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The Sanibel City Council elections coming up on March 7th are important. At this time in our history, we need strong leadership more than ever to help our community rebuild and to stay true to the values and the sustainability principles on which Sanibel was founded.
Vice-Mayor Richard Johnson has a strong track record of demonstrating the kind of leadership our community needs.
Like many, I first met Richard while shopping in his store, Bailey’s General Store, an iconic business here on Sanibel. In the times since, I have witnessed on many occasions Richard’s and his family’s commitment to this community. He has provided leadership to our Community Housing Resources to help support a more diverse community where people who work here can also live here. He has provided leadership to the business community through his involvement with the Chamber of Commerce. And the community causes he has supported through the years are too numerous to name.
Richard has also brought his strengths to his work as a City Council member. Unlike other candidates whose approach can be to sow divisiveness, Vice Mayor Johnson is skilled at working in a collaborative manner on council and with city leadership. That has contributed to the fact that we have a well-functioning council that values diversity of thought and alternative approaches. He considers multiple perspectives and seeks to be a consensus builder to solve problems and take action.
An example has been his focus on clean water, an objective he has pursued for some time. Most recently, along with other members of our council, Vice Mayor Johnson lobbied successfully to oppose Senate Bill 2508 that would have largely undone the water quality successes we have achieved over the past four years. He was in Tallahassee for the surprise meeting for this conforming bill that was going to slip through without notice. However, he and others did notice, and he was one of several that was able to testify before the committee. While this did pass out of committee and the legislature, Gov. DeSantis heard the voices of our community through Vice Mayor Johnson and others and vetoed this bad bill. Richard has also advocated for a collaboration between Sanibel, Captiva, and Lee County to provide an alternative to septic tanks on Captiva. This work continues today.
As a prominent business owner in our community, he is invested in the economic success of Sanibel. At the same time, he has been an outspoken advocate of linking our economy and our environment. He understands that the two are intrinsically tied together. Our tourism economy and our residents’ quality of life depend on clean water for our estuary, not just to sustain but to restore our bay back to the thriving ecosystem that it was in the past before nutrient pollution and salