- June 20, 2022
A few years ago, Khanh-Lien Banko helped lead an initiative to pass a half-cent tax to support schools in Alachua County. This past year, she did the same in Flagler, working to convince the community to renew a half-penny tax that will fund instructional technology, classroom-to-careers initiatives and enhanced security.
If you ask Joe Wright, president-elect of the Flagler County Education Foundation Board of Directors, Banko certainly deserves recognition.
“There’s very few people I know that deserve it more than Khanh-Lien,” Wright said.
Banko, 46, is the Education Foundation board’s treasurer, the chief financial officer of her family’s business, Pierson Fern & Greens, a wife and a mother of four.
Banko moved to Palm Coast in 2021 to be closer to family and the family business in Volusia County — a much easier commute than coming from Alachua County. On top of that, she said, she had encouraged her sister to move to Flagler County for its innovative school system.
But also in 2021, Joe Rizzo, the executive director of the Flagler Education Foundation who died in the spring of 2022, asked her to take on the job of pushing the half-cent tax initiative for Flagler’s schools.
“If I tried to describe her, she's just the kind of person who gets in there and gets to work, gets her hands dirty with everybody else.” — Joe Wright, president-elect of the Flagler County Education Foundation Board of Directors
Wright met Banko through Rizzo. He said Banko is an unassuming and kind person.
“If I tried to describe her,” he said, “she's just the kind of person who gets in there and gets to work, gets her hands dirty with everybody else.”
Banko has 20 years of experience advocating for kids in the classroom. She became involved with her local school system once her kids entered it, she said.
But her drive to support both her kids and the kids sitting next to them in class stems from her family’s values, she said.
“For our family,” Banko said, “service to the community is important.”
In Alachua County, she was president of the Alachua County Council of PTAs and spearheaded the county’s “Half-Cent for Schools” initiative in 2018.
Her successful work on that initiative is why Rizzo asked her to work on Flagler’s half-cent tax renewal in 2021, she said.
The problem was that most of that work is based on relationships, Banko said, and she had just moved to Flagler County that summer and said she didn’t have those relationships here yet, like she did in Alachua County.
“Joe said, ‘Let me handle that,’” Banko said.
So the two of them got to work. Banko began to organize the campaign as the two of them gathered volunteers.
“It is just as important for me that the child sitting next to my child has what they need." — Khanh-Lien Banko, treasurer of the Flagler County Education Foundation
They planned to work as a team, but Rizzo died in March 2022. Banko and Rizzo’s wife, Teresa Rizzo, scrambled after his death to continue pushing the initiative, Banko said.
The two, who had become close friends, spent many hours working on it together, Teresa Rizzo said.
“She really took the lead and worked diligently,” Rizzo said.
Wright said Banko took charge of the initiative from the beginning, organizing the people already working on it so that everyone was running more efficiently and getting the work done.
“She was put in charge of pulling this whole thing together,” Wright said. “And she ran this like a machine.”
Both Wright and Rizzo said Banko deserves a lot of credit for the success of the half-cent initiative. But Banko said supporting her community is important to her. She wants her children to learn the value of service to the community, too, she said.
“It is just as important for me that the child sitting next to my child has what they need,” she said.
Rizzo said Banko has a true philanthropic heart. Banko, she said, naturally considers other people first, where many have to work at that.
“She cares so much about her community,” Rizzo said. “I just admire her.”