2013-10-10 / Top News

2013 Power Women

Whether she's strategizing a corporate initiative, raising money for a charity, entertaining an audience or responding to her constituents, a power woman's work is never done. Just ask any of the CEOs, executive directors, philanthropists and public servants who've been selected as Florida Weekly's 2013 Power Women.

They come from a variety of backgrounds and fill myriad positions of importance. And they pour equal energy, expertise and commitment into whatever task is at hand, whethery it's for the betterment of their colleagues, their families or their communities.

At the end of every busy day, they've helped make a difference for everyone who lives and works in Charlotte County and areas around it. And lucky for us, they're not done yet.


Betty Bireley

Realtor and philanthropist

Bireley Family Fund

Years in Southwest Florida: 33 Closest family: Sons Roger in Atlanta and Frank in Dallas, who return home annually to help me host the Rhythm and Blues Festival, a benefit for the Lee Memorial Cancer Center. My late husband was Frank Bireley.

Hometown: Hobart, Okla.

Describe yourself in one sentence or phrase: I try to help everyone I can.

Describe your role or roles in business and/or the community: My husband, who died five years ago, and I had our different charities. Some of the causes I’ve supported are AIDS, autism and cancer. I also support the arts and help the homeless coalition. I get in the middle of these things. I don’t sit on the boards because I don’t have the time and energy. I volunteer for these things. When I was more active in real estate, I donated many of my commissions to charity. I also give to United Way. I can raise a lot of money on little notice just by getting on the phone with certain people. For instance, I helped raise $200,000 for the Southwest Florida Symphony in five weeks.

How do you come up with new ideas? Some things just pop out of my mouth. I’m spontaneous.

How would others describe you? Most people think I’m nice and generous, and I guess I am. I have a lot of good friends.

What single issue is most important to you? I’d like to go to Washington and fire everybody. I don’t like what’s going on in this country. Too much money is wasted. We have 1,600 documented students in Lee County who live in cars and tents without bathrooms and yet have to go to school. We help the whole world, but we can’t help our own.

Your most influential role model, and why? My fatherin law. He was a very generous, very successful man who gave it away very quietly. When he sold his business 60 years ago, he gave every one of his employees $25,000. He was a very giving person.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? I didn’t have much ambition, but I was in the Air Force. That’s where I met my husband, at Hamilton Air Force Base in Marin County, Calif., outside San

Francisco. We were married 50½ years.

Your first job: I fixed a little old lady’s hair and worked at the box office in the local movie theater when I was 15 or 16.

If you could chat with anyone in history for 20 minutes, with whom would it be? Warren Buffett. I’d like him to give me a few million more dollars so I could help more people.

What do you enjoy doing most with your family or friends? I play bridge, used to play tennis. Mostly, I love music, and I can’t wait for the concert season.

Name a trait you consider overrated, and a trait that’s underrated: Overrated: fashion. I like people to be themselves. Honesty is underrated.

Personal hobbies: I like to play bridge and do my own personal investing. I found out that I can invest my own money better than the “experts.” I also enjoy listening to my dear friend Mark Sanders, who can sing anything.

Favorite movie: “Auntie Mame” with Rosalind Russell and “Bird Cage” with Robin Williams, Nathan

Lane and Gene Hackman.

Music: Broadway and pops. All the classic Broadway shows.

Most important lesson you’ve learned in life: Treat people like you expect to be treated. I love people.

I’ve only met three or four people in my life I don’t like, and that’s the truth.

If I could do one thing in my life over again, it would be … Nothing. I’d probably do the same things over again. Actually, I wouldn’t smoke. The doctors nag me about it.

What advice would you give to a fellow woman relocating here? Join organizations, meet people, volunteer … do something to make a difference. I really do help a lot of people, and a lot of people know it. ¦

Debbie P. Bowe

Public Information Officer

Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office

Years in Southwest Florida: 40

Hometown: Coeburn, Va.

Describe yourself in one sentence or phrase: I have often described myself as either “a jack of all trades” or “a multitalented individual.” Either way, I am definitely my parents’ child.

