Secretary Salazar Announces Members of St. Augustine 450th Commemoration Commission

Last edited 09/29/2021

WASHINGTON – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced the members of the St. Augustine 450th Commemoration Commission. Founded by the Spanish in 1565, St. Augustine, Florida is the oldest continuously occupied European-established city in the continental United States. The secretarially-appointed members of the Commission will plan and carry out programs and activities to mark the 450th anniversary of the city's founding in 2015.

“I am pleased that these passionate and accomplished individuals have agreed to serve St. Augustine and our nation by serving on this Commission,” Secretary Salazar said. “As stewards of our nation's great history, the Department of the Interior and the Commission will work to ensure that the story of St. Augustine and our Spanish ancestors is recognized and preserved for generations to come.”

“The story of St. Augustine is a microcosm of the story of America itself, with a tapestry weaved by Native Americans, Europeans and Africans as the city developed, changed hands in times of conflict, struggled with issues of justice and equality and eventually flourished, ” said Director of the National Park Service Jon Jarvis. “The members of the commission will ensure that the anniversary will be an opportunity to expand the understanding and appreciation of the significance of the founding and continuing history of the city.”

Congress established the Commission as part of the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 and charged it with ensuring a suitable national observance of St. Augustine's 450th anniversary by complementing the programs and activities of the State of Florida and the City of St. Augustine.

The members of the St. Augustine 450th Commemoration Commission are:

  • Joseph P. Boles, Mayor of St. Augustine
  • Katharine H. Dickenson, historic preservationist
  • Katherine Fernandez Rundle, Miami-Dade State Attorney
  • Dr. Michael Francis, Professor of History, University of North Florida
  • Dr. Michael Gannon, Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of History, University of Florida
  • Senator Bob Graham
  • Jay Kislak, President Kislak Mortgage Corp., National Park Foundation Board
  • Eduardo Padron, President of Miami Dade College
  • Bruce Smathers, Former Florida Secretary of State
  • Robert Stanton, Senior Advisor to the Secretary, Department of the Interior
  • Father Thomas S. Willis, Pastor Cathedral Parish, St. Augustine, Florida
  • Gordon Wilson, Superintendent of Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Matanzas National Monument
  • Ambassador Andrew Young, former Congressman, Mayor of Atlanta, and UN Ambassador

More detailed biographies of the commissioners are available at

Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés founded St. Augustine in 1565 under a grant from King Phillip II of Spain. St. Augustine was often a site of conflict as European nations competed with each other for control of the New World, and, at various times, the flags of Spain, England and the United States have flown over the city. Union forces occupied the city in 1862. In the 1960's, St. Augustine was on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., led efforts to end segregation and secure equal rights for African Americans.

St. Augustine is home to two National Park Service sites, the Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Matanzas National Monuments. The Castillo de San Marcos, a castle built by the Spanish in 1672 to protect their interests in La Florida, is located in downtown St. Augustine, Florida.

For more information on the sites, please visit


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