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Kelly O’Conner, founder of the World Famous Kelly O’s Diner of Pittsburgh, PA knows that small business owners must take time out to recharge.

This busy entrepreneur is glowing after participating in the 2019 Key West Marlin Tournament (Jul 17 – Jul 20) with her family, including her son-in-law Alan, her son Scott, and Alan’s Dad, Rich. The trip gave them all an opportunity to be together, far away from the family biz.

“We went out fishing in Key West to enjoy the very blessed life we’ve been given,” says KellyO.


For the longest time, we split our family vacations so that our ‘family owned and operated business’ was never without a family member,” says Kelly.

This summer, the group made a change. “We went out fishing in Key West to enjoy the very blessed life we’ve been given,” she says, adding that Alan caught the biggest fish of the day and was even filmed by Fox Sports.

Photo by Cary HinzeThe team caught the biggest dolphin fish


Kelly wants everyone to know that it’s important to enjoy life in addition to working hard.

“Today I had a talk with a lovely local business lady who expressed how guilty she feels to leave her business and have fun,” she recalls. “As people who pour our minds, bodies, and souls into both diners, we feel her. But regardless of what you may be worried to leave behind, remember that the best way to enjoy this life is to actually do it. Stop sabotaging yourself and just GO!”

Photo by Cary Hinze Here’s the winning dolphin fish!

Kelly credits Captain Jason Jonas of High Stakes Charters with leading the team to victory—they took 1st place for biggest dolphin fish (aka Mahi Mahi).

She’s also grateful to photographer Cary Hinze of What the Fin Apparel. “They were my gear and picture takers,” she says.


Kelly notes that the business has been in good hands while they’ve gone fishin’. “We’re missing a third of our highest-level managers and still killin’ it! We’re a team, but ultimately, they’re our work-fam and help us to achieve all of our dreams.”

Photo by Cary Hinze

©️Jill Cueni-Cohen

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Conservation of Florida’s Most Important Resource Starts Upstream

Do you love clean drinking water? Then please urge your local lawmaker to fund Florida’s conservation easement programs this year!

Programs such as Florida Forever and Rural and Family Lands Protection are cost-efficient ways to protect our water resources.

Ranch landscapes are under threat of development. Ranchers who choose to keep their acreage as close to pristine wilderness as possible are hard-working people who care for the land and water. In fact, cattle operations are a low-intensity land use, because unlike neighborhoods, ranches actually store and clean water.

Conservation easements protect our water and wildlife in cost-effective ways, making ranchers responsible for the management of this precious land in perpetuity. That means that even when cattle prices drop, conservation easements provide an option to ranchers to conserve their lands.

Florida is growing; real-estate prices are rising, but our intact landscapes are disappearing. Protecting our waterways means protecting the watershed.

Politicians need to realize that fixing problems downstream is futile without protecting what is upstream.

According to Julie Morris of The Florida Conservation Group, which advocates for the protection of Florida’s ranchlands, “Funding our land protection programs is a time-sensitive issue. Both Florida Forever and Rural Family Lands are critical programs to protecting viable wildlife populations and clean water. We can’t keep kicking the can down the road and putting off protecting one of our most sensitive landscapes.”

She stressed that the need for conservation easements, which will focus on maintaining ranchlands north of the Florida Everglades, is urgent. “Bottom line—if we want clean water, we have to protect the landscape. Conservation easements need funding this year!”

Rural and Family Lands Protection Program and Florida Forever are critical to the health of the landscape; they both protect water quality and supply for urban areas, maintain our agricultural economy, protect Florida’s tourist economy and military base buffers. Both programs partner with other local, state and federal programs to leverage resources and maximize protection benefits. Funding these conservation easement programs is an investment in Florida’s future and is critical to our quality of life.

We are losing natural/agricultural land at rapid pace

Private lands protect Florida’s water and natural resources

These programs are the most cost effective way to preserve our water resources

We can invest a little now or a lot later to restore our watersheds

Private lands protect drinking water supply and water quality/quantity to our urban areas

Private lands are critical to aquifer recharge

We can protect water resources for a fraction of the cost of outright purchase

RFLPP protects our food security and agricultural economy; Florida Forever protects our critical water resources

Land stays on tax roles/private ownership

Management costs responsibility of landowner


Florida has always been a national leader in land protection, and conservation easements are a smart way to protect our natural resources before spending billions on clean-up.

