The return address on a letter commending Monroe County for its climate-change efforts raised eyebrows.
"To get that fancy envelope with 'The White House' stamped on it -- that doesn't happen every day," County Administrator Roman Gastesi said Wednesday.
"Congratulations on your selection as a White House Climate Action Champion," says the letter signed by President Obama and addressed to county Mayor Danny Kolhage.
"As we face the growing threat of extreme weather and climate change, we must find common purpose to confront this threat and protect generations to come," Obama's letter says.
"Through the innovative steps your local government is taking at this critical time, your community is doing its part to build a sustainable and resilient future," he continues.
A signed photograph of the president was included.
The letter, dated April 15, arrived last month with an added letter from Ali Zaidi, associate director of the National Resources, Energy and Science Programs in the White House executive office, to "thank you for your commitment to driving local climate action."
County Sustainability Program Manager Rhonda Haag said the county apparently was recognized for its work through the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact comprising Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
Obama's letter "did rather arrive out of the blue," Haag said. "It's a nice recognition."
The four-county compact worked with scientists and computer modelers to prepare detailed reports on likely sea-level rise in the next five decades and how low-lying South Florida will be affected.
Estimates forecast a rise of 9 to 24 inches, depending on the rate of climate change. Key West has a waterfront gauge proving a 9-inch increase in the last century, Gastesi said.
"When the naysayers ask how we came up with that number, we can show where all these scientists and experts came together and are saying it," Gastesi said. "That's important."
"People talk about think globally and act locally. That's what we're doing," said Gastesi, pointing to the elevation of new county buildings and plans to raise road heights.
Monroe County in June also received a three-star rating from the STAR Communities program, a national coalition recognizing sustainability efforts in environmental, economic and health-related areas.
Fewer than three dozen cities and communities nationwide have passed the "rigorous" certification process, according to county staff. "Getting a three-star rating out of the box is almost unheard of," Haag said.