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Issue 620

12/27/2012 at 6:57pm

Tropical Storm Isaac2012: Year in Review
Photo: Tropical Storm Isaac washes a TV news reporter
by Newton Park on Ft. Myer Beach. Photo Sarah List

This past year has tried the patience and tested the resolve of Americans everywhere. We are still grappling with incomprehensible horrors, devastating storms, and exasperating politics. And while the media would have us believe that our problems are mostly unsolvable, and that the erosion of our country's most abiding principles is as inexorable as the melting of the polar ice caps, our life here on the island belies those doom-and-gloom-sayers, for we are a community full of wonderful, interesting, hard-working, giving, fun-loving (and often funny) people.

Of course, we have our dust-ups from time to time, and each of us has hard times and bad days now and then. At the end of the day, though, when the sky becomes a canvas for Mother Earth's daily crowning ritual, the setting of the sun, most of us, no matter how many years we have called Fort Myers Beach our home, will stop to marvel and breathe a collective sigh. When a friend, neighbor, employee or fellow worker needs more than just the usual help, most of us will come together and do what we can. When we see a common problem, most of us will work together to resolve it.

So, how did we do this year? As Cicero said, "History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time; it illumines reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance...” So let's consider some of the highlights of the past twelve months with the hopes that it might guide us in our future efforts, and maybe help us define who we are.

JANUARY 2012

After being treated to yet another spectacular fireworks show brought to us by Bill Semmer and the tireless work he and his family and friends put in all year to raise money for the event, we began to hear rumors that Bill was going to step away from his role as the community's fireworks guru. It was a bit unsettling; we love our fireworks and so do thousands of other folks who come to the beach for some New Year’s Eve excitement every year.

For the first time in the Town's history, we got ourselves a Parks and Recreation Director, Ms. Patti Evans, who finished out her first month on the job with a smile on her face. That's something when you consider the staffing and fiscal snarl Bay Oaks had been in since the Town took ownership of it. In spite of all that, FMB Little League sign-up got underway, serving as an early harbinger of the 2012 baseball season. Meanwhile, the FMB U-14 Boys Soccer team won the District Commissioners Cup; on a hot winning streak after a fabulous winning season, they also went on to win the I-75 Shootout All-Star tournament held in San Carlos.

The 'Friends of the Mound House' came out in full force for the second monthly council meeting, where they presented a check for $10,000 in support of the lighting and landscaping to be installed on the grounds.

After two years of discussion, the Local Planning Agency finally sent their recommendations to the Town Council regarding the COP (Consumption on Premises) ordinance that proposed allowing businesses to serve on the sand.

The Council, Town Manager Terry Stewart and Community Development Director Walter Fluegel held a town hall-style meeting with about 20 attendees to clarify the upcoming referendum question as to whether the people in town wanted to pursue the purchase and/or construction of a new town hall. By the end of the month, after the votes were counted, the referendum was roundly nixed by a little over 86% of the 2,005 voters who made their voices heard.

The Community Resources Advisory Board recommended 'Caloosa Bayside Park' as a possible name for the fountain park on Old SanCarlos. No decision about it has been made.

Members of the Town Council and County Board of Commissioners held a joint meeting to discuss how to best coordinate with one another on various important issues - management of county parks on the island, bike paths and sidewalks, water delivery system and storm water management upgrades and how to coordinate with the county's plans for beautifying Estero Boulevard.

At the monthly Marine Resources Task Force meeting, it was announced that all beach accesses now have recycling bins. And as they have done for years, members of the FMB Community Foundation took to the beach around the pier and cleaned up behind the thousands of New Years Eve revelers who watched the area's best fireworks display. Maybe this year more revelers will find the trash barrels and the recycling bins. Hope springs eternal.

Town Council gave the FMB Art Association this year's Citizen of Distinction in the Arts and Culture award.

Every year, The Fish House holds a very merry gathering of snowbirds aptly named the "Lake of the Ozarks Winter Party”. This year, with over 450 people in attendance, a record $956 was raised for the Beach Elementary School.

Another group of folks who got together for the benefit of our island children are the nearly two hundred duffers, in teams of four, who tapped their way through many of the island's bars and restaurants who rigged up eclectic putting greens for the 2nd Annual Putt and Pub Crawl. Proceeds from this fun event went to the VIP Kids Afterschool program sponsored by The New Church of Southwest Florida.

A great crowd turned out at the library for the Topping Ceremony, a traditional rite in the construction world marking the attainment of the tallest point of a building.During the week prior to the ceremony, a white beam was available to any islanders who wanted to sign it - hundreds did.

The FMB Polar Bear Club took to the Gulf waters across from Santini Marina Plaza for their 7th Annual Polar Bear Plunge after "galvanizing" themselves at Castaways. In fact, the difference in temperature between the air and the water makes this club's plunge far more bracing than the one in Chicago. Go figure.

