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Beach Leadership Conference to return in April

--Council lightens volunteer requirements--

January 16, 2013
By BOB PETCHER ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Town volunteer-seeking informational sessions and field trips will return to Fort Myers Beach for a two-day interactive seminar.

The Beach Leadership Conference, hosted by the Community Resources Advisory Board, has been approved by Town officials and will be held on Friday, April 5 and Saturday, April 6.

According to CRAB chairperson Miffie Greer, goals of the free conference include giving participants an opportunity to interact with Town leaders, increasing participants' knowledge about the way the Town of Fort Myers Beach works and encouraging participants to become volunteers in areas of their interest.

"I attended the last conference and personally got involved in volunteering for the Town," she said. "They encouraged us to be part of the Town, and I eventually applied to do volunteer work for a committee. I've seen what it can do."

Greer joined CRAB and eventually took over chairperson duties. She also is a board member of the Fort Myers Beach Library and does off-island volunteer work.

Town officials held that aforementioned conference in 2010. It was deemed successful with 17 graduates. Some of those graduates went on to become volunteers for many of the Town advisory committees or at Town infrastructures, such as Mound House, Newton Park, Matanzas Pass Perserve and Bay Oaks.

One of those graduating students was Dan Andre, who was appointed to the Marine Resources Task Force then to the Local Planning Agency and finally to Town Council last October. He was instrumental for recycle bins being placed at each of the beach accesses as a member of MRTF.

"Attending the last Leadership Conference was extremely valuable to me. I was able to meet and get to know the hardworking staff and how their efforts make Fort Myers Beach such a wonderful place to live," said Andre. "To see that kind of dedication was refreshing and inspiring, and it motivated me to become more involved in the town.

"I started my volunteer work on the Marine Resources Task Force and then applied for a position on the Land Planning Agency. I am now completing Mayor Kiker's term on the Town Council. The Leadership Conference is probably the most comprehensive way to learn about the nuts and bolts of Fort Myers Beach. I would encourage anyone and everyone who has an active interest in this island paradise to take part."

The conference was planned out again in 2011, but only seven people signed up for the four-day event to be held in mid-May. It was postponed and rescheduled for January 2012, but was not held when the time came.

This year, the conference format is much the same, but the depth, range of conference days and time of year has been changed. The conference has been downsized to two days and thus has less of a scope. More participation is also hoped for with the change in month to April, when more Beach residents are still around.

'The response I have received from people who know we are doing the conference has been very positive," said Greer. "People who couldn't do the four-day event said they could handle the two-day event. We are certainly hoping for a really good turnout."

A registration deadline for the early April conference has been set for the third week in March. If anyone is interested in learning about Beach government processes and community resources through presentations by noted speakers and site visitations, reach Greer at or 765-6560 or 339-7684.

"We are asking for people to register for both days. You cannot register just for one," she said. "Pretty much anyone is invited to apply. We are not limiting it to full-time residents. We have a lot of snowbirds who are involved and do volunteer work for the Town."

A tentative list of 2013 conference speakers on the first day include Council members and other Town Hall personnel discussing roles and aspects of government and ecology of Estero Island as well as talks from officials from the Lee County Sheriff's Office, Fort Myers Beach Fire Department and Lee County government.

Site visitations on the second day will take participants to Beach Elementary School, Bay Oaks Recreational Campus, Matanzas Pass Preserve, the Beach Library, Mound House and Newton Park to listen to facility officials discuss their roles and infrastructures.

"This is a great community to live in. I think not everyone is aware how easy it is to be involved in the Town," said Greer. "I think that it is very important to become involved in the community in which we live. There is something about meeting a Council member and calling them by name."

Council amends advisory committee requirements

During their workshop on Monday, Jan. 7, Council members gave consensual approval to amend the Town code relating to advisory committees after expressing a desire to have their boards be more consistent in terms of membership and quorum requirements and to possibly expand membership to off-island residents.

The Town has no less than nine committees that work on related topics and report back to Council. They include CRAB, Anchorage Advisory Committee, Audit Committee, Bay Oaks Recreational Campus Advisory Committee, Cultural & Environmental Learning Center Advisory Board, Marine Resources Task Force and Public Safety Committee. The Local Planning Agency and the Historic Advisory Committee (within the jurisdiction of the LPA) are other committees of the Town that will not see change.

The affected committees will still be required to hold a minimum of five members and a maximum of seven members, but will allow two-year terms of office to be non-staggering, unlimited term limits, a minimum participation of members to advisory committee meetings to just quarterly and a single majority as far as quorum requirements. Committee members will be appointed by Council and preference will be given to Beach residents, then Town property owners or business owners and, in the absence of the previous conditions, Council can waive the requirement and appoint off-island residents on a majority vote.

"Most of (the committees) will opt to meet every month because (the members) are very dedicated people," said Councilwoman Jo List. "I feel we lost some really good people on a couple of our advisory committees when the previous council decided (members) had to live here in order to be on the committee."



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