Fritzie Estimond is a welcoming presence at the Key West Business Guild’s LGBTQ Visitor Center — and the guiding spirit behind the guild’s annual events. What does she like best about Key West? The “small community” feel, the acceptance that allows people to be their authentic selves, and what she cheerfully calls “the weird.”
Jordan Budnik is the executive director of the Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center in Tavernier, a nonprofit facility that takes in over 900 native birds in need of rehabilitation every year. Driven by a lifelong fascination with avian species, she’s passionate about advocating for wildlife and encouraging people to protect the environment.
For 15 years Jeanne Selander has overseen the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Animal Farm on Stock Island — believed to be the only facility of its kind on jailhouse property in the United States — and the care of 150 exotic creatures. Her “charges” include an ostrich, lemurs, kinkajous, bearded dragons and 17-year-old Mo the Sloth.
Sarah Fangman, superintendent of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, is a Minnesota native whose impressive career as a marine scientist has spanned the country. Not only has she conducted more than 600 dives in sanctuary waters, she also holds a Coast Guard 100-ton master captain’s license and is a certified submersible pilot.
Captain Samantha “Sam” Zeher operates KeyZ Charters, an eco-tour operation specializing in wildlife tours out of Islamorada’s popular Robbie’s Marina. Offerings include sightseeing excursions with birdwatching and sunset viewing and Islamorada–area island trips that explore Indian Key, Lignumvitae Key and Alligator Lighthouse — each with a history dating back to the 1800s.
Captain Coleen Fitzsimmons recently launched Island Vibe Charters to introduce small groups and families to the Florida Keys waters and fascinating ecosystem during reef snorkeling and sandbar excursions. Coleen, who has two children with her wife, is passionate about sharing the Keys world, unique way of life and environmental wonders with charter passengers.
In May, Elena Muratori celebrates 25 years with the Florida Park Service. With two decades of working at John Pennekamp Coral Reef and Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical state parks, she’s one of the longest-serving stewards at any Florida Keys state park. And she’s deeply dedicated to restoring and preserving natural resources.
Rob Oliverio traded life as a road warrior — a corporate manager launching House of Blues openings in Boston, New Orleans and Los Angeles — for life as an eco-entrepreneur and owner of Key West’s Mellow Ventures. Today he’s focused on helping visitors learn to appreciate, respect and protect the beauty of the Keys.
Kelly Grinter estimates she’s rescued and released more than 20,000 injured birds since she founded the Marathon Wild Bird Center in 1995. The sanctuary at Marathon’s Crane Point Hammock Museum and Nature Center has 11 habitats and about 40 permanent residents — and Kelly is inspired by each bird admitted into the facility’s care.
Key West’s LGBTQ visitors have a great resource to make their trips lively and memorable: the Key West Business Guild and its LGBTQ visitor center. The guild’s executive director, Kevin Theriault, makes travelers feel welcome and shares insights into what he calls “one of the most integrated and unique communities in the world.”