For the first time since its inception, the FMB Woman’s Club invited men to join the fun.

As the gears began to turn in anticipation of the 54th Annual Shrimp Parade, with calls out from the FMB Lions Club for participants in the Shrimp Queen Pageant, the 2nd Annual Santini Marina Plaza Seafood Festival took place, enticing folks with delectables offered by the plaza's restaurateurs.

The 46th Super Bowl filled local drinking establishments with fans of the New York Giants and the New England Patriots, who all screamed themselves silly for a few hours. The Giants won the game; the New England folks were wicked disappointed.

FEBRUARY 2012

Town Council publicly thanked Bill Semmer and his family for 23 years of stellar community service that brought two annual fireworks displays to our island, delighting thousands of folks year after year.

At a surprise birthday party for then-Mayor Larry Kiker, the man of the hour announced to his friends that he was definitely going to make a run for the District 3 seat on the Lee County Board of Commissioners, which had been held for 24 years by Commissioner Ray Judah.

Prickly dialogue continued from all sides regarding the proposed Consumption on Premises expansion ordinance brought forward to the Town Council for consideration. But that wasn't the only thorny subject poking at Islanders; last year's library uproar trickled into the new year with a steady stream of push and pull as opponents of the then-seated Library Board announced they would seek a place at the library table.

Then mayor Larry Kiker, along with Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson, Town Attorney Jim Humphrey and Helen Gorman, the grant writer for the Philharmonic Center for the Arts, traveled to Tallahassee to meet with the Southwest Florida delegation of senators to speak about funding for the Mound House and to make the case for fairer representation on the Tourist Development Council for our and other coastal communities. They spent all day with Senators Garrett Richter and Lizbeth Benacqusito, as well as Representatives Matt Caldwell and Gary Aubuchon, and came away with positive results.

Matanzas Pass Preserve came alive with the sights and sounds of our local history, as over 200 visitors took a guided stroll through the early days of island life, treated to vignettes of Calusa Indians, early settlers, and pirates portrayed by local actors and volunteers.

Due to the efforts of many diligent environmentalists, including then-Commissioner Ray Judah, a bill that would have robbed local municipalities from the ability to control fertilizer applications for protection of our water resources was roundly defeated in Tallahassee. That's one for home rule.

Ostego Bay Foundation held its Annual Tea by the Sea and Fashion Show on Fisherman's Wharf. All the money raised at this popular event went directly to support the many programs undertaken and offered to the public by this diligent and vital group of people led by the indomitable Joanne Semmer.

Yet another round of Community Emergency Response Team classes got underway. Started by then-Fire Chief Mike Becker in 2004, CERT was already boasting a roster of 75 active members.

The FMB Community Foundation ladies held their annual fashion show at the South Beach Grille, "Everything's Coming Up Roses". The auctions, raffles and door prizes filled the club's coffers with funds, all targeted for local causes. The FMB Woman’s Club conducted their 12th Annual Home Tour, which enjoys great popularity and serves as a major fundraiser for the group every year. The Cottage held its5th Annual Fat Tuesday Benefit for the American Cancer Society.As usual, hundreds turned out to revel.

Friends of actor/Orpheus Players Artistic Director Donna Prima gathered at the Lighthouse Tiki Bar for an afternoon of fun and fundraising to help Donna pay for a critical medical procedure needed to save her eyes after she was virtually blinded by a virulent infection. The event was a huge success.

Pete Piergiovanni was honored at Pete's Time Out in Time Square in celebration of his 90th birthday,

complete with an honor guard and recognition from the Town. Friends and family turned out by the truckload to wish Pete well.

LaMotta's Italian Restaurant on San Carlos Boulevard celebrated its 33rd anniversary, keeping their customers happy with free cannolis, while back on the island, Santini Marina Plaza hosted "Just Desserts”, an event featuring yummy confections offered by the many restaurants in the plaza.

Keeping up the tradition of having fun on the island, the FMB Almost Famous Marching Kazoo Band capered around town on their inaugural Kazoo Pub Crawl. And while the kazoo-ers may have gotten a little exercise rasping their way around town, many islanders opted to get their sweat on in Zumba classes offered all over town.

Valentine's Day brought out the lovebirds among us when Chapel by the Sea presented a concert "All About Love", featuring local musicians and vocalists, including Town Manager Terry Stewart. And at Lovers Key State Park, 41 couples renewed their vows. Now, that's romance.

MARCH 2012

For those of us who live here year-round, and probably for anyone who was here during "season”, this month was like it is every year – crazy busy.

A grande dame* of Fort Myers Beach - the incomparable, unstoppable Ceel Spuhler - was awarded the Mayor's Special Award for Citizens of Distinction a Council meeting. Also honored was then 14-year-old beach resident Bryanna Walker, an honors student at Lexington Middle School, who was given the FMB Citizen of the Year Award.

*Our community boasts several grandes dames!

For the 7th year in a row, the Arbor Day Foundation named Fort Myers Beach a "Tree City USA."

