Category Archives: Uncategorized

A New 800-Foot Promenade Will Open Up The Lake Wellington Waterfront To Residents Boardwalk Project

A New 800-Foot Promenade Will Open Up The Lake Wellington Waterfront To Residents

Boardwalk Project

Along with a busy amphitheater, lively playground, spacious green lawn and an inviting community center, the Village of Wellington will soon be adding a peaceful promenade to its list of amenities in the Wellington Town Center area.

After years of consideration, planning and construction, Wellington residents and visitors can expect to enjoy the tranquil boardwalk atmosphere at the beginning of May along the Lake Wellington waterfront behind the Wellington Community Center. 

The community center already has an outdoor paver brick area overlooking Lake Wellington. It’s earthy, old-Florida tones partnering with the scenic, water view presents a picturesque environment. The new promenade will be an extension of this ambiance. 

Families, couples, friends and individuals can look forward to the boardwalk-style promenade as an avenue for togetherness, exercise and appreciation designed specifically for community use. It will stretch 800 feet from north to south, ranging from 20 to 30 feet in width. And, yes, it will be dog friendly.

Along with the idyllic scene, the promenade is also designed for community involvement. Wellington Assistant Village Manager Jim Barnes, for example, expects it to be instrumental in improving the lives of boaters using Lake Wellington.

“When we’ve had the Lakeside Family Fun Days this past year, before we started construction, some folks did try and come up on their boats and tie off temporarily,” Barnes said. “They all noted that it would be great if there was a way for them to do that on a regular basis.”

The idea, then, is that rather than having to drive to various events, such as the green market that the village expects to hold along the promenade, individuals living off of the lake can cut through the water and dock right there at the Wellington Community Center. 

“We think it’s going to really open up the waterfront that we’ve had since the beginning of time and provide more access to our residents and visitors alike,” Barnes said. “Not only do we have the view, based on the facilities we have with the community center, but now people will be able to also access the waterfront area when they’re not in the community center, whether it’s a walking path, a jog, enjoying the sunsets, whatever.”

To Wellington’s Assistant Planning, Zoning & Building Director Michael O’Dell, the view alone is worth a visit.

“I think one of the other major aspects of this particular spot is that the sunsets here over Lake Wellington are spectacular,” O’Dell said. “We get a lot of people who just come down here and watch the sunset.”

O’Dell himself enjoys it from the second floor of the community center, and he is excited by the possibilities offered by the new boardwalk promenade.

Community center patrons will be welcome to use the space for weddings or other parties.

“It’s an added amenity,” Barnes said. “Right now, [users] are able to, if they want to as part of their rental of the community center space, have an outdoor portion to it, whether it’s on the patio back there or whether they use the gazebo that’s over on the actual lake.”

The new 800-foot pathway expands that available area, and with the added electricity, O’Dell expects to open the promenade to more uses, such as food trucks.

“In the future, I see the food trucks being utilized in a given location that’s designed for them. I see the green market working itself along the promenade,” O’Dell said. “I see people utilizing the docks for boating activities and canoeing and kayaking activities.”

With the new addition comes in increased hope for Wellington citizens to take advantage of their community amenities.

“I think it’s just being able to provide greater access, whether it’s for the boaters so they can tie off here and go to an event or enjoy the amphitheater or some other activity here on site,” Barnes said. “Or whether it’s for folks who now have another access point if they want to paddleboard on the lake… or to increase the number of rowers with the ones we already have utilizing the lake now.”

Lake Wellington has been frequented by rowers for more than 20 years, and Barnes said he hopes this new project will help bring in even more.

“A lot of folks in the rowing club note that whoever laid out the design [for the lake] must have had some rowing background, because the length from end to end of Lake Wellington is ideal for a rowing course,” Barnes said. “So, that’s something that they’ve noted, and they’ve been using it for a long time. It’s something that would be great if it was a year-round activity.”

Many Wellington residents attend and participate in events that the village hosts. The promenade area is meant to complement the active Town Center lifestyle, not completely revolutionize it.

“I think that Wellington has such big community involvement, and everybody likes to participate in things that the village puts on,” agreed Ana Graham, a longtime Wellington resident. “And so, if you have another venue, that’s a good idea.”

Promenade visitors can expect to enjoy the sunset from the bricked boardwalk in the beginning of May. In the meantime, there’s always the second floor of the Wellington Community Center.


Julie Tannehill Is The Glue That Keeps Phelps Media Group Together Natural Leader

Julie Tannehill Is The Glue That Keeps Phelps Media Group Together

Natural Leader

Businesses can be compared to a living, breathing organism. When they are born, they need strong guidance and dedication to get them off the ground. Once they are a few years in, they need stable guidance by a steady and caring hand, and once they reach maturity, they need honest, accomplished and experienced management.

In many instances, it is hard for businesses to find and keep the type of people who can fill these roles. It is even more difficult to find the same person that fulfills each need. Phelps Media Group, an equestrian-focused marketing and public relations agency, is fortunate to have a professional that fills those needs and more through Wellington local Julie Tannehill.

