Here are the women being honored in the inaugural “Makers: Women Who Make Southwest Florida.”
■ Carla Brooks Johnston (1940-2011), Sanibel Island
Mayor and Vice Mayor, Sanibel Island
The late 71-year-old mother was mayor of Sanibel. Brooks Johnston led the effort to stop the overflow from Lake Okeechobee lessening pollution of the area’s estuaries. She was instrumental in the adoption of the build-back ordinance, the regulation of fertilizerapplication on Sanibel, and the adoption of the Revised Sanibel Comprehensive Plan.
■ Trudi K. Williams, Fort Myers
CEO of TKW Consulting Engineers Inc.; Florida House of Repre- sentatives, District 75 (2005-12)
In 1999, she was appointed to the board of the South Florida Water Management District. In 2004, Williams was elected to the Florida House of Representatives. She served as chair of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee and the Select Committee on Water Policy. Williams says she is most proud of the Babcock Ranch acquisition as state property.
■ Ellie Boyd, Fort Myers
Life member, Responsible Growth Management Coalition
In 1952, Ellie Boyd became a college professor teaching medical and nursing students. Some 20 years later, she became a founding member of the Responsible Growth Management Coalition. She has worked continuously to help create the Density Reduction Groundwater Resource area, the Conservation 20/20 program, the Pine Island Community Plan, and the Estero Bay Agency on Bay Management.
■ Ellen Peterson (1923-2011), Estero
Donor, Happehatchee Estate; founder, Calusa Group of the Sierra Club
She dedicated herself to grass roots conservation efforts, serving on several boards and advisory committees including the Agency on Bay Management, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, Save Our Creeks, the Responsible Growth Management Coalition, the Everglades Committee, the Environmental and Peace Education Center.
■ Hilary Swain, Ph.D, Venus
Executive director, Archbold Biological Station
Since 1995, Swain has overseen the activities of Archbold, in the northern headwaters of the Everglades near Lake Placid, Fla. She directs the activities of 50 scientists and staff and manages 20,000 acres including pristine scrub habitat and a 3,000-head cattle ranch.
■ Ellin Goetz, Naples
Environmental leader; president, Goetz+Stopes Landscape Architects Inc.
Growing up in New York in the 1960s, Goetz saw a rural landscape with miles of open fields become a concrete jungle of development.
Since then she has been at the forefront of creating open spaces in Collier Country. She is past chairperson of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. She chaired the 2002 Conservation Collier campaign which convinced voters to approve an ad valorem tax to be used to acquire environmentally sensitive lands.
■ Rae Ann Wessel, North Fort Myers
Director, Natural Resource Policy, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation
Wessel managed her own environmental consultant business, Ecosystem Specialists. As natural resource policy director for the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation, she has led the charge against harmful and sometimes unlawful holding back of water in the Caloosahatchee River during drought and releases of too much polluted water post tropical storms.
■ Susan A. Bridges, Bonita Springs
President, Center for the Arts of Bonita Springs
For the past 13 years Bridges has been the creative force behind the Center for the Arts of Bonita Springs, including spearheading a significant capital campaign, the design of new programs, the opening of new buildings (debt-free) on a 10-acre campus and a skyrocketing growth in membership from 300 to nearly 1,700.
■ Reiko Niiya, Fort Myers
Concertmaster, Southwest Florida Symphony Orchestra
For the past 30 years, she has enriched the cultural life of Southwest Florida as the concertmaster for the Southwest Florida Symphony Orchestra. As a freelance musician, she has been concertmaster of six different orchestras and also serves as one of the concertmasters at Wolf Trap.
■ Andrea Clark Brown, Naples
Principal/owner, Andrea Clark Brown Architects, P.A.
Brown has held onto her creative spirit as architect for major civic downtown Naples landmark buildings, They include the Sugden Community Theater, Fifth Avenue Plaza and two municipal parking facilities serving the Naples downtown area. Her recent design of St. Agnes Catholic Church in Naples resulted in the church being named one of Florida’s Best 100 Buildings in 100 Years by the State American Institute of Architects.
