Bay Oaks & Stilwell


I have been associated with Bay Oaks Recreation Center for a number of years as a participant in senior activities and as a member of the Bay Oaks Advisory Board.

Using a “do-nothing” strategy, Don Stilwell has steadily undermined the functioning of Bay Oaks. Last fall, he cancelled 2 important projects, the new gym floor and the fitness trail, approved by Town Council and already in the budget. His preferred use for the gym is as a place to park Public Works vehicles. Randy Norton, the former director, proposed getting lucrative sponsorships for Bay Oaks, but Stilwell never gave Norton the go-ahead to pursue these potential sponsorships. With Norton’s departure, there is no one at Bay Oaks to undertake such a project. Our Bay Oaks Advisory Board meetings were cancelled by Stilwell, and we did not meet for 4 months. We were never given a reason why. In March, Stilwell fired Norton, who went quietly in order to keep his benefits and severance. I believe these actions in toto were meant to result in the eventual closing of Bay Oaks.

When Stilwell started to get push-back and support for Bay Oaks from FMB residents (a feisty bunch in Stilwell’s own words), things at Bay Oaks reversed course quickly. Three full-time staff positions that had gone unfilled for months were suddenly filled (in house), and pool equipment that had been in a state of deterioration was repaired. With no director, Bay Oaks staff were told to report to Stilwell and Rischitelli.

The purview of a Town Manager is to enact policies set out by Town Council. The failure by Don Stilwell to carry out a Town Council directive and to maintain the viability of Bay Oaks Recreation Center is tantamount to nonfeasance of duties.


Becky Bodnar
Fort Myers Beach