After 23 years of service, FMB Fire District Chief Mike Becker tendered his resignation. A complaint was filed the month before, and although the board was prepared to discuss the allegations made in the complaint at the February meeting, Chief Becker opted to resign.

A group of environmentally conscious students from the University of Georgia chose to prune trees and pull weeds in Matanzas Pass Preserve rather than party with abandon during their spring break.

The diligent members of the AIR (Aircraft Intrusion Relief) citizens' group held their last informational workshop on the island before preparing to submit their requests and concerns, by way of the town council, to the Board of Port Commissioners, to be relayed to the FAA for consideration.

Fish-Tale Marina owner Al Durrett, accompanied Mayor Larry Kiker and Town Manager

Terry Stewart, went before the Lee County Board of Commissioners to make a case for Estero Boulevard improvements for the sake of public safety, citing rising numbers of accidents and injuries each year.

A 'Declaration of Shoreline Emergency' was made by the council in a effort to give the residents of Leonardo Arms some assurance with regard to the critical erosion that brought the Gulf just inches away from the condo's foundation. This gave the owners the ability to take stop-gap measures while the slow process of determining the best solution for the problem and obtaining approvals for it was underway.

The FMB Elementary School thespians staged "Peter Pan" to standing room only crowds. Setting a good example for those children was their neighbor around the corner, The Beach Library, when the board voted unanimously to make the library and grounds smoke-free. And just down the road from the school and the library, families filled the bleachers and lined the walkway to the rec center as Little League season began on the Bay Oaks ball fields. There is no sound like the crack of a bat smacking a baseball.

The FMB Friends of the Arts group hosted a membership drive at the Newton House, hoping to inspire support for several cultural and artistic events in town. The afternoon party drew a good crowd, bringing together islanders with similar interests in the arts.

The 54th Annual Lions Club Shrimp Parade and Festival drew locals and visitors alike to line the shoulders of Estero Boulevard angling for the candy and beads thrown from the passing floats. Thousands of people flocked to Time Square to shop in the bazaar set up in Lynn Hall Park, gobbled fresh Gulf shrimp, and cheered on their favorite Shrimp Princesses as the girls made their last appearance before the judges. On the other side of the bay, the Annual Hometown Celebration and Blessing of the Fleet took place by the shrimp docks of San Carlos Island.

The predominance of pink at the Shrimp Festival quickly gave way to Kelly green a few days later when hundreds of folks turned out for the 14th Annual St. Patrick's Day parade. Clad in everything from the most traditional garb and gear, to the most outrageous, marchers and onlookers took to the boulevard from Santini Marina Plaza to the Church of the Ascension.

The Fort Myers Beach pirate-themed Relay for Life event brought the running tally of funds to $75,000 raised by this dedicated and energetic group of folks.

Local playwright Laurie Nienhaus staged her original production of "Beachy Love" on the stage at Fish-Tale Marina, featuring actors from the community. The show earned rave reviews, moving one attendee to write a poem of praise for the event held "under the stars”.

As they have for several years now, the world-famous and magnificent Budweiser Clydesdales returned for their prance around the center of town delighting everyone along the way.

We saw evidence of economic recovery up and down the boulevard. The much awaited redo of Anthony's on the Gulf upstairs at Junkanoo was finally finished, and Fresh Catch Bistro came to be. After years of sitting vacant, and then more time stuck in development limbo, the 'little yellow building that could' blossomed into "Chucks Last Stop", across from the Neptune Inn. A little further north on the boulevard, The Surf Club deck and patio opened for full bar and food service, and just across the street, The Mermaid Lounge added seating and service out front.

APRIL 2012

The first COP public hearing was held in Council chambers, with supporters and detractors present to offer their insights and concerns. After a grueling two and half hours of discussion and public comment, the council continued the hearing to a future date, to allow for further public discourse.

The race for three seats on the Board of Lee County Commissioners started to heat up with the first of many 'face-offs'' among the candidates.

The discussion continued as to what the county intends to do with the Seafarers property they purchased a few years ago with TDC funds. According to the county commissioners, limitations were tied to the funding, and a parking lot to complement the new beachside park was the only thing they would be allowed to put there. This did not sit well with islanders.

Governor Rick Scott signed the state budget that included the $445,000 requested by the Town for the Mound House restoration efforts. One can speculate that the trip up to Tallahassee made a few months earlier by local officials may have had a positive influence on the governor's decision to okay those funds.

The county's North End Renourishment project, spanning a little over a mile from Bowditch Point to the Crescent Beach Family Park, was completed.

With March rainfall well below average, residents from Orlando to Key West remained under water shortage warnings.Water from Lake Okeechobee - to release or not to release into the Caloosahatchee River - continued to be a much-contended issue. But finally, the US Army Corps of Engineers released some badly needed water into river.