Describe your role or roles in business and/or the community: My role at the Sheriff’s Office is to help keep the community informed as to what is happening with CCSO. Sometimes it means getting help to solve crimes. Sometimes it is just to let people know some of the non-crime-related things we do.

How do you come up with new ideas? I read. I watch TV. I try to listen to other people. Then I try to find a way to put my own twist on something.

What single issue is most important to you? The environment.

Your most influential role model, and why? Probably my parents, who were honest, hard-working people.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? When I was a child, I wanted to be a law enforcement officer. By the time I got to high school, I was watching the TV show “The Waltons” and I wanted to be a writer.

Your favorite childhood memory: Doing things with my Dad, like playing golf, going fishing or working in his printing shop.

Your first job: After college, my first job was with the Punta Gorda Daily Herald News as a reporter.

If you could chat with anyone in history for 20 minutes, with whom would it be? Either Queen Elizabeth I or her father, King Henry VIII.

What do you enjoy doing most with your family or friends? I have rather eclectic tastes. So with certain friends, I enjoy more sedate things like going out to dinner or a movie. With others, I enjoy traveling or riding roller-coasters or kayaking.

Personal hobbies: DIY projects, photography, golf.

Favorite all-time book: “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Movie: “The Lord of the Rings” movies and “Groundhog Day.”

TV show: It used to be “Star Trek” and “Star Trek: the Next Generation,” but now I mostly channel hop.

Music: 1980’s rock.

Most important lesson you’ve learned in life: “To thine own self, be true.”

If I could do one thing in my life over again, it would be … Even though I have made mistakes or a poor choice at times, I wouldn’t change anything because then I wouldn’t be who I am today. And I am happy with who I am. ¦

Deborah Ricci, CFRE

Director of Finance and Operations

Charlotte Community Foundation Inc.

Years in Southwest Florida: Since 1994.

Closest family: Husband Bill; between us we have four children and six grandchildren.

Hometown: Auburn, Mass.

Describe yourself in one sentence or phrase: Lead by example, devoted to nature and animals.

Describe your roles in the community: My position at the Charlotte Community Foundation positions me to work with many nonprofits, making a difference in our community. As a volunteer leader in the Business and Professional Women of Charlotte County (BPW) and the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), I mentor other executives to become better at their jobs. As VP of programs for both organizations, I have been able to bring quality trainers to both groups, raising the level of professionalism in our community. As president-elect of the AFP Charlotte Harbor Chapter, I look forward to an exciting year of growth for our young chapter. This spring, after five years of experience, training, and study, I achieved the Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) credential. Of the 30,000 member of AFP worldwide, only 5,300 have achieved CFRE. It has been recognized by the NAAC as the equivalent to a master’s degree in the nonprofit fundraising field. Missing out twice in my life to grasp the opportunity for a college education, it is a major accomplishment for me.

How do you come up with new ideas? The AFP network is my source of inspiration. Whatever topic I need to learn, AFP has resources and mentors who are willing and able to assist others to become successful.

What single issue is most important to you? Make a difference in the world. No matter if it is family, community, the environment, just be remembered for something good.

Your most influential role model, and why? Zig Ziglar influenced me at a young age. He was the first trainer that I experienced who taught me that I was in control of my life. “Assume a virtue if you have it not” is one of my favorites. These days it is similar to “be the change you want to see in the world.”

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? I only knew that I did not want to be a nurse like my grandmother and my mother. It took me years to find my passion. At a time when many are planning for their upcoming retirement, I have finally found my passion in the nonprofit sector.

Your favorite childhood memory: Vacations at Cape Cod with family. Sandcastles on the beach, snapping green beans on the back porch with my mom, and double solitaire contests with my sister and cousins are some of the simple pleasures we shared together.

Your first job: My first full-time job was as a clerk for insurance underwriters, where I learned to be efficient, accurate and complete. My parents both worked hard and I learned the New England work ethic from them.

