Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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First Amendment Foundation Chooses New President to Succeed Legend Barbara Peterson

New First Amendment Foundation President Pamela Marsh

TALLAHASSEE, FL – Last week at the FSU Law School Rotunda, at an event honoring outgoing First Amendment Foundation President Barbara Peterson, standing quietly off to the side was Pamela Marsh, the incoming President of the Foundation.

Folks came from all over Florida to pay tribute to Barbara Peterson, the 24 year retiring First Amendment Foundation (FAF) President, the reason for this reporter's attendance.

However, the chance to chat with the incoming Ms. Marsh and learn a little bit about her was too hard to resist.

Your reporter walked over to Ms. Marsh, introduced himself and said, "I understand you're the new president of the First Amendment Foundation."

The Foundation Board was keeping the announcement of its selection of Ms. Marsh under wraps until after the event honoring President Peterson.

Ms. Marsh asked, "How did you find out?"

Your reporter smiled, "If I told you, do you think anybody would ever talk to me again?"

Ms. Marsh smiled back, "Ok, please don't tell anybody. Tonight is Barbara's night."

Ms. Marsh explained that the information would be released after the event.

When your reporter asked Ms. Marsh if she could tell him a little about herself she had her bio down pretty well: born in Atlanta, parents from Florida, parents moved back to Florida, dreamed of becoming a ballerina from the time she was a little girl, parents supported her, went to NY, began dancing professionally – Seattle and Fort Worth, decided to go to law school, became an attorney.

Ms. Marsh did not mention that she clerked for a federal appellate court judge, became an Assistant U.S. attorney, nor did she mention that she served as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida during the Obama Administration.

The Personal Foundation: Arts & Dance

Ms. Marsh lit up when she spoke about her childhood dreams dancing and becoming a ballerina.

All over America, in just about every little nook and cranny, there is a local dance studio where little girls (and boys) learn coordination, concentration, and that practice makes one better. A lot of those little girls dream of one day becoming professional dancers. With some the dream fades and they move through life, with others the dream intensifies.

Becoming a professional ballerina is no easy feat. Becoming a soloist is close to impossible and compared to that, law school is an easy ride.

In a press release the day after FSU event, President Peterson said, "I am so pleased with the selection of Pamela Marsh as the new FAF president. She has a passion for open government and buckets of energy; she’s smart and curious and will take FAF into its next phase. Pamela Marsh is the perfect choice and I’m immeasurably pleased to know I’ll have the chance to work with her through the transition.”

In the same press release Ms. Marsh said, "I am honored and excited to join the First Amendment Foundation as its new President. Perhaps now more than ever, the mission of the Foundation is critical to Florida communities and to a thriving democracy. Barbara Petersen built her legacy fighting for open access to government meetings and public records, to ensure that the public stays well informed and able to participate in government and be heard. I am grateful to Barbara and the Board of FAF for offering me this opportunity to serve the people of Florida and the objectives of the First Amendment."

Back to the Event

Speaker after speaker came to the microphone to honor Ms. Peterson and share little stories of events, law suits, decisions, opinions and the stuff Ms. Peterson did for 24 years.

Ms. Peterson gave a little talk about her years at the FAF and put on a tiara that the FAF Board had given her in recognition of her legendary years of service leading the FAF.

It was plastic – the Foundation does not have a lot of money.

When all the talking was over your reporter said to Ms. Marsh, "It looks like you will have some pretty big shoes to fill."

Ms. Marsh didn't miss a beat, "I have big feet," she said.


Ms. Marsh could have added "dancing" feet.

It is what she will need to navigate through the present political climate in Florida.

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