August 22, 2014

Men and Women of the Year

It's never easy deciding who should join the select legion of individuals who are Gulfshore Life's "Men and Women of the Year." We solicit candidates from throughout Lee and Collier counties, asking business and civic leaders to join us in what is truly a cheerful task. We also call upon our winners from previous years, which now number more than 70. All in all, we had more than 140 nominations this year-talk about a competitive field!

But in the end, 12 people stood out. They represent about as wide a variety of occupations and fields of interest as you could imagine-the hospitality industry, philanthropy, construction and development, media, education and the arts. And from their number we also chose one individual to be the first recipient of our "Lifetime Achievement Award." Join us now in recognizing them not only for being so good at what they do, but for enriching our community.

Kellie Burns

The ebullient 34-year-old anchor for WBBH-TV (NBC) is not only a big hit in the ratings, she's a tireless supporter of civic and charitable organizations.

You can quote me: I think a big part of me is defined by what I do. I don't have a family yet-I would like to someday soon, my biological clock is ticking-so work is my life. I'm lucky enough to have a job where I can make a difference in the com-munity and meet such great people.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? A 14-year-old boy named TJ, my little brother in Big Brothers/Big Sisters. We met six years ago, when he was a little kid taking care of a sick mother. I could offer him guidance and a refuge when he faced difficult situations at home. A little more than a year ago, TJ's mom got sick and I was able to get her in hospice care, while I took care of him at my home. His mom died a few months later, but not before we found TJ a wonderful new home, with two loving parents. Now this frightened, neglected 8 year old is an "A" student with a whole new family.

How would you improve the quality of life in Southwest Florida? I would make sure every woman in Southwest Florida gives herself a monthly self-breast exam, and all woman over 40 get an annual mammogram. Simple things can save the lives of our mothers, daughters and sisters.

Who are your personal heroes? My mother, who worked her way up from humble beginnings, put herself through school while working third shift and raising three children. She gave me the encouragement, the confidence and the love to get me where I am today.

What is your most notable characteristic? Enthusiasm.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I would buy myself some patience.

What are you most afraid of? Missed opportunities.

What gives you the most pleasure in life? My dogs Billie and Cody, and the beach at sunset.

Michael E.Watkins - LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

Grandson of the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club FOUNDER, the 48 year old serves as president of the family business and has overseen some $40 million in additions and renovations at the resort. He has also served as director of more than a dozen civic and charitable organizations.

You can quote me: I have always believed in the importance of giving back to one's community, and that has been the guiding principle of our family business.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? Keeping a Watkins family tradition alive by positioning The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club as a major player in an ever changing business climate.

How would you improve the quality of life in Southwest Florida? Slow down the relentless growth, and shape it with more concern for quality of life issues. Keep the focus on that precarious balance between "nature" and "us."

Who are your personal heroes? Roberto Clemente, the greatest player of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

If you could trade places for a day with another person, who would it be? I like my life and don't desire to trade.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Develop an ability to get everything done on time, including this biographical sketch.

What is your all-time favorite book? "Everyone Poops" [a children's picture book].

What is the one thing people would be surprised to learn about you? I was a math major-one of six in my graduating class at Williams College.

What are you most afraid of?

Amherst defeating Williams in football.

What gives you the most pleasure in life? A good profit margin on the year end.

Describe your perfect day: An early morning departure from Naples on a fishing expedition to the Ten Thousand Islands, then spending the day trying to catch fish.

Jim Rideoutte

As executive director of the Naples Players, this wry 70-year-old native of South Carolina is a guiding light OF the Sugden Theatre.

You can quote me: You only get one crack at this life, so if there is some contribution you want to make or some pleasure you want to enjoy, you better get about it. If you are really lucky, your pleasure and contribution are one and the same.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Translating "The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam" into Swahili.

How would you improve the quality of life in Southwest Florida? Develop a plan for intelligent growth that would maintain those items which attracted most of us here while not violating property rights or bankrupting the country.

If you could trade places for a day with another person, who would it be? I would trade places with Bill Gates because I would then write a check for $10 million to each of the worthwhile organizations here in Naples.

