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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Tea Party Patriots replace Florida coordinator

2

November

The Tea Party Patriots, an umbrella organization that claims a membership of 3,600 local groups across the country including 134 in Florida, has quietly replaced its leadership in the Sunshine State.

Out is Everett Wilkinson. In is Pam Wohlschlegel.

Both are from Palm Beach County, where the pair battled over direction of the South Florida Tea Party until Wohlschlegel eventually split and started her own group, the Palm Beach County Tea Party. (Watch her video about the new group above.)

The decision to install Wohlschlegel rested with Dawn Wildman, a Californian who coordinates the Patriots' state coordinators.

"It really wasn't working out for him," Wildman said of the decision to replace Wilkinson. She said the squabble between the Wohlschlegel and Wilkinson didn't influence her decision.

"What happened with Pam and Everett and their group happens all over the country. People can leave and start their own groups and do it their own way," Wildman said. "Pam has been great recruiting new people - young people, families. So whatever change happened there looks like it's worked out well for the community."

The tea party is holding its state convention this weekend in Daytona Beach.

UPDATE: Wilkinson has put out a statement via the SFTP vice chairman:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Donald H. Tiller III donald@southfloridateaparty.org
==========
Everett Wilkinson and South Florida Tea Party Response to "Tea Party Patriots Replace Florida Coordinator" by M. Bender

Mr. Bender,

I am contacting you on behalf of South Florida Tea Party. The facts in the story are simply false and Dawn Wildman of Tea Party Patriots should be required to confirm the facts on the record or recant. Specifically, it should be asked of her whether Mr. Wilkinson resigned from the Tea Party Patriots in June of 2011 on his own accord (long before this event article was published) or if he was removed and replaced as this story states. This story gives the impression that Mr. Wilkinson was kicked out of this organization and Ms. Wohlschlegel was given his position.

I do not believe that you want to post false information fed by Tea Party Patriots in an attempt to promote Pam Wohlschlegel, the Tea Party Patriots or any other individual or organization in an attempt to spark some life in Florida.

Mr. Wilkinson left the Tea Party Patriots after resigning in June 2011. The written resignation email post is available here. According to Mr. Wilkinson, the departure resulted from differences over the direction of the organization, lack of focus on the original mission, and lack of leadership. Several other state coordinators and local coordinators also left the organization. Mr. Wilkinson is the Chair of South Florida Tea Party and its affiliated organizations as he always has been. Tea Party Patriots is just one of the many Tea Party organizations throughout the nation and the association of Mr. Wilkinson with that group did not further the goal or the mission of our members.

Ms. Wohlschlegel was a county coordinator for the South Florida Tea Party for Palm Beach County but this article gives the impression, through the quote by Dawn Wildman and otherwise, that she was a rival within the leadership of the organization when she departed. Her departure was due, among other issues, to Mr. Wilkinson’s disagreement with, and Ms. Wohlschlegel’s endorsement of, the Ryan Plan advanced by the GOP (as she stated when asked in a Palm Beach Post article after her departure). As we all know now, the Ryan Plan has been widely rejected as bad policy but at that time it was the GOP endorsed plan despite its obvious defects by those who actually read the proposal and could properly analyze its contents. At the time of this rebuke by Mr. Wilkinson, his stance was contrary to that of many GOP party-liners. South Florida Tea Party is not affiliated with the GOP and Mr. Wilkinson’s rejection of the Ryan Plan offended those who believe the Tea Party is just a department of the Republican Party.

Mr. Wilkinson and the members of South Florida Tea Party made a conscious decision not to engage in the intra-movement squabbles that have plagued the movement and which seem to be increasing as various weaker organizations falter to gain support and members. As most people in and around the movement are aware, South Florida Tea Party, led by Everett Wilkinson, is one of the largest Tea Party organizations both in size and prominence and continues to organize people interested in the movement for the right reasons.

It is unfortunate that some in the movement cannot refrain from intra-movement disputes and attempts to control the best qualities of the Tea Party Movement- independence from political parties, decentralization, and the non profit/non-commercial purpose of the movement.

Over the past several months, South Florida Tea Party has urged the movement to remain independent from the GOP and to encourage its members to distance themselves from fringe elements that distract the movement by advancing extreme views. Apparently this has not been well received by individuals and groups that that cater to both.

More importantly, as the movement gains in popularity and size certain groups see it as a competition for members, money, and influence. Tea Party organizations are not ours to control nor are the people and the ideas that compromise them. We continue to encourage the various organizations to focus on the true intent of the party and resist the natural human instinct of self-promotion and reckless political maneuvering as this behavior will not only hurt the reputations of those involved in the self-promotion and the organizations that support them, but it will continue to hurt the movement itself.

Sincerely,

Donald H. Tiller III
Vice Chair – South Florida Tea Party

[Last modified: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 9:58pm]

    

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