf views offered by each room at the resort are not affected by the application of the film, and the turtles are safe at the same time.

"It is really no more expensive than anything else we could have done," Teitelbaum said. "The cost is insignificant, and we get the benefit of being responsible about the nature we live with on the Island."

"It’s not difficult or expensive at all to be careful to make sure you don’t harm sea turtles or interrupt their nesting," Betts said.

To find out more about turtle protection measures you can take, log onto

How to invest like a shark
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/CINDY LANE Anna Maria resident Jim "RevShark" DePorre
runs Shark Investing on principals that would make Jaws proud.

ANNA MARIA – Why don’t sharks attack lawyers?

Professional courtesy.

Anna Maria resident Jim DePorre is good-natured about shark jokes. Sharks have been very, very good to him, so good that the self-described "recovering" lawyer-turned-investment guru adopted the nickname "RevShark" and based his new investment book on the principals of sharkdom.

For example, sharks never stop looking for their next meal (keep searching for the next great investment). When there’s blood in the water, strike fast (know when to buy and don’t delay). Swim away from danger (know when to sell). Have a feeding frenzy (profit from the fear, despair, stupidity and greed of others).

And whatever else you do, he says, don’t be a whale.

Whales – his description of big name investment firms – are not as maneuverable as sharks; they take a long time to change course, a definite disadvantage in any market, especially the uncertain one facing investors in 2009.

"You squander the advantages you have with your flexibility," he says. "Individual investors can find ways to move fast, run with an opportunity."

Whales also follow the traditional Wall Street advice, like "Buy low and sell high," – a myth, he says – and "Hold stocks for the long haul," which he calls fatal.

" ‘Stay the course’ " makes me cringe," DePorre says, adding that people get too emotionally attached to stocks they’ve held for a long time. Sharks are not loyal, nor should investors be, he says.

There’s no such thing as a blue chip stock anymore - one which is always a good, safe investment – and there probably never was, he says, adding that AT&T, one of the bluest of the blue chips, lost money for a lot of investors.

DePorre has a track record of making money, but only after losing nearly everything.

With law and business degrees, the corporate lawyer and CPA suddenly lost his hearing in the early 1990s and could no longer practice law. He turned to the Internet as a way to communicate, then wandered into the world of online trading and began making money.

He founded Shark Asset Management Inc., a money management firm, and Shark Investing Inc., which operates the educational Web site

Now he sits in his home office in Anna Maria or his office in Bradenton before a dozen computer screens and watches for trends like a shark watches for weak fish.

He employs his 10 Commandments of Shark Investing, like, Thou shalt use charts, Thou shalt not be afraid to sell and Thou shalt protect thy capital. After all, he says, avoiding losses in a bad market is the same as making money in a good one.

Jim Cramer of the CNBC investment program Mad Money praises DePorre’s method, and his book, which is subtitled "How a Deaf Guy with No Job and Limited Capital Made a Fortune Investing in the Stock Market."

Cramer, a former hedge fund manager, calls DePorre "a David in a sea of Goliaths… able to find their weaknesses and exploit them to his advantage." Both authors write columns for

DePorre is optimistic about 2009, with mortgage rates and gas prices falling, and the American spirit of entrepreneurship still intact.

And even investors who lost bundles in 2008’s nasty market can still survive if they remember shark principals like "Sharks aren’t loyal," he says.

"Holding onto bad stocks uses your emotional energy," DePorre says, adding that it’s not too late to sell them and sit on your cash until you survey the waters and spot a likely meal, er, investment. Then, dive in.

But be prepared to spend a lot more time studying the market than you did as a buy and hold investor, DePorre warns.

"It’s not as easy as making one decision for all time," he says. "It takes effort."

And the instinct of a shark.

City objects to mail center move

ANNA MARIA - Keeping the Manasota mail-processing center is something that Anna Maria city commissioners have resolved they want to do.

The United States Postal Service has begun a process that will likely end in closing that facility, which will mean that all mail going off the Island or coming onto the Island will have to be routed through Tampa.

"This will result in delays in the mail," Mark Kessner, a Manasota postal worker told commissioners at their December meeting. "In other areas where this has happened, there have had to be earlier collection times and later delivery times."

The Manasota post office facility processes all the mail from Manatee and Sarasota counties. The Manasota office also processes the mail from a small part of DeSoto County.

Kessner told commissioners that there will also be an economic impact to the area since all 300 postal workers in the Manasota facility will be transferred to other offices and will likely have to move to get those jobs.

"Most families of postal workers are two-job families, so that means the area will lose two jobs and the spending power of those two jobs," Kessner pointed out.

After hearing from the postal workers, city commissioners unanimously passed a resolution objecting to the move. Residents can also give their input on the possible move by logging on to

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