What is the quality you look for most in other people?

Whether they be a saint or a sinner, they must have a sense of humor.

What would you change about yourself? My impatience.

What is your all-time favorite book, film and song? Book: None. Film: Guns of Navarone. Song: "Seventy-Six Trombones."

What are you most afraid of? Boredom.

Describe your perfect day: Have a score of 72 on the golf course in the morning; receive a phone call in the afternoon that a contributor has just donated $1 million to the theater and spend the evening with my wife and friends at dinner and a play at the Sugden Theater.

Edward V.Staros

As vice president and managing director of the Ritz-Carlton, Naples, this veteran HOTELIER has led his properties to worldwide acclaim while finding time

to serve on numerous university advisory boards.

You can quote me: My guiding philosophy is to be the best you can be every day using the principle of trying to create something excellent every day of your life.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? Winning the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards in 1992 and 1999 (the only hotel company ever to win and the only service company to win twice). In my personal life, marrying my wife Patricia and the birth and development of our two children.

How would you improve the quality of life in Southwest Florida? I would dismantle the primitive process of excluding children with special needs in our public schools and segregating them from the typical classroom.

Who are your personal heroes? The original astronauts: Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, John Glenn.

If you could trade places for a day with another person, who would it be? I would like to spend a week in a U.S. space station and develop with NASA the space hotels of the future.

What one thing would you change about yourself? I would like to be able to read, write and converse in Greek, Italian, Japanese, German and French.

Describe your perfect day:

No phone calls, faxes, e-mail, mail or memos, just spending the entire day enriching the lives of those you touch, be it family, friends or total strangers.

Darryl Pottorf

In addition to his growing international acclaim as an artist, the Captiva- based Pottorf supports SEVERAL humanitarian causes and is honorary chair of Arts for ACT (Abuse Counseling Treatment, inc.).

You can quote me: Art is my passion. I am so visually oriented, I sometimes can't hear. My joy comes in the studio-alone, without critics or agendas. The studio is my true lover. For some fortunate reason, I have been able to share this.

How would you improve the quality of life in Southwest Florida? I can't do anything except use my art for worthwhile causes, but my wishes are that people would recognize why they came here, respect it and maintain it.

Who are your personal heroes?

Souls who have the strength to fulfill their dreams.

What is your all-time favorite book, film and song? Book: Homer's "Odyssey." Film: To Kill a Mockingbird. Songs: Billie Holiday's "God Bless the Child," and "You Can't Always Get What You Want," by the Rolling Stones.

What is the one thing people would be surprised to learn about you? I don't like surprises.

What are you most afraid of? Me.

What gives you the most pleasure in life?

Making art, using it to raise funds, traveling the world, cigarettes, Johnnie Walker Black, Iranian caviar and sex at least once every six months.

Describe your perfect day: I would choose my average day-read the paper, make my bed, touch up the house, blow the leaves off the deck, do laundry while doing bills, phone calls until 4 p.m., then go to my studio downstairs, stare, arrange compositions while listening to "All Things Considered." Take a break, go upstairs, fix a Johnnie Walker Black, return and change my mind about what I was playing with and go to work until about 10 p.m. Call Robert Rauschenberg-"What do you want to do for dinner?"-then join him to make dinner, eat, watch a little TV, say goodnight, then return to the studio to work until 4 a.m. Sleep until 10 a.m. and start all over again.

John Gleeson

A 39-year-old Chicago native and vice-PResident of the Brooks for the Bonita Bay Group, Gleeson has helped his development become one of the best-selling and most respected master-planned communities in the country.

You can quote me: I love to laugh. And I love to work with other people. My most rewarding times are when I can positively impact others, whether it is fulfilling our mission at work as a team or raising my children.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? Personally, my greatest achievement is my family. My wife Michelle and I have a strong marriage, and we are blessed with two wonderful sons-Conor and Pierce.

How would you improve the quality of life in Southwest Florida? Improve our transportation infrastructure as soon as possible.

Who are your personal heroes?

Socrates, St. Ignatius Loyola and Coach Vince Lombardi.

If you could trade places for a day with another person, who would it be? Mick Jagger, lead singer for the Rolling Stones.