Tannehill was born in New Castle, Pennsylvania, and spent most of her young life in Memphis, Tennessee, where she was a typical horse-crazy teenager. It was not until 1996 that she and her family relocated to Boca Raton. During that time, Tannehill was a professional in the hotel and hospitality industry. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, Tannehill enjoyed a successful career that took her from Boca Raton to Orlando and back again.

After meeting and marrying her then husband, Tannehill was able to fulfill her lifelong dream of purchasing a farm and owning several horses, while focusing on training and natural horsemanship. “The horse farm was the dream of my life, and for seven years, I chose to not work and enjoy my home and horses,” Tannehill recalled.

After her professional hiatus, Tannehill dove back into the workforce at the American Cancer Society in West Palm Beach. Little did she know that the nonprofit organization would lead her down an entirely different path that included Wellington businessman Mason Phelps.

“The American Cancer Society was where I got my foot back into the door of Wellington,” Tannehill said. “While I was working on the American Cancer Society gala in Wellington, I ended up meeting Mason and working with him on event sponsorships. Because of my lifelong history with horses, Mason had always been an idol of mine, and we really clicked when we worked together, which was thrilling.”

Phelps courted Tannehill to come to work for Phelps Media Group in 2007.

“One of the main reasons I took the position with Mason was because the first offices were located on the show grounds of the Winter Equestrian Festival,” Tannehill recalled.

She accepted the position of office manager with the fledgling business and immediately proved her versatile skill set and “can do” mentality by assisting in helping to organize the United States Equestrian Team Foundation’s appearance at the Rose Bowl.

Following the trajectory of equestrian sports in Wellington, Phelps Media Group continued to grow and gain traction within the industry. It transitioned offices from the show grounds to the Lake Wellington Professional Centre, and eventually to its current home in the Chancellor building in 2011.

The growth of Phelps Media Group happened rapidly, and through it all, Tannehill rose to meet the firm’s needs.

“The challenge was that fairly quickly, we went from a small company, where you do everything, to a bigger company where everyone’s role is more specialized and things need to be streamlined,” Tannehill said. “In the very beginning, I did everything from sales, to human resources, finance, event management and the list goes on. As we grew, I took on the finances and brought them in-house. I still do a little bit of everything, but now I am really a devil for the details.”

Today, Tannehill is married to her life partner, Don McKenzie, and is a staple in the Wellington professional community. Phelps Media Group has grown to become the largest equestrian marketing and public relations agency in the United States with a full-time staff of more than a dozen that travels extensively, works from all corners of the continent and is constantly striving to meet the needs of an ever-expanding industry. No matter what each new year brings, the one constant is Tannehill.

“Phelps Media Group has turned into a company that I could have never dreamed of,” founder and president Mason Phelps said. “We have had our fair share of challenges, and through it all, Julie has remained a constant guiding light and dependable ally. I really believe that we would not have been able to transform the way we have if it were not for her commitment and dependability to my vision and the mission of the company.”

She enjoys the day-to-day workings of the company. “I enjoy working with our varied staff and being exposed to more than just one thing in a day,” Tannehill said. “I like having my hand in a little bit of everything, and this group certainly keeps me on my toes.”

In a group of employees mostly comprised of young women, Tannehill serves not only as an organizer, but also a mentor and valuable reference for what has worked in the past and what has not. She is also a key component that continues to connect Phelps Media Group with the local Wellington community.

“I want to continue to see Phelps Media Group grow and strive to take our services to the next level,” Tannehill said. “I would like to see Phelps become even more specialized and valuable to our clients. Branding, social media, web site development, and strategic marketing — the sky is truly the limit to what I think we are capable of achieving.”



Provident Jewelry’s Geoff Fear Enjoys Being Involved In The Best Times In People’s Lives Positive Moments

Provident Jewelry’s Geoff Fear Enjoys Being Involved In The Best Times In People’s Lives

Positive Moments

Owner of Provident Jewelry’s newest location in Wellington, Geoff Fear likes the business he is in because jewelry is part of the happiest times in people’s lives.

A northerner whose family wintered in South Florida, Fear started his first business at age 21. It became so successful that he could develop the hobby of collecting high-end watches.

“I had been coming here since I was a youngster and fell in love with the area,” Fear recalled. “Fifteen years ago, I moved down and began to indulge my hobby of watch collecting by hanging around Provident Jewelry in Jupiter.”

He was drawn to Wellington due to its equestrian amenities.

“I fell in love with Wellington and became a fixture at polo every Sunday, and further fell in love with the jewelry and high-end watch business. That’s because it’s such a positive, happy business,” Fear said. “The clients are happy, the people in the business are happy. Jewelry is part of the positive moments in people’s lives.” 

Twelve years ago, Fear began learning the ins and outs of the business. “I came into Provident Jewelry in Jupiter as a vice president of sales,” he explained.

After doing an exceptional job in that role, he was offered the opportunity to buy into the company as a partner.

Provident Jewelry has a different way of doing business than many traditional jewelers, Fear explained. It is a young company in the industry, being around 27 years, with an excellent reputation for high integrity and honest value.

