Love at First Sight!
“I fell in love at first sight only four times in my life,” says new Fort Myers Beach Town Council Member Joanne Shamp, growing misty with emotion: “When I met my future husband Dan, at the birth of my two sons and when I saw my Fort Myers Beach home!”
The beach is a long way from her birthplace of Little Falls, New York, and even further from the frozen north of Canada, where Joanne spent her formative years. “My Dad worked for an American company that transferred him to Canada right after my birth. I spent my first 8 years in Montreal, then the company transferred Dad again, so the next 8 were in Toronto. By the time we came back to Clifton, New York, north of Albany, I was a 16-year-old bilingual French-speaking high school junior with a Canadian accent!”
Highlights of her Canadian life include the first two Beatles concerts in Toronto! “The British Invasion actually hit Canada first, before America where they still listened to Elvis and I became hooked on the Beatles – I still have the programs and ticket stubs. I am one of four sisters, and we each picked a Beatle – mine is Paul!” Upon returning to the States, she realized “Canadian teenagers were 10 years behind Americans on social issues. Remember this was 1967, when everything was crazy.”
Swimming was an important part of her life: “I was the Ontario provincial champion, and continued it in high school and college. This was when Title IX made its first inroads so I competed in the 2nd ever Women’s National Championship in 1971.” Joanne attained her B.S. in Biology in just three years in 1973.
I Met a Guy!
She began a teaching career but quickly discovered “I did not like teaching!” She redirected herself to the medical field, specializing in orthotics and prosthetics. “I still had one year of athletic eligibility, so I enrolled in New York University (NYU) where I captained the swim team and in 1975 attained my second B.S.”
Upon graduation, she was one of the few women in an almost all-male occupation. “I was only the third female in the nation to receive my license in Orthotics and Prosthetics,” Joanne says with pride. “This inspired me to be excellent at what I did – it was a very positive experience for me.”
Joanne traveled to Chicago to take the prosthetics examination, “and I met a guy! It was love at first sight with Dan! We had a long-distance relationship for a year, while I worked on my Ph.D. in Occupational Biomechanics at NYU, before I left for Ohio to join him.” Dan lived in Northeast Ohio, where he and his two brothers owned a second-generation medical company in the Akron area. “I had enough hours at NYU to cash them in for a Masters’ degree, then I packed up and left, climbing over snow drifts in Manhattan from the Blizzard of ‘78!”
Marriage soon followed, then came son Mark and ten years later Stephen. “We grew our family at the same time we grew the business – expanding to six locations by 1998,” Joanne explains. “We then sold it to a national corporation.” The Shamps, though “retired,” remained in Ohio until 2004, until Stephen was in Notre Dame University.
Shorts & Flip-Flops
Fort Myers Beach beckoned, with Joanne saying that “we vacationed here in 1986 – we have a photograph in the kitchen of us playing on the beach at the Red Coconut RV Park. We were always beach people! The sand is perfect and the ambiance laid-back, with funky businesses and eclectic people who embrace shorts and flip-flops.”
They bought a cottage built in 1948. “The first time I first walked in, I honestly cried! Dan said, ‘Great – what a perfect thing to do in front of our realtor!’ Our three grandchildren – age 12, 10, & 7 – spend each summer with us without their parents, as they love being with Nana and Papa. We are so proud of our family – they are everything to us.”
Joanne first got involved with the Town because of her passion to protect its marine resources. “People were removing dunes and beach vegetation, and I did the research and proposed the beachfront property owners planting program to preserve these natural features, and this became the Town’s official plan. The environment is everything to our community; without it we do not have citizens or tourists. A healthy beach means heathy commerce.” Her environmental efforts soon led the Town to adopt her fertilizer ordinance as well.
Joanne’s originality is not confined to rules and regulations, however. “I have always been a creative person, and one year Dan for a birthday present bought me art lessons from Lee Ackert, who was beloved on the beach. Next thing you know, I am winning merit awards in the Plein Air Arts Festival. Art is a real pleasure in my life.” Joanne today donates prints to area charity auctions and fundraising events.
While still in Ohio, she and Dan lived in an historic home, as is their cottage here, so she joined the Historical Society, and eventually the Local Planning Agency (LPA), where she has either been chair or vice chair since 2008. Now on Council, Joanne must resign from the LPA. “I hate giving that up, but serving on Council is the next obvious step in serving my community.”
So Wonderfully Unique
She finds it hard to believe she is a public official. “Never in my wildest dreams could I predict this or that I would run for election! This was never in my life plan until recently. I truly appreciate the four Council members choosing me to work with them. I am going to do my best, so the voters in March trust me enough to elect me to my own term.”
Joanne places deep faith in the Fort Myers Beach Comp Plan and Land Development Code – “they are the reason the Town exists. They are the living breathing documents that define who were are, protect our way of life and provide a level playing field for all property owners, whether residents or businesses. If you know the Fort Myers Beach Comp Plan, you should be able to predict your treatment from the Town. I will work hard to not only protect Fort Myers Beach from stagnation but to keep what is best about our small town character. My job is to evaluate all the evidence, in light of the Comp Plan and Code, to make the best decision for all our citizens, knowing upfront it is impossible to please everyone on everything.”
Joanne remains in awe of Fort Myers Beach: “It is amazing this little 7-mile stretch of sand is a microcosm of America – from homeless people to multi-millionaires to everyone in-between. We offer a unique way of living, where you can be anything here, from a recluse to living your life to the fullest. It is our slice of Old Florida that makes Fort Myers Beach so wonderfully unique and so important to preserve!”