If you could chat with anyone in history for 20 minutes, with whom would it be? Jacqueline Kennedy impressed me as a woman who made a difference, who had a successful career without sacrificing her family, and who used her influence for good, not for self.

What do you enjoy doing most with your family or friends? Enjoy quiet times, hiking in the mountains, kayaking the backwaters, just taking in nature.

Tell us something few people know about you: I was a lighthouse keeper for three years in Massachusetts prior to moving to Florida. That was a fulltime volunteer job, caring for the property and the lighthouse, running a museum gift shop, writing a newsletter and organizing fundraising events to support the lighthouse where we lived. There were no public utilities, telephones, cable TV or electricity. We experienced Hurricane Bob, the Perfect Storm, and the winter of 1993 with 16 snowstorms, losing our beach road (access to the mainland) and the generator that provided our electricity, heat and water. The best memories were our beach wedding, the Sail Boston event when the tall ships passed by, viewing Fourth of July fireworks from Provincetown to the South Shore from our yard, digging sea clams and making chowder for the Coast Guard.

Name a trait you consider overrated, and a trait that’s underrated: Patience is underrated. To be patient, you must put others before yourself.

Personal hobbies: In addition to hiking and kayaking, I enjoy counted cross stitch embroidery and target shooting. While at the lighthouse I designed cross stitch designs of lighthouses and sold kits.

Favorite all-time book: “See you at the Top” by Zig Ziglar, my first motivational book. It is similar to my current favorite, “Expect to Win” by Carla Harris.

Movie: I would like to say “The Gift” but I actually read the book before I saw the movie.

TV show: “ER” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” but I also enjoy DIY and wildlife shows.

Music: I enjoy Manheim Steamroller, Neil Diamond, Jimmy Buffett and Roy Orbison. Oops, did I just give away my age?

Most important lesson: Never give up.

If I could do one thing in my life over again, it would be … To get a college education right out of high school, before life gets in the way.

What advice would you give to a fellow woman relocating here? Be willing to reinvent yourself. I studied engineering in college, but I found nonprofit administration to be my passion. Do what you love! ¦

Donna Barrett

Executive Officer

Charlotte-DeSoto Building Industry Association

Years in Southwest Florida: This month 20 years ago, I moved to Port Charlotte. My job moved me around to St. Petersburg then to Texas. I moved back in 2005

Closest family: My amazing husband, Mike; my two children, Matthew and Caitlin; my two boys through marriage, Tony and Grant; my parents, Jeff and Kathy; my sisters, Jamie Knatz and Kristy Santiago; and my niece, Gia.

Hometown: Ozone Park, Queens, N.Y.

Describe yourself in one sentence or phrase: A mom who loves her community.

Describe your role or roles in business and/or the community: As of the middle of September 2013 I am the executive officer for the Charlotte-DeSoto Building Industry Association, a nonprofit organization whose mission is “to ensure a successful environment for the building industry and to advocate for a better community.”

How do you come up with new ideas? The best ideas come in the middle of the night. I normally wake up every night about 3 a.m. with a new thought or idea. I write it down and spend a day or two analyzing the idea — or just turn on some ’90s alternative music.

What single issue is most important to you? Wanting the children of this community to stay in this community and raising their families here.

Your most influential role model, and why? My dad. He has been the one to push me the times I was ready to give up. Two words Dad voided from my vocabulary are “can’t” and “hate” I have seen this man stop speeding motorcycles with his own hands, work two jobs to support his family, and have tea parties with my daughter and niece. He taught me I can have anything as long as I work for it

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? A teacher. All through school I used one notebook to write down certain things I liked about my teachers to ensure I would do the same when I became a teacher.

Your favorite childhood memory: Hanging with my best friend Gina. We were inseparable. We would even go to the corner clothing factory, grab the left over fabric, make costumes and perform in her backyard. Bike riding, going to the beach, and even visiting her when she left me and moved away. We laughed, we cried, we did everything together.

Your first job: Newspaper delivery for the N. Y. Daily News. I had the best arm in town!

