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Treasure Coast member no longer on water management governing board

Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch's term on the South Florida Water Management District ended Monday
Posted at 7:37 PM, Jun 19, 2023

Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, a clean water advocate for years, is no longer part of the South Florida Water Management District's governing board.

This unplanned split grew out of an 18-month-old comment.

Algae-laden water from Lake Okeechobee laps up against the Port Mayaca Lock and Dam in Martin County.

A few years ago, this water would likely have already made its way toward the St. Lucie River.

"It was like open the gates and let it go," said Jacqui-Thurlow Lippisch.

Thurlow-Lippisch has spent the past four years on the Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District, and credits improved relations with the Army Corps of Engineers.

"They don't dump unless they feel like there's no alternative," she said. "These things are new.”

Thurlow-Lippisch, a former mayor of Sewall’s Point, will now have to advocate once again as a private citizen.

"I want to be on the governing board. I'm good at it. I'm dedicated, I love it," she said.

Her reappointment to the board by Gov. Ron DeSantis was not confirmed by the state Senate and her term ended Monday.

"It's extremely frustrating to me," Thurlow-Lippisch said.

NewsChannel 5 contacted the office of Senate President Kathleen Passidomo to ask why.

A spokeswoman told WPTV Thurlow-Lippisch's comments during a February 2022 governing board meeting played a role.

Thurlow-Lippisch was objecting to a Senate bill, championed by then-Senate President Wilton Simpson, that critics contended would have undermined years of Everglades restoration progress.

During the discussion, Thurlow-Lippisch referred to another environmental bill opposed by lawmakers and said, "Oh well, we're God, you're not, we're in Tallahassee."

The current Senate president spokeswoman added "..to state at a public meeting that legislators, who were elected to represent their constituents think they are God, was inappropriate and disrespectful in the view of President Passidomo."

"I learned what I had said was not appreciated and I apologized for that," Thurlow-Lippisch said.

The bill passed the 2022 Legislature but was vetoed by the governor.

Thurlow-Lippisch also cited miscommunication between SFWMD staff and the State Senate as she went to Tallahassee this year thinking she would be reappointed.

"I was brought up by staff to go through process for reappointment and I was never told ahead of time that I was already 'off the grid,'" she said.

The senate president's office said that the appointment was not referred to the committee and that Thurlow-Lippisch was not asked to attend committee meetings in the capitol.

For Thurlow-Lippisch, she would love to serve in her old position again but if not her, someone else who can advocate for the St. Lucie Estuary.

"We are the primary outlet historically for Lake Okeechobee," she said. "We are the smallest little river getting the worst amount of problems."