Florida’s natural and agricultural landscape is rapidly disappearing, which means that we must support these taxpayers-funded programs NOW.

After 71 percent of Floridians voted for Amendment 1, it’s clear that we want our state leaders to make economic and environmentally-sound decisions to fund both of these nationally-recognized programs.

Florida’s taxpayers spend more than $10 billion to fund the Department of Transportation each year. But the protection of natural and agricultural lands, which in turn protects our drinking water, is even more necessary for Florida’s economy and healthy communities.

In contrast, $200 million towards conservation easements would protect our land and water resources forever. These programs are needed to protect our state’s water supply and quality, clean air, habitat and wildlife and maintain the agriculture that is a critical part of our state economy.

Land protection isn’t a luxury; it’s vital to cleaning Florida’s water; which is critical to the future of this great state.

©️Jill Cueni-Cohen

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Pretty With a Purpose

As a journalist, I’ve been offered the opportunity to do a lot of bizarre things in pursuit of a story. The scariest thing I’ve ever done was jump out of an airplane; the weirdest thing I was ever asked to do (which I declined) was to participate in a celebrity cow-milking contest; and the best was when I was took a press trip to the lovely Caribbean island of St. Lucia.

One of my most enlightening opportunities came when I was asked to participate in the judging of a mock interview for beauty pageant contestants in 2005.

Although I expected superficial answers, I thought the chance to interview beauty queens about their aspirations and beliefs would be fun, so I accepted.

Beautiful, smiling young women in evening gowns sauntered past the panel of judges, their titles proudly displayed across their chests: Miss Pennsylvania, Miss Indiana, Miss West Virginia and their Miss Teen counterparts.

The television anchorwoman on my left had a critical eye for style and confided that she had done pageants herself, while the male hairdresser to my right critiqued the way contestants wore their hair. But all I saw were gorgeous girls headed towards a bright future — even if they don’t win the Miss USA™ or Miss Teen USA™ title.

I had to really dig to find something critical to say to them about the way they looked, because to my untrained eye, they all looked amazing.

My expertise is in the words. So, I listened to them smoothly answer questions on everything from the war in Iraq to what they thought about stay-at-home moms, and I was impressed; not just with the answers they gave and the strong beliefs they held, but with the way the girls presented themselves while the judges fired loaded questions at them — poised, conversational, and competitive.

And they were human. Miss Indiana talked about her plans to become a veterinarian, and Miss West Virginia, who began her career as the youngest licensed insurance agent in West Virginia when she was 18, spoke of her belief that women can be good moms while pursuing their professional goals.

“I want people to know that I am not just another pretty face,” stated Miss Pennsylvania, Brenda Brabham of Philadelphia, who was 24 years old at the time of this interview. She added, “The two primary contributions that pageants make for today’s women are the encouragement of confidence and strength. One must be confident in themselves, both physically and mentally, in order to compete in front of a panel of judges. It takes a strong woman who truly believes in herself to continue on despite others’ perceptions of her.”

“The assumption is that these are leggy, long-haired women with no desire to do anything but be a trophy piece, and it’s nothing like that,” said Linda Andreassi, former Miss Pennsylvania USA™ 1994. “These girls are more three-dimensional than anyone would expect.”

Linda said she disapproves of child pageants, but she credits her participation in high school pageantry with having helped land her current position as the public relations director of Seneca Valley School District in Butler, PA. “Seventy people applied for that job, and being in pageants definitely gave me an edge. Because if you can stand there and take those questions being fired at you [during a pageant], you can do a job interview after college with no problem,” she explained.

“I interviewed in front of nine board members and the superintendent, and I was like bring it on. It’s easier for me to handle than the average person.”

Linda has been involved in all phases of pageantry — from judging to coordinating — and co-owns a consulting company called Pageant Management with her sister, Tina Veon. The company gives girls a competitive edge by helping them hone their skills with mock interviews like the one I participated in.

“I was very shy and introverted, and pageants bring you out of that,” says Linda, noting that it also teaches girls to be a gracious losers.

“I tell people that if you can wear a swimsuit and heels on-stage, you can do anything.”

© Jill Cueni-Cohen