“We are estate jewelers, so we buy and sell the same things to the same people, so we have to play our cards face-up. Our margins are much thinner. We often sell the same jewelry as competitors for 40 to 50 percent of their prices,” Fear said.

As the company often takes back things that they have sold before for upgrades, estates or for whatever reason people might want to sell them, the markup is minimal compared to other firms.

“At the same time, we provide the ultra-high-end experience that goes with the purchase of such one-of-a-kind pieces of estate jewelry and the finest wrist watches in the world from some of the most unique boutique brands and independent watchmakers,” Fear said. “We feature luxurious surroundings, with a full bar and a wine room.”

The multi-million dollars invested in the new Wellington location provides a venue expected by high-end jewelry customers. The store even hosts events that showcase its elaborate setting.

In addition to the environment and dedication to a quality experience, another feature that sets Provident Jewelry’s seven stores apart is the expert in-house jewelers equipped with the latest technology available, including laser welders.

“We don’t send anything out. We do 100 percent of our jewelry and watch repair ourselves, in house, with technology such as laser welding, which enables our experts to use a welder to solder gold or silver together,” Fear said. “We can now actually use it to punch holes or to move stuff around. It is a very complex, expensive piece of equipment, so we can do a lot of things that traditional jewelers can’t do by hand with a torch.”

Every Provident Jewelry store has a GIA-certified graduate gemologist and appraisers on staff, and they offer free polishing and a lifetime warranty on every piece. They also strive to develop a personal relationship with customers.

Fear’s dedication to customer satisfaction and fair dealings, community involvement and charity work have provided Provident Jewelry with a stellar reputation. It’s a reputation that has helped the business do well. Well enough that he can indulge his hobby of zipping around town in his favorite bright blue Porsche racecar.

Provident Jewelry’s Wellington location is in the Town Square shopping plaza at 11924 W. Forest Hill Blvd., Suite 1. For more info., call (561) 798-0777 or visit


Wellington Keeps A Full Schedule Of Special Events For Residents To Enjoy Community Events

Wellington Keeps A Full Schedule Of Special Events For Residents To Enjoy

Community Events

Wellington is not a community accustomed to idleness, and many events are organized and led by the village itself. According to Assistant Parks & Recreation Director Michelle Garvey, the community is currently at its peak in terms of things to do and places to go — and you won’t want to miss a thing.

Garvey has worked for the Village of Wellington for 15 years and handles all village-run special events. One such event that is currently occupying her time is the Wellington Classic Brew Fest, one of the few age-limited festivals that Wellington stages each year.

The second annual event is scheduled to take place Saturday, Feb. 8 on the Great Lawn at Wellington’s Town Center area near the Wellington Community Center. Craft beer lovers can choose their taste of brews from 40 different breweries.

“The idea for this was actually generated by our assistant village manager. He’s always looking for new and innovative ideas, and this is his baby,” Garvey said. “I think it’s a great addition to our listing of events. It’s something that sets us apart.”

Garvey is expecting 1,500 people to attend the Wellington Classic Brew Fest and encourages them to buy tickets early, as last year, the event was sold out at 1,200 tickets. General admission is $45 prior to the event and $50 at the gate.

Brew tasters are also invited to enjoy limited and specialized samples, hors d’oeuvres and even massages with the purchase of a VIP ticket, guaranteeing early, exclusive admission at 2 p.m. General admission begins at 3 p.m. VIP tickets are $65 in advance and $70 at the gate.

Visitors looking to attend the event but not consume alcohol can buy a $10 ticket, excluding them from drinking but guaranteeing unlimited soda, water and a commemorative pint glass. While this form of admission is dubbed the “Designated Driver Ticket,” all eventgoers are encouraged to drink responsibly.

“During the event, to slow people down and make sure no one’s over-consuming, there are tasting glasses, which are smaller than a pint glass — and the brewers can only fill up to a certain line — so they really just get a taste of the beers,” Garvey said. “And we also encourage them to have a taste of this and then move on to the next brewer, so they can sample their special brews.”

Another event coming up is Marchtoberfest, set for March 6 and 7, also on the Great Lawn. Marchtoberfest is family friendly, and admission is free. 

Partnering with the American German Club, the village welcomes visitors to watch German dance and band performances, as well as enjoy traditional German food. Grammy-nominated accordion musician Alex Meixner is also scheduled to perform.

“They can sit down and enjoy a bratwurst,” Garvey said. “The kids can play in the bounce houses or play lawn games and just enjoy the beauty of our little piece of paradise here in Wellington.”

Unlike the tradition of holding these types of gatherings in October, Garvey said this event landed in March after they were contacted by Hofbrau, the event’s official beer sponsor.

“Marchtoberfest came about where everything kind of fell together,” Garvey said. “We had the Hofbrau representative contacting us, and we were able to say, ‘OK, we’re going to make it a German theme.’ Then we got together with the American German Club, and it all just fell into place.”

Only a couple weeks later, Wellington will play host to the popular Bacon & Bourbon Fest, a family-friendly event complete with vendors and bourbon pairings. Wellington was actually featured on the Cooking Channel’s “Carnival Eats” for hosting this unique event.

