July 23, 2014

Men & Women of the Year

Fourth row: Gary Sandor, Ed Carlson; Third row: Kim Long, John R. Wood, Mary Susan Gallien-Clinton, Paul Pass; Second row: Lois Thome, Ben Hill Griffin III, D.T. Minich, Wayne Daltry; First row: Clotilde Otranto and Janet Watermeier

What a place we live in! Time magazine scours the globe and comes up with just one Man or Woman of the Year. Here on the Gulfshore, we found a dozen.

And there were many more contenders among the scores of nominees proposed by the insiders, opinion makers and past honorees we queried. The hardest part was sifting through the ranks of outstanding candidates.

But sift we did. We found that despite their diverse backgrounds, interests and occupations, winners had more than a little in common. They shared not only remarkable success in their private pursuits, but healthy interest and influence in the public sphere.

Many of our terrific 12 had voted with their feet for the Gulfshore by moving here from somewhere else. As a group they seem determined to preserve the good things that brought them here-balancing a healthy environment with a vibrant economy. We can't imagine a dozen men and women better suited to that tough task.

D.T. Minich

Tourism tanked across the nation with the onslaught of a recession and an unconventional war against terrorism, but the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau's executive director stayed the course with an aggressive advertising and marketing campaign to avert what could have been a local economic disaster.

Born Nov. 22, 1963, Tucson, Arizona.

Best trait: Common sense.

Worst trait: Procrastination.

Personal heroes:

Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter, who have dedicated their retirement years to making this a better world. The Carter legacy of compassion and caring will live on for many years.

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

I would like to have more patience.

Quality you most admire in others:

Dedication. I truly admire the dedication of people like Eve Haverfield, president of Turtle Time, who lives and breathes to protect our sea turtles.

What artwork has made the biggest impression on you?

The work of Monet, Van Gogh and other Impressionists, and of Picasso. They were not afraid to look at the world in an entirely new way, and were not intimidated as to whether somebody liked their work or not.

If you could do one thing to improve the region, what would it be?

We need an art-house theater for independent, foreign and film-festival movies.

If you could give newcomers one piece of advice, what would it be?

Bring lots of bug spray and sunscreen!

Wayne E. Daltry

The sagacious, longtime executive director of the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council was widely acclaimed as a smart choice when he was appointed director of Lee County's Smart Growth department last year. He'll need that broad support and more as he tackles one of the county's most pressing issues-how to grow well rather than wildly in order to retain the allure that draws visitors and new residents in the first place.

Born Dec. 8, 1947, Fort Knox, Kentucky.

How did you choose your calling?

Rapid growth affected my home and I wanted to do better by it.

Best trait:

A preference for "rightness" by public agencies, and the energy to pursue it.

Worst trait:

Obtuseness when it comes to the needs of others.

Personal hero:

Abraham Lincoln. He died for our sins.

Quality you most admire in others:

Commitment.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

That when I worked in the circus at age 18, I was not Jo-Jo the Dog-Faced Boy. I was the barker.

Favorite spot here:

My recliner. And the Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium.

If you could do one thing to improve the region, what would it be?

A voter turnout drive every election day.

If you could give newcomers one piece of advice, what would it be?

Join as many diverse civic, social, political, religious, environmental and business groups as you can and remember the names of the people you meet. Southwest Florida life is a bouillabaisse, and these are the spices that make it worth living.

Clotilde Otranto

Resident conductor of the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra since September 1999, this Brazilian-born former ballerina and concert pianist (who also holds a law degree) has added zest to classical music in Naples. She's also been devoting time to the young musicians who make up the Naples Youth Symphony in hopes of making it one of the best in the nation.

Born May 8, "some time in the past century," São Paulo, Brazil.

How did you choose your calling?

I did not choose; it happened little by little. I have always loved music, body language and people. I also have a very patient husband. It is not easy being married to a maestro.

Most important achievement:

Acquiring American citizenship this year. I love and respect this country and its people.

Best trait:

I am a woman of my word-a straight shooter.

Worst trait:

Anybody can read me. I am as transparent as Casper.

Personal hero:

The common man with good moral standards who can pass on his ethics anonymously with his smile, warmth, wisdom and simplicity.

