I lived in Key West in the 90's, from 1994 to 1997, then was gone for 11 years; I left to finish college, but came back in 2008. It was Spring Break that first brought me to the Keys. I grew up in Atlanta Georgia, but a friend of mine's father owned a hardware store in Marathon. She asked me if I wanted to go to Key West for Spring Break, and I said, "Where's that?" We came down for the week, then we came for the summer. We were going to stay one month and that turned into 6 months and then I ended up coming back and just staying. I loved it so much I stayed for 3 years. I worked at Margaritaville. Jimmy Buffett came in 3 times a year; it was great! I got to meet him a few times. He would come in and play concerts and all the employees got to watch.
But, I left to go finish college, and then I worked in sales for a while. I made good money, but I missed Florida. All my family is in Atlanta and I loved being near them and I had good friends, but I just missed Florida. One year I went on vacation to Key West 3 times and my friends were asking "Why don't you just move back?" So I moved down with my little white dog. I had an MBA, so I thought there was no reason I couldn't start over and be successful here. I started out working in a B&B, I worked for Fantasy Fest for while, then I started my own social media company. Because of my work in the hospitality business, I made a lot of connections, and I was able to work with some great resorts establishing their social media. I got to work from home which was great because I was a single mom. It worked out really well. But, that's one of the reasons I love this community. Key West is a great place. If you help your community, your community helps you back. My friends back home couldn't believe that I moved to Key West by myself, had a baby and started my own company! I can't believe it either! And I get to go to the beach anytime I want!
I just got married for the first time 4 months ago. When I met my husband, he was a single dad. His daughter was 3 years old, the same age as my daughter! Now three years later, we are married and the girls are best friends. They love each other. They even look enough alike that people think they are actual sisters, or twins.
My social media business is called Peach Promotions, after my nickname "Peachy." My goal is to help more businesses establish a social media presence, and to use social media to help the community. I helped create a social media movement to improve the perception of Fantasy Fest in Key West. Over the years, some aspects had really changed from what it was intended to be. Fantasy Fest is supposed to be an adult costume party. We know it has it's naughty side, that's part of the fun! But the lewd acts and nudity in the middle of the day at family friendly events like Goombay were getting to be too much. You couldn't take your children downtown, even in the day. So we started a movement to clean up the perception of the event, and make it more about the elaborate costumes. And I think it has helped. Last year there were signs up at Goombay saying it was not part of the Fantasy Fest zone. The Chamber of Commerce started a float contest, a costume contest, and the word costume is being added back into the marketing. So we are making steps forward. That's what I want to do, use my training and skills to help make my community a better place.
We moved to Key Haven in 2015. The genetically modified mosquitoes were originally going to be released in Key West, but it was changed to only release them in one neighborhood as a trial - Key Haven. I was contacted by the leader of the No Consent Movement earlier this year because they knew about my involvement with the Fantasy Fest movement... and it was happening right in my neighborhood. They wanted me to get involved. I hadn't done enough research, so I told them to let me look into it and get back to them. What I found is that the TTA protein (Tetracycline-Controlled Transcriptional Activation) has never been tested for the long term effects on anyone who has been bitten. Because even though they say only males will be released, there are females that are going to released. And, they have never tested the long term effects on pregnant women, infants, anybody. They don't even test them for zika before they release them into our community!
One night I was sitting at home reading up on all this stuff... I was really researching it. I had pages up on DNA and all the technical stuff, and my husband looked at it and asked what I was doing. So, I had him read it. He's a doctor, and I was thinking "If he's against it, then I'll get involved." He finished reading everything, looked at me and said, "We have daughters. This is not good." When he saw the word tetracycline he was concerned about the bacteria on the mosquitoes being raised in tetracycline promoting antibiotic resistant bacteria. Tetracycline is one of 2 antibiotics that he uses daily to save people's lives.
So, I knew I had to get involved. I got involved in the movement, then they wanted me to run for office. I said, "I can't, I'm getting married, I can't do it!" But, there was only one candidate running against the incumbent and he was Green Party. The incumbent was Republican and I'm a Democrat, and I live in the neighborhood so they knew I would give a good fight. I filed three days before my wedding! We got married, went on the honeymoon and as soon as we got back it was time to start campaigning. Because I filed before the wedding, I had to run under my maiden name, Watkins. My husband is Dr. Norris.
There are just too many concerns for me not to get involved. My husband has also gotten involved on the medical level, he started the petition. The more we got involved, the more convinced I was that I should run. There are good alternatives that should be considered first. There is something called Wolbachia, It's found on many of the insects anyway, but when you inject it into the male and he mates with the female, she doesn't lay any eggs. So it really kills the cycle. And even if a mosquito has zika, if it's treated with Wolbachia it can't spread it. This has a higher success rate than the GM mosquitoes, and it has been tested. The other has not.
I love what I'm doing. I've met so many people, and I know I'm doing the right thing. Another issue we are facing is that Mosquito Control has no building in Key West. They are in a trailer. One hurricane could cripple them. I have a plan to get us a building without having to raise taxes a whole bunch. I want to be prepared and I want to protect our citizens. I plan to travel, to go to conferences and learn everything I can about mosquitoes. I look forward to that.
We own our home in Key Haven and we are going to raise our daughters there. I need to keep my family and everyone protected. The Keys are my home and my family. We have such a great community down here. There is so much diversity, but for the most part everyone is accepting. We need to be accepting and kind to each other. We are one human family in the Keys, everyone is so different, but we accept each other. I had my daughters with me at a fundraiser downtown at the Bottle Cap, and there were some drag queens on the corner that I knew. My girls called them the fancy ladies! Later we were in the ladies room and one of them was in there fixing her make up; we were talking to her and my girls didn't think a thing about it. Later as we were leaving, one of them said, "Did you know that girl was a boy?" And the other one said, "I know. And she had a pretty dress." And that was the end of it; they didn't think any more about it. I feel so proud that they are so accepting, but that is Key West and all of the Keys really. We are all different, but we're all one human family.