Many stakeholders and public servants took part in the town's first Estero Safety Committee meeting. The committee was formed to address pedestrian safety issues on Estero Boulevard.

Least Terns, Snowy Plovers and Wilson's Plovers all got some help from the Town of FMB and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission in Lee County when local volunteers went to work on the annual posting of the Critical Wildlife Area on Little Estero Island on the south end of the beach.

The Great American Cleanup, also know as Earth Day Trash Bash, saw volunteers with Keep Lee County Beautiful and, of course, the FMB Community Foundation, descend upon Bowditch Point, Bunch Beach and FMB Elementary School.

With support from the Town, the FMB Art Association hosted its annual Student Scholarship Show, featuring art from Cypress Lake High School and Cypress Lake Center for the Arts. Winners were awarded scholarships to continue their studies in design and art.

Churches up and down the island celebrated Easter, but not before a few hundred children swarmed over the fields behind the school filling their bags and baskets at the Chamber of Commerce's 17th Annual Easter Egg Hunt. The Beach Chamber Foundation, the Fort Myers Beach Fire Department, the Lee County Sheriff's Office and the Red Coconut RV Resort contributed to the fun.

Sand Bash, an annual sand sculpting competition, and Taste of the Beach, sponsored by the Greater FMB Chamber of Commerce, fired up at different spots on the island, while the 7th Annual FMB Film Festival kept filmmakers and moviegoers entertained up and down the island with movies shown at the Beach Theater, filmmaker workshops, a family film shown on the beach, the Kids Film Fest and Workshop, a Sunset Cruise on the FM Princess, and an awards ceremony at Santini Marina Plaza. After a year of planning and hard work, it was a rousing success, receiving coverage on a national and international scope.

The 2nd Annual Smokin' in the Mangroves BBQ Cook-Off at Santini Marina Plaza kept attendees well-fed and happy while Bugtussle Bluegrass music kept everybody's toes a tappin'.

New to the back bay this year, the paddleboat Indian Princess was christened before her maiden voyage.

And after all was said and done, the Fort Myers Beach Relay for Life teams raised $92,000

to fight cancer - $7,000 more than their original goal.

MAY 2012

Due to a flurry of conflicting opinions and reports, the town council called for the formation of a COP Task Force to ensure all points of view were taken into consideration from various sectors of the community before casting their final vote on the fate of the COP expansion ordinance.

The three candidates vying for the District 3 County Commission seat up for grabs - incumbent Ray Judah, Republican candidate Larry Kiker, and Independent candidate Charlie Whitehead - began their campaigning in earnest.

After a nearly 6-hour hearing before the Special Legislative hearing convened by the Fire District's Commissioners, the FMB Fire Board opted to accept the management position on most of the issues that had plagued the district for years, including a cut in pay, and policies regarding insurance, holidays, paid personal leave, and overtime.

The Island Board of Trade (IBOT) met with area stakeholders, the DEP, Bonita Springs and Fort Myers Beach officials at the Ships Store at Fish Tale Marina to discuss water depths in Big Carlos Pass. Some of these stakeholders are also members of The Southern Shrimp Alliance (SSA), which met at Bonita Bill's to discuss issues related to their industry, including an update on a bill intended to close loopholes on the importing of contaminated shrimp.

The USS Mohawk, a rusting relic of World War II, was moved from Key West to the docks on San Carlos Island, given as a gift to Lee County to use in the Artificial Reef Program.The 165-foot ship, whose claims to fame include being the last survivingship from the Battle for the Atlantic, and having been the last boat to radio General Dwight D. Eisenhower that the weather was clear for the D-Day invasion. After being cleaned and gutted, it eventually was sunk 28 nautical miles west of Redfish Pass in the Gulf of Mexico. The county was happy to receive this gift, not only for the reef program, but also as a memorial to honor our nation's veterans.

The Beach School's PTO cocktail party and Annual Golf Scramble brought dozens of the usual suspects out to raise money for the school. Carrying on a time-honored tradition, all the graduating fifth graders carved their names into a slab of concrete in the schoolyard. The concrete was donated and installed by island businessman Dan Graviss. Third, fourth and fifth graders participated in a end-of-the-year recital at Bay Oaks under the direction of Mr. Shannon Golden, whose brief one-year stint at FMB Elementary wrought fantastic musical performances by the beach kids all year.

Community Foundation members celebrated their one-year anniversary with their new moniker and affiliation. Originally a Pilot Club International chapter, the club went off on its own, mainly to ensure that funds raised would stay local.

Standup Paddleboarders raced each other off the shores of the Crescent Beach Family Park to raise money for the Lee County Special Olympics, but mostly to compete and have fun. Fifty or so competitors took to their boards in 7 mile and 1-mile races, and raised $2,494.73 for their cause.

The Time Square Merchants Association, energized and regrouped, began a new fun tradition - Sunset Celebration. Every Friday and Saturday night, a band takes to the stage by the clock, and keeps things lively till the sun goes down and then some.