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

I wish I could adapt my Brazilian/Italian dramatic and expressive nature to American standards.

Quality you most admire in others:

Relaxed optimism.

Quality you most dislike in others:

Wickedness.

What film has made the biggest impression on you?

Two movies, mainly because of the way they portray innocent children facing rough times: Life Is Beautiful and Central Station.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

That I love music by pop groups like Genesis, the Police, Abba and Chicago.

What's your favorite spot here?

The beaches of Naples. A glass of wine and a sunset help a lot.

Describe your perfect day:

A brisk walk to the beach, some sailing or swimming, lots of musical score studying, a movie, a soft prayer, a great concert at night, a Hungarian pastry between activities, a little dancing, and a dream that I am flying when I go to sleep.

Kim Cliett Long

This determined volunteer board member of the Fun Time Child Development Center in the predominantly black River Park neighborhood of Naples has led the charge to move the nursery forward from its current location in a cramped, funky trailer with ambitious plans for a cheery new 15,000-square-foot center.

Born Dec. 10, 1960, Macon, Georgia.

Most important achievement:

Becoming the mother of two beautiful, high-achieving, well-adjusted daughters.

Best trait:

Being high-maintenance.

Worst trait:

Being high-maintenance.

Personal hero:

The combined influence of the women from the maternal side of my family. Their independent spirits, dignity, fortitude, intuitiveness and practical knowledge molded me into the person that I am today.

What book influenced you most?

The Prayer of Jabez, because it confirmed what was already in me but undiscovered.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

That I am shy.

What keeps you up at night?

Certainly not what I wish was keeping me up.

Describe your perfect day:

Shopping until I drop!

If you could give newcomers one piece of advice, what would it be?

Avoid me at all costs, because they will get recruited to volunteer for something.

Gary M. Sandor

His father quit school in the sixth grade to work in a coal mine, and his mother dropped out after ninth grade. But this senior vice president of The Bonita Bay Group earned a master's degree in urban studies and went on to work on luxury developments such as the Vintage Club in Indian Wells, California, Fisher Island in Miami, and Bonita Bay's high-end projects in Collier and Lee counties. Helped along by others when he was young, he's now giving back, pitching in with Habitat for Humanity and the board of directors of the Art League of Bonita Springs, among others.

Born March 11, 1946, Cleveland, Ohio.

Best trait:

Intensity and passion for the things I commit myself to.

Worst trait:

Impatience.

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

My age and physical condition. I genuinely miss the competition and both the physical and mental intensity of playing competitive rugby and football for so many years.

Unfulfilled dream:

To experience the art, architecture, religions and heritage of ancient cultures. Next stop: Greece, Turkey and Jordan.

Quality you most admire in others:

A great sense of humor, especially regarding oneself.

Quality you most dislike in others.

Dishonesty.

What artwork made the biggest impression on you?

Picasso's Guernica. I will never forget the first time I ever saw the actual painting in New York. The power. The passion. The ultimate portrayal of man's cruelty toward his fellow man.

Describe your perfect day:

Being on the water at daybreak off the North Drop off St. Thomas, or the LaGuaira Bank off Venezuela, or the Great Barrier Reef off Australia, or the Ten Thousand Islands right here in our own back yard, filling all but one species of a grand slam by early afternoon and having the rest of the day to hunt that last, elusive fish.

If you could do anything to change the region, what would it be?

Provide a system to allow for sustainable, intelligent, quality growth.

Paul D. Pass

This longtime civic activist in hyper-fast-growing Bonita Springs became the newly incorporated city's first mayor in 2000 and has played a key role in carefully navigating the town's tricky transition from sleepy backwater burg to luxurious Lee-Collier crossroads.

Born Dec. 26, 1953, Noblesville, Indiana.

Best trait:

Not taking myself too seriously, remaining calm in the midst of chaos, and keeping a good sense of humor.

Worst trait:

I cannot turn down chocolate.

Personal hero:

My wife, Pam, the hardest-working person I've ever met. She is 100-percent substance and 0-percent fluff.

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

My waistline.

Quality you admire most in others:

Honesty, forthrightness and a healthy dose of humor.

