Invited to the White House
President of Fort Myers Beach chamber a guest of the first lady at State of the Union speech
Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce President Jacki Liszak received the message in a text late Friday night. She was wanted at the White House to be a guest of First Lady Jill Biden for dinner and as her guest at her husband President Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech to the Congress and American people at the House chamber Tuesday night.
Liszak, contacted Tuesday before the big event, didn’t believe it at first.
“It’s not funny to make a joke like that,” she said.
Though initially skeptical the text might be a spam message, she soon received an official follow-up email from First Lady Biden’s assistant indicating the message was very real. She was soon on the phone confirming details.
“I don’t know why they chose me,” Liszak said. Liszak met President Biden and the first lady, among a large group of people, when they visited Fort Myers Beach days after Hurricane Ian hit. She evidently left an impression as they did on her.
“I am super excited. I’m a little bit in awe, and I’m cognizant of the responsibility I have to represent Fort Myers Beach,” Liszak said. “They stood and talked and listened. You didn’t feel rushed. They spent time with each person.”
At the time, Liszak communicated how much help was needed and thanked the president and first lady for “taking a personal interest.” She said the president was “very caring and listened and heard what we had to say. You can see in his face that he really did care.”
Liszak said she intends to communicate that Fort Myers Beach is thankful for “the assistance that we have been given so far. Mostly that we are resilient but we are not out of the woods yet. We are going to need help.”
Liszak said she will share stories and photos of friends, business owners and colleagues “so I can put names and faces on the devastation so we are not just numbers.”
Liszak was at the airport Tuesday morning, preparing to head to Washington, D.C., with her husband Scott Safford and his sister Jon Ingle. Liszak said Ingle was a major Democratic Party supporter in Wisconsin.
“I am thankful for this opportunity to draw attention to the need for continued assistance for Fort Myers Beach at both the federal and state level,” Liszak said. “Even though progress has been made, and we are so very thankful for the support we have received, we still need significant help to rebuild our island.”
Liszak said the Fort Myers Beach community still needs help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency “to get squared away” and assistance with Small Business Administration loans. “The town needs continued funding,” she said. “It’s going to be a long road.”
Liszak said she doesn’t want “the nation to forget that we are still recovering and that we need their support now and into the future as we work to build back our island paradise.”