COTI President Jim Beauchamp addresses the crowd. Photo by Christopher Koerner
COTI President Jim Beauchamp addresses the crowd. Photo by Christopher Koerner

Committee of the Islands celebrated its 40th Anniversary Jan. 14 with more than 300 islanders at the Sanibel Community House. Dancing, food and fellowship were all part of the evening. 

The turnout was very gratifying and, we believe, an indicator of the degree to which support for COTI has grown in recent years,” said Mike Gillespie, Community Outreach Chair. The organization grew its membership by more than 40 percent in 2014 and more than 1,000 individuals receive its Sanibel e-News – nearly the equivalent of 1 in 6 residents. 

Throughout the past century, there have been numerous individuals who created the community of Sanibel Island. These citizens paved the way for the formation of the City and the creation of a truly unique place to live, work and visit. “Sanibel's success is a result of talents, work and dedication by the thousands of volunteers,” said COTI President Jim Beauchamp. 

Every organization and the city government depend on the efforts and skills of these people,” Beauchamp said. One such lady was recognized for her decades of dedication to the community and important causes – Milena Eskew. She was one of three incorporators of COTI, a founding board member, secretary and later the first female president of COTI. 

Before COTI existed, Milena was on the board of Sanibel Tomorrow, the group which worked so hard to incorporate Sanibel as a city in 1974,” said COTI Past President Barbara Joy Cooley. “Back then she was also on the Sanibel Planning Board. Milena volunteered tirelessly for several other important Sanibel organizations, too, and we were honored to have her with us at the 40th Anniversary Party.”

COTI has a unique role on Sanibel, as a group of residents, property owners and seasonal visitors, to advocate for and promote the Sanibel Vision and Sanibel Plan. It is truly a volunteer organization with no full-time staff and a special ability, as a civic advocate, to ensure effective government, protect the wildlife and habitat, as well as a harmonious small town atmosphere. 

As a result, progress on several key issues was made in 2014: Revisions to the Land Development Code for ground rules on redevelopment of aging structures in the resort housing district; Restricted use of commercial buses on the island; Tighter restrictions on new tour buses; Continuing the fight against unsupervised use of Segways at the state level; and a permitting process for floating docks. 

We have all worked together to make Sanibel Special for 40 years,” Beauchamp said. “Let us all work together to Keep Sanibel Special for the next 40 years.” 

COTI's new year begins March 13 with its annual meeting at 9:30 a.m. at the Sanibel Community House. The public is invited.

Learn more about COTI at its website, where you can also sign up for the Sanibel e-News. Follow COTI on Facebook.