What is your all-time favorite book, film and song? Book: "Atlas Shrugged," Ayn Rand. Song: "Hot Rocks" album, the Rolling Stones. Film: Rear Window, Alfred Hitchcock.

What is the one thing people would be surprised to learn about you? That I love to cook.

What are you most afraid of? Other than losing the rest of my hair, I have no fears.

Describe your perfect day: First base seats at Wrigley Field when the Chicago Cubs win the World Series.

Barbara Anderson Hill

This first-generation American (her parents were Norwegian) brings a tenacious spirit to her position as executive director/curator of The von Liebig Art Center in Naples.

You can quote me: I am passionate about life in general, and about contemporary art in particular. I am baffled whenever I have to delineate that which is work or that which is play.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? Raising three happy, healthy, well-educated children, all of whom have achieved success not only in their professions but also as parents themselves and as responsible citizens.

How would you improve the quality of life in Southwest Florida? By continuing to bring to Naples exciting, innovative and thought-provoking exhibitions at the von Liebig Art Center.

Who are your personal heroes? The strong, fiercely independent, hardworking and courageous Norwegian women in my family, mostly my mom.

What is your most notable characteristic? Plays well with others.

What is your all-time favorite book, film and song? Book: "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," by Stephen Covey, and "Passages," by Gail Sheehy. Film: Anything by the Coen Brothers especially Fargo. Songs: Gorecki's Third Symphony, Ravel's "Bolero," Metallica's collaboration with the San Francisco Symphony and "Praise You" by Fat Boy Slim.

What is the one thing people would be surprised to learn about you? I am a former Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival Queen.

What are you most afraid of? Wasting life's opportunities.

What gives you the most pleasure in life? The opportunity to live Joseph Campbell's challenge "Follow your Bliss."

Describe your perfect day: Every day is a perfect day when you live it to the fullest. It's an attitude thing!

Mariana Eileen Coto

As a 16-year-old single mother, she promised her father that she would go to college. This spring, Coto, 22 and a native of Costa Rica, became the first graduate of Florida Gulf Coast University.

You can quote me: My dream is to become a family nurse practitioner, while supporting a family of my own. My guiding philosophy is: Don't just make a living, make a life for yourself.

How would you improve the quality of life in Southwest Florida? I wish everyone were required to volunteer so they could see how other people live their lives. I would hope that this opened their eyes so that they would provide more support, love, and funds to individuals less fortunate than themselves.

Who are your personal heroes? My entire family. Without their love and support I could not have ever gotten this far.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I wish I could be stronger in standing up for my beliefs when others put them down.

What are you most afraid of? Growing old alone.

What gives you the most pleasure in life?

My son, Kaci (in photo).

Describe your perfect day: Wake up at 10 a.m. on a Sunday, make a big breakfast and read the paper on the porch while my son plays in the pool. Then go to dinner and catch a movie.

Brian E. Cobb

As chairman and a co-founder of the Naples Winter Wine Festival, this 56-year-old media executive has helped raise millions of dollars to improve life for local children.

You can quote me: I keep looking over my shoulder. God has been very good to me. My hopes for good health, a great family and financial success have all occurred. My desire now is to focus on helping others, especially children.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? The success of the Naples Winter Wine Festival in raising millions of dollars for local children was a great accomplishment for all of us who participated. I am particularly proud of that.

How would you improve the quality of life in Southwest Florida? Continuing to focus my energies in helping less financially fortunate individuals to have an opportunity to participate in a lifestyle that many of us already enjoy.

Who are your personal heroes? Children who shrug off adversity and strive to succeed.

If you could trade places for a day with another person, who would it be? President Bush-in order to understand the opportunities and difficulties of his position.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? More patience with others.

What is your all-time favorite book, film and song? Book: "Catch 22," by Joseph Heller. Film: The Lion in Winter, Song: "Yesterday," by the Beatles.

What is the one thing people would be surprised to learn about you? I'm not laid back.

What are your most afraid of? I am most afraid of my children not taking advantage of all the opportunities that they can to reach their potential.

