Last month, the Sand Paper began a series where we introduced our readers to the hardworking people who make up the Public Works Department of the Town of Fort Myers Beach. This week we bring you the last two members of that department – Sheila Conroy and Bill Stult – both part-time Beach and Street Enforcement (B.A.S.E.) employees who work on the weekends. We also begin the second chapter in this series – introducing readers to the smiling faces who take care of one of our island’s most important resources – Bay Oaks Recreational Campus.
If you ever meet Sheila, be sure to ask her anything about the continental United States because, chances are, she’s been there.
“I was born on the south side of Chicago, where I worked for the Glazers Union Local 27 until they froze my pension in 1992,” she told us last Saturday. “So I started a tour bus company that I ran for 18 years. I traveled back and forth across the U.S. many, many times – I loved it.”
Conroy ‘semi-retired’ in 2010, and moved to Key West where she continued as a tour operator, only this time on a much smaller scale.
“I ran the Conch Tour Train,” she told us, laughing. “Key West was great, but after a while it got really expensive for locals. One day I hopped on the ferry to Fort Myers Beach because I’d never been here, and I absolutely fell in love with this place. It’s like Key West used to be before it got so popular.”
Sheila told us that she immediately decided to make our community her new island home, and was hired by B.A.S.E. after she saw the posting on the Town’s website.
“I’m now blessed to be working with the best group of guys in Lee County,” she told us. “Being the only ‘girl’ working for B.A.S.E., these guys always have my back.”
Conroy works for the Town on the weekends and drives a school bus during the week. So what does she do during her time off? More driving!
“Driving has always soothed me, so whenever I get the chance I hop in my car and drive around the state checking out all the cool towns,” she said.
The newest Town employee – literally, he started 2 weeks ago – Bill told us that he moved to Fort Myers Beach to start a new life with his wife, with whom he will be celebrating 4 years of marriage this year.
“I am a retired IT professional from Ohio,” he said. “When my wife and I got married, our goal was to get to Florida as soon as we could. Two years ago, we moved here and she got a job at the Department of Children and Families.”
Like many retirees, Bill quickly found himself bored to tears and began volunteering at Lovers Key State Park.
“That turned into a job as a Park Ranger there,” he said. “One day, I was walking on Fort Myers Beach when I met (fellow B.A.S.E. employee) Todd Seals. He was taking care of a situation where a man was abusing a dog. We became friends, and he told me there was an opening for a part time person, so I interviewed and was hired on August 4th.”
Bill says he loved working as park ranger because he got to meet people, something he says will parlay nicely with his new job.
“I’m really excited about getting out on the beach and meeting people here,” he said. “I love answering questions and giving out information.”
Bay Oaks’ Program Coordinators
At Bay Oaks, all of the activities and the Beach Pool are actually run by only 5 full time staff members – though there are many part timers and volunteers who go above and beyond to keep things going smoothly. With the departure of former Parks and Recreation Director Randy Norton earlier this year, the five folks who now run the place all share the same title – Program Coordinator – though each have a separate areas of focus.
Athletics, Fitness, Capital Improvement Projects (CIP)
“I moved here from Michigan with my family when I was only 5 years old, so I literally grew up on this island,” Adam told us. “And I grew up at Bay Oaks, too – I came here every day.”
After graduating from first Beach Elementary, then Cypress Middle and finally South Fort Myers High School, Adam took a job as a summer camp counselor at Bay Oaks in 2010.
“After that summer, I was asked to stay on as a recreation aide, which led to me becoming lead recreation aide and then on to full time coordinator,” Adam told us. “This fits my life perfectly as my other job is as a soccer coach at Bishop Verot High School.”
Coaching, sports and athletics are Adam’s entire life, and he says he often reflects on how lucky he is to be making his way in the world doing something he loves.
“I coached youth soccer on Fort Myers Beach from 2008-2013 and flag football for five years – sports is in my blood,” he told us. “Sometimes I think, wow, how cool that I get paid to do this!”
So what does Adam do during those rare times when he has time on his hands? The answer should be obvious.
“I watch football,” he said, laughing.
Bay Oaks Social Seniors (BOSS)
Smiling, energetic Danielle has been in charge of the senior program at Bay Oaks since February, when former director Randy Norton gave her the gig shortly before he left.
“I grew up in the mountains of North Carolina, and one day I decided I wanted to live on the beach instead,” she told us. “So I moved down here and started working in the restaurant industry, but I’ve got six years of experience working for parks and rec, so that’s what I really wanted to do.”
Not only does Danielle have experience in recreation and fitness, she told us her favorite clientele have always been seniors.
“When I heard the Town needed a new person for the senior program, I applied for it and bugged Randy relentlessly until he hired me,” she said, laughing. “Now I love what I do – planning activities, figuring out new and fun things to do and enjoying the people who participate in the program.”
Like Adam, Danielle also loves fitness so it’s not surprising that – in her free time – she enjoys mountain biking, paddle boarding or just hanging at the beach.
Like Adam, Sarah is another ‘Beach Rat’ who grew up on the island, where Bay Oaks has always been a big part of her life.
“I went to Beach Elementary, and I was always at Bay Oaks while I was growing up,” she said. “I started helping out with the after-school program and became a camp counselor, so I learned the ins and outs of this place long before I started working here.”
If Sarah’s name sounds familiar, that’s no coincidence. Her mom, Michelle Mayher, has been the Town Clerk for nearly 16 years, and Sarah has many aunts, uncles and cousins living on the island.
“We have a big family and most of us live right here on Fort Myers Beach,” she said. “So of course I’d want to stay here, too.”
Sarah told us that she’s spent quite a bit of time over at Town Hall, too, so she also has an understanding of how the town is run.
“I volunteered there for a couple of summers – I actually answered the phones there after Hurricane Charley – and I ran the Audio/Visual equipment during Council meetings for about a year,” she said.
With six years’ of experience under her belt, Sarah has worked at Bay Oaks longer than anyone we interviewed – starting as a recreational aide, then teen program coordinator.
“We all help each other out here – it’s so wonderful to work here where I grew up!” she said. “A lot of people may have issues living in the same small town where they work, but I don’t. I think it helps for the kids to see me out and about because they know if they do something stupid, I’ll tell their parents.”
“They call me the ‘Town Babysitter’,” Sarah concluded, laughing. “I love it.”
Born in Cape Coral, Nathaly also went to Beach Elementary, where she first fell in love with the Beach Pool when she was in the 2nd grade.
“After 5th grade, my family moved back to Miami and then after high school, I returned to the beach,” she said. “I got a job here at the pool as a lifeguard, then went to Miami for a while and came back last year.”
It was while in Miami that Nathaly got her experience in teaching aquatics and became a certified Water Safety Instructor.
“I got a lot of experience teaching while I was there, and now I teach the water aerobics class here on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, as well as any personal training people sign up for,” she said. “Between that and my two kids, that pretty much takes up all my time.”
Louis’ name is likely another familiar one to our readers, likely because his dad has run a successful painting business on the island for over 20 years and both of his parents have been tireless volunteers at Bay Oaks for all of Louis’ life.
“I went to Beach Elementary, too, and spent all my free time growing up at Bay Oaks,” he said. “While I was getting my Associates Degree from Edison State College (now SouthWestern State University), I started working at Bay Oaks’ after school program, then moved over to the pool where I’ve been for the last 2 ½ to 3 years.”
Louis told us that, while he eventually wants to start his own painting business like his dad, right now he’s happy at the Beach Pool.
“I play soccer and football on the weekends and travel whenever I can,” he said. “It’s a great life!”
Keri Hendry Weeg