Sunday, March 7, 2021

Three Vying for A Spot at The Table


Marco Island Council is in the process of meeting with three candidates: Claire Babrowski, Nanette Rivera and Elizabeth Stephenson, to fill the vacant seat formerly held by Victor Rios.

Claire Babrowski

Claire Babrowski.

For those taking an interest in the workings of City Hall, the name of Claire Babrowski should not be unfamiliar. Recently, she was elevated to the position of Chair of the Marco Island Planning Board after serving the last year as vice chair. A graduate of the University of Illinois, she also holds an MBA from the University of North Carolina.

Babrowski has worked for a number of large corporate companies and served as board member for several others. She began her career in the kitchen of a local McDonalds at the age of 16, but over the years, earned her way into the executive board room of the well-known restaurant chain. Her experience spans over 30 years in various roles, including direct responsibility for McDonald’s Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa operations, and eventually serving as senior executive vice president and chief restaurant operations officer.

She spent a short time at Radio Shack during a time of turmoil, from 2005 to 2006. Babrowski worked for Radio Shack Corporation as executive vice president, then president, chief operating officer and acting chief executive officer after the resignation of Edmondson due to his embellishment of his educational resume.

She moved on to serve as executive vice president and chief operating officer of Toys “R” Us, Inc., from 2007 to 2010

Babrowski served on the Board of Directors of a number of large companies, including Pier 1 Imports, The Delhaize Group and QCE Finance LLC, parent company of Quiznos. She also previously served as a director and chairman of Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc.

In 2007, Babrowski was named by FORTUNE as 37th on the list of the 50 most powerful women executives in the world due to her credentials and achievements. In 2009, she was named 17th on the list of the top 19th most influential women, which included names such as Condoleezza Rice, Meg Whitman, Carrie Cox and Susan Thomson, to name a few. She also has been active within her HOA in Hideaway Beach, where she has resided for the last 15 years.

Due to her role on the Planning Board, Babrowski anticipates seeing a number of issues that serve as hot-button topics that will come before the Council for which she now is applying to fill a seat. 

Nanette Rivera

For Nanette Rivera, it is a desire to give back to the community she feels has given so much to her and her husband after retiring here to Marco Island after a long and distinguished career in the pharmaceutical and industrial industries around the world.

“I have a responsibility to utilize the talents and skills obtained during my professional career to ensure we maintain the quality of life here on this beautiful island. As such I would like to help define and prioritize problems, collaborate in identifying viable solutions and support the design of sustainable results, all in collaboration with other residents and key stakeholders,” says Rivera.

Rivera is not short of those skill sets, having obtained her BS in Industrial Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Industrial Engineering and, later in her career, earning her MBA in Finance at the University of Chicago. Rivera went on to spend a 40-year professional career in both the employ and as a consultant to several Fortune 100 companies, initially moving from product engineering and then into senior management positions. Those positions included Corporate Vice President and the Managing Partner of a Pharmaceutical Operations Management Consulting Practice.

Rivera has found three areas which she feels her professional experience might be of assistance. As a fiscal conservative, she intends to look for ways to focus on making the city more cost effective in delivering services, in addition to maintaining a high-quality level in those services. 

She especially is interested in utilizing her technical and critical thinking skills in helping to identify both the “root causes” of the water quality issues, while evaluating the proposed solutions which are fact-based and carefully reviewed prior to implementation.

She also wishes to push for a more collaborative effort in dealings with Collier County to maximize a more cooperative atmosphere to ensure we maximize a better synergy between the two bodies to solve island-wide problems where an improved relationship can be of a benefit to islanders.

As she and her husband enjoy their home on Smokehouse Bay, they are involved in a number of nautical pursuits, including membership in the Coast Guard Auxiliary and the U.S. Power Squadron.

Rivera also has been very actively involved in the Collier County Republican Club, as well as the Hispanic National Assembly of Collier and Lee County, serving as both a Board Member and Vice President.

Elizabeth Stephenson

Elizabeth Stephenson.

As a young child, she remembers her father’s close relationship to U.S. House of Representatives member Gerald R. Ford, who eventually would be elevated to the role of Vice President when Spiro Agnew was forced to resign in disgrace. Ford later ascended to the role of President when Richard M. Nixon resigned in disgrace on August 8, 1974, due to Watergate. She vividly recalls her dad’s role as a sounding board for appointments to his cabinet.

That is about as close to politics that Stephenson has gotten to what is often referred to as, jokingly, the “second oldest profession,” until the last couple of years when she joined the South Collier Republican Club. “It was sort of a natural to me,” said Stephenson during an interview.

Stephenson graduated from Michigan State University with a business management degree.

She began visiting Marco Island in 1979, when her relatives grew tired of the changing dynamic in Ft. Lauderdale. On a visit in 1991, she visited the island for the last time as a single woman, because shortly thereafter, she married. She has spent most of her time helping to manage her husband’s successful Chiropractic Office here on the island, while bringing up their three sons, now living away from home and enjoying their own individual careers.

Stephenson reengaged her interest in politics and community involvement just a few years ago. One of her first steps in that direction came with her appointment as a Guardian at Litem for the 20th Judicial Circuit of Florida, which covers Charlotte, Collier, Lee, Glades and Hendry counties. That program was created to protect or promote the interests of the person they have been appointed to represent. In many cases they are appointed in matters concerning children and report their findings to the court of jurisdiction. Another area in which she has become involved is the South Collier Republican Club. That organization originally was organized as the Caxambas Republican Club, later reconstituted as the South Collier Republican Club to be more inclusive within the 951 corridor and East Naples. She also serves as a member of their executive committee.

Council to Meet

Council is in the process of meeting with each of the three candidates and will convene on December 7 and make a decision on their choice to fill the vacant seat formerly held by Victor Rios, who vacated his seat abruptly in late October.

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