New COTI board members energized by new responsibilities
Newly-elected Committee of the Islands Board Members Peter Walcott, Barbara Joy Cooley, Maryann Bell and Malcolm Martini are enthusiastic about their upcoming responsibilities.
Walcott, who first visited Sanibel in 2005, recalls “being stunned and thrilled that such a place could still exist in 21st-century Florida.” Upon learning of COTI’s role in maintaining the sanctuary, he said, “I wanted to participate in its activities, to help preserve this wonderful place.”
As the membership chair, Walcott will coordinate the COTI forums in November and February.
“I am committed to COTI’s community outreach goals,” he said. “The forums are a wonderful vehicle to bring people together about issues islanders hold dear. I will continue to push for member involvement, to strengthen the organization.”
Observing COTI board meetings was crucial to his decision to serve, Walcott noted.
“I wanted to see how the discussions took place,” he said. “I was very impressed by the meetings and by COTI’s open invitation to members to sit in on meetings.”
With a background in urban planning, Martini will serve on the land use planning committee.
“I am interested in municipal issues,” he said. “I have always understood COTI to be widely accepted in the community as a group that approaches issues reasonably, with well-thought-out rationales. I am delighted to be asked to serve – to help assure that Sanibel continues as an environmentally sound and stable community.”
Bell sees COTI as vital to both of the islands “because it addresses issues of importance to all who live here. COTI is responsive to the concerns of islanders.”
“COTI reacts forcefully to proposed changes in policy or to threats to the Sanibel Plan,” she said. “It upholds the Plan very well, and it is constantly educating the public about the Plan and its importance. This is COTI’s greatest strength.”
Bell, who is a member of the traffic committee, hopes to bring strategic thinking to the table.
“I intend to work on how we can move forward positively – on coming up with ideas that we can say yes to,” she said.
Cooley returns to the board after a three-year hiatus. She served as president for four years and was the recipient of its 2017 Citizen of the Year award. Cooley defines her mission as a “defender” of the Sanibel Plan, “to protect the island from over-development and to protect the environment,” adding that “politics is how we do that.”
According to Cooley, COTI’s strength lies in its numbers.
“Our membership is at, or near, an all-time high,” she said. “COTI is the biggest political group on the island and it is non-partisan. This is a real strength.”
As chair of the environmental committee, Cooley recognizes that many issues originate off island.
“Overdevelopment in Lee County causes traffic and pollution problems for Sanibel,” she said. “Because Sanibel is small compared to Lee County, we must be strategic, and we must try harder.”
For more information about COTI, visit online at www.coti.org.