While this is an event for all ages, guests over 21 years old are invited to participate in pairing events inside the Wellington Community Center where experts teach them which type of bourbon pairs well with which food.

According to Garvey, Bacon & Bourbon Fest debuted in Delray Beach, but event organizers reached out to Wellington and later moved the event here.

The event, set for March 21-22, will be held at the Wellington Amphitheater and the Wellington Community Center, and while it is free to the public, multiple VIP packages are available for sale. Learn more at

Garvey explained that when new event ideas come up, it is discussed among village staff to determine if it would be something good to offer the community.

“If everybody decides yes, this is something that’s going to bring something positive to the community, then we try it out,” she explained. “Sometimes things work, sometimes they don’t. We’ve been very fortunate. [Bacon & Bourbon] was a great event, and the community really comes out for it.”

There are a number of other events Wellington is set to offer in 2020, including the continuation of regular food truck events, movie nights and live performances at the Wellington Amphitheater. Over two weekends this month, the popular Tribute Music & Food Truck Festival will return to the amphitheater stage. To find out more information about this or other village events, visit

“Wellington residents should feel proud of their community,” Garvey said. “We just hope to keep facilitating that and keep producing more events and opportunities for Wellington.”

E-mail Michelle Garvey at if you have ideas for future events.



Bill Thomas Of Brightway Insurance Offers Quality Advice And Unique Expertise Concierge Service

Bill Thomas Of Brightway Insurance Offers Quality Advice And Unique Expertise Concierge Service

Bill Thomas of Brightway Insurance has come a long way since growing up in Oyster Bay, Long Island. Back then, his goal was to fly.

“I became a commercial pilot and was trying to fly for the airlines,” Thomas recalled. “Unfortunately, or fortunately, the airlines were furloughing pilots, so I went to school, to Queens College and St. John’s University Law School, became an attorney and worked as a real estate attorney in New York City.”

It wasn’t long before he felt the lure of Florida’s sunshine.

“Eventually, I started a factoring business, which I could run from anywhere, so I moved to Florida where my family and my wife’s family were living,” Thomas explained. “I found Wellington because I am a pilot and wanted to live at the Aero Club so I could fly my airplane.”

While living in Florida, Thomas took on some work as an attorney doing closings for business brokers and eventually opened his own business brokerage.

“It looked like more fun that working as an attorney,” he said. “I did so many sales as a business broker that I wrote and published a book, The Six-Figure Business Broker, which sells on Amazon. It is designed to teach new agents how to sell businesses.”

After years of helping others with their businesses, he found himself interested in the insurance industry.

“After selling businesses for 10 years, I started buying and selling them myself,” Thomas said. “After a year of researching insurance agencies to buy or to start, I decided that I would purchase a franchise.”

Through his research, he liked what he learned about Brightway Insurance.

“I chose the Brightway Insurance franchise because, after meeting with other agency owners and the principals of the company, I decided that they were a well-run organization, and they provided superior services to their customers,” Thomas said. “They are also fast-growing and financially strong. This is the type of company that I’d like to associate with.”

Thomas uses his experience and knowledge as an attorney to provide customers with quality advice and concierge service.

“I say concierge because I’m very much hands-on and would rather handle my customers myself than hire agents and hand customers off to them,” Thomas explained. “When you call my agency, you speak with me and get my background and experience. You get concierge service at regular prices.”

Insurance can be complicated, especially in the Wellington area. Thomas said that you can have estate-type homes, horse farms, homes with airplane hangars, agricultural businesses and homes that are so far away from a fire station that they are difficult to insure.

“I’ve developed relationships with different underwriters to be able to handle these homes,” he said. “The difference is that you can’t quote this business online in minutes, you have to research the house, fill out a paper application and then call the underwriter to explain the circumstances. You also have to have knowledge of insurance policy contracts and underwriting guidelines. At the end of the day, customers trust my advice and that I’m doing the best thing for them.”

If Thomas has a specialty other than an unswerving dedication to quality service, it would be horse farms and barns.

“I do a lot of commercial liability for horse barns and shows, too. I also enjoy handling commercial insurance because of the challenge,” Thomas said. “It’s similar to insuring houses in the western communities. You have to deal directly with an underwriter who will work with you to get the policy written correctly.”

Currently between planes, his most recent was a Beechcraft Baron for 15 years, Thomas has been married for 25 years to his wife Aleyka and has a daughter Kelly, who has graduated from the University of Central Florida and is starting a job as a flight attendant with United Airlines in January.

As a pilot, Thomas has traveled everywhere in America and hasn’t found many places that are as pleasant to live as Wellington.

“I love the horse shows, polo and being able to fly my plane to the Bahamas on weekends,” he said. “I also love the people. There is a wonderful sense of community here. You don’t find that in most places. It’s no wonder it’s such a sought-after winter destination.”