On Memorial Day weekend, Islanders remembered the veterans who gave their lives for us in observances all over town. And children of all ages treated their moms to flowers, cards and dinner to celebrate Mothers Day.

JUNE 2012

The 2012 hurricane season officially began, although Tropical Storm Beryl did a fair amount of battering during the final days of May. It would be at the end of this month when Tropical Storm Debby reminded us that we are indeed a low-lying barrier island. She took out 159 of the 160 Least Tern nests in the Critical Wildlife area near Carlos Pointe on the south end of the island, and many of our turtle nests were also destroyed.

The BikeWalkLee coalition was invited by then-Mayor Larry Kiker, in his capacity as Chairman of the Town's newly created Public Safety Committee, to see the town's work on the North Estero Boulevard project.Coalition steering coordinator Darla Letourneau was so impressed that she called it "a model Complete Streets project'.

The Florida DEP received notification from the US EPA that the permits for Everglades restoration projects had been approved. This is a 12-year plan that includes treatment and water storage projects.

The town began hosting a summer series of sunset beach walks from Newton Park. Since the start of Turtle Season, on six separate occasions, nesting turtles were disturbed or harassed on our beach, according to Turtle Time's Eve Haverfield. Come on people - turtles are an endangered species.

With traffic issues that continue to try everyone's patience, we learned that Lee DOT is still considering the designation of a trolley lane on San Carlos Boulevard in the approach to the Matanzas Pass Bridge.

The Laguna Shores 2009 dredging project at the south end of the island that was funded by an assessment of the property owners in that neighborhood had failed within six months. But after nearly three years of hard work by town staff, the funding and plans were put in place to redo the project, without another assessment on the owners.

An Island dad, Rick Loughery, came up with a great boredom buster for a group of 14-year-old boys - they spent their days cleaning the sidewalks and right of way areas along Estero Boulevard. Thanks guys!

The Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, having unanimously chosen their new President to replace outgoing John Albion, introduced Bud Nocera to the community. Bud's wealth of experience in the tourism-marketing arena made the decision to hire him a really good one for our business people.

FMB Library Director Dr. Leroy Hommerding shared his passion for green living. His dedication to this way of life serves the community well, as the new library addition sports many eco-friendly state-of-the-art features.

As the school year came to a close, Beach Elementary held its annual End-of-the-Year Carnival on the grounds of the school, with teachers and parents overseeing the games and refreshment tables. The ever-popular Annual Mullet Toss at the Beach Pub drew dozens of people out to fling fish for the benefit of the VIP Afterschool program sponsored by The New Church of Southwest Florida. The 3rd Annual Popeyelooza, for the benefit of the FMB Soccer Club, took place behind the Mermaid Club. Music, raffles, and games kept the crowd lively all afternoon, with $1400 raised in the process. Homar Nave took off a day from work at Fish Tale Marina to play golf, and got a Hole-in-One. The fun-makers at The Cottage launched the 1st Annual Beachstock family event, and lots of ties and golf clubs got wrapped up for our island dads in observance of Fathers Day.

JULY 2012

The heart of the summer always starts with star-spangled excitement with a parade, families and friends gathered for barbecue fare, and what seems like the entire county flocking to the island to be dazzled with the area's best 4th of July fireworks display.

Plans to make the entire island "wireless" got underway - the brainchild of Jon Gentle and Ivan Arbogast, business partners at NBS Technology in Indian Creek Plaza.

The Pink Shell hosted the 3rd Annual Great American Chili Cook Off, sponsored by the Southwest Florida chapter of the American Culinary Federation. All money and food donated went directly to the Harry Chapin Food Bank.

While we didn't actually see beer on their feet, an energetic bunch arrived for the 10th Annual Beerfoot Sevens Rugby Tournament that took place in the sand behind The Holiday Inn.

AUGUST 2012

For the first time in 24 years, Ray Judah lost his primary bid for re-election to the County Board of Commissioners to the Beach's own mayor, Larry Kiker in what turned out to be just the opening salvo in what would become a rather difficult election season for everyone.

The final phase of the North End Beach Nourishment projectwas realized when beach plantings were installed to create low-lying dunes to protect the new beach and upland property.

The town's Parks and Recreation staff, in partnership with their counterparts at the county level, got the long-awaited Seafarers fence art project underway at Bay Oaks.

After serving as Acting Chief since March when Chief Becker resigned, Darren White became Fire Chief after the FMB Fire Commissioners voted to make it official.

The new library building opened its doors to the public, delighting library patrons and giving islanders yet another beautiful gem.

The Friends of the Matanzas Pass Preserve introduced us to their latest project, scannable QR codes which bring short films about various areas of the park to Smart Phone and IPad users.

The Chamber Foundation gave out $250 scholarships to 26 local students.

After a couple of years ofcontention among the players involved, sand sculpting competitions and events became the central unifier that brought The Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce, Big C Events, Pinchers Crab Shack, Sand Lovers and the Holiday Inn of Fort Myers Beach together in partnership.

