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Sanibel’s senior planner travels the world

By Staff | Jun 24, 2015

Senior Planner Roy Gibson has worked for the City of Sanibel for 25 years. MEGHAN McCOY

After graduating from the University of Florida with a degree in urban and regional planning, Roy Gibson moved to Sanibel and began working as a planner for the city on May 21, 1990.

“Exactly half of my life I have been with the city,” he said.

Gibson has a twin brother who followed his career path a year later as the city planner director for the City of Sanford. He said they discuss different aspects of planning.

Gibson, who was born and raised in Sarasota, did an internship in the Florida Keys where he grew a special fondness for the barrier island life, which is why he chose Sanibel over the Keys and Central Florida when accepting a job.

“The East Coast is the best coast,” he said. “This was the best of both worlds.”

Sanibel, Gibson said, has always been accepting of diversity and he has never felt discriminated against since moving to the island. For 24 years, he has been with a same sex partner, whom he married two years ago in California.

“We met at the beach on Sanibel,” he said smiling.

Now as a senior planner, Gibson refers to himself as a “visioner” because he has to look at where a community wants to go, while seeing and seeking the path of how to accomplish that goal. As a planner, he said he is a steward of the Sanibel Plan, which is reviewed and updated every five to seven years.

The Sanibel Plan, Gibson said has been recognized as a National Landmark Plan.

“I’m proud of that,” he said . . . “proud to maintain such a historic plan. As stewards of the plan, we do a good job of implementing the goals and policy.”

It’s important to keep the vision of what Sanibel is all about, a sanctuary island and small town community that is also an attraction for Southwest Florida residents and tourists, Gibson explained of the hierarchy of values he follows as a planner.

Although there have been many highlights in his career over the last 25 years on Sanibel, one that sticks out is the preparedness and response to Hurricane Charley. Gibson said he spent time reviewing redevelopment specs, properties and structures affected by the storm damage, as well as restoration of Periwinkle Way corridor.

Public meetings were held to gather ideas on how to restore the corridor, which resulted in a variety of 100 percent native trees that are growing into a canopy over Periwinkle Way.

“It’s been a rewarding career,” he said, even through some of the development pressures and challenges of those who come to Sanibel and want to make changes.

The first year he became the city planner he dove into one of his passions – traveling. Every year, for the past 25 years he has traveled the world, sometimes spending as much as three and a half weeks on vacation.

“I work to feed my travel habit,” Gibson said. “It’s a passion.”

Although he has visited some places more than once, he tends not to frequent one destination twice because he has a long bucket list of where he wants to go.

This year he traveled to Australia and New Zealand for three and a half weeks to celebrate his 50th birthday.

“I almost did my graduate study in New Zealand,” he said why he wanted to check the country off his bucket list. “I think I ended up on the right island. I appreciated New Zealand as an experienced planner.”

While in New Zealand he went bungee jumping for the first time, another bucket list item he scratched off.

“It was crazy,” Gibson said smiling of the experience, which took place at the Kawarau Bridge.

He said traveling is rewarding because he learns and grows as he experiences other places and people.

“I think that has made me a better planner and person,” Gibson said.

Throughout his travels, he brings resources, materials and often times photographs back to his job on Sanibel.

“I do like to bring back ideas worth reviewing that would be beneficial,” Gibson said of the design aspects he sees while traveling. “When you’re a visitor, you look at what others take note of.”