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[Opinion] My Experience with Florida Political Wonder Woman Bertica Cabrera Morris

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ORLANDO (FNN NEWS) - National political powerhouse Bertica Cabrera Morris is a Central Florida local, and FNN News's Randy Ross highlights her accomplishments. Photo courtesy of Bertica Cabrera Morris.

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN NEWS) – Americans throughout the country helped Donald J. Trump become the 45th President of the United States of America, and one of those leaders lives right here in Orlando: the incredible Bertica Cabrera Morris. And while I’m pretty sure she doesn’t have an acrylic jet, there’s no doubt she has the mind and influence of a political superhero.

A few years ago I was considering a run for political office. A friend (her brother Jose) suggested, “you need to talk to my sister Bertica.” Soon I would meet Bertica and realize she was a powerful political resource. I thought it was time to find some small way to celebrate this anomaly in Florida politics, an admired woman with immense integrity, intelligence, professionalism and wit. Don’t be fooled by her 5’4″ (or so) frame–Bertica knows her politics and she knows how to manage the ever-evolving landscape of life in ways often admired and awed at a distance. With photos of family surrounding her desk she doesn’t hesitate to share that it is her faith and family that inspire her.

“A political dynamo is a great way to describe Bertica. She has the ability to quietly accomplish and get things done in business and politics most simply cannot comprehend, rendering her very effective,” said Attorney Frank Kruppenbacher (below), who is widely known as one of the most powerful figures in Central Florida politics. “What is equally, if not more impressive, is [that] when Bertica is your friend, she is your friend. Her loyalty and dedication to her friends speaks volumes to her character.”

Attorney Frank Kruppenbacher. Photo courtesy of Atty. Kruppenbacher.

Attorney Frank Kruppenbacher. Photo courtesy of Atty. Kruppenbacher.

When you walk into Bertica’s downtown corner office, which overlooks Orlando City Hall and the new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, you quickly realize how connected she actually is. Photos of her with presidents, governors, senators, congressmen, many local elected officials and countless awards line her walls and shelves.

When I arrived for my first meeting with Bertica, a number of years ago, she was wrapping up a call with the Governor’s office. I remember distinctly because she said, “Sorry, give me a moment. I’m on a call with the Governor.” And I thought, great, how do I follow the Governor?

Uniquely, she immediately made me comfortable with a smile that is infectious and a maternal tone to her voice that calms you allowing you to know you can trust and believe in her. On her desk, stacks of business cards which clearly she prefers over rifling through technology to contact what must be a priceless rolodex of resources. Her phone and computer are obvious close companions. You realize quickly that she knows time is valuable and her words will be clear and concise. It is in this meeting that she gave me my first piece of advice: “Spend time building bridges and mending fences.” Wise words to live by if you’re in politics, business or interested in peace in your life in general.

“Bertica Cabrera Morris is a treasure for the Republican Party of Orange County and for the entire State of Florida. No campaign or party event, for the last three decades, has been truly complete without Bertica’s tremendous and unique talents,” says Lew Oliver (below), an attorney and Chairman of the Republican Party of Orange County, Florida. “Her energy, devotion, fundraising skills, eloquence on behalf of the Hispanic Community and on behalf of women and entrepreneurs is an exceptional resource for anyone and everyone in Republican politics. There is literally no one else in Bertica’s class; she is one of a kind.”

Attorney Lew Oliver. Photo courtesy of Atty. Lew Oliver.

Attorney and Republican Party of Orange County Chairman Lew Oliver. Photo courtesy of Atty. Oliver.

Bertica was born in Havana, Cuba, and got her start not in politics, but in the banking industry. She fled Cuba to escape Castro’s communist regime. Bertica began her journey in Spain, then onto California before landing in Florida in 1979.

“Bertica has a very deep love and respect for America because her family fled a communist dictator where people were killed who disagreed with their government. For her, politics is not a game,” said John Dowless (below), political strategist and Edgewood City Council President. “It’s about protecting the values that make America the exceptional country that we are. That’s why she’s willing to give so much of her time, talents and resources.”

John Dowless. Photo courtesy of John Dowless.

Political Strategist and Edgewood City Council President John Dowless. Photo courtesy of Dowless.

Bertica was the first female administrator within the Orange County Public School system. In the early 1990’s she served as Assistant to the Chairman (known today as Mayor) of Orange County in Charge of Community Affairs.