A moving tribute to WWII vets - "Keep the Spirit of '45 Alive" - was held this year behind Junkanoo's. The event, which was spearheaded by Councilman Joe Kosinski and his wife Vernie, was held last year in Crescent Beach Family Park, and is slated to be an annual event.

Hundreds of people, including representatives from Turtle Time, CREW, Friends of Matanzas Pass Preserve and other local environmental groups and concerned citizens, gathered on the beach near the town pier for the Hands Across the Sand event. Originally

a peaceful protest against oil drilling in the Gulf, it has grown to raise awareness about the importance of conservation of our natural resources and environment.

Popular portrait artist Chester Rogers was surprised by his island friends when they presented him with a brand new Schwinn tricycle to replace the one that was damaged in an accident. Rogers, who is handicapped, sets his easel up on the corner of the Surf Club grounds, and offers quickly done portraits to passersby for no charge. He gives a smile to everyone he sees.

Teen Challenge International of Southwest Florida, an organization that provides a faith-based recovery program, set up a mobile car wash service in front of the Baptist Church which they operate with smiles and enthusiasm every Friday and Saturday.

We learned a lot about Nascar fans in the area who gather for every race during vroom-vroom season at the Big Game Waterfront Grill on San Carlos Island.

Impacts on the island due to Hurricane Isaac were impromptu "lakes" around town, but even though they evaporated in the summer heat, the sensationalized reporting of the impending weather kept summer travelers and tourists away before and after the storm.

You know you're in Florida when the kids go back to school before Labor Day, which they did.

SEPTEMBER2012

Former Fire Chief Mike Becker filed a lawsuit against the FMB Fire District, the International Association of Fire Fighters (national), IAFF Local 1826 (Lee County) and Troy Mesick, Walt Stevens and Sadie Bynum. The complaint was comprised of seven counts including libel and violation of Becker's rights.

After 15 months of staff work, workshops, and three public hearings - not to mention reams and reams of commentary and letters to the editors of ourbeach weekly and the area's daily papers, the council voted unanimously to pass the Consumption on Premises expansion ordinance. Other notable votes: Town Manager Terry Stewart earned an 'exceptional' rating in his first official job evaluation, and Alan Mandel was elected in a unanimous vote by his peers to assume the Vice Mayor position.

Mound House friends and supporters were happy when a custom mural was installed in the underground exhibit.

When Beach School Principal Larry Wood learned that the successful reading program RIF (Reading is Fundamental) would no longer be funded by the federal government as it had been for 46 years, he appealed to the community for help. Characteristic of our community, his appeal drew generous donations from the community, allowing this popular program to continue at our Beach School for several more years.

The annual Coastal Cleanup drew dozens of local groups and individuals to the Beach School parking lot where members of the FMB Community Foundation set up registration tables. Volunteers said it was the best turnout ever.

The Beach Theater joined the growing trend and switched to digital equipment. No more reels!

The 3rd Annual Key West Celebration took place at Santini Marina Plaza. Parrot Key, across the bay on San Carlos Island, celebrated their 10th anniversary. And the Gulfshore Grill hosted its first ever Fort Myers Beach Cornhole Tournament, with 26 teams vying for first place. The winning team took home the trophy, $250 each, and bragging rights.

 

OCTOBER 2012

When Larry Kiker threw his hat in the ring in his bid for the District 3 County Commission seat, he knew his time on the council would end on October 15th.At his last meeting as our mayor, the council and those in attendance shared cake and laughs as the council thanked the mayor with a proclamation, a commemorative plaque and a beautiful gift. Later in the month, Vice Mayor Bob Raymond officially moved into the mayor's seat.

With the new vacancy on council, eleven islanders threw their hats in the ring with hopes that they would be chosen to fill the seat. In one round of voting, local businessman and LPA member Dan Andre was selected.

The Beach School's 5th grade School Council held a joint meeting with the Town Council and Town Staff, where they addressed three agenda items - raising money for art supplies; adding pretzels to the lunch menu; and finding ways to raise money for more computer lab equipment. Outgoing town mayor Larry Kiker was also invited to this meeting, where the children read him a proclamation thanking him for his years of service to the community and his work with the Beach School.

The Local Planning Agency and the Historic Preservation Board voted to apply for nomination of the Mound House to the National Register of Historic Places.

Lee County Manager Karen Hawes resigned from her position after a series of missteps on the job. Her exit pay package raised a lot of eyebrows - and ire.

The 7th Annual Pirate Festival was rescued from Davey Jones' Locker by Old San Carlos and Time Square merchants when SIK Productions backed out at the last minute. Bud Nocera at the helm of the Beach Chamber, the merchants and Town staff worked together to put on the best Pirate Fest ever, in just a little over a week. Some of the participating merchants presented the Beach School with a donation of $750. Not bad for an event that was dead in the water only ten days before it took place.