For additional information about Bill Thomas’ Brightway Insurance agency, call (561) 614-1122, e-mail or visit


The Village Of Wellington Offers A Growing List Of Programs For Senior Citizens Serving Seniors

The Village Of Wellington Offers A Growing List Of Programs For Senior Citizens Serving Seniors

For many senior citizens, getting older can mean a loss of independence, fewer relationships and less social interaction. In the eyes of Wellington Community Services Specialist Jenifer Brito, this is unacceptable. Her job is to help provide for those needs among the local senior community.

Having been around seniors since childhood, Brito has seen firsthand the challenges many face on a daily basis. Life continues its onward march, as their pace begins to slow, and their companions start to dwindle.

While it isn’t true of all seniors, Brito has found a general feeling of depression to be common among the elderly. This could be a result of the loss of loved ones, limited mobility and a lack of social interaction.

It is Brito’s mission to help the seniors in Wellington overcome these challenges and thrive as the valuable members of society she knows them to be.

“Many of them come in, and they are seeking help, and they don’t know what they’re looking for, but they know they’re looking for something,” Brito said. “When I meet with them, I try to gauge what that is, and I find out what their likes are, what their dislikes are, and how I can plug them into things.”

While working with — and for — seniors, Brito discovered that as people age, one of their crucial needs is to have sufficient social interaction. This, Brito explained, is a necessity of great importance.

“I don’t think at any age that’s different,” Brito said. “We all want to have that, whether you’re 90 or six.”

For this reason, Brito has taken on a number of projects to help initiate social opportunities for the senior population. The new Feel Good Fridays program is one such opportunity.

Partnering with Baptist Health South Florida, Wellington’s Community Services Department has been bringing in instructors for exercise classes catered to seniors — such as dance and chair yoga. They have also added an educational component — a lecture following the classes presented by a visiting doctor.

“This is a new initiative that we started on Fridays because we saw that Fridays were an open day where we were able to engage the seniors and get them into the Wellington Community Center with programing,” Brito said.

The best part? Participants are invited to attend Feel Good Fridays absolutely free. This goes for both Wellington residents and non-residents.

In order to offer classes to seniors at no cost, Wellington has partnered with a number of sponsors, such as Wellington Regional Medical Center, Florida Blue and Baptist Health South Florida.

Other activities available for the seniors are technology classes, bingo, Zumba, Aqua Zumba and more. Then there are the parties, such as an annual luau and the upcoming senior prom.

Brito has also planned health fairs and a volunteer fair, and she plans to see them both become an annual practice.

“We did that initiative because many seniors do want to volunteer, but it’s really difficult for them to call 10 different places and find out volunteer opportunities. So, we brought it to them,” Brito said of the volunteer fair.

Unless it is an outdoor-specific activity — such as Aqua Zumba, which is held in a heated pool at the Wellington Aquatics Complex — all events take place indoors to make it as easy on the seniors as possible.

The senior prom, for example, is scheduled to be held on April 7 in the Village Park gymnasium. Among other things, Brito is planning to have a live band playing nostalgic hits from bygone days.

“It’s going to be really pretty,” Brito said. “I’m very excited about the prom because it’s not only going to bring the seniors together, but it also might facilitate meeting new friends or companions, and that’s really important in our senior population.”

Recognizing the need not only for fun but an understanding community as well, Wellington offers a monthly support group for caretakers of loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease. Taking place in the Wellington Community Center, this is open to seniors and non-seniors alike.

The Wellington Community Center also includes a Senior Lounge where individuals or groups are welcome to relax, play games, watch TV, enjoy snacks, drink coffee and just enjoy the atmosphere.

“It’s really looking at what the needs of the seniors are and how we can help with those needs,” Brito said.

Pat Keeler is a Wellington resident who frequents the Senior Lounge to borrow books, use the free Wi-Fi and socialize.

“I think it’s always important to be active in the community you live in,” Keeler said. “The seniors community are people your own age, so you have a connection with them, and I’ve made some good friends.”

According to Keeler, a member of the Wellington Seniors Club, having these services for the seniors is important for both their social and emotional health.

“Many seniors — their families don’t live around here and they’ve outlived some of their friends. I’ve been fortunate, but it’s easy for a senior to become isolated,” Keeler said. “And this helps them not to do that.”

It is Brito’s passion to help seniors who are searching for connection in their community, and she meets with them over the phone, in her office, in a public place or in their homes in order to do just that. There is no pressure to commit or get involved, but Brito wants to make sure seniors know their options.

“I just want them to know that I will continue to work hard to bring more programming to them, and more events,” Brito said. “And I feel that yes, we have a lot going on, but we’re always going to have more going on.”

To learn more about opportunities for senior citizens in Wellington, contact Brito at (561) 753-2476 or, or visit


Wellington’s Landscaping Team Works To Keep The Community Green Going Native

Wellington’s Landscaping Team Works To Keep The Community Green Going Native

One key to Wellington’s allure, both to residents and visitors, is its small-town feel. An important part of that atmosphere is the amount of green space and trees found in the community. Wellington’s landscaping team is key to setting the tone, from the moment one drives past the first Village of Wellington welcome sign.

Brian Hopper is the operations superintendent in charge of all landscaping and trees found on village property. Over the past seven years, he has taken his master’s degree in forest resources and conservation from the University of Florida to bring the vegetation in Wellington to a more natural state.