“When I took office as Mayor of Orange County, Bertica was one of the first people I reached out to for advice and guidance,” recalled former Orange County Mayor Richard Crotty (below).

Former Orange County Mayor Richard Crotty. Photo courtesy of Richard Crotty.

Former Orange County Mayor Richard Crotty. Photo courtesy of Mayor Crotty.

In 1993, she made the jump to open her own Public/Business Relations and Government Affairs Consulting firm in downtown Orlando where she remains the sole proprietor. Bertica helps with strategic planning for a gamete of Fortune 100 to Fortune 500 companies. Early on her efforts caught the attention of Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who appointed her to the Central Florida Transit Authority (LYNX).

“Women who get into politics often look to other successful women who have flourished in what was once a male-dominated industry. Young women and girls who follow Bertica’s lead today will be Florida’s leaders of tomorrow,” expressed Republican consultant and local political television commentator Michelle Ertel (below).

Michelle Ertel. Photo courtesy of Michelle Ertel.

Michelle Ertel. Photo courtesy of Ertel.

Bertica went on to serve on the Board of Directors for World Cup Soccer, City of Orlando Sister Cities Committee and on the board for the Arts Council for Central Florida. More recently, she is the immediate past Chairman of the Valencia College Board of Trustees, appointed by then Florida Governor Jeb Bush and reappointed by former Florida Governor, now United States Congressman, Charlie Crist. Bertica is a member of the Board of Directors for Tiger Bay, Central Florida’s premier non-partisan political club.

Andrea Kudlacz (below), seventeen-year Executive Director of Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida, saw Bertica’s influence firsthand. She mentioned to Bertica that if the opportunity ever arose to have Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour (R) speak at Tiger Bay it would be wonderful. “Last fall, immediately following the general election, lo and behold, Bertica got us Governor Haley Barbour. That visit would never have happened without her,” Kudlacz recalled. “People from all political parties gave kudos to the meeting content and the Governor. The Governor privately shared with me he would always be available for Bertica and her causes. I thought that was a huge compliment to her. It made me a fan of hers for life. She’s a woman of her word and an extremely valuable member of our Board of Directors.”

Tiger Bay Executive Director Andrea Kudlacz. Photo courtesy of Andrea Kudlacz.

Tiger Bay Executive Director Andrea Kudlacz. Photo courtesy of Kudlacz.

Some might be familiar with Bertica’s role in Republican Senator Marco Rubio’s first campaign. She was one of his original supporters and hosted one of his first campaign fundraisers as his Chairwoman for the I-4 corridor. And while she admits she was a Rubio supporter prior to President Trump getting the nomination she’ll tell you, “Once Trump had the nomination, I was all in for him and I still am. I am a very loyal person. Trump is our President and I will do all I can to help the Administration.”

Bertica Morris at the 2016 RNC Convention. Photo courtesy of Bertica Morris.

Bertica Morris at the 2016 Republican National Convention. Photo courtesy of Bertica Morris.

During the past year, Bertica was best known for serving as a surrogate to the 2016 Republican National Committee/Convention and to the Donald J. Trump campaign. She represented both organizations in Spanish and English to hundreds of media outlets nationally and internationally. Bertica expressed, “It was such an honor. Better yet…we won!” And when you consider some of the perceived challenges the media suggested regarding the Trump campaign, with both women and Hispanics, Bertica and her surrogate campaign media work helped dispel those myths. And still does.

Bertica Morris with President Donald Trump. Photo courtesy of Bertica Morris.

President Donald Trump personally thanked Bertica Morris for her tireless work during the Trump presidential campaign. Photo courtesy of Bertica Morris.

“Bertica, unfailing, brings her smarts and common sense to every campaign and project in which she involves herself. She has been invaluable to GOP efforts many times, but never more than for the Donald J. Trump campaign last year. It’s a bonus to call her friend,” said Susie Wiles (below), Florida Trump Campaign Director, two-time Campaign Manager for Florida Governor Rick Scott, and Managing Partner of Ballard Partners.

Susie Wiles. Photo courtesy of Susie Wiles.

Susie Wiles. Photo courtesy of Wiles.

Just last week Bertica was invited to the White House, along with a small group of women from all over the United States, celebrating their work with the Trump Presidential campaign. During her visit she was thanked by our President, First Lady Melania Trump, Vice President Pence and the President’s cabinet. “It is so humbling to be recognized and to be thanked. The trip to the White House has to be one of the highlights of my career,” Bertica stated.