A waterspout hit Nervous Nellie’s' newly remodeled deck. No injuries were reported, but dishes, glasses, chairs and umbrellas were all sucked up into the vortex and hurled toward Snug Harbor. Five days later, all repairs were done and Nellie’s was ready for business.

Over 1500 bikers rode down Estero Boulevard on a leg of the 12th Annual Bikers for Babies March of Dimes ride, which this year raised a whopping $105,000 for the cause.

Friends and family from all over the country wished Father Richard Raney a very happy 100th birthday.

The Beach School went 'pink' in their Making Strides for Breast Cancer fundraiser. Their goal was to raise $125. As an incentive, Principal Wood agreed to have his nails painted pink if the goal was met. In fact, the kids raised over $1125.00, and Mr. Wood not only got his first ever manicure from the kids, he also donned a pink wig, bandanna and face paint while congratulating the students in a school assembly.

October is all about Halloween on this island. Bay Oaks, in partnership with the Beach Elementary PTO and teachers, and the Beach Firefighters, held its 23rd Annual Fright Night. It was spooktacular, as always. The Pawsitively Amazing Howl'oween Street Fair and Astonishing Pet Parade took place at Santini Marina Plaza once again, to benefit the Find a Home/Give a Home Fort Myers Beach Pet Rescue folks. Dressed up dogs and a marching kazoo band, unique vendors and yummy food – not so scary but a lot of fun. Speaking of fun, members of the Beach Arts Cooperative and friends zombied up and went out for their Annual Zombie Pub Crawl through the center of town, then shuffled their way down to Skye's Restaurant for a "Rocky Horror Picture Show" party, one of the many parties that took place in Beach bars and restaurants that weekend.

NOVEMBER 2012

Thousands of islanders stood in line for hour upon hour waiting to cast their 8-page ballots on election day. When the votes were finally counted, Larry Kiker had handily won his bid for Seat 3 on the Lee County Board of Commissioners. At the next county commission meeting, Kiker was sworn in, and shortly thereafter named Vice Chairman of the Board.

In other local election news, those who ran in opposition to the seated Fort Myers Beach Library Board were roundly defeated, Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott won his re-election bid, and America asked President Obama back for four more years.

The town council was busy in November. They decided to weigh in at the Ebtide project's zoning hearing, expressing concern over harmful impacts to beach traffic and back bay water quality. They expedited the demolition of the derelict property at 4545 Estero Boulevard, an eyesore that has frustrated neighbors and passersby for many years. And as they do every year, the council and town staff thanked the many volunteers who serve on advisory committees with the annual Advisory Board Appreciation Dinner held at DiamondHead Beach Resort.

Greeting everyone who comes onto the island by way of the Matanzas Pass Bridge, after 3 months of work donated by artist Mark Harris and over 100 local kids, the long-awaited Fort Myers Beach Children's Mural Art Project was installed on the fence surrounding the vacant Seafarers property.

During discussions about how to trim the county's budgets, there were questions as to whether the Conservation 20-20 program would survive. It did.

Veterans were honored at various dinners and events around the community on Veterans' Day.

The Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau reportedtheir second consecutive year of record-breaking bed tax collections, finishing with $26.5 million paid during fiscal year 2011-2012. Maybe this is in no small way due to the fact that our island was largely spared from this year's red tide blooms.

Joanne Semmer from Ostego Bay Foundation hosted a workshop on several topics of interest to residents of both San Carlos and Estero Islands, where she discussed funding for improvements to the back bay, and the future of seagrass restoration efforts. Semmer also offered an overview of the RESTORE Act, recently signed by President Obama, which will direct the distribution of monies yet to come from the BPO Deepwater Horizon disaster fund.

Monofilament Madness took place at Fish-Tale Marina, where 180 pounds of monofilament line and other debris from Estero Bay were removed from the back bay by the many volunteers who came to do their part, including the ladies of the Community Foundation, of course.

Turtle Time's Eve Haverfield reported the best nesting season ever for sea turtles on Fort Myers Beach, despite the ravages of storms and vandals.

The beach was buzzing with special events all month. With Junkanoo's 2nd Annual Luau on the Beach serving as a kick-off party, the 26th Annual American Sand Sculpting Championships were here for a week of activities and fun on the beach behind the Holiday Inn. The FMB Art Association's 3rd annual Paint the Beach competition brought artists from all over the world to paint scenes and inspirations they found at locations up and down the island. The holiday season brings out the best in us with many businesses hosting fundraisers to help those in need.

The popular Surfers for Autism event returned to the island at Crescent Beach Family park. The Pink Shell hosted the American Culinary Federation of Southwest Florida's Pig Roast for the benefit of the Harry Chapin food bank. With mounds of fresh roasted turkey served up slider-style, the Surf Club hosted its annual Turkey Testicle Festival, also in support of the food bank. The 11th Annual Patrick Stott Memorial Bike Run was a huge success, raising a record-breaking $2,300 and two truckloads of toys, all donated to the Beach Fire District to distribute to families in the community who cannot otherwise afford gifts or special holiday meals for their children.

