Representative Feeney visits New Smyrna Beach
By Jamye Durrance
NEW SMYRNA BEACH - On a recent Thursday morning, the New Smyrna Museum of History didn't have many visitors, until a local congressman dropped in.
U.S. Representative Tom Feeney of Florida walked through the door, followed shortly by his staff of nearly a dozen people.
The museum was just the first stop for Mr. Feeney as he visited New Smyrna Beach last week, making several stops throughout the city.
"We're here to educate these folks from Washington," Mr. Feeney said, referring to some of the staff from his Washington, D.C., office.
The trip was a chance for Mr. Feeney's staff to see the area as well as meet local residents. Mr. Feeney has offices in Washington and throughout his district and this trip was a chance for everyone to meet face-to-face, he said.
Mr. Feeney is the congressional representative for District 24, which includes areas of Brevard, Orange, Seminole and Volusia counties. The area includes New Smyrna Beach, Edgewater and Oak Hill.
He is up for re-election this year and is being challenged by Republican Jason Paul Davis of Port Orange and former Florida state Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, a Democrat. Other Democrats running include Clint Curtis of Titusville and Gaurav "Garv" Bhola of Orlando, no party affiliation.
Richard Newell, with the Southeast Historical Society, told Mr. Feeney that the museum is hitting some hard times financially.
"As far as dollars, they're hard to come by," he said. "It was a lot easier years ago."
Mr. Newell said museum sponsorships are down and they have had to raise fees.
The museum has applied for a National Medal for Museum Service award, which includes a $10,000 prize. The award is based on the museum's commitment to the community.
Mr. Feeney and his staff toured the museum, looking at various photographs and artifacts highlighting the history of New Smyrna Beach from founder Andrew Turnbull to today.
New Smyrna Beach's history may be a little hidden, Mr. Feeney said.
"People come to New Smyrna for the beach," he said. "A lot of people don't know the history of the area."
Museum volunteer Judy Burrows said that Mr. Feeney loves history and has visited the museum twice before. He was at the museum's grand opening in 2003.
After Mr. Feeney left the museum, he had lunch at the Republican Club of Southeast Volusia headquarters and then toured Hospice of Volusia/Flagler. At hospice, he honored veteran Sam Hartaman during a pinning ceremony. After hospice, Mr. Feeney visited the Ponce Inlet lighthouse.
Mr. Feeney said campaigning will start soon after the Congressional session is over.
"We will seriously look at our campaign after July," he said.
Ms. Burrows thought Mr. Feeney's visit to the museum went well.
"I really think they had a great time," she said. "Now they will have something to link to New Smyrna Beach."
Mr. Newell agreed.
"Now when they hear New Smyrna Beach, they will have a far better appreciation," he said.