December 20, 2014

Scene & Heard

THINK TANK COMING

Bring on the brain power. Southwest Florida is renowned for its beautiful beaches and easy lifestyle, but now a high-energy think tank may well put Naples on the map as a stimulating intellectual stopover. Three well-connected, well-financed local guys—Mediterra residents Randy Antik and Tom Everist, along with Bonita Bay’s chairman David Lucas—have formed Searching for Solutions Institute. It’s modeled after places like the Aspen Institute, and its goal as a world-class symposium is to come up with ways to solve social issues. The guys have already pulled off two smart moves—hiring Lynne Groth, former publisher of Gulfshore Life, to run the show and persuading Myra Janco Daniels to host the first three-day seminar at the Phil. It’s scheduled for next year and will bring in some of the world’s finest minds to exchange ideas about healthcare, energy, the environment, ethics and more. Beautiful minds churning away in our paradise … what a great addition to this community.

 

CELEBRITY DAUGHTER

And there’s more news from the Antiks. Proud mom Ronnie Antik of Naples got a busload of her closest friends at Mediterra to cheer on her daughter at the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall on the first weekend of the new year. Iliza Shlesinger, winner of NBC’s The Last Comic Standing, made her local debut there as part of the comedy troupe’s national tour. Rumor has it that Iliza gets her talent from mom, who once wrote a comedy about country club living called Mediterra the Musical. It raised $50,000 for charity—a good exchange of laughs for dollars.

 

A NEW TWIST

In that same spirit, gracious hostess Patty Baker added a different twist to her traditional Christmas party at Royal Poinciana Country Club for about 50 of her girlfriends. Normally, Patty schedules time during the party for a gift exchange. This year, though, the ladies were asked to bring a child’s gift to be donated to needy families. And the mood was definitely festive. “This is the one day in the season that ladies get to enjoy just sitting and having the traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings served to them—they don’t have to cook, set the table, do the dishes or anything,” says Patty. “It’s a day to get to see all my friends in one place and share the year’s stories, events, family news, etc. and totally chill out.” Chill out, yes, but warm feelings all around for this annual gathering.

 

GREAT LINEUP

Politicians. lawyers. heavy-hitting business folks. It was quite a power gathering for a social occasion when Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp and his lovely wife, Cyndie, entertained about 75 guests in their North Fort Myers house just before Christmas. And what a nice setting. Their brick, colonial house near the Caloosahatchee adds the refreshing look of Williamsburg, Va., to the general run of homes down here. The guest list included defense attorney and former Fort Myers Mayor Wilbur Smith and his wife, Marilyn; Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney Doug Malloy with his wife, Cora; real estate moguls Tom and Kerrey Hoolihan; Rep. Gary Aubuchon; and Chico’s executive Cole Peacock with his wife, Rachel (who just launched her line of organic soaps at happybodysoap.com). The Kottkamps get our vote as wonderful hosts and true Floridians. Cyndie is a fourth-generation Floridian, and Jeff graduated from North Fort Myers High School.

 

HELLO, MINORITY LEADER

We got a clout-and-charisma import here when nine-term Republican John Boehner, minority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, celebrated the new year in Naples at the Fiddler’s Creek home of Mike and Alana Quinn. Boehner and the Quinns know each other from back in Cincinnati. A couple of my female sources in attendance tell me Minority Leader Boehner has movie-star good looks. That works for us, and he’ll need all his powers to help America forge ahead in 2009. Also in attendance: former University of Kentucky women’s golf head coach Betty Lou Evans.

 

A STAR RETIRES

A salute to long-time Chico’s CEO Scott Edmonds, who’s retiring after nearly two decades with the Fort Myers-based retailer. Aside from building Chico’s into a national powerhouse in women’s apparel, Scott has been a community-minded, philanthropic impact player here. He created Chico’s Charities, which has donated millions of dollars to local organizations over the years. We treasure his talent and spirit and look forward to him continuing as a force in Southwest Florida charities. Good luck in your retirement, Scott—and remember that we still need you.

 

BIG HEART

And finally, a personal note to a woman with a big heart. Carole Stockard is the long-time general manager of the Saks Fifth Avenue store in the Bell Tower Shops, and I happened to mention that a mutual acquaintance had fallen on hard times after a very public scandal involving a family member. A few hours later, a box from Carole arrived at my office filled with clothing and makeup—a gift for our friend just in time for Christmas. Carole, your spontaneous act of kindness is so you. You’ve spent countless hours donating your time and talents to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Lee Cancer Cares and other causes. This unexpected gift to a woman you just know in passing defines what is best in a community that cares about others. You’re a role model and an inspiration. I can’t say thank you enough for all that.