Islander Corri Francisco, who traces her roots back to Long Beach, a barrier island in New York, spearheaded a collection of supplies for the kids whose school was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy. The K-Kids at the Beach School collected 1,145 cans of food for the Salvation Army Canned Food Drive, placing 1st for the third year in a row in the small school division (less than 500 students). K-Kids is a community service club for fifth graders sponsored by the Kiwanis Club.

Our local Kiwanians sure do take care of our children. In addition to the K-Kids program, they also fund kids' swimming lessons at the town pool every summer. And to top it off, they donated $5,000 to the Beach Library, matching funds donated by the statewide Kiwanis Florida Foundation, that will be used in the new children's play area.

The Community Foundation group held their first Beach Ball at DiamondHead. In tuxes and gowns, belles and beaux enjoyed the food and music while taking part in raffles and an auction that raised money for local charities.

Chapel by the Sea's music concert series for the 2012-2013 season opened with a jaw-dropping performance by 18-year-old pianist Priscilla Navarro. Parents and kids were happy to find the new activities center up and running at the Beach Baptist Church.

The Wild Wave Resort hosted about 50 players from around the country for their annual Bridge Bash. And Zoomers, sitting empty and abandoned for so long, came alive when it opened for business, much to the delight of our local kids.

Before the leftovers could be stored away from our Thanksgiving feasts, the Town crew was out hanging holiday decorations. And then, it was December.

DECEMBER 2012

The town's Parks and Recreation staff really got into the holiday spirit.Island kids and their parents were treated to a "Polar Express" cruise on the Indian Princess paddle boat. Sponsored by Bay Oaks, the kids got to feast on every kind of snack, decorate their own Christmas cookies, play games and even got a surprise visit form Santa himself thanks to the Coast Guard's 'sleigh" which brought Santa to the party! Later that week, the elves at Bay Oaks made sure several island children got calls from the North Pole from Santa.

We learned that the town's parking meters on Old San Carlos, Newton Park, and at the Palm and Strandview beach accesses,would all be switched out with new donated digital meters. You will be able to pay with a debit or credit card. No more hunting for quarters!

Larry Kiker was named as Chair of the Tourist Development Council. The beach has never had so much representation around the county before!

The EPA's decision to settle a lawsuit brought by environmental groups, which triggered the establishmentof numeric nutrient criteria for approximately 100,000 miles of waterways and more than 4,000 miles of estuaries in Florida, was really good news for Estero Bay.

An annual series of events sponsored by the Beach Chamber Foundation – Spirit of the Holidays – brings people from all sectors of our town together to make sure all of the children in our community get a visit from Santa. Their major fundraiser, a dinner and auction at the South Beach Grille, was a rousing success this year, bringing in $14,472. Another fun event in this series was the Pancake Breakfast at the Red Coconut RV Resort, where FMB Fire District personnel cooked up a pancake breakfast served by members of the K-Kids club. The food was good, the company was warm and friendly, but the highlight was when the firefighters and EMT's came out to sing a few holiday songs.

The Chamber's 26th Annual Christmas Boat Parade in the back bay brought hundreds of people to the eateries, bars and docks on both sides of Estero Bay to be dazzled by vessels of all sizes festooned with dazzling holiday lights and displays.

Several beach families hosted international college students for the holidays as part of a program sponsored by Chapel by the Sea. The eleven students came from China, South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, France and Austria.

Speaking of students, the Beach School was busy, as always. Michigan snowbird and children's author Dallas Lincoln and his wife Nancy came to the Dolphin Cafe to read "Gladys the Tamarack Goose" aloud to the entire Beach School student population and their teachers. 3rd graders from Ms. Catlett's class, accompanied by Principal Wood and art teacher Holly Nichols, brought tree ornaments they had made in class over to the Beach Library to hang on the Christmas tree. And before they let out for winter break, school staff and students welcomed family and friends to their annual Christmas party and concert. The school council hosted a student art sale during the party, with all proceeds being used to purchase art supplies, a project born out of the school council meeting in October.The concert, led by music teacher Ms. Griner, was very entertaining and sparked a lot of holiday cheer.

In spite of the grinches who made off with all the donated toys and bikes that were rounded up for 24/7 gym owner Bryan Raymond's annual fundraiser for the benefit ofarea elementary school children, the true spirit of the holidays prevailed, and generous people from all over the area replaced all that was lost, and then some.

Christmas arrived on a beautiful morning, and we enjoyed the warmth of family and friends while we ate, drank and were very merry.

And now we are just a few days away from ringing in the new year, having taken a look at some of the things we have done together, with perhaps some insight into who we are as a community. As you can see, we are good people.

Happy New Year!

Jo List