Many community members were informed of governmental roles and other pertinent island treasures during a two-day interactive seminar that featured speaker presentations and field trips to Fort Myers Beach facilities.
The time commitment to learning allowed 20 students to graduate from the free Beach Leadership Conference with Certificates of Completion. The experience, sponsored by the Town of Fort Myers Beach and spearheaded by the Community Resources Advisory Board, might aid in assuming volunteer positions. It could possibly earn them key Town advisory committee assignments that could lead to higher positions, such as becoming a member of the Town Council - like two present Beach Council members. Both Vice Mayor Joe Kosinski and Councilman Dan Andre were at the 2010 Beach Leadership Conference.
The 2013 graduates were Gloria Anderson, Chuck Bodenhafer, Barbara Farrell, Rexann Hosafros, Lois Jorgensen, Sandy Lepley, Deb Maniar, Paresh Maniar, Marylu Marshall, Bud Nocera, Cheryl O'Connell, Curtis Pickett, Margaret Schmidt, Sandy Schofield, Ed Scott, Penny Sharpe, Bill Veach, Catherine Wallace, Becky Werner and Kathy Young.
The 20 attendees of the Beach Leadership Conference take a photo break from their field trip between island facilities. They all graduated from the two-day event later in the day.
"The general response received from the conference attendees was extremely favorable," said CRAB chairperson Miffie Greer, the event organizer.
On Friday, an all-star lineup of speakers included Beach Mayor Alan Mandel, Town Manager Terry Stewart, Vice Mayor Joe Kosinski, Town Clerk Michelle Mayher, Artist/writer Laurie Nienhaus, Town Planning Coordinator Josh Overmyer, Councilman Dan Andre, Town Environmental Sciences Coordinator Keith Laakkonen, Capt. Matt Powell, Fire Chief Darren White, Community Emergency Response Team Leader Alan Vacks and County Manager Doug Meurer.
On Saturday, the attendees visited Beach Elementary School, Bay Oaks Recreational Campus, Matanzas Pass Preserve, Beach Library, Mound House, Newton Park and Bowditch Point Park. At each facility, officials discussed their roles and infrastructures.
"People really got into it on both days with the speakers and the field trip. I've been to all those places before, and I still learned a lot," said Greer.
CRAB members were applauded for their efforts and the liaison to the advisory board was also commended. Greer believes the effectiveness of the conference will hinge on how many people volunteer in the future.
"I think people learned enough to have some good feelings about the town, and that was part of the purpose of the whole conference," she said. "(CRAB liaison) Josh (Overmyer) was wonderful. He really did a incredible job and was always ready to help,"
Here is a short capsule look at what the Friday morning speakers had to offer during their presentations:
n Mayor Alan Mandel His topic was on the Town Council. He reviewed such issues as Estero Boulevard, water utility, Seafarer site, interlocal agreements and animal control. He reviewed county committees that council members are on, the Sunshine Law, downtown development agency, Mound House, public input at meetings, infrastructure and Council term limits.
"We would like you all to know more about the local government and how it operates. Hopefully, when you get to hear what we are working on, get to hear about the various committees, you will become so interested that you'll want to fill some of the openings we have and maybe run for Council," he said.
n Town Manager Terry Stewart Celebrating his 44th year in government work, Stewart explained the role of a manager of a small town and shared career highlights along the way. He discussed referendum language, form of government, decisions, policy approaches, the Town budget and services provided.
"This is a great way to enable people to learn more about your community. It also really opens up the doors for us to gain the volunteers that are so important," he said. "You never know the talent and skills they have within them as well as the knowledge and experience they can bring to a community. Unless we reach out and bring you in and enable you to be a part of our group, we'll never know what talent and skills you bring to the plate.
n Vice Mayor Joe Kosinski An engineer by trade, Kosinski discussed infrastructure, including storm water, Town-owned facilities, the North Estero Boulevard Improvement Project, the future redesign of Estero Boulevard and Town-owned parking areas.
"These are assets of our community. Over the next couple of years, you are going to be seeing a lot of changes on the Beach," he said. "I've been told the redesign work on Estero Boulevard will begin next spring. If not, I would say next summer."
n Town Clerk Michelle discussed the role of the municipal clerk position by stating there had been five failed incorporations before the Town was finally incorporated in 1995. She also went over the Town charter, the 2005 referendum to impose road or bridge tolls, being the qualifying officer for local elections, state legislature and the right to view public records.
"I really am happy to see such a good turnout, because that suggests to me that you are interested in becoming or continuing to be a leader in our community. So, I applaud you," she said. "By the charter, the town clerk shall give notice of council meetings to its members and the public, keep a journal and minutes of the proceedings of the council and its committees, authenticate by signature and record all ordinances and resolutions that are passed by the Council, be the custodian of the Town seal, have the power to administer oaths and perform such other duties as assigned by the Town manager."
n Laurie Nienhaus Arts on the Beach was the topic for this presentation. She mentioned the children 's mural at the Seafarer site, murals on sides of buildings, street performers, professional clowns, musicians and groups devoted to the Arts, such as the Fort Myers Beach Art Association and the Greater Fort Myers Beach Area Friends of the Arts. She also called for volunteers for the upcoming Beach Film Fest.
"The artistic community on this Beach is very productive and vibrant. You likely walk past artists or their art on a daily basis," she said. "Art really does incite community. It gives a community some inner scaffolding to help grow, blossom and thrive.
n Josh Overmyer As an impromptu time fill-in, Overmyer discussed the role of the Town Community Development Department. He spoke about his department's staff, the planning and zoning sides, the comprehensive plan, the land development code, the flood plan review, structures built before current regulations in 2008 and the coastal construction control lines of 1978 and 1991.
"On the planning and zoning side, every property on the island has a zoning category and a future land use category that is assigned to it," he said. "The comprehensive plan basically lays out the vision of the Town's people of how they would like to see the Town develop and continued to be occupied. The land development code tells us the rules and regulations for getting to that goal."