What gives you the most pleasure in life? Traveling to new places with my wife.

Describe your perfect day:

Eight a.m. mass, fishing in the morning, lunch with family, golf in the afternoon, dinner and wine with my wife, ending with cigars and good friends.

JoAnne M. Kuehner

This Pennsylvania-born philanthropist was a founder of Naples-based Hope for Haiti and regularly visits the Caribbean nation to help its children.

You can quote me: I am happy that I am in a position in my life where I can devote a considerable amount of my time and passion helping to make a better life for the poorest of the poor.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? My four wonderful children and the many lives I have touched.

How would you improve the quality of life in Southwest Florida? Make health care available to the less fortunate.

Who are your personal heroes?

My husband, Carl, and Mother Teresa.

If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?

I wish I wasn't the first in line when they were giving out noses.

What is your all-time favorite book, film and song? Book: "Tuesdays with Morrie." Film: The Sound of Music. Song: The Blue Danube Waltz.

What is the one thing people would be surprised to learn about you? I am a 60-year-old Nana to nine grandchildren.

What are you most afraid of?

Not living up to my responsibilities.

Describe your perfect day:

Sipping coffee with my husband to the sound of chirping birds. Mass at St. Ann's Catholic Church. Work out with personal trainer. Lunch at Bistro Waterside with a contributor who agrees to donate $100,000 to Hope for Haiti. Work a couple of hours at the Hope for Haiti office. Spend a late afternoon with grandchildren and a quiet dinner at Campiello's with my husband, our children and their spouses. Off to the Ritz for dancing.

Fred Pezeshkan

The Iranian-born head of Kraft Construction hammers home his guiding ideals-dedication to family, business and education.

You can quote me: Life is such that, in order to succeed and fulfill your dreams, you need to have the passion to devote yourself to your goals.

How would you improve the quality of life in Southwest Florida? Give our children the best education possible. The higher the standard of education, the higher the standard of living around us will be.

Who are your personal heroes? My father. He taught me patience, honesty and how to set high family values. He also taught me how to enjoy the simple things in life.

If you could trade places for a day with another person, who would it be? I wouldn't trade places with anyone because I am content with myself.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? To be more educated and spend more time increasing my knowledge of the universe.

What is your all-time favorite book, film and song? Book: "The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam," the Persian poet whose collection of poems reflects the meaning of life, love, passsion and simple pleasure of life. Song: Anything by the Beatles. Film: War and Peace.

What are you most afraid of? Growing old before I have fulfilled my dreams.

Describe your perfect day: Breakfast with my family, followed by two hours of competitive tennis with my friend Jack (I would thrash him, of course). Attend a charity or civic meeting; a fruitful business lunch with a new client; negotiating a successful construction contract in the afternoon; a good workout with a trainer; enjoying a delicious meal and great wine with good friends; finishing the evening with a glass of port and a Cuban cigar.

Robert Cacioppo

The 44-year-old president and founder of the Florida Repertory Theatre puts maximum enthusiasm into everything he does-from making a bolognese sauce to directing the latest Pultizer Prize-winning drama.

You can quote me: I feel truly blessed to be able to spend my life doing what I love best-directing.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? At 17 years old, getting Stella Popodapolis, the most beautiful girl in Alexander's department store in Queens, to go out with me. After that, I'd have to say it was starting Florida Repertory Theatre, which has become a world-class theater in just three years.

How would you improve the quality of life in Southwest Florida? Have more bars with gorgonzola cheese-stuffed martini olives and get the county governments to give more money to the arts.

Who are your personal heroes? My father, the most honest man I know.

What is your most notable characteristic? My second-grade teacher said that I was overly enthusiastic. Some things haven't changed in 35 years.

What is the one thing people would be surprised to learn about you? I am quite shy.

Describe your perfect day: My children (Matt, 11, and Julie, 10) kissing me awake. Followed by two hours in the gym. At work by 9:30 to discover a $10,000 donation to Florida Rep, followed by the first rehearsal of a new production. In the evening, a small dinner party for 10-12 close friends in which I do the cooking. The perfect day would end in bed with my wife and a new episode of the "The Sopranos."

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