COTI Names Citizen of the Year At Annual Meeting

provided to The Santiva Chronicle

Sanibel City Manager Dana Souza, COTI’s Citizen of the Year (2nd from right), with (from left) City Council member Holly Smith; Mayor Richard Johnson; and Vice Mayor Mike Miller.

City Manager Dana Souza was named Citizen of the Year by Committee of the Islands (COTI) at their annual meeting on Thursday, March 30, at the Captiva Yacht Club.

COTI President Larry Schopp, in presenting the award, noted that Souza was “the person who reassured us that we’ll get through this, who laid out the recovery plan in detail; who brought in the experts from the state, FEMA, and LCEC; and who directed our superb police and public works teams as they did their part on the ground.” Schopp added, “He had only been with us for a year. With the benefit of hindsight, our City Council could not have made a better choice.”

Souza, in his now familiar and gracious form, accepted the award on behalf of all the city employees who worked so hard to help residents and businesses begin to recover from almost unfathomable destruction across the island.

“This is really an honor coming from an organization dedicated to preserving the quality of life here,” Souza said.

Mayor Richard Johnson, Vice Mayor Mike Miller, and council member and former mayor Holly Smith joined the honoree for the event.

COTI, celebrating its 48th anniversary as an advocate and protector of Sanibel’s sanctuary island status, hosted an hour-long conversation with members looking ahead to how the islands can repair and strengthen in the face of continued climate risks.

COTI’s board at the 2023 annual meeting: (front row, l to r) Bill Millar, Miriam Pepper, President Larry Schopp, Ellen Smiley; (back row, l to r) Ed Holden, Allan Antley, Barbara Joy Cooley Jon Gustafson, Jeff Blackman, and Sarah Peck. Not pictureD is Carol Gestwicki.

COTI is partnering with the newly formed SanCap Citizens for a Resilient Future, joining other prominent nonprofits to help plot a more resilient future that respects the island’s history and strengthens its natural and built environments.

Schopp was honored by the COTI board for his lengthy and devoted service. He will continue as president of COTI for the coming year. Barbara Joy Cooley, who rejoined the board, will serve as vice president, along with Treasurer Chet Sadler and Secretary Jeff Blackman. Serving first terms are Allan Antley and Bill Millar. Ed Holden was re-elected to a new term. Board members continuing their terms are Sarah Peck, Ellen Smiley, Miriam Pepper, Jon Gustafson, and Carol Gestwicki.

COTI welcomes comments from and participation by the community. Information and membership forms are available at

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