If you could chat with anyone in history for 20 minutes, with whom would it be? Martha Washington.

What do you enjoy doing most with your family or friends? Watching my children play football and cheer.

Tell us something few people know about you: I love speaking about my passions, but don’t tell anyone that I actually am very afraid of performing on stage and radio. If you missed my “Dancing with the Charlotte Stars” performance, you are out of luck because that was and will be the only time I will be on stage.

Name a trait you consider overrated, and a trait that’s underrated: Overrated: computer savvy. Underrated: common sense.

Personal hobbies: What is that?

Favorite all-time book: “Catcher in the Rye.”

Movie: “Grease.”

TV show: Junk food TV (reality shows such as “Survivor,” “Big Brother” and anything Bravo).

Music: Depends on the mood. Creativity comes from ’90’s alternative music.

Most important lesson you’ve learned in life: There is no such thing as can’t.

If I could do one thing in my life over again, it would be … After I read this, it will probably be to have answered these questions differently.

What advice would you give to another woman relocating here? Find your voice, and feed your passion. ¦

Eva Worden, Ph.D.

Co-founder

Worden Farm

Years in Southwest Florida: 10

Closest family: Husband Chris

PHOTOWorden, Ph.D., and our two sons, ages 10 and 7.

Hometown: Coral Gables

Describe yourself in one sentence COURTESY or phrase: Passionate about family, and about bringing people together in the community around healthy organic food and organic farming.

Describe your role or roles in business and/or the community: Organic farmer, community educator, agricultural consultant, school garden volunteer, nonprofit board member.

How do you come up with new ideas? Read; talk with farm members, clients and friends; attend conferences; actively think through situations from different angles.

What single issue is most important to you? Living consciously, with respect for others and for the ecosystems on which we depend.

Your most influential role model, and why? My parents, because I have observed the positive effects from their choices of spending their lives helping others and engaging with their community.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? A wife, mother, doctor and park ranger.

Your favorite childhood memory: Playing imagination games with my sister and brother, and going camping with my whole family.

Your first job: Babysitting.

If you could chat with anyone in history for 20 minutes, with whom would it be? My great-grandmother, who came to this country across the Atlantic alone when she was 15, and worked to later bring over her parents and her seven siblings.

What do you enjoy doing most with your family or friends? Living the family-farm lifestyle, sharing in the wonders of the natural world.

Tell us something few people know about you: That before starting Worden Farm, I was a professor of horticulture at the University of Florida, after earning my doctorate in ecosystem management at Yale University.

Personal hobbies: Reading, painting, photography.

Favorite all-time book: “The Synonym Finder” by J.I. Rodale.

Movie: “What’s Organic About Organic?” Directed and produced by Shelley Rogers.

TV show: “The Beverly Hillbillies.”

Music: A little bit of everything.

Most important lesson you’ve learned in life: Balance.

If I could do one thing in my life over again, it would be … I would plant more trees. We have planted thousands of trees at Worden Farm in the last 10 years, for soil and water conservation, windbreaks and wildlife habitat.

What advice would you give to another woman relocating here? Join the Worden Farm membership program at www.wordenfarm.com so you can eat amazing fresh local organic food, and enjoy participating in the Worden Farm community! ¦

Kathy Cade Hollinger

Charlotte County Community volunteer

Years in Southwest Florida: 39 amazing years in “The Land of Yes.”

Closest family: Best friend Bob Strayton

Hometown: Abbeville, La., the heart of Cajun country.

Describe yourself in one sentence or phrase: Thankful for my loving family in Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas and Michigan — and friends everywhere from all walks of life.

Describe your role or roles in business and/or the community: Committed supporter of local civic, charitable, arts, educational and youth organizations.

How do you come up with new ideas? By asking scads of questions (who, what, where, when, why?), and listening to responses and then using common sense.

What single issue is more important to you? Broadly, protection of our U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Personally, honesty and integrity.