■ Marty Valiant, M.D., Labelle
Public Health Officer (ret.) Hendry/Glades
Valiant became the county public health officer for Hendry and Glades counties. In her 30 years there, she handled contaminated water supplies; confined an active case of tuberculosis; immunized patients at child care centers, labor camps and farmworker packing houses; educated two counties about HIV/AIDS; provided OB-GYN care for women and teenage girls with no hospital or clinical resources; and more.
■ Sharon MacDonald, Bonita Springs
Chief Foundation Officer, Lee Memorial Health System Foundation vice president, cancer services, Lee Memorial Regional Cancer Center
MacDonald oversaw the funding and building of a state-of-art regional cancer center and now spearheads the $100 million capital campaign to build the Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida. MacDonald was appointed Chief Foundation officer in 2001.
■ Samira K. Beckwith, Fort Myers
President/CEO, Hope HealthCare Services
For more than 20 years, Beckwith has served as president and CEO of Hope HealthCare Services managing its growth from 100 patients a day to now serving more the 2,000 a day. Under her leadership, Hope has won four national awards for innovative and high-quality patient care.
■ Lalai Hamric, Fort Myers
President/CEO, Family Health Centers of Southwest Florida (retired)
In the late 1960s Lalai Hamric, originally the clerk at what was then known as the Migrant Health Services, retired in 2009 as president and CEO of Family Health Centers of Southwest Florida, with a lifetime career of providing medical care for low-income families. Under her leadership the organization grew from three small outreach clinics to 16 medical offices and six dental offices, including OB/GYN, pediatric and adult/ family medicine in five counties.
■ Gail Markham, Fort Myers
Founding partner, Markham Norton Mosteller Wright & Company, P.A.
She is the founding partner of Markham Norton Mosteller Wright & Company, P.A. Recognized for her business acumen, she has received the Uncommon Friends Foundation Business Ethics Award, Florida Accountant Advocate of the Year, Lee Career Woman of the Year, Collier EDC Best Places to Work and Florida Trend’s Best Companies to Work For. Markham used her energy and passion to co-found the Lee County PACE Center for Girls.
■ Carmen Rey-Gomez, Cape Coral
Director, Hispanic Institute at Hodges University
Rey-Gomez holds a master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Connecticut. Before moving to Southwest Florida 10 years ago, she was a community health interviewer, family educator and an HIV/AIDS mental health provider.
■ Barbara Mainster, Fort Myers
Executive director, Redlands Christian Migrant Association
For the past 40 years, Mainster has been a part of the Redlands Christian Migrant Association. When she came on board, the association whose mission is to serve children of migrant and low-income farm families throughout Florida, had three centers. Today, RCMA has 75 child care centers, in 21 counties, plus two charter schools.
■ Karen Clawson, Naples
Founder and executive director of K is for Kids Foundation
Ten years ago, Clawson volunteered to help in the school library. There she realized a tremendous need for additional books. That’s when her K is for Kids Foundation was born. Ten years later the K is for Kids Foundation has raised enough money to buy thousands of books for schools and libraries, often more than 14,000 books in one six-month period.
■ Veronica Shoemaker, Fort Myers
Civil rights advocate; owner, Shoemaker Florist
The second oldest of 11 children, Shoemaker attended Dunbar High School during the day and organized Parent Teacher Association meetings in the Dunbar schools at night. She fought to desegregate Lee County Schools, In 1982, she won a seat on Fort Myers city council, the first African-American to serve. She has been active in the Dunbar Improvement Association, the Lee County NAACP, the Lee County Food Bank, the Lee County AIDS Task Force, the Lee County Leadership Council and more.
■ Nely Rodriguez, Immokalee
Member, Coalition of Immokalee Workers
Rodriguez has made her life’s work fighting for a fair wage and decent working conditions for farmworkers in Florida. She has been instrumental in bringing higher pay and improved rights to tens of thousands of tomato pickers in Florida. She is a leader of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers Women’s Group which encourages farmworker women to stand up for their rights.
■ Ann Reisner Jacobson, Naples
Chairwoman, Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation of Collier County
Since arriving in Naples 20 years ago, Jacobson has founded the Holocaust Museum of Southwest Florida and served as president of the Jewish Federation of Collier County. She also established the Center for Judaic Holocaust and Human Rights Studies at Florida Gulf Coast University. In the past 10 years, the museum has educated 27,000 schoolchildren and countless more adult visitors.