Tag Archives: Casey DeSantis

Christmas Message From Governor Ron DeSantis

On behalf of my wife Casey, myself and Florida’s First Family, we would like to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas!

As our family spends time together enjoying the holiday season, the love and outpouring of support you have shown us has been one of the greatest gifts of all. This is truly the most wonderful time of year, celebrating the miracle of Christmas.

As we continue to forge the path for the rest of the nation, we have the opportunity this upcoming year to secure Florida’s future for our children and many generations of Floridians.

We wish you many blessings and hope you are enjoying time well spent with loved ones.

God bless you and God bless the great state of Florida!

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First Lady Casey DeSantis Announces Mary Ann Carroll as Florida’s Featured Artist in Celebration of Black History Month

From Governor Ron DeSantis’ Office:

Today, First Lady Casey DeSantis announced Mary Ann Carroll as Florida’s Featured Artist in celebration of Black History Month. Mary Ann’s work will be displayed in the Governor’s Mansion for visitors to enjoy. 


“I am proud to announce Mary Ann Carroll, the only original female member of the Highwaymen, as our Featured Artist in celebration of Black History Month,” said First Lady Casey DeSantis. “Mary Ann is a self-taught artist who overcame tremendous challenges throughout her career. Today, her priceless work is showcased in collections throughout the country and her extraordinary talent has been widely recognized with her induction into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame. Ron and I look forward to meeting members of the Carroll family and displaying her work in the Governor’s Mansion in celebration of Black History Month. As Mary Ann continues to recover from a recent illness, we will continue to keep her in our prayers.”


About Mary Ann Carroll


Mary Ann Carroll was born in 1940 in Georgia and grew up in Ft. Pierce, Florida. She was inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 2004 as the only female member of The Highwaymen, a group of self-taught artists that made a living painting colorful Florida landscapes during the Jim Crow period.


With no galleries to display the work of black artists during this time, the Highwaymen sold their paintings from the trunks of their cars or went door-to-door, selling their work to hotels, doctors’ offices and banks. Art was always Mary Ann’s main source of income, but when business was slow, she worked odd jobs to make ends meet. Life was sometimes a struggle, but she persevered and singlehandedly raised seven children. Whereas her fellow painters could travel far from home to sell their paintings, she had to be back in Ft. Pierce each afternoon to pick her children up from school, prepare dinner and oversee homework. All the while she honed her artistic skills and sold paintings when and where she could.


Paintings by the Highwaymen are still affectionately called “Hotel Art.” Many famous and successful people purchased the art for $10 to $25 with little interest in the work. Years later, a buzz grew about the work of these ambitious black artists. As their popularity increased, a new interest and “art rush” came to many who had tucked the paintings away. As the paintings surfaced from attics, garages and estate sales, these paintings that once sold for $25 were now suddenly worth thousands.


Mary Ann Carroll has been featured in several documentaries and on National Public Radio (NPR). Over the years she has supported many fine charities and she continues to be a generous philanthropist. Her work is proudly displayed in collections in the United States and internationally.


Mary Ann recently semi-retired to rehabilitate her painting arm after a medical setback. Her wish is to see all children follow their dreams, even if those dreams don’t include painting.


For more information on Florida’s celebration of Black History Month visit: http://www.floridablackhistory.com

First Lady Casey DeSantis Establishes the First Lady’s Medal for Courage, Commitment & Service

From Governor Ron DeSantis’ Office:


First Lady Casey DeSantis Establishes the First Lady’s Medal for Courage, Commitment & Service

The First Lady’s Medal is Inspired by Floridians Making a Positive Impact in Their Communities.


Jacksonville, Fla. – Today, First Lady Casey DeSantis, joined by Governor Ron DeSantis and Florida Department of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, awarded the inaugural “First Lady’s Medal for Courage, Commitment, and Service,” honoring Floridians who are creating positive change in their communities.


First Lady DeSantis presented the medals to First Coast residents Carmen Townsend and Judi Zitiello at the North Florida School for Special Education. Both Carmen and Judi are well known in the community through their involvement in the JT Townsend Foundation and the Funk-Zitiello Foundation.


“As Ron and I travel the state, we are fortunate to see firsthand how Floridians are transforming their communities for the better,” said First Lady Casey DeSantis. “I am proud to establish this award to showcase Floridians who have displayed service over self. Carmen Townsend and Judi Zitiello are examples of strong women who have experienced their own enormous challenges, yet continue to support the needs of others in the First Coast community.”


Carmen Townsend and the JT Townsend Foundation

Carmen Townsend is the proud mother to the late JT Townsend, a former wide receiver and member of the Episcopal School of Jacksonville Football Team. JT suffered a spinal cord injury in 2004 and later met professional golfer Fred Funk and Tommy Zitiello. When informed that JT and his family needed a wheel-chair accessible home, the pair, along with several North Florida community leaders, ensured that the Townsends had the equipment and support they needed. Later, the families came together to establish the JT Townsend Foundation to improve the lives of others living with disabilities. JT believed in the mission and continued to better himself by completing his undergraduate degree at the University of North Florida. JT passed away suddenly in 2013, but his legacy continues through the foundation in his name. Carmen now serves on the JT Townsend Foundation Giving Committee to continue JT’s legacy of providing hope to those living with disabilities.


Judi Zitiello
Judi Zitiello has been a member of the JT Townsend Foundation since 2010. She continues to support the mission of improving the lives of adults and children living with disabilities as she battles pancreatic cancer. Since her diagnosis in 2014, Mrs. Zitiello has been a voice and champion for all of those living with cancer and disabilities. The Funk-Zitiello Foundation was established alongside the Fred Funk family in 2016 to support families living with disabilities through the JT Townsend Foundation and to support critical pancreatic cancer research through the Mayo Clinic. 


Photo Credit: Governor Ron DeSantis Press Office


About the First Lady’s Medal for Courage, Commitment & Service
The First Lady’s Medal for Courage, Commitment & Service was established by First Lady Casey DeSantis in 2019 to honor Floridians who have made a positive impact in their communities.