Your most influential role model, and why? My parents, without question, because of their unselfish love for my four siblings and me, particularly my oldest sister, Carol, who was born with many lifealtering challenges, but who lived a happy 86 years.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? A teacher, like my mother.

You favorite childhood memory: The extreme pride I felt for my father when he was named Abbeville’s Citizen of the Year — the second recipient of that prestigious award.

Your first job: Babysitting — loved it!

If you could chat with anyone in history for 20 minutes, with whom would it be? Thomas Jefferson.

What do you enjoy doing most with your family or friends? Next to hugging, it’s gathering around the table enjoying Louisiana cuisine, chatting, reminiscing and laughing.

Tell us something few people know about you: I was a tomboy — indisputably!

Name a trait you consider overrated and a trait that’s underrated. Outer beauty is overrated. Inner beauty is underrated.

Personal hobbies: Reading, cooking, duplicate bridge, community involvement and the enjoyment of sports’ spectatorship — especially when my team wins.

Favorite all-time book: Ken Follett’s “The Pillars of the Earth,” masterfully written about love, rivalry and history.

Movie: “Gone with the Wind” in 1952, probably because my mother packed chicken picnic lunches for my best friend, Toni, and me, since the movie was so long!

TV show: “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

Music: Bach, Beethoven, Dave Brubeck, Pete Fountain and, of course, Elvis.

Most important lesson you’ve learned in life: Life is very short, so live, laugh and love.

If I could do one thing in my life over again, it would be… Move to Charlotte County sooner!

What advice would you give to another woman relocating here? Familiarize yourself with our wonderful nonprofit organizations, and become involved. ¦

Linda Wilson

Mrs., Mother and Grandma

Wilson Realty

Years in Southwest Florida: 50-plus

Closest family: Phillip my husband, three daughters and a stepson (all of whom were raised here) and six grandsons.

Hometown: I claim Punta Gorda!

Describe yourself in one sentence or phrase: Energizer Bunny.

Describe your role or roles in business and/or the community: Being a Realtor is my business for over 35 years for the Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte, North Port Association of Realtors, where I am a past president. However, I am known to most as a professional volunteer for all kinds of organizations and I am on the board of directors of the local chapter of the American Cancer Society. There are many deserving charities out there, but collecting funds to battle cancer is the closest to my heart. With over 50 years in Charlotte County, the committees and events I have been a part of are too numerous to write out, but each and every one has been important, and then I assist my husband Phil with all the charity auctions he does. Life is good.

How do you come up with new ideas? See that the “old” ones are NOT working and do a complete turn-around. Even old dogs can learn new tricks.

What single issue is most important to you? Fighting cancer through Relay For Life fundraisers as this is where so much of the money comes from that supports the necessary research to conquer this killer.

Your most influential role model, and why? Don’t want to name names as there are MANY community minded leaders that I admire and try to emulate.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? A weatherperson. I am fascinated by global weather.

Your favorite childhood memory: Riding in a hunter show at the Imperial Palace in Japan as a 9-year-old in front of the crown prince.

Your first job: Clerk in a drug store. Go figure! Guess I wasn’t a high achiever back then.

If you could chat with anyone in history for 20 minutes, with whom would it be? Queen Elizabeth I, as I find her reigng fascinatingg and love Medieval History.

What do you enjoy doing most with your family or friends? Getting them to commit to and take part of one of our charity events. If you are a family member or a friend, you know you get tapped to help! I have the best friends and family in the world, and they all have caring and sharing hearts.

Tell us something few people know about you: I was born in Plymouth, England, to British parents, but my father was killed during the war and my mother remarried as a “war bride” when I was 5 and we came to America.

Name a trait you consider overrated, and a trait that’s underrated: Being politically correct is overrated and genuine good manners and empathy is underrated.

“Do unto others.”

Personal hobbies: My donkeys, horses and antiques.

Favorite all-time book: “GWTW.”

Movie: “Dr. Zhivago.”

TV show: “CSI Los Angeles.”

Music: Elevator, and of course, country.

Most important lesson you’ve learned in life: All things are possible with God’s help.

