Sanibel woman named Citizen of the Year
The Paulette Burton Citizen of the Year award has been given to Sanibel resident Robbie Roepstorff, lauding her efforts as the chairperson for the Lee County Horizon Council and president of the Horizon Council.
As the 21st recipient of the award, Roepstorff is “honored” to carry on the legacy of Burton, though the two never met.
Burton was a longtime resident of Sanibel Island, having settled there before its incorporation in 1974.
“It’s overwhelming to win and to carry on her legacy,” Roepstorff said. “I did not know her, but I’ve heard of her and her legacy … it’s an honor.”
Burton was a watchdog, a citizen activist who was a mainstay at county commission meetings. She passed away in 1991 following a car accident, and the award was created in her honor not long after.
There were 20 nominees in this year’s batch of citizen activists, marking the largest number of nominees by far. The group represented a variety of services and locations throughout the county.
The pool of 20 was whittled down to 10 by a selection committee consisting of five citizens, each one picked by a county commissioner.
Burton’s daughter, Sandra Kerry, was on hand Tuesday to honor her mother and those who are following in her mother’s footsteps. Traveling from Atlanta, Kerry said the high number of nominees this year is indicative of the awful state of the economy.
“It’s gratifying they kept this going in honor of my mother,” she said. “And 20 nominees is a record, a sign of these extremely difficult times.”
Program director Booch DeMarchi awarded each runner-up with a certificate. Before handing out the award to Roepstorff, DeMarchi praised Burton and her long-lasting impression.
“We are here to say thank you to those who follow in the Paulette Burton tradition. We’re here to honor her, and honor those who give themselves to civil service,” he said.
Roepstorff was awash with applause and congratulations upon receiving the award Tuesday. She got a standing ovation in commission chambers and was met with interviews and smiles in the hallway.
Still, with all the celebration, Roepstorff took a sober view of the county’s current plight. She echoed the sentiments of many Lee County leaders, saying that while times now are bleak for the once booming Lee, there are better days ahead.
And to meet those days, she said, the entire county must work together.
“There’s a plan for all of this … there’s so much good ahead for Lee County,” she said. “But it can’t just be one pocket, it has to be the entire county.”
Among her other accomplishments, Roepstorff had been director of the Edison Ford Winter Estates foundation, director of the Foundation of Lee County Public Schools, director and president of the American Heart Association and director of the Uncommon Friends Foundation.
She currently is president of Edison National Bank.