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Rotary Happenings: Rotary welcomes Fort Myers mayor to meeting

By Staff | Sep 6, 2017

“Good Morning Mayor” We’ve said that a couple of times at Rotary over the years and welcomed several Sanibel mayors to join us at our Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Friday morning meetings to catchup with what’s going on around Sanibel City Hall. But this last Friday when we said, “Good Morning Mayor,” it was to the mayor of Fort Myers Randy Henderson.

Many times, our Friday morning speakers are procured by natural networking opportunities presented to our club members by their business associates and friends. In this case our speaker chair for August, Rotarian Gary Dyer, works with Henderson’s son at Investor’s Securities Trust, Fort Myers.

Mayor Henderson has been a resident of Fort Myers for 37 years. He is in his second mayoral term elected for his first term in 2009. Previously to that, he served on the City Council for nine years and serves as the president of the Florida League of Mayors. Henderson has positioned Fort Myers as part of a working economic force with other Lee County cities for improvement in economic development, water quality, land development, transportation, and safety issues in Lee County and Southwest, Florida.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city of Fort Myers has a total area of 40.4 square miles, of which 31.8 square miles is land and 8.6 square miles is water. Just a short ride over the Sanibel Causeway and down McGregor Boulevard brings us to a very historic and beautiful City of Fort Myers positioned on the Caloosahatchee River and center to Lee County. Since the very early years of the city, Fort Myers had been a center for economic growth in the area. But during the 1970’s and 80’s large and mid-sized cities in Florida like others in the U.S. were hard hit by the outward growth away from the cities.

In the late 1980’s reinvestment in the downtown began, but the economic downturn of the 90’s made a serious impact on slowing the progress of revitalization of Fort Myers for a few more years. However, the city did invest in the arts as an economic engine to bring people downtown. In the late 90’s the city financially supported the founding of the Florida Rep at the Arcade Theatre founded by Bob Cacioppo and Carrie Lund.

This was a wise investment and has generated both public and business interest in the city. To restart revitalization again, former Mayor James Humphrey and the Fort Myers City Council hired Urban Planner Andre Duany in 2001 to plan a serious effort to regenerate the City of Fort Myers. This original plan has been modified a few times with different partners interested in renewal interesting city and with each revision a better plan presents itself. Business growth has taken hold and public and private investment in support of nonprofit and cultural art entities such as the Sidney and Berne Davis Art Center and Lab Theater have brought a much-needed cultural identity to the city. Real estate developers, restaurant groups, retail businesses are encouraged by the draw of the city and with its special event programming.

This desirable, livable, and walkable city has awakened. Active participation of Mayor Henderson and city officials have a community-wide vision plan beyond just the core Fort Myers center throughout the River District and the reality of this vision plan will soon be evident.

Henderson told us that, “an economic study by Lydia Black, Executive Director of the Alliance of the Arts brought to light the financial impact nonprofit arts and culture groups bring to the area. Support for these entities is on-going with a new projected interest in courting technology based businesses to the city this might take a while but patients is a virtue.

For a more comprehensive look at the City of Fort Myers/City of Palms check out the new coffee table book, “City of Palms A Contemporary Portrait,” available at www.hpnbooks.com/ftmyers.

The City of Fort Myers is an ever-growing city presenting a destination that is vibrant, livable, and walkable. Try a date night or a girl’s night out trip to the River District/City of Fort Myers for Art Walk or Music Night; go for drinks and dinner and then stay and enjoy the vibrancy of downtown Fort Myers.

Sanibel-Captiva Rotary meets at 7 a.m., every Friday morning at the Dunes Golf and Tennis Club. Guests are welcomed.