There is a fresh breeze blowing through America’s Southernmost City, one replacing the tough storm winds that gave meaning to “Key West Strong.”
George Bellenger sees what’s up ahead in the next chapter, as a beacon of resiliency, creativity, and good sense in a place so unique it’s called Paradise.
“There’s a reason I’m running for Mayor,” says the hard working George. “It’s all about families and our community staying strong”.
As full time residents for over 30 years, George and his wife Carla have been and remain active in the community. As parents they take a special pride in the fact their son George will be graduating from Key West High School. Go Conchs!
As a small business owner George holds the belief that a healthy environment supports a strong economy. Key West Eco Tours proudly employs over 20 locals in both Key West and Geiger Key.
Throughout the decades George has:
Event: Attended anti oil drilling demonstration at FKCC.
Result: Witnessed passionate activism for first time. So far so good… no oil wells off Florida.
Event: Became a Reef Relief volunteer
Result: learned that a dedicated few who are properly organized can make a meaningful impact. Reef mooring balls.
Event: Developed a 6 phonetic foreign language snorkel safety speech pamphlet for mates to use at reef with guests who don’t speak English.
Result: Published and distributed to snorkel boats contributing to less people standing on reef.
Event: One of the founding members of Joe Weatherby’s Artificial Reefs of the Keys program.
Result: 10 years and $10,000,000 later Joe sinks the Vandenberg. Key West has a world class fishing / diving destination that generates yearly tax revenue at zero maintenance costs. Win-Win for the Economy and the Environment.
Event: Organized and led protests of unlicensed and dangerous Jet Ski rental barges off of Smathers Beach.
Result: Dedicated swimmers only zone at beach.
Event: Twice hosted MARC House clients for a “Day at the Beach” with sailing, kayaking and lunch.
Result: Made new friends and gained an appreciation for those with special needs and their caregivers. Sale of beach lease ended event
Event: Advocated in a KW Citizen editorial for all Key West police officers to have specialized SWAT type training and equipment expenses built into budget and not be dependent on forfeiture funds.
Result: Special training and equipment are budgeted for.
Event: Founded the Key West Association of Catamaran Sailors.
Result: Began “Bridging cultures through traditional maritime heritage” by sailing Hobie 16 catamarans to Cuba and racing the Cuban Olympic Sailing Team.
Event: Advocated for the Volunteer Pre-Kindergarten program to be adopted by the KW Pre School Coop.
Result: The free program became available in K.W.
Event: Formed own political party, registered voters and ran for Mayor of Key West.
Results: Lost race but gained an insight into politics.
Event: Worked with the Tourist Development Council on sustainable tourism goals.
Results: Bed tax dollars have been used to help promote green activities.
Event: Organized and led the community response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Results: Over 3,000 local volunteers responded to the call for action. 500 received specialized Hazardous Material Training to be able to work with the oil clean up. With weekly meetings, training and coordination with government entities the citizens of Key West were ready to fight an impending natural disaster that thankfully never physically developed on our shores.
Event: Went on Konk AM radio to advise Key West on financial issues concerning reimbursements available from B.P oil spill. Fellow guest Commissioner Lopez went on to help Key West receive 20 million from B.P.
Event: Partnered with FKCC Marine Science Dept.’s Dr. Patrick Rice to hire students as nature guides.
Results: Students receive real world experience, a job reference and get paid.
Event: Advised Attractions Associations Board to not support the channel widening study.
Results: The Board opted to not support the channel widening. A strong anti-widening effort by local fishermen and the environmental group Last Stand led to the measure failing at the polls.
Event: Organized and led the first U.S. permitted Cuban nautical event in over 50 years.
Results: The Havana Cat Challenge in May 2015 received over 100 million internet clicks according to Andy Newman Marketing. Assisting in this effort was the City of Key West lobbyist, Senator Nelson, Vice President Joe Biden and Pat Croce! These events help drive the local economy by attracting out of town boats and crews.
Event: Host of Nicky’s Paddle Celebration at the Geiger Key Paddle Hut, a cancer fund raiser in memory of Nicky Sorbelli. The Sorbelli family raises funds every year for local families fighting cancer.
Result: A fun family paddle day that raises awareness and money for a good cause.
Event: Hurricane Irma. Joined in neighbors helping neighbors to dig out from under… As with past storms, saw the true spirit of the Key West community.
Advocated in front of City Commission for 1 month rent abatement and one month rent deferment for Key West commercial tenants in order to help them with hurricane recovery.
Result: Key West commercial tenants received over 1.2 million in much needed assistance. Thank You Mayor Cates.
Event: Attended March for Our Lives Rally at Mallory Square.
Result: Inspired by young students demanding change in order to make classrooms and by extension all communities safer. They deserve our help.
While we go about our busy lives in Key West, it can often escape us that the magical reefs, beaches, plentiful seafood and diverse and laidback lifestyle we lead is the envy of the world. This is indeed a special place with a rich tradition and history that has attracted a creative, inventive and inspiring community. One Human Family is more than just a motto, it’s a lifestyle.
“I didn’t win when I ran for Mayor in 2001 but I have stayed active in local politics,” said George. “I have watched carefully and listened, mindful of the determination and sacrifices made by so many within the city who pull us along. I am proud of their community service and wish to bring my own to the table of local government.”
“We face a bright and unparalleled future while living in Paradise,” says George. “It will be my job as your Mayor to ensure we keep good to the promise of preserving it for our families and those who are lucky enough to visit a place that believes… “Our Community, Our Future”