If I could do one thing in my life over again, it would be … Nothing, as I love my life, where it has led me, the family that I have, my friends now and the ones I continue to make.

What advice would you give to another woman relocating here? Volunteer for an organization to meet like-minded people and a community will open up for you. People are genuinely nice, caring, and if you show a real interest in them and their lives, you will be welcomed with open arms. ¦

Lindsay Logue

Television news anchor NBC2

Years in Southwest Florida: 4

ClosestCloses family: Husband Doug Logue

DescribeDescri yourself in one sentence or phrase: Wife, mom-to-be, dog lover, want-tomaker, to-be pastry shop owner, list maker, wworld traveler, half vegan, half marathomarathon runner.

DescribeDescri your role or roles in business and/or theth community: I anchor NBC2 news weeknightswe at 4 p.m. and 11 p.m. It’s my jobj to accurately and efficiently deliver thet biggest stories of the day, the newsnew you can use, to the people of SouthweSouthwest Florida. Fun fact: I spend 18 percent of my workday on the air. The other 82 percent is spent behind the camera, preparing for the news.

Your mmost influential role model, and why? I admirea anyone who can successfully cessfully make buttercream icing. For those whwho have tried and failed, you know whatwh I’m talking about.

As a child,c what did you want to be when you grew up? When I was young, I wanted to be a mortician. I figured I would never be unemployed and I could neverne royally screw up. That dream ddidn’t last long.

Your fifirst job: I ate and scooped a lot of ice crcream!

What dod you enjoy doing most with your family or friends? As long as there is wine, laughter, good food, good company and … wine, it’s bound to be a perfect night!

Tell us something few people know about you: A former dancer of 16 years, I performed in the 72nd annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Name a trait you consider overrated, and a trait that’s underrated: Overrated: experienced; underrated: genuineness.

Music: I like my music like my shoes — a little bit of everything! Except heavy metal. I could never get into heavy metal.

If I could do one thing in my life over again, it would be … Wear more sunscreen.

What advice would you give to another woman relocating here? Get involved! Go Red for Women and the Junior League of Southwest Florida are great places to get your feet wet and meet some fabulous women! I also highly suggest: staycation on Sanibel/Captiva; explore the Everglades; dine on Third Street South; take in a spring training game; spend many a Saturday night downtown; splurge on Norman Love; experience Artis—Naples; watch more sunsets than you can count. ¦

Nanette Crist

Instructor, Adult Learning Center; board member, Visual Arts Center; Florida Weekly correspondent

Years in Southwest Florida: My (now ex-) husband and I moved to Punta Gorda three years ago.

Closest family: My parents, who still live in Panama City, and my sister, who lives on the east coast of Florida

Hometown: Panama City.

Describe yourself in one sentence or phrase: I am creating my post-retirement persona – and loving it!

Describe your role or roles in business and/or the community: Educator/volunteer/writer.

How do you come up with new ideas? By talking with people who have been in similar situations or who are creative thinkers (or both!).

What single issue is most important to you? Education. It is the great equalizer and opens the door to opportunities. At the Adult Learning Center, we are a part of the school system and work with students toward getting their GEDs, improving skills so that they can get into a program at Charlotte Technical Center, and learning English as a second language.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? A corporate lawyer, which I was for 20-plus years.

Your first job: Working as a receptionist at my father’s business. It taught me the importance of people skills.

If you could chat with anyone in history for 20 minutes, with whom would it be? Rosa Parks. Her involvement with the civil-rights movement is a testament to how ordinary people can make a difference.

What do you enjoy doing most with your family or friends? Doing something active or going to a theater performance or art exhibit.

Tell us something few people know about you: I used to be a Republican. I wrote my college thesis on the Reagan Administration’s arts policy, and it planted the seeds for my conversion. My time at Harvard Law School (liberal hotbed that it is) cemented my transition.

