Governor Bush Announces Creation
of Destination Florida Commission
Commission to focus on enhancing state's senior friendly image and attracting senior residents and retirees
TALLAHASSEE - Governor Jeb Bush today announced the creation of the new Destination Florida commission (see attached biographies below). The commission will evaluate Florida's competitive position in attracting retirees and to make recommendations for the future that would make Florida more retiree friendly. The commission will continue the Governor's Communities for a Lifetime initiative, which encourages communities to prepare for the retirement of the baby boomer generation.

"Florida is a senior friendly state. For more than half a century, Florida's beautiful natural environment and rich cultural heritage have made our state the destination of choice for retirees," said Governor Bush. "We are committed to maintaining our first place ranking, and will aggressively sell the advantages of living in Florida to all of our nation's seniors." 

Since the 1950s, Florida has been the destination of choice for one in every four migrating retirees. In the 1960s and 1970s, the state's age 55 and older population grew by 65 percent each decade. During the 1980s, that figure declined to 29 percent with the percentage continuing to drop during the 1990s to a 19 percent rate. 

While many factors may have contributed to this decline, there has been a growing interest nationwide in the value of this population to a region's economy resulting in greater competition in luring seniors by other states. In the 1980s, several states in and out of the Sun Belt have formed retiree attraction programs. As a result, Florida began to see a decline in seniors choosing to relocate and retire in the Sunshine State.

 "We recognize the significant contributions seniors make to the state of Florida,"

said Terry White, Secretary of the Department of Elder Affairs. "People are living longer than ever before and living longer lives often means living better lives. In Florida, we appreciate our seniors who bring a wealth of wisdom and experience to our communities, businesses, schools and religious organizations."

Destination Florida is expected to provide an interim report this fall, as well as make final recommendations to the Governor and Secretary White in January 2003. The first meeting is scheduled to take place before August 15, 2002. Using the recent Thomas Warren & Associates study as a baseline to begin their analysis, the commission will do the following: 

  • Look at ways to retain Florida's position as the nation's most desirable retirement destination;
  • Evaluate Florida's current attractiveness to age 50 and older baby boomers;
  • Develop recommendations for improving Florida's competitive position in attracting seniors;
  • Examine ways to make Florida a user-friendly environment for people in all stages of retirement as begun under the Communities for a Lifetime initiative;
  • Recommend programs to ensure adequate services are available at all stages of aging; 
  • Work with businesses to ensure the affordability, availability and accessibility of services and products for retirees.
Governor Bush's Communities for a Lifetime initiative currently involves 46 Florida communities that have made a commitment to becoming "senior ready." These communities seek to become more senior-friendly through conducting a self-assessment of traffic signals, street signage, access to affordable housing, medical services and many other aspects of daily life. Through this program, the Department of Elder Affairs seeks greater commitment from a variety of state and local agencies and organizations in an effort to raise awareness of the needs of seniors. The initiative also seeks to engage counties, cities and towns in planning and designing communities prepared for the future.

The commission includes experts in the areas of health care, housing, social services, marketing and promotion, professional services, geriatrics, transportation and information technology.

Don Shula, will serve as Honorary Chair of the Commission. Serving 33 years as an NFL coach and founder of a successful restaurant business, Mr. Shula will share a wealth of knowledge in community amenities and business. He lives in Miami where he served as head coach of the Miami Dolphins for 26 years. 

T. O'Neal Douglas, who will serve as chair of the commission is the retired as chairman of the American Heritage Life Insurance Company. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience about business, insurance and economics. He is also former chairman of the Florida TaxWatch. He lives in Jacksonville.

Mae-Louise Baker, a retired professor from Florida State University, in Tallahassee. She has experience in the transportation process.

Sena Black, senior vice president of marketing and information, Enterprise Florida, has more than 20 years' experience in economic development and authored more than 20 publications in her field of expertise. She lives in Orlando. 

Tess Canja, immediate past president of AARP, she served on the Governor's Commission on Aging to develop the Department of Elder Affairs. She lives in Port Charlotte and is knowledgeable about aging issues.

Irene DeLaby, a retired educator and education administrator. She is an active volunteer and has lead the 6,000 state park volunteers. She lives in Homosassa Springs and brings expertise on community amenities.

Otto "Buz" DiVosta is president, DiVosta Investments, LLC. He has built more than 24,000 residences with his DiVosta organizations during the past 42 years. He lives in Palm Beach Gardens and has knowledge in quality construction and the residential building industry. 

Pedro J. Greer, Jr., M.D., a physician in Miami, currently serves as the Department of Elder Affairs Advisory Council chairman. He operates a medical clinic in Miami and is an international lecturer. He has extensive experience in both health care and housing issues. 

Maritza Gutierrez, owner of Creative Ideas Advertising in Miami, has been involved in public relations and marketing for 20 years. She also served on a think tank in Miami to respond to citizens' concerns. She will assist the Commission with marketing Florida's image.

Adm. Dan Lestage, M.D., U.S. Navy (ret.) from Orange Park, is certified in public health and a fellow in Preventive Health. He retired as Inspector General for the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery at the Naval Medical Department in Washington, D.C., and offers his experience in medical care. 

Barbara Lindstrom, a field coordinator with the National Benevolent Association, has special expertise in housing issues. She lives in St. Petersburg and is an advocate for the elderly on housing issues. 

Clarence McKee, CEO and president of McKee Communications, Inc. and McKee Acquisitions Corp., and works in the area of radio, television and cable property acquisitions. He is a resident of Tampa. 

Richard A. Nunis, president of New Business Solutions, has special expertise in community amenities and tourism. He is also a member of the University of Central Florida's Board of Trustees and lives in Orlando. 

John Ruffin, Jr., president and CEO of The Ruffin Group, is a specialist in information technology. He lives in Fort Lauderdale.

William J. Schoen, chairman of Health Management Associates, lives in Naples and brings special knowledge of healthcare and geriatrics.