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Rotary Happenings: City manager covers range of city-related subjects as guest speaker

By Staff | Jul 25, 2018

PHOTO PROVIDED Sanibel City Manager Judie Zimomra was the guest speaker at the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club's recent meeting.

Our Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club year, which runs July 1 to June 30, is off to a great start.

We received our first recognition of the new year: Best Non-Profit Float Award for our outstanding Sanibel Fourth of July parade float. So, thank you judges and thank you to all the amazing people who organize this wonderful home-grown community event each and every year.

President John Danner must have been channeling our country’s forefathers and the importance of saluting our American history, our country’s independence and our democracy while riding on the float and looking out at attendees wearing red, white and blue because he extended his patriotic feelings beyond that day. Just one week later, he made a visit to Washington, D.C., with his two granddaughters, ages 13 and 14. They spent four days of exploring monuments, museums, Capitol and Supreme Court buildings. But Danner didn’t tell us about this trip just to impress us with his dedication to expanding the girls’ capacity for understanding our country’s history and the freedoms. As they were walking around, they quite literally stumbled on The Points of Light Monument.

Some of you may remember that not too long ago in the news, there was a question about “a thousand points of light,” that went like this: “What the hell was that, by the way, thousand points of light? What did that mean? Does anyone know? Thousand points of light, I never quite got that one.” Danner now had the answer – “thousand points of light” is a term President George Bush Sr. used to reference community volunteer organizations that “spread like stars” throughout the country. “We can find meaning and reward by serving some higher purpose than ourselves, a shining purpose, the illumination of a Thousand Points of Light We all have something to give,” Bush stated.

The memorial spans a one-mile walking path in the heart of downtown Washington. It is a series of custom-designed bronze medallions that are set into a granite block in the sidewalk as a remembrance of service to humanity. Just a few of the notable names embedded are Clara Barton, Rachael Carson, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglas, Millard and Linda Fuller, and Paul Harris, the founder of Rotary. Our Rotary International motto this year is “Be an Inspiration.” These are people who serve as an inspiration to many of us.

The club’s guest this week was Sanibel City Manager Judie Zimomra, an inspiration to all who work with and for her in our community. She was named the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club Citizen of the Year a few years ago and is a Paul Harris award recipient. Zimomra earned her Bachelor of Arts from Kent State University, her master’s degree in public administration from Ohio State University and her Juris Doctorate degree from Capital University. She is also a graduate of the Senior Executives in State and Local Government program at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Zimomra has been the city manager for 16 years. Over the years, she has proven herself an outstanding leader and garnered a reputation of being unequally qualified for her position at the helm of Sanibel and respected throughout the state of Florida and beyond.

Just as she was approaching the podium, Zimomra got an e-mail about the posting of water quality signs at the Sanibel Causeway, Dixie Beach Boulevard and Bailey Road, where there was the presence of blue green algae. Just part of her job to stay aware of the water conditions around the island. She was more retrospective on the topic than I thought she would be. It is a continuing water issue that seems to happen every year around this time. Zimomra handed out two reports on water issues with discussion points regarding water discharges from Lake Okeechobee and algal blooms. She praised Congressman Francis Rooney for championing Senate Bill 10 for Everglades restoration and its CERP reservoir plan, and she reported that Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane was heading to Washington, D.C., soon to lobby for the bill. We could have stayed on this topic all morning, but we didn’t.

Hurricane preparation and clean up, the city budget, traffic, infrastructure, bike paths and density issues, oh my! All were discussed. Zimomra went into a few details on the topics and, let me tell you, a lot of thought and planning goes into the decision making here on Sanibel, particularly in the finance department. Decisions regarding workforce compensations in a tight workplace market, advance securing of a line of credit for city emergencies, more live traffic cameras to help control traffic log jams, bike path repairs, improvements and extensions, public bathroom and power lift station builds and improvements, awareness of off-island zoning/construction, and development along the island’s hurricane evacuation route. Environmental issues are constantly on the city’s radar and citizen input is always welcomingly discussed.

For information about the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club, visit sanibelrotary.org or www.facebook.com/sancaprotary. The club meets every Friday at 7 a.m. at the Dunes Golf and Tennis Club, at 949 Sand Castle Road, Sanibel; visitors are always welcome to attend.