Personal hobbies: Biking, practicing yoga, golfing, playing bridge, going to cultural performances, reading and writing. I was delighted when I moved here to discover how much Southwest Florida has to offer. I started writing a blog to share my experiences with friends and family (http://nanettesnewlife. blogspot.com). Writing my blog both gives me the push I sometimes need to seek out new adventures and a different lens on those experiences.

Favorite all-time book: Ann Patchett’s “Bel Canto.”

TV show: “Friday Night Lights.“ The show (sadly now off the air) had wonderful character development, and I could relate to the importance of high school football in a Southern town.

Music: 1970’s music (yes, including disco).

Most important lesson you’ve learned in life: Be open to new experiences.

If I could do one thing in my life over again, it would be … Even experiences I might prefer to forget have led me to where I am today. Like in Stephen

King’s “11/22/63,” if you change one thing — good or bad — it might disrupt the entire universe.

What advice would you give to another woman relocating here? Get involved! One of the best things about Charlotte County is how committed people are to making it a better place to live (while congratulating themselves on having made the choice).

I lived in the New York metropolitan area for almost 25 years. While I loved the energy of New

York City, I love livinge in a smaller community where you can get involved and make a difference.

And how could I not love living somewhere where people are constantly saying, “Aren’t we lucky to live in this wonderful spot?” I have also rediscovered my enjoyment of the arts. I am truly impressed with the quality of the art, theater and music in our area, and am thrilled to have the opportunity to promote the arts through my involvement with the Visual Arts Center and as an arts correspondent with Florida Weekly. ¦

Nancy Staub

Program assistant, program director, program coordinator

Florida Gulf Coast University’s Office of Continuing Education

Years in Southwest Florida: 45

Family: My husband, my mom (beautiful at 91), a sister and brother, a daughter and son-in-law, and two smart and gorgeous granddaughters.

Describe yourself in one sentence or phrase: A person with intellectual curiosity and the energy to do something with what I’ve learned.

Describe your role or roles in business and/or the community: Gaining exposure for the newest FGCU center can be challenging and requires creative problem solving at times. My mantra is: Quality education happens at FGCU Herald Court Centre. Growing the center has allowed me to get out into the community and build relationships. I explore opportunities to provide engaging programs for our young people, our senior population and offer training and development for local businesses and organizations. Lifelong learning is a family trait, so I guess I am right where I am supposed to be.

How do you come up with new ideas? Read, surf the Internet, and talk with people in the community who see things differently than I do.

What single issue is most important to you? Having a happy and healthy family. Right behind … spaying and neutering our pets.

Your most influential role model, and why? My dad. He was the genuine article as a role model for a high work ethic. I learned from him that integrity was important across all aspects of life. He delighted in sharing with me his love and knowledge of nature. He was a prolific reader so always had helpful advice. He was proud to serve his country. Generous, and always a champion for the underdog. I miss him every day.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? A Pan American airline stewardess. Fabulous uniforms and hats!

Your favorite childhood memory: Stateside vacations to my grandparents’ home in the small Louisiana town where my father spent his childhood.

Your first job: A high school summer job cleaning rooms at a small resort on Fort Myers Beach. My first entrepreneurial idea came when I posted the service of babysitting (with references) in the resort lobby.

If you could chat with anyone in history for 20 minutes, with whom would it be? My maternal grandfather. I never had the opportunity to meet him. Also, Nelson Mandela.

What do you enjoy doing most with your family or friends? Sitting around a table, eating, and talking.

Tell us something few people know about you: I was born and raised in Indonesia.

Name a trait you consider overrated, and a trait that’s underrated: Overrated: Wearing a size 4. Underrated: Social respect. Taking the time to acknowledge people, no matter who, no matter where. Hi, thank you, or a smile. It’s a win-win.

Personal hobbies: Taking our two rescue dogs for joy rides in the car and on our boat and going to music festivals with my friends.

Favorite all-time book: “The Elegant Gathering of the White Snows” and “Prince of Tides”

Movie: “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?”

Music: Any live music. Favorite bands: The Eagles and Led Zeppelin

Most important lesson you’ve learned in life: To trust my intuition. The path may take me out of my comfort zone or cause me to ask myself “really??” …. always with the perfect result.

