2020 Election May Bring 3 New Members
While Hurricane Dorian stayed safely away from Fort Myers Beach, a Category 5 announcement made landfall on the local political scene when Council member Joanne Shamp stated on Tuesday, September 3, that she will not seek re-election in March 2020!
Shamp’s decision almost certainly means that Fort Myers Beach will have three new Council members next year, as term limits prohibit Mayor Anita Cereceda from seeking re-election, and recent comments by Council member Bruce Butcher seem to indicate he will not seek re-election. Vice Mayor Ray Murphy and Council member Rexann Hosafros are in the first year of their current terms, having been victorious in the March 2019 campaign.
Council member Shamp served on the Marine Resources Task Force beginning in 2006, and became its Chair. She served as well on the Local Planning Agency from 2008 to 2016, eventually as Chair. In December 2016, Town Council unanimously appointed her to the remaining three months of the term of former Vice Mayor Summer Stockton, who resigned for personal reasons. Shamp then won election in her own right to a full three-year term in March 2017, serving as Vice Mayor from March 2018 to March 2019. She was eligible for election to one more full term, though that length at this time is uncertain, as there will almost certainly be an initiative on the March 2020 ballot to increase Council terms from three to four years.
In “An Open Letter to the Fort Myers Beach Community,” Shamp wrote,
“It has been an honor to serve this wonderful community for the past 12 years on both Advisory Committees and as a Council member. It is now time to let others step up and lead while I step back, find a comfy beach chair and relax! I will not be seeking re-election to Town Council.
“My husband and I first vacationed here with our young children in 1986. It was love at first sight! We bought our island home in 2004 when our youngest was in college. My love of the beach, the people, the old structures, and the community character quickly led to serving as Chair of the Marine Resources Task Force, the Local Planning Agency, the Historic Advisory Board, and Vice-Chair of the Historic Advisory Council. It was next an honor to be appointed to Town Council in December 2016 and elected by the voters in March 2017.
“Although I did not live here at the time of incorporation, along the way I studied and became an avid supporter of the Town’s vision as expressed in the Comprehensive Plan. Throughout my years of service I have constantly strived to use it as a basis for policy making so that all sectors and interests in the Town are fairly considered and balanced. I have a particular concern for preservation of the critical and unique assets of our island – the water, the beach and bayfront; the quiet family residential neighborhoods – and how tourism can succeed without destroying the essence of who we are as a community. Those passions remain and always will!
“As the next election approaches, the citizens should know that the Town is in a strong and stable financial position, is benefitting from the leadership and management of a highly experienced Town Manager, and is sitting ready to complete the visions for Bayfront Square, Heart of the Island, Times Square, the Boulevard, and Downtown core. Policy is in place for the quiet neighborhoods to determine and protect their character with options for neighborhood parks, canal dredging and enforcement of short term rental regulation. The Town is standing with neighboring municipalities to improve water quality and is being an environmental steward with control of fertilizers, storm water, and single use plastic. More can and should be done to continue to strictly protect our beach and island environment.
“While the decision to not seek re-election has been a difficult one, I want to announce it early so that other qualified members of the community have ample time to step up and run for Council, prepare their campaigns, and enter what I hope will be a respectful and issue-oriented conversation about the direction of our Town during this time of redevelopment and environmental challenge.
“Thank you so much for your support, input and even respectful disagreement during my time on Town Council. The debate has always helped me see both sides of every issue while trying to reach sensible and equitable decisions on public policy. It has been an education! Next March I shall enjoy watching other passionate islanders take the helm. I wish them fair winds and wisdom in plotting the course. I will again pick up my paint brush and tennis racquet, and take more frequent hand-in-hand walks with my husband as we make plans to check more destinations and goals off of our bucket list.
“See you on the beach!
“Your fellow islander, Joanne Shamp”
Town’s Financial Stability
Shortly after releasing her Open Letter, Council member Shamp spoke with the Island Sand Paper, stating that the potential for her next term to be four rather than three years played no part in her decision. “I am 67-years-old now, so if I would leave Council at age 70 or 71, and those are both big numbers! But four years is a long time to make a commitment when you study as hard for this job as I do! If you are really going to be effective on Town Council, you must do a lot of hard work, as it is a big commitment. Personally, I will vote against a four-year term, but that is just me.”
With roughly 6 months left on Council, what will be her focus? “I hope we finish providing the proper direction to initiate improvements to Bayfront Square and the Heart of the Island neighborhood and Times Square, along with establishing connections to all of those, to become a sort of triangle of strength that is lively and vibrant. Santini Marina Plaza at the south end of the island already has that vibrancy, so we need to figure out how to triangulate that from the Downtown to Mid-island area, to benefit businesses and neighborhoods, especially now that we have Estero Boulevard sidewalks that are safe and wide for people to use, to benefit the entire island. The great news is that financially the Town is in a very strong position, so we are ready to go. Others may disagree and say ‘Water Quality, Water Quality, Water Quality,’ but Ray Murphy and others will be around to ensure that gets done.”
What Council decision is Shamp most proud of to date? “Promoting the strong financial stability of the Town,” she answered without hesitation! “That allows the Town to move forward with multiple other projects, with the security, safety and welfare of our residents at the forefront, so financial security must always be #1. That said, I realize I was the swing vote in continuing the reFRESH Estero Boulevard Projects and approving the construction for TPI-FMB that is now Margaritaville. Both were very controversial, but in looking back, I am glad I voted the way I did on each, to move the Town forward. When Estero Boulevard is finally complete and we revitalize the Downtown core, I really think most people will be very happy with those results. Sure discussions were tough and controversial, but often those are necessary to formulate good public policy. You need a variety of viewpoints, with vigorous debate through respectful conversation, to make the correct decisions that creates public policy that benefits the most people and our Town.”
Ready to Serve
Shamp’s future plans not only include quality time with her family, but reconnecting with her twin passions of tennis and art! “I used to play tennis every single morning until 10:30 a.m.,” she recollected with a laugh, “but that stopped with my Council election! I will rejoin my tennis league and get back to playing doubles every weekday morning, cognizant of course that my knees are three years older! As for my artwork, I hope to totally expand my style, and you can’t do that while you are half-focused on your canvas, while thinking about the Land Development Code! You can’t split both halves of your brain and move forward as an artist.”
As for the oft-repeated quote from the former President, “You won’t have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore,” Shamp laughed and said that she does not see her Council exit as her swan song from Fort Myers Beach community service. “When you are as passionate about this Town as I am, it will be hard to keep my nose out of everything! I want to take a step back and let younger people have their day in the sun, but if my experience and skills can help the Town in a positive way, I am ready to serve in that capacity!”
By Gary Mooney
- Joanne Shamp with some of her artwork. Photo by Gary Mooney.
- Her beachfront home recognized as historic by the Historic Preservation Board, Joanne Shamp shows the Town plaque affixed to the property entrance. Photo provided.