Government Day provided an interesting, relevant and thought-provoking exploration of issues facing our community. Class members engaged leaders of government at all levels and were encouraged to explore civic opportunities where they might make a difference.
The day began at Naples City Hall Council Chambers with an overview of Federal, State, County and Local Government provided by Sandy Parker (GNL Class X), Chair, Government Committee, Collier County League of Women Voters. Session II focused on the City of Naples, Issues and Priorities; it was moderated by Brent Batten, Columnist with the Naples Daily News. The panel members were Bill Barnett, Naples Mayor, and Bill Moss, Naples City Manager.
Next we considered key issues for County Government; Alan Horton, former Editor of the Naples Daily News, moderated; the panel included Dudley Goodlette, Chairman of the Board of FGCU and former member of the Florida House of Representatives; Jim Colette, former Collier County Commissioner and Leo Ochs, Collier County Manager. The panel discussed affordable housing/transportation, whether Collier County should have a county charter, and land use issues.
Session IV focused on local law enforcement; it was moderated by Melissa McClayton, Class XX, Session Day Team member. Panel members included Tom Weschler, Police Chief, City of Naples, Kevin Rambosk, Sheriff, Collier County, and Al Schettino, Police Chief, Marco Island. Topics were Southwest Florida disaster and terrorism preparation, volunteer opportunities in law enforcement, and the Crisis Intervention Team. Suzan Bergland, Program Co-Chair, facilitated presentations of Class XXI experiences on the Sheriff Ride-Along.
The day continued at the Naples Botanical Garden; lunch and afternoon activities were held in Buehler Auditorium. Lunch speaker was the Honorable Michael T. McHugh, Chief Judge of the 20th Judicial Circuit Court for Lee, Charlotte, Collier, Glades and Hendry counties. He described the court system and answered a broad array of questions from class members.
Session V, Your Government at Work, was moderated by Dr. Robert E. Lee, Assistant Professor, Department of Public Affairs at FGCU. Several levels of government were represented. The Panel included Mario Diaz-Balart, US Representative, Florida’s 25th District, Ray Rodrigues, Majority Leader of the Florida House of Representatives, Peter Antonacci, Executive Director of the South Florida Water Management District, and Penny Taylor, Chair, Collier County Board of Commissioners. They discussed: South Florida water management issues, Collier County’s low spending on social services, and opportunities for Southwest Florida when/if Cuba opens up.
The final Session, Effective Advocacy – Real People – Real Stories of Action – GNL Alums Making a Difference was moderated by Jerry Godshaw, Class XX, Session Day Team member. Panel members included David Trecker, Collier Citizens Council, Linda Penniman (GNL Class VII), Naples Vice Mayor, Member, Naples Planning Advisory Board and Collier County Coastal Advisory Committee, and Thomas McCann (GNL Class IX) Member, Collier County Coastal Advisory Committee and Naples Planning Advisory Board. They provided excellent models of ways to contribute and encouragement to stay connected with GNL members over the years.