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A look back at 2017: Name change proposal jump starts new interest in Civic

January 3, 2018
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

A summer controversy had an unexpected positive income for the North Fort Myers Civic Association in 2017.

More than 200 people filled the recreation center on July 12, wearing red shirts and expressing their displeasure over President Michael Land's proposal to change the name of North Fort Myers.

Eventually, that idea was shot down, but it was what happened afterward that would carry the group for the rest of the year.

Dozens of people who had never even heard of the civic association paid their $10 and joined. Some even became members of the board of directors, filling the board for the first time in years.

While the proposal also led to one of the new members to make a motion to censure Land, that motion was narrowly defeated in October and Civic went on to have, overall, a positive year and some welcome new blood.

"Four members from our board can be traced back directly or indirectly to that meeting. It was an affirmative thing, and while it stirred people up, it brought people who had never heard of us or knew we had a local newspaper," Land said.

When it comes to numbers, the civic association is stronger than it has been in years, and even before that meeting the group was able to create two important bodies that have given the organization considerable reach.

"Our membership expanded to more than 140 and more than 10 community members which has the combined membership of about 5,000. So, we're increasing our outreach," Land said. "We've also put out a new pamphlet that we've been working on for six months. Laura Ray did most of the work on it to make it not so wordy and more reader friendly."

Along with the pamphlet will be a promotional brochure and a city map which will be finalized.

Another big thing that happened in 2017 was the June 2 cocktail party which resulted in the communities forum which Land hopes to get together again this winter sometime.

It also was where the idea for a Lee County Arts Center in North Fort Myers was hatched.

That idea is going well, though some had objections to the original concept, which did not mention North Fort Myers.

And off course, the new North Fort Myers Library broke ground in November and is expected to open in summer 2019. This was a huge victory for the civic associations, as it had pushed for a new facility for years as it had the recreation center.

As for 2018, Land said he will not run again when elections come up in February, as his wife is ill and he is also experiencing some health issues.

Land said he foresees a contested presidential election, which he said would be a good thing.

He believes vice president Rudy Berndlmeyer will face Doug Dailey, whom Land said he asked to come onboard after the July meeting.

There will also be a civic pride campaign, which Brenda Sizemore will chair. Some events are expected to come out of it, Land said. Also, some fundraisers are expected.

"I think it will be a good year, and I plan on staying involved. We're not going to wait until we elect a new president. We have a lot of things going on," Land said.



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