Quality you dislike most in others:

Whiners. People who only complain, but won't participate to help find a solution.

What keeps you up at night?

Projects we are working on or should be working on.

If you could do one thing to improve the region, what would it be?

Eight-lane I-75 immediately!

If you could give newcomers one piece of advice, what would it be?

Buy property. It's not getting any cheaper. Register to vote and exercise that right every time you can.

Lois Thome

This WINK-TV news anchor, lauded for her professionalism, sincerity and warmth, has won respect along the Gulfshore for putting her heart and soul into spotlighting local schools and their potential for curing many of society's ills in her ongoing "Eye on Education" series.

Born Dec. 29, 1964, Chilton, Wisconsin.

How did you choose your calling?

I didn't choose my career. It chose me. I went to college with dreams of becoming a dentist, but after four semesters of science, it lost its appeal.

Most important achievement:

My marriage. It requires hard work and lots of compromise, but having my husband tell me he loves me fuels me like nothing else in life.

Best trait:

I care-about the work I do, the kind of wife I am, and most important, the type of person I am.

Worst trait:

Sometimes I have a hard time admitting I am wrong.

Personal hero:

My parents. They are honest, loving and faith-filled.

Unfulfilled dream:

To be a mother.

Quality you most admire in others:

Honesty. In this cutthroat world, so many people have blurred the edges of what is truth and what is a lie.

What book made the biggest impression on you?

This Present Darkness, by Frank Peretti. When you work in television, sometimes life is blown out of proportion. You're constantly at risk of thinking you're more important than you are. This book reminded me that humility and faith are two things you need if you want to feel truly content.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I am a farm girl. When I worked at a CBS affiliate in Green Bay, Wisconsin, I used to anchor the morning news, then drive to the farm to help my dad bale hay.

What's your favorite spot here?

Captiva Island. One good sunset will cure all that ails you.

If you could do one thing to improve the region, what would it be?

Even out the haves and have-nots. Too many people in this world struggle for just the basics in life.

If you could give newcomers one piece of advice, what would it be?

Always leave 10 minutes early. Nothing is more frustrating than to be late for something because of the heavy season traffic.

Ed Carlson

Founding member of the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed Land and Water Trust, South Florida area manager for the National Audubon Society, and director of the 11,000-acre Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, he simply describes himself as a swamp rat. His greatest accomplishment may have been completing a six-year project to build new visitor facilities that showcase the natural beauty, rare wildlife and crucial environmental importance of this stretch of old-growth cypress and wetlands northeast of Naples.

Born March 9, 1950, Jamestown, New York.

Best trait:

Horse sense.

Worst trait:

Hopeless optimism.

Unfulfilled dream:

To write a classic book about the deep, magical connection of human life and nature.

Quality you admire most in others:

Compassion.

Quality you dislike most in others:

Indifference.

What saying made the biggest impression on you?

"Know you're right, then go ahead." Daniel Boone's advice reminds me to think before I act.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

That I prefer colder climates.

What is your favorite spot here?

The giant cypress forest at Corkscrew.

If you could do one thing to improve the region, what would it be?

De-beak the mosquitoes.

If you could give newcomers one piece of advice, what would it be?

Don't take the natural beauty here for granted. Actively protect it!

Mary Susan Gallien-Clinton

Chairman and founder of two companies-a wildlife documentary firm called Gallien Global Vision and Renaitre.Com Clinical Skin Care-Gallien-Clinton wasn't content to rest on her business laurels, but helped organize two of Naples' most popular charitable events. The Community School of Naples' Angel Ball has raised more than $425,000 in financial aid for students, and the Naples Winter Wine Festival, the second biggest affair of its kind in the nation, has brought in millions of dollars for philanthropies in Collier County.

Born Jan. 29, 1962, Savannah, Tennessee.

Best trait:

Versatility.

Worst trait:

A tie between always being late, and spontaneity.

Unfulfilled dream:

To be on this planet to love, ensure a sense of morality in, and give sustenance to my sons through their adulthood.

Quality you most admire in others:

Genuine friendship. It is rare.

Quality you most dislike in others:

Superficial friendship. Unfortunately, it is prevalent.

