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Stuart Travelers Rejoice: Customs Is Coming Soon To Witham Field Airport

More than 200 people gathered to celebrate the groundbreaking of the customs facility at Witham Field on Aug. 23. 

“After all the hard work and effort that it took to get us here, all the ups and downs, it’s pretty amazing that this day finally arrived,” says Butch Bayley, owner of Sailfish Marina and a founding member of the Martin Marine Aviation Alliance, a group of marine and aviation businesses that organized to support passage of the customs facility. “We’re just thankful that the new county commission majority made it happen.”

Martin County Commission Chair Doug Smith speaks to the crowd.

Neighboring the Witham Airport office, the 3,201-square-foot facility—projected to open in May—will provide a convenience long heralded by boaters and aviators. For a small fee, locals and visitors arriving in Martin County from the Bahamas or other international ports can clear customs without having to travel to St. Lucie or Palm Beach.

Spanning nearly nine years and enduring multiple county hearings, momentum for customs attracted nearly 3,000 signatures on petitions in support. 

Vice Chair of Martin County Commission Ed Ciampi; Rep. Brian Mast; Martin County Commissioner Harold Jenkins; and Chair of Martin County Commission Doug Smith.

United States Rep. Brian Mast also addressed the audience. He paid homage to the legislative legwork of early advocate Rep. Tom Rooney, who previously represented Martin County in Congress. Mast also applauded the focus, unity and determination of Martin County citizens in bringing the facility to fruition.

In recent years several organizations endorsed customs, including, among others, the Stuart City Commission, Stuart/Martin County Chamber, Jensen Beach Chamber, Palm City Chamber, Indiantown Chamber, Hobe Sound Chamber, the REALTOR® Association of Martin County, Economic Council of Martin County, Martin County Taxpayers Association, Stuart Main Street, Downtown Business Association, Young Professionals and Preserve Martin County.

Assistant county administrator George Stokus, Rep. Brian Mast and Dan Capen, president of Stuart Jet Center.

“There were a lot of really good people involved,” Smith says. “They stayed committed. They stayed engaged. They didn’t give up. I don’t know if we’ve ever had quite that large a turnout, which again shows how much people can achieve when they work together.”

Witham Field manager Erik Treudt; Martin County commissioner Harold Jenkins; Rep. Brian Mast; Martin County administrator Taryn Kryzda; Chair of Martin County Commission Dough Smith; Vice chair of Martin County Commission Ed Ciampi; Stuart Mayor Troy McDonald; Stuart commissioner Eula Clarke; President of Town of Ocean Breeze Ann Kagdis; George Stokus, assistant county administrator. 

Photos courtesy of Steven Martine