Two political faces of Fort Myers Beach will not be at the forefront of collaborated Town discussions for, at least, the time being.
Last Tuesday, Council members Bob Raymond and Jo List collected the "former" tag and officially took a bow after six years of service for the Town of Fort Myers Beach. They were recognized at their final Council meeting on March 18, 2014. Former Vice Mayor Joe Kosinski was also recognized for three years of service.
After serving two terms on Council, both List and Raymond must "sit out" at least a year due to term limits. While that may be fine with one, the other is not ready to politically call it quits. The two amiable personalities are exiting the Town municipality board and entering two different post-Council careers.
Former Council members Jo List and Bob Raymond were applauded for their six years of service as Town policy makers recently. Both are moving on to different endeavors.
"Lousy," said Raymond when asked what it felt like to be "retired" from Town government. "It's very hard to disengage."
"I am really enjoying the freedom of expressing my own opinions without the fear of causing any divisiveness," said List, "and the even greater freedom of not having to worry about every detail of town business."
Town service has elevated awareness though.
"However, I have a heightened sense of responsibility for the quality of life we all are striving to maintain in the face of the current cultural and economic realities that are coming to bear on our island and really, all over the country," List said. "I have always cared about the general welfare of the people our town, and I am sure I always will."
Raymond, who served as Beach vice mayor from 2010-13 and mayor during parts of 2013 before health complications, said he doesn't intend to completely detach from the political scene. He is speaking with Lee County officials about possibly joining one of its committees, has inquired about a possible future opening on the Town Local Planning Agency (he already has previously served on that board for 2-1/2 years) and has interest in the Beach Fire Board of Fire Commissioners.
"I want to help this town in any way I can," he said. "I absolutely love this town."
List, who also has shown a deep love for where she resides, will remain in the limelight as an entertainer by "digging into the current music scene after largely retreating from it for the past six years." The award-winning vocalist seeks to continue singing with dear friend Marry Winner and group Habitat for Harmony and get involved in other creative endeavors as well.
"I have already been asked by the Friends of the Arts to be the artistic director for next season's concert series, about which I am very excited," she said. "I will continue to write for various publications, and will expand on that. My husband and I have several creative projects that we've begun to work on in earnest now.
"One of the things I am very interested in is establishing an academics-based preschool on the island. The Victory School's closing had more of an impact on our children than many people realize. I am not necessarily wanting to run the school myself, but hope to develop a business plan and find the right people to actually take on this very important activity."
Both former Town officials hail from New England. List is from Worcester, Mass., while Raymond is from different towns in New Hampshire, such as Allentown and Auburn, where he has held various positions in the school board, police commission, planning board, zoning board as well as chairman of the latter town's industrial commercial development for 10 years.
List has been married to husband Mark since 1978, and has two grown daughters (Sarah and Lana) that live locally.
"Music has always been my overarching career, and trumps any other position I have held, no matter how prestigious, lucrative or interesting anything else might have been, with one huge exception - my unpaid but immeasurably rewarding 'job' as wife and mother," she said.
Raymond has been married to wife Donna for 38 years, has a son (Brian) who lives on the Beach and two daughters (Collette, Karin) who both reside in New Hampshire. He said he will still attend Council meetings (as a concerned resident) and fire board meetings.
"I can't stay sitting around doing nothing," he quipped. "My wife will kick me out of the house if I do."
List stated she has "always been interested in government, public policy and political philosophies" though she never held office before her Council terms. She said she will continue to be active in several local civic and social organizations.
Raymond stated he has lived on the Beach full time for just over 10 years, part time for more than 20 years and, with the soon-to-be sale of his Lake Winnipesaukee island home, he will be in Southwest Florida "full time, all the time" except for travel.
List has lived on Fort Myers Beach for 19 years. She stated she is "a very sociable, but a very private, person."
Affectionately called the "grumpy old man" by former mayor and Lee Commissioner Larry Kiker, Raymond was known for his fiscal prudence when it came to balancing the Town budget, his impatience with Mound House restoration and his uncanny ability to speak his mind. In fact, he calls Kiker the greatest mayor the Town ever had, but knows a team effort is needed to get things done.
"I never believe in super stars, but I believe we've had very good teams," said Raymond.
When asked what he considered his most 'fun' project while in office, Raymond mentioned Mound House even though he liked to say he would place Town officials feet in the fire when the subject came up.
"It's been a lot of fun getting it from just sitting there and waiting for funds to come in, to getting to the point that everything is now attached to it," he said.
Raymond believes his former constituents will remember him for being a stickler in regards to spending residents' money wisely.
"A Council person should be a guardian for the taxpayers and people on the island," he said. "I have worked on every budget for the past six years. There have been no tax increases during that time."
Self-described as having a black belt in Kumbaya, List believes she did nothing individually that stands out and calls her Council service a contribution to group work.
"The most fun project was working with the students at Beach Elementary," she did admit. "I loved organizing the materials and spending time helping the fifth graders learn about our local government and how to involve themselves with problem-solving for the greater good. The joint sessions including their elected officials and designated 'staff' with the town's council and staff were especially fun. Larry Kiker, mayor at the time, was the one who catalyzed the project, for which I have been given too much credit, or at the very least, for which Larry has not been given his due."
Her former constituents should remember her by her impartial viewpoint.
"I hope people will remember my unflagging desire to find fair and workable solutions to difficult issues," List said. "I have learned so much about myself, challenged my ideals and my patience, and had both heartwarming and hair-raising moments while serving on the council. It was exhilarating and exhausting, and I am grateful for the experience."
Raymond was a key member of the County's Metropolitan Planning Organization and chaired the transportation policy-making group for a year. MPO has also adopted the Beach's streetscape designs, thanks to Bob.
"I don't think people know that I got $3 to $5 million in federal money designated for sidewalks and bikes paths on Crescent Street and that whole area down there when I was on MPO," said Raymond. "It's a matter of maybe a year or so for that money to come in."
Asked what he thought was his greatest accomplishment while in office, Raymond said being a part of Councils that made Estero Boulevard shovel-ready.
"The thing that I'm the happiest with is Estero Boulevard. After 30 years, we have the County on paper guaranteeing $50 million to finally get that road fixed to give us sidewalks and bike paths," he said.
Raymond would like to see the 'new' council members continue the hard work with projects that recent Councils have begun. He is happy with the newly elected officials and endorsed two of the three during campaign season.
"The two biggies for me is to follow through with Estero Boulevard and the Mound House," he said. "I would also like to see the fixing of Seafarer Plaza area and helping traffic flow."
List would like to see a continued connection between Council members and out-of town officials.
"There have been many valuable connections made by current and recent council members and town staff around the county, the state and all the way up to Washington, D.C. that have been key to much progress, and have resulted in many benefits to our town. I hope the new council nurtures these relationships and partnerships for the town's sake," she said.
List also delivered a message for the new Council additions.
"Don't micromanage the staff. Concentrate on policy-making, not only in terms of legal enactments, but also in terms of the example you set for the staff and your constituents in terms of behavior and attitude," she said. "Treat people the way you want to be treated, and that will keep the door open to productive public discourse more often than not."
In New Hampshire, Raymond owned a Century 21 real estate business and managed a Prudential real estate company. He actually retired from being the regional training manager and district sales manager at Gibson Greeting Cards at age 55, but is still a broker down here.
In Massachusetts, List held jobs such as boutique sales clerk, distribution center order-picker, welding machine operator, college librarian's assistant, house cleaner, movie theater manager and server as well as early childhood and elementary educator in an earlier life. She is locally known for being a lead singer in many different bands, vocal arranger and a back-up singer in several other projects -one that earned her a gold record.
"I started gigging for pay when I was 14, and along the way I have been the lead singer in about a dozen different bands spanning all the decades of my life since then," she said. "I enjoyed a great run as a first-call session singer for several years. I have participated in many studio-based projects, including one on which I appear as part of a musical comedy, for which I earned a gold record. I have released three solo albums."
Both Raymond and List would like to thank everyone in Town (residents and business people) for the opportunity to serve on Council.
"This has been the most fun job I have ever had," he said. "I enjoy working with people. I believe everybody who lives here should give back to their town."
"I want to thank everyone who expressed support and well wishes, everyone who shared their ideas and feelings with regard to town issues to better inform my votes, and the men and women with whom I have worked these past six years, including council members, staff members, and committee volunteers," she said. "To Alan, Dan, Anita, RexAnn and Summer, remember to have fun."