“Having a strong natural resources background gives me the tendency to use native species whenever I can. I’m always looking for ways to increase our tree canopy,” Hopper said. “My favorite thing is when I get an opportunity to be creative. By that I mean, do our own in-house designs for landscape enhancements, especially to plant trees in spaces that didn’t have any.”

This tendency to use native plants has long-term side effects for Wellington that are beyond just aesthetics.

“Native plants are more cost effective,” said Deputy Director of Public Works Bill Conerly, who is Hopper’s supervisor. “They require less treatment, too. You don’t get the exotic pests, and they don’t need the herbicides to take care of themselves. I’m a Florida guy. I’ve seen the changes, and the native species are low maintenance compared to exotic plants.”

Conerly and Hopper have worked together for years and share a passion for taking care of Wellington’s greenery. One such project they are both proud of is the Wellington Environmental Preserve at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Everglades Habitat, located at 3491 Flying Cow Ranch Road.

“It started off as an old agricultural field that was nothing but Brazilian pepper, and they carved out the retention areas to attract birds,” Hopper recalled. “They did initial plantings, and we have added to it every single year just to make it better. Now, everything has started to grow and recruit native species. Not only do you get to see aquatic vegetation but upland habitats — all built from scratch.”

The 365-acre preserve has been a work in progress that began in 2007 and now has plants ranging from wildflowers to oak trees re-seeding and growing on their own. Originally designed to be a stormwater retention area, there is much more going on at the preserve now. “It’s amazing all the native species that you can see at any given time,” Conerly said. “We have migratory birds, bald eagles and ospreys. We put out osprey perches, and you can see them eating fish and interacting with each other.”

Hard work and consistency have paid off. Wellington has been awarded a Tree City USA designation for more than 20 years running. In addition, the village has also maintained a growth award for the past 10 years, proving there is an increased level of attention and commitment to the trees here.

“For the past five years, we have planted an average of approximately 500 trees a year, and about 1,500 seedlings each year at the Wellington Environmental Preserve,” Hopper said. “We also give away free seedlings to all the local schools in celebration of Earth Day, and we offer free trees at the Earth Day event held at the Wellington Amphitheater.”

For Hopper, the big projects are great, but he feels it is the little projects that add up to big things.

“We have high-profile projects — like the landscape berm over near Stribling Way and State Road 7 — but it’s the amalgamation of all the tiny little projects that make a difference,” he said. “It’s the small neighborhood entryways, like the median in front of a neighborhood that we overhauled even when no one asked for it, and it looks so much better. They may not be projects that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, but I know it has an effect on people’s daily lives.”

One example is an upcoming planting project to add more trees along pathways in the preserve to create better shaded stopping points for trail users. In the end, the purpose always comes back to the community and its residents.

“When you have a resident write on social media about how great something looks — when the public says that, it really makes you feel good,” Conerly said. “One good compliment goes a long way.”

Hopper and Conerly view their work in Wellington as more than just a day job. “I always like to say if you do what you love for a living, sometimes it doesn’t feel like work,” Hopper explained. “It’s nice to be able to enjoy what you do when you have a passion for it.”

He also shared a little advice for locals when deciding what to plant in their own spaces. “Stay away from the plants that you know are pest problems, or plants that you know are going to have to be treated,” Hopper said.

Conerly couldn’t agree more. “In my personal yard, if it doesn’t attract a butterfly, a bee or a bird, I try not to plant it,” he said.


Palm Beach Aquatics Is A Leader In Lake And Wetland Restoration Protecting Water

Palm Beach Aquatics Is A Leader In Lake And Wetland Restoration Protecting Water

Always interested in the idea of working to maintain a healthy environment, John Natale founded Palm Beach Aquatics in 1998 as a full-service environmental management company specializing in lake and wetland restoration.

With his business partner Mike Lehman, the firm has become a Florida leader in environmentally friendly green technology for lake management.

“Our services include algae and weed control, fountain sales and service, aquatic planting, fish stocking, bank restoration and beneficial bacteria programs,” said Natale, who moved to the Wellington area more than 30 years ago from Hartford, Conn.

Committed to working to improve the environmental well-being of Florida’s communities, Palm Beach Aquatics achieves its goal in two important ways. First, it restores wetlands, promoting natural methods and thereby reducing chemicals and nutrients in ground and service waters. The company also helps to prevent weathering and provides animal habitat by the introduction of native vegetation — plants, grasses and trees — to their appropriate communities.

“We are an authorized Aqua Control and Airmax fountain and aeration system dealer,” Natale said. “Placing a fountain or aerator in your waterway is one of the most beneficial things you can do for the ecosystem.”

He added that other beneficial actions include the addition of aquatic plants and fish stocking.

“We are a SePRO preferred applicator and stewards of the water. Our trained aquatic biologists have more than half a century of combined experience,” Natale said.

Working in both the private and public sector, the team is experienced with small and large bodies of water and in advanced freshwater fish management.

A new product being used by Palm Beach Aquatics is a weed control solution that is as effective as the chemical in Roundup, without the carcinogenic compounds.