Bertica Morris was thanked for her relentless efforts during her recent vist to the White House. Photos courtesy of Bertica Morris.

Bertica Morris (2nd row, third from left, in white) was thanked for her relentless efforts during her recent visit to the White House. Photo courtesy of Bertica Morris.

Bertica Morris and President Donald J. Trump's Counsel, Kellyanne Conway. Photo courtesy of Bertica Morris.

Bertica Morris and President Donald J. Trump’s Counsel, Kellyanne Conway, at the White House. Photo courtesy of Bertica Morris.

“Bertica continues to be a dedicated, tireless and effective force for the Florida Republican Party,” noted Mike Beale, CCIM, Chief Executive Officer/Principal, Bishop Beale Properties.

“Bertica understands that the only way to dismantle the Democrat hold in Orange County is to become active in this community and beyond,” explained Jay Rodriguez, National Chairman, Hispanic Republican Organization.

You might ask, “When does she have time for family?” Well, family is a priority to Bertica. She is happily married to her husband Brian Morris and they have five adult children. She and Brian just recently became grandparents. Additionally, Bertica’s nephew is a familiar name in Orange County politics. Eddie Fernandez (below), an attorney in private practice, is the former Orange County Clerk of Courts. Fernandez said, “There are very few people known simply by their first name. When her name is spoken everyone stops, listens and acts. Her lifelong commitment and participation in the political process speaks for itself!”

Attorney Eddie Fernandez. Photo courtesy of Atty. Fernandez.

Attorney and former Orange County Clerk of Courts Eddie Fernandez. Photo courtesy of Atty. Fernandez.

I leave you with some of the best advice I received this past year from Bertica. It sums up the kind of person she is and how really grounded she is in what can best be described as an unusual time in politics. “Take this all in. Don’t focus on the finish line. Focus on the people you’ll meet along the way. Therein are the gifts.” We all thank you Bertica Cabrera Morris. You truly are one in a million.

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Randy Ross is a political contributor for Florida National News.

NBA

Magic Beat Raptors for Second Win in a Row

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ORLANDO, Fla. (Florida National News) – The Orlando Magic (7-20) continued their winning ways against the Toronto Raptors (13-13), defeating them 113-109 , just two days after a come-from-behind overtime victory against the Los Angeles Clippers. This two game winning streak puts an end to the Magic’s previous nine game losing streak.

The Magic started strong, taking a 37-25 lead into the second quarter, led by 10 first quarter points from Franz Wagner. But the Raptors caught up to the Magic midway through the second quarter led by Pascal Siakam and Gary Trent Jr. But at halftime, the Magic held a slight lead, 67-63.

The Magic extended their lead to 94-87 with remarkably impressive scoring from Franz Wagner who added 14 points in the third quarter alone. In the fourth quarter, the Raptors tied it up 108-108 with about two minutes remaining after two free throws by OG Anunoby. Paolo Banchero made one of two subsequent free throws, and Moe Wagner drew the charge from Gary Trent Jr. to negate his two point basket. Fred Van Vleet later added a free throw to tie the game at 109-109. A Franz Wagner tip layup put the Magic up 111-109. A missed shot by Fred Van Vleet sealed the Raptors loss. Banchero’s two free throws put the Magic ahead 113-109 at the end of the game.

Franz Wagner led the scoring for the Magic with 34 points, while Paolo Banchero scored 23. Mo Bamba finished with 13 rebounds. Cole Anthony and Markelle Fultz ended with 5 assists.

Several Magic players remain injured and were unable to play, including Wendell Carter Jr. (plantar fascia strain), Gary Harris (strained right hamstring), Chuma Okeke (left knee soreness), Jalen Suggs (right ankle soreness) and Jonathan Isaac (left knee recovery). Isaac has started his rehab program, playing in full contact 5 on 5 practice games with the Lakeland G League affiliate, and hopes to return to the court soon for Orlando.

The Magic face the Raptors at Amway once again on Sunday, 12/11 at 6:00 p.m. Be sure to follow www.FloridaSportsChannel.com and www.FloridaNationalNews.com for more.

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Orlando

Gaetz friend gets 11 years for sex crime, other counts

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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A former Florida tax collector whose arrest led to a federal probe into U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz has been sentenced to 11 years in prison for sex trafficking of a minor and other crimes.

Joel Greenberg, former tax collector for Seminole County, had pleaded guilty to six federal crimes, also including identity theft, stalking, wire fraud and conspiracy to bribe a public official. Prosecutors said he paid at least one girl to have sex with him and other men.