What book made the biggest impression on you:

The Bible. It is my first reading every morning.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I own and drive a big, green John Deere tractor (of course, it has air conditioning and a CD player), and I am a notable Southern soul-food cook.

Favorite spot here:

The unmitigated nostalgia of Old Naples. It is surreal.

If you could do one thing to improve the region, what would it be?

Slow all expansion so we could avoid becoming more densely populated. Population is required to support much of what we enjoy about our area, but there is a point where there are diminishing returns.

John R. Wood

Founder and chairman of the board of John R. Wood Realty, one of Naples' premier property purveyors, Wood is the dean of local realtors and a past president of the National Association of Realtors and two-term president of the Naples Board of Realtors. He's donated his expertise in housing and administration to a good cause as president of St. Matthew's House, a shelter that helps put local homeless back on their feet.

Born Sept. 17, 1929, Star City, Arkansas.

Best trait:

I love people, particularly children.

Worst trait:

Insufficient self-discipline.

Personal hero:

Gandhi. He was able to free his nation with strong convictions, self-sacrifice, spiritual beliefs and non-violence. And he loved the poor, the downtrodden, the sick and suffering of the world.

Quality you most admire in others:

Those who have respect and love for all others, no matter their status, race, creed, color or religion.

Quality you dislike most in others:

Lack of respect for those who cannot help them in any way.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

That I am really only 47 years old and that Phillip Wood and I are identical twins.

What keeps you up at night?

Jennifer Lopez (J. Lo) movies on TV.

If you could do one thing to improve the region, what would it be?

The number-one problem that Southwest Florida has is traffic caused by lack of connecting roads both east-west and north-south. I would do my best to get all government agencies to provide for such connector roads. This would mean that new subdivisions would have to be platted in a manner that would not block east-west and north-south roads.

If you could give newcomers one piece of advice, what would it be?

Accept the fact that Southwest Florida, particularly the greater Naples area, will continue to grow whether we like it or not. Recognize and accept that about 99 percent of the residents and business community want the same goal-to have the highest quality of life for a community that is now known all over the world.

Ben Hill Griffin III

Scion of a powerful Florida ranching and citrus family, this CEO and chairman of one of the Gulfshore's top publicly traded corporations planted the seed for the region's first state university, Florida Gulf Coast University, with a gift of 760 acres of prime land and millions of dollars-a long-term commitment to the Gulfshore's economic, intellectual and athletic future.

Born March 3, 1942, Lake Wales, Florida.

Best trait:

I like to make decisions.

Worst trait:

Staying at my desk too long.

Personal hero:

My father, Ben Hill Griffin Jr. He had strong perseverance.

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

Remember names better.

Still-unfulfilled dream:

Airplane pilot. I love to fly.

Quality you most admire in others:

Honesty.

Quality you most dislike in others:

Not being themselves.

What writing made the biggest impression on you?

A Message to Garcia, because it told of being dependable.

If you could give newcomers one piece of advice, what would it be?

Buy land now.

Janet Watermeier

A veteran of the public and private sectors, Lee County Economic Development's executive director was the first female vice president at Westinghouse Communities (a forerunner of premier local homebuilder WCI Communities) and helped forge Lee County's two economic development councils into one. She's using her business and government savvy to wean the county from its dependence on tourism and help develop a more mature, diverse economy.

Born April 11, 1952, Buffalo, New York.

Best trait:

The ability to view a situation from both sides.

Worst trait:

Impatience.

Personal hero:

My mother. She inspires me to live my life with integrity, trying to do the best I can at whatever I choose to do, and is always there to help pick up the pieces when I fall apart.

Quality you most admire in others:

Professionalism and integrity.

Quality you most dislike in others:

Superficiality and lack of integrity.

What saying has made the biggest impression on you?

"Press on!" Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.

Favorite spot here?

The Caloosahatchee in Southwest Florida at sunset.

If you could do one thing to improve the region, what would it be?

Help develop a strong research and technology base for Southwest Florida and Florida Gulf Coast University.

If you could give newcomers one piece of advice, what would it be?

Get involved in the community. This is a welcoming town that doesn't care where you came from, only what you do once you get here.

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