WILHELMINA HARVEY (1912-2005) was the first woman elected to the Monroe County Commission and became the first woman Mayor of Monroe County. She was elected president of the Florida Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs. She was also elected Chairman of the District School Board and president of the local Women’s Club. An educator, businesswoman, and civic leader, Harvey was one of the first four living women inducted into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame for 50 years of volunteer service.
As matriarch of the Florida Keys, Ms. Harvey was an eager participant in many of the local eccentricities. In 1982 the U.S. Border Patrol established a checkpoint at the top of the Overseas Highway. To protest the economic effect on travel and tourism, local leaders “seceded” from the United States and created the Conch Republic. Harvey became Admiral and First Sea Lord of its navy. She often served as the Republic’s ambassador and met several presidents and foreign leaders. In 1991 Queen Elizabeth II visited nearby Fort Jefferson National Park and Harvey presented the queen with a queen conch shell as a gift. In 2001 Ms. Harvey was elected and crowned Queen of Fantasy Fest.
In 1997 the Monroe County commissioners voted to name the new county government building as Harvey Government Center at Historic Truman School after Harvey and her husband (a mayor of Key West). When she died in 2005, the citizens honored her with all the pomp and circumstance of a state memorial procession…Conch Republic style.