If I could do one thing in my life over again, it would be … To let go and hang upside down the next time I go ziplining.

What advice would you give to another woman relocating here? Join at least one club/organization, contact the Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte chambers of commerce, and, of course, FGCU at Herald Court Centre. ¦

Reiko Niiya

Concertmaster and violin professorssor

Southwest Florida Symphony Orchestra and Edison State College

Years in Southwest Florida: 31

Closest family: Kai-Fu Chow (husband), David Chow, Michael Chow, Koji Niiya (three sons)

Hometown: Tokyo, Japan

Describe yourself in one sentence or phrase: I am a concert violinist and a violin teacher.

Describe your role or roles in business and/or the community: To introduce classical music to the younger generations as well as exposing them to, and having them participate in, live performances.

How do you come up with new ideas? I talk to friends and students to find out what the community needs and wants for the future of its arts and music.

What single issue is most important to you? Trying my very best to improve myself.

Your most influential role model, and why? My husband. He is the nicest and most honest person who always puts other people before himself.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? A concert violinist/ performer.

Your favorite childhood memory: Shopping with my mother.

Your first job: The International Orchestra of Maracaibo, Venezuela.

If you could chat with anyoneone in history for 20 minutes, with whom wouldould it be? My father, who passed awayy 36 years ago.

What do you enjoy doing mostost with your family or friends? Cooking andnd feeding them.

Tell us something few peopleple know about you: I am a big fan of Earth, Wind and Fire.

Name a trait you consider overrated, and a trait that’s underrated: overrated — being a free spirit; underratedted — loyalty.

Personal hobbies: Cooking,g, gardening, sewing.

Favorite all-time book: “Littlettle Women” by Louisa May Alcott.

Movie: “Forrest Gump.”

TV show: “Friends.”

Music: Rachmaninoff Symphonymphony No.2.

Most important lesson you’veve learned in life: Be happy with what I have and what I have achieved.

If I could do one thing in myy life over again, it would be … I wouldd not do a thing differently.

What advice would you givee to another woman relocating here? Comeme to Southwest Southn Florida to help its own cultural growth. ¦

Sharon Thomas

Executive Director

Animal Welfare League

Years in Southwest Florida: 5

Closest family: Husband and six children and 6 ½ grandchildren

Hometown: Rome, N.Y.

Describe yourself in one sentence or phrase: Visionary

Describe your role or roles in business and/or the community: To inform and help to educate our community of the respect that all creatures, whether two-legged or four-legged, deserve.

How do you come up with new ideas? Brainstorming with co-workers and friends.

What single issue is most important to you? The horrible treatment of animals by many people in our county, our state and our country.

Your most influential role model, and why? My Dad. He taught me long ago that I am braver then I feel and smarter then I think.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Anthropologist.

Your favorite childhood memory: Finding “PAL,” a 1-year-old, huge, fluffy Pyrenean mountain dog lost in the woods on our property when I was 6 years old. No one claimed him and he became my absolute best friend for 17 years.

Your first job: Ski resort.

If you could chat with anyone in history for 20 minutes, with whom would it be? William Blake. His mystical poems were of great depth and power. His poetry celebrated both the joys of spirit and nature. I also would love to discuss with him his fierce criticism of the injustices of his time.

What do you enjoy doing most with your family or friends? Simply relaxing and appreciating each others’ company.

Tell us something few people know about you: I adore Dr. Shelton Cooper!

Name a trait you consider overrated, and a trait that’s underrated: Ambition is overrated; patience is underrated.

Personal hobbies: Art history.

Favorite all-time book: “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Movie: “Blood Diamond.”

TV show: “The Big Bang Theory.”

Music: Alternative.

Most important lesson you’ve learned in life: Trust in yourself.

If I could do one thing in my life over again, it would be … Continue with my Ph.D.

What advice would you give to another woman relocating here? Become involved with your community and help to make a positive difference for all that reside there. ¦

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