“Nothing justifies my actions. My conduct is so shameful. I feel remorse for what I’ve done,” Greenberg said in court Thursday.

Greenberg’s attorney had asked U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell for leniency, saying that his client had assisted in investigations of 24 people, including eight for sex crimes. Defense attorney Fritz Scheller said that Greenberg’s cooperation has led to four federal indictments, and that he believed additional ones were expected in the coming month.

Greenberg’s cooperation could play a role in an investigation into his friend Gaetz over whether he paid a 17-year-old girl for sex. Gaetz has denied the allegations and previously said they were part of an extortion plot. No charges have been brought against the Republican congressman, who represents a large part of the Florida Panhandle.

Federal prosecutors had asked for a significant reduction in Greenberg’s prison sentence, agreeing during a court hearing on Wednesday to a reduced range of nine years and three months to 11 years. Presnell ended up imposing the upper limit of that range.

The minor in the sex crimes case was almost an adult and had advertised as being over age 18 in her escort profile on the website “Seeking Arrangements,” which facilitates “sugar daddy” relationships, Scheller wrote in court papers.

The defense attorney also said that Greenberg “has provided significant substantial assistance to the government in the areas of public corruption, election fraud, wire fraud, and sex trafficking.”

Scheller also had asked the judge to take into consideration Greenberg’s struggles with mental illness, starting with an attention deficit disorder diagnosis at age 7 and panic attacks, depressive and anxiety disorders as an adult. At the time he committed the crimes, he had bipolar disorder with symptoms of mania, which affected his judgment and impulse control, Scheller said.

Greenberg has been linked to other Florida politicians and their associates. So far, none has been implicated in the sex trafficking investigation.

Some documents related to Greenberg’s cooperation were filed under seal and out of the public eye, with prosecutors and the defense attorney saying they were part of ongoing investigations being conducted by federal authorities in Florida and Washington, as well as state investigators.

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Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness Coming March 2023

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WINTER PARK, Fla. (Florida National News) – Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness, inspired by the children’s TV host and icon, comes to Orlando in March 2023. This week-long series of events was announced today at the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation in Winter Park.

“Fred McFeely Rogers devoted his entire life to reminding us of some of the most important ideas of what it means to be human among humans: love, respect and kindness,” explained Buena Vista Events & Management President & CEO Rich Bradley. “Many of us find that nearly 20 years after Fred’s passing, it is important to focus on his teachings once again, perhaps now more than ever. This is a week to re-engage with his massive body of work with some folks, and to introduce his teachings to others.”

Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness begins March 20, 2023, the date which would have been Fred’s 95th birthday, and concludes on Saturday, March 26 with the Red Sweater Soiree, a community dinner to recognize ten ordinary members of the community who inspire and exemplify the affinity that Fred Rogers had for showing kindness to our “Neighbors”.

Mister Rogers Week of Kindness coming March 20-26, 2023. Photo Credit: Mike Brodsky (Florida National News)

Activities planned for the week will include early childhood education activities and faculty training, as well as events open to the public.

“The events will be offered free or at low cost,” continued Bradley. “This week-long celebration is not a series of fundraisers, but rather about once again remembering and sharing some of the great work that Fred Rogers created, not only in early childhood education, but in reminding us that we are all part of one big ‘neighborhood’. Fred taught us the importance of accepting our Neighbors just the way they are and engaging in kindness with our interactions. I can’t think of another period in my lifetime where we needed to reflect on those messages again more than today.”

“There are three ways to ultimate success,” Fred Rogers was once quoted as saying. “The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind. Imagine what our neighborhoods would be like if each of us offered, as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person.”

Many of the activities of Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness will be attended by members of the cast and crew of Mister Rogers Neighborhood, which ran from 1968 – 1975, and again from 1979 – 2001. David Newell, known as “Mr. McFeely,” the “Speedy Delivery” man, appeared at today’s media conference via video, and looks forward to visiting Central Florida next March.

David Newell, “Mr. McFeely.” Photo Credit: Mike Brodsky (Florida National News)

Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness is supported by the McFeely-Rogers Foundation, the Fred Rogers Institute, and Fred Rogers Productions. Details regarding the specific activities and venues will be released over the next few weeks.

For more information on the events, visit https://www.BuenaVistaEvents.com or https://www.MisterRogersWeekofKindness.com.

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