The firm even offers an eco-friendly method for flying pest control.

“We offer a completely green approach for mosquito, midge fly and black fly control that is very important for horse stables and farms in Wellington,” Natale explained.

The green theme extends to the company itself, which conserves and limits overall energy consumption in its offices, facilities and vehicles. As an environmentally friendly company, Palm Beach Aquatics strives to protect natural environments, conserve resources and educate its clientele on environmental issues.

“We also strive for exceptional customer service and pride ourselves on using EPA-approved and environmentally safe products that are not harmful to horses and humans to treat the waters,” Natale said.

Palm Beach Aquatics offers its lake, fountain and aerator service throughout South Florida for lake and fish management. “We carry a full line of Aqua Control fountains and aerators to keep your lake in regulated circulation,” Natale said.

Incorporating the objective of sustainability for every decision in the business, the firm strives to play a positive role in conservation from global climate change to local issues, such as water scarcity and aquatic vegetation management.

In order to prioritize its environmental stewardship, the company focuses on the following areas: water, waste recycling, habitat restoration, exotic species control, energy conservation, phytoremediation (which includes processes mediated by plants that are useful in treating environmental problems), best management practices and transportation.

Using only EPA-approved herbicides and natural methods of nutrient reduction and algae prevention such as waterway aeration, using enzymes and bacteria to reduce sludge, and algae prevention rather than treatment, the company encourages the use of slow-release fertilizers and educates clients on the effects of nutrient loading in and around waterways.

As a longtime resident of the area, Natale enjoys the lifestyle of Wellington. He and his wife moved to the area in 1987. They have one daughter who works for Wellington Parks & Recreation. Natale’s hobbies include fundraising and polo.

For more information about Palm Beach Aquatics, call (561) 719-8900 or (888) 391-LAKE (5253) or visit The web site includes links for customer service, work order requests and a client-only log-in for comprehensive reports for each property.



Meet The Unsung Heroes Of Wellington’s Emergency Operations Team

Meet The Unsung Heroes Of Wellington’s Emergency Operations Team

When storms like Hurricane Dorian are on the horizon, the community prepares for the worst and hopes for the best. But preparedness is more than having bottles of water and canned food on hand. Wellington’s Emergency Operations Team of Eric Juckett, Bruce Wagner, Shannon LaRocque, Ed De La Vega and Mike O’Dell — led by Director of Emergency Management & Public Safety Nicole Coates — takes the concept of preparation far beyond the expected.

“Emergency Management is made up of all employees who work for the village. All public employees may be called upon to work during an emergency, such as a natural disaster,” Coates said. “The village has implemented the use of FEMA’s Incident Command Structure and applied it to all large-scale events. Employees train year-round on FEMA’s process in the event we needed to respond to an emergency.”

While the entire village is ready to help, there are key personnel who assist in the coordination of resources, response and recovery efforts during a disaster of any kind.

“We all wear multiple hats and are ready to serve when called upon,” Coates said. “My blue-sky role in the Parks & Recreation Department back in 2001 was as the community projects manager, in which I would coordinate and serve as the incident commander for large-scale community events such as the Fall Festival and the Fourth of July.”

As Coates rose over time to become community services director, she continuously found herself working and training in the field of emergency preparedness and response.

“It was during the hurricanes in 2004 that I had my first experience working in the village’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC),” Coates said. “I understood incident command, and it all started to make sense.”

In 2012, when John Bonde retired, Coates was promoted to her current role and is now a part of the Region 7 team consisting of professionals from Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. The team is deployable to any part of the state when the need arises.

“I was sent to [Hurricane] Michael. Knowing that here we deal with debris and flooding, seeing a Category 5 storm and what it can really do was eye opening,” Coates said. “It really helped me to see the massive coordination it takes to recover from a storm.”

One of the key personnel for the village is Director of Public Works Bruce Wagner. He serves as the Operations Section chief, who is responsible for coordinating a variety of staff during an active incident.

“We work to return the village to normal operations as soon as possible. Public Works is the first to respond and is always the last to leave to ensure the safety and welfare of all residents,” Wagner said. “During Hurricane Irma, Binks Forest Drive became blocked with a great deal of downed trees, vegetation and debris, which posed a potential flooding issue and driving hazard, including obstruction for emergency vehicles. Public Works spotted the situation, responded and addressed it before the public even knew or reported it.”

Coates explained that in addition to fire-rescue and law enforcement, Wellington’s Public Works and Utilities staff also serve as first responders, ensuring roads and critical facilities remain operational. “One of the largest parts of the recovery process is debris management. Removing debris quickly, before it becomes a safety concern, is a top priority,” Coates said. “On average, here in Wellington, we have seen storms generate more than 265,000 cubic yards of debris.”

Utilities Director Shannon LaRocque mirrors Wagner’s role in the Operations Section.

“Bruce handles Public Works, and I handle the Utilities side — water and wastewater,” LaRocque said. “The one thing everyone talks about is water, but even more important is the wastewater plan. Without it, we don’t have sanitary provisions, which is critical to public health. We can always truck in water.”

