A person I know on Marco Island mentioned to me that I “never did anything for Marco Island.“ I was surprised to hear him say that, but then, as someone else pointed out, I don’t toot my horn and tell people what I do. So, I’ll just tell you a few things that you are seeing right now, and although I don’t like saying “I,” in this case I will…
The first thing is right over the bridge. Many of you remember how our road kept getting bumpier and bumpier until we called it “washboard road.“ I brought it up at the MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization) meeting where the county commissioners, a councilor from the Marco City Council, two councilors from the City of Naples, and one councilor from Everglades City met with the FDOT staff and the regional Secretary to discuss road, sidewalk, bridge and bike path issues. I told them about the bumpy road we had named Washboard Road. I brought it up at the next meeting again (we meet each month) but this time I asked the Secretary if he and three of his staff would ride with me to see for themselves, and to my surprise, he said yes! As we rode closer to the section that was so bad, I said it was coming up, and he said he could already see it as the tires were bouncing as we rode. Yes, they need fixing, and he would get it into the work program—although it would take 5 years to get it done.
While we were out, I also showed him that when the FDOT expanded U.S. 41E from 951 to Greenway Rd., they never installed any streetlights. He couldn’t believe it, but ah yes, that was not included, so he also promised to get that fixed. As time went by, I inquired again and again. Finally, I went to Tallahassee to sit down with him in person, as the years were rolling by. He had gone to another job, and the new Secretary assured me it was still in the works. Now at each MPO meeting, they always look at me and refer to the construction as my road is to be completed, and promised they would have it done before I leave office… and you know what? They are doing it right now! And the streetlights have been installed and should be working by now as well. So that’s one thing for Marco and one thing for East Naples.
And talking about the road and bridge to Marco Island, let me tell you about another story. Many of you might know this as well, but for those who didn’t realize I ever did anything for Marco Island, you might like this one.
Remember when the FDOT and the county, cooperatively, started to build the much needed second bridge to join the first one so that there would be two lanes going each way to and from Marco Island? It was a “design/build” project, and it was going along smoothly when a prominent Marco resident named Keith Dameron called me in a panic saying we needed to talk immediately. They were building a solid wall on the new side with no “portholes” to be able to see Marco as you were coming across the bridge. This is an extremely important part of the bridge and a pride for all who live here. Keith said, “You’ve got to stop the bridge!”
How in the heck would I do that? So, I quickly called a person I worked with from the FDOT named Debbie Hightower, explained the situation, and pleaded for her help. We held some fast meetings, and she provided plenty more help that I was not a part of, and the FDOT came back and said, “We’ll do it!”
Then, just like that, it was done! You can verify that story as well; which is why I gave you names. Debbie has retired, and everyone there knows her and respects her tremendously. Again, yes, I had a big part of it, but no person does it by themselves, it always takes a team. That’s why I don’t say “I,” I say we… but because of the hurtful comment, I decided for this once to tell you the real story. And remember, there were others involved… it was teamwork! So that’s Story 2 for Marco Island.
So, while I’m at it, let’s try for Story 3! This one regards the Marco Island Historical Society and the building they wanted to build. A few passionate members who truly loved history and wanted badly to build a museum of their own came into my office on Marco to talk to me about helping them build it. They wanted the county to donate $25,000 to them as a good start. They were the sweetest people, and a little nervous about asking for money. Two of them were Bill and Betsy Perdichizzi, who are some of the dedicated Island Historians wanting to preserve the history of the Island.
I called the County Manager right in front of them and told him they were sitting right there and asking for the county to help them financially. He thought for a few minutes, and said, “Donna, we own that land across the street from the library. How about if we donate it to them, with the understanding that they find the money to build the museum within 5 years, and then when they are finished, we can handle the overhead and then they’ll have the museum they want.”
They did not want to be responsible for all the overhead, insurance and expenses involved with staff, etc., so a deal was struck, and we were off to the races. They obtained the money all on their own, and in less than 5 years, we were building a building of their dreams! If I’m not mistaken, Craig Woodward was the lead on this project! Once it was time to open, there were lots of other things to do and overcome, but together we made it happen. The hours were different for this museum after the kinks were worked out, the gift shop was the historical society’s own funding source to further their goals—like displays and so much more—but this was all I could condense to keep the paragraph short. From there it’s been a success story! Again, many people helped, and we worked as a team! It’s something we’ll always be proud of, right out of the ground!