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Congress eager to begin career serving community as councilor

By Staff | Feb 2, 2011

Sanibel City Councilman-elect Doug Congress.

It’s still six weeks away until he officially takes office, but Doug Congress is already gaining a valuable education in learning how local leaders go about their duties, listen to their constituents and govern issues important to the island.

Congress, who will replace Peter Pappas on the five-member City Council, said that he wanted to serve his community following a notable career with the family’s jewelry business as a way not just to “give back,” but to help enforce local laws and make changes that will be right for all Sanibelians.

“For me, it was an easy decision,” he responded when asked about why he chose to run for City Council. “It seems like I have always been involved with the city, as a member of the Sanibel Five-Year Budget Committee and city’s Pension Trustee Board. But this is doing even more.”

Congress, who will take the Oath of Office on March 15, was born in Elkhart, Ind. and moved to Sanibel with his parents and three siblings in 1981. He graduated from Fort Myers High School in 1985, received a degree in accounting from the University of Florida in 1989 and earned his CPA designation shortly thereafter. He has been a member of the American Institutes of CPA’s, Florida Institute of CPA’s and the Georgia Society.

Doug worked for a “Big Six” accounting firm (Deloitte and Touche) in Atlanta, Ga. before moving back to Sanibel in 1993. He partnered with his parents — Larry and Dee, until their retirement in the mid-1990s — and his brother, Scot, at Congress Jewelers until August 2009.

“I wanted to take a year off, to sort of recharge my batteries,” said Congress, who took the time to visit every Major League Baseball stadium during two separate road trips over the past two summers. “I like to drive, and it was awesome to take the time to see some of this country’s incredible landscape.”

Last August, Congress became partners in an investment group that provides financing to small businesses.

Doug has been married to Melanie for 18 years and they are raising their three children, twins Kelsey and Joshua (13) and Georgia (11), who all attend The Sanibel School.

A member of the Sanibel-Captiva Kiwanis Club for the past decade, Doug’s volunteer involvement on Sanibel has been extensive. He has been involved in coaching for almost every sports activity on the island, was a member of the Habitat for Humanity Funding Board of Directors and has served on boards for the Naples Town Hall and Bonita Springs Chamber of Commerce. In 2009, Congress was named Bonita Chamber Director of the Year.

As a result of many years of business and community dedication, recognition for his work has resulted in many significant awards including Gulfshore Life Magazine’s “Man of the Year” in 2008, Habitat for Humanity “Business of the Year” in 2007, Small Business Blue Chip Award winner in 2005 and Bonita Springs Chamber “Small Business of the Year” in 2001.

More recently, however, Doug and Melanie spent many hours trying to determine whether he should become a candidate for the Sanibel City Council. They came to the conclusion that Doug’s financial experience is needed on the council, as Sanibel finances have become the council’s top priority.

“The critical issue on our beautiful island is that real estate values are decreasing and, of course, taxes, which the city collects to pay our expenses, are also reducing,” he added. “Unfortunately, our expenses will not go down unless the council makes ‘hard nose’ and very difficult decisions.”

Doug strongly feels he has all the financial “know-how” to work with the current council to bring meaningful solutions to some of our major issues.

“I want to make sure that the city is financially secure and financially responsible while adhering to the vision of our city, the Sanibel Plan,” said Congress, who hopes to offer another set of eyes looking at the city’s “bottom line.”

Though he wasn’t too disappointed that he was elected to office without opposition from other candidates, Congress did say that he would have enjoyed “going through the political process.”

“I’m sure the election would have been a terrific experience, but now I can spend that time getting prepared and doing research so I can hit the ground running,” he added. “I think I’ll be able to offer a good perspective on the council. I’m a Sanibel guy who has a deep love and appreciation for the environment.”