Because water and sewer service are critical infrastructure, LaRocque’s team plans for more than just natural disasters. They are ready for massive power outages and even to mobilize and assist public utilities elsewhere in Florida.

“We can deal with power loss. We have nearly 60 emergency generators. Emergency power management is huge for us,” LaRocque said. “In [Hurricane] Dorian, I was preparing everybody for the fact that we could have widespread water and sanitary sewer outages.”

With large infrastructure improvements in process, LaRocque’s department has about $50 million in construction projects underway, and all that equipment and unfinished work had to be secured.

“It was a huge coordination effort. Everybody on my team has a specific role, and they know what to do in preparation for a storm. So, I feel very confident that we are in a good position,” LaRocque said.

Assistant Planning & Zoning Director Michael O’Dell is another important piece of the Emergency Management team. His role in the Planning Section is important for the documentation of everything from broad assessments to individual events.

“The Planning Section assists with developing the incident action reports for each operational cycle,” he said. “They are also key to obtaining damage assessment and situational awareness throughout the incident.”

Supporting the staff as they care for village residents is also vital to keeping all responses and recovery efforts moving along smoothly.

“My Emergency Management role is Logistics Section chief. This includes ensuring all the staff in lockdown have the proper supplies, including food, water and safety supplies,” Parks & Recreation Director Eric Juckett said. “It is of the utmost importance that we get back up and running to the public as soon as possible. I can’t begin to explain how many compliments we receive from the residents for our efforts in this.”

Perhaps one of the least visible roles is that of Director of General Services Ed De La Vega, who also serves as the Finance Section chief during and after emergencies.

“The Finance Section is responsible for all financial, administrative and costs associated with the incident,” Coates said. “They play a critical role in the recovery process, from working with our insurance providers to seeking FEMA reimbursement for damage to public property and assets.”


Service Is Key to Successful Equine Waste Business JH Hauling

Service Is Key to Successful Equine Waste Business JH Hauling

With Wellington famous for its equestrian lifestyle and world-class events, it is easy to overlook the less glamorous end of the horse business. Justin Hickey of JH Hauling calls himself a “manure entrepreneur,” and his successful firm is one of the top manure haulers for the waste of Wellington’s equine residents.

Born in Ireland and raised in England and California, Hickey moved to Wellington when he was 15 years old and grew up in the community. “I loved watching polo and the lifestyle of Wellington,” Hickey recalled. “I immediately thought, ‘Wow, this is paradise to me!’ I’ve been here ever since.”

To this day, Hickey enjoys the majestic sport of polo.

“Polo season is the best time of year. I love Sunday polo, and I go to polo games during the week,” he said. “The lifestyle is for people who like fast cars and fast boats. I love the Sunshine State with its tiki bars, great restaurants and nice people. It is the land of the lifestyles of the rich and famous.”

During the equestrian season, some 12,000 horses are in Wellington. Each 1,000-pound animal produces about 50 pounds of waste each and every day. These horses are easily producing more than 600,000 pounds of waste per day, according to some estimates. Phosphorous runoff from the manure can create damaging situations for the fragile Everglades ecosystem. This provides a challenge for the village and an opportunity for businesses like JH Hauling.

Living in Wellington for the past three decades, Hickey first started his business as a part-time opportunity. “I attended school and became a private duty nurse, then I started my manure-hauling business as something on the side,” he explained.

From his childhood, Hickey had experience with horses and their waste products. “Being from Ireland, I knew what to do with horse manure,” Hickey said.

As a nurse, he came to meet a large sugarcane farmer as a client and took care of him. This provided the connection for a vast amount of land to the west of the village where he could legally and legitimately spread the waste material.

“I’m in charge of spreading between two farms. I have access to more than 129,000 acres of fields,” Hickey said.

With 90 percent of his business coming from Wellington, and the balance from all around Palm Beach County, JH Hauling enjoys a good reputation as a registered hauler because of Hickey’s attitude toward service.

“By being honest and kind, and answering my phone, I have built a successful business,” Hickey said. “It is not science; it isn’t that complicated. It’s all about service. I’ve been around a long time. I’ve been doing it for 30 years. I answer my phone promptly, I treat people with respect, and I get the job done. It’s pretty plain and simple.”

Hickey now lives in Loxahatchee. He has a daughter and just became a grandfather. 

Intimately involved in the ongoing manure issues in Wellington, Hickey has spearheaded efforts to alleviate the challenges created by illegal waste removal and disposal. He said that he feels the situation could be better if everyone followed the rules and regulations and the village was more proactive in making all haulers follow the rules and regulations.

“When there’s illegal dumping, Wellington doesn’t do anything about it because it’s outside of Wellington. When you’re a hauler, you’re losing clients and customers because of illegal dumping and haulers unethically dumping,” Hickey said.

However, Hickey has seen improvements in this regard, and he sees more changes and improvements coming in the future. He said that equestrians are becoming more interested in using permitted haulers to help protect the environment, and they are concerned about knowing where the manure is going to go once it leaves their property.

For more information about JH Hauling, call (561) 248-3344.