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County searching for Citizen of the Year nominees

By Staff | Jan 6, 2009

Paulette Burton was a watchdog, a citizen activist who was dedicated to public service above one’s self.
She was a mentor and old family friend to Cape High teacher and FGCU professor Dr. Steven Maxwell.
Both originally from Dade County, Fla., Burton acted as Maxwell’s “Sanibel godmother” before her passing in 1991, following a car accident.
According to Maxwell, he was standing before county commissioners only “weeks” after death, urging county leaders to forge a new award in her honor. They did not hesitate.
“She was a great mentor to not only current commissioners such as Ray Judah, but others who have served in the past,” Maxwell said. “She was very involved in city and county government, and statewide issues as well.”
Now the county is searching for 2008’s nominees for the Paulette Burton Citizen of the Year Award, bestowed upon those who have served county government and work diligently for the causes they believe in.
“Some look at the Burton award as someone who has been devoted to his or her community. But, it means someone working with Lee County government and helping the government reach their goals,” program director Booch DeMarchi said.
From start to finish, the entire nominee and selection process takes roughly seven weeks, garnering between 8 and 12 names on average. Nominees come from all walks of life and all communities.
A citizen’s committee reviews each nominee and compiles a list ordering the nominees as their favorites. The top five then go before county commissioners, who decide on a winner.
The committee itself is made up of five citizens — one picked by each commissioner — plus the previous year’s award winner and the award’s founder, Maxwell.
“Those people who have won the award epitomize her ideals,” Maxwell said. “They are not looking for something for themselves.”
Though she was a mainstay at county commission meetings, Maxwell said Burton was never rude, practicing what he called “the three p’s.”
“You are always to be polite, you are to never personalize and never prosecute,” he said.
Maxwell has since carried on his late mentor’s work, serving on multiple boards and advisory capacities.
“She has kept that fire in me, and I’ve carried out what she expected of me, and I hope people would take this lesson with them; if you have an issue with government and you sit back and do nothing, then expect nothing,” he said. “That’s what it comes down to, she put her money where her mouth is and expected nothing in return.”
For information, call 533-2105 or e-mail demarcgw@leegov.com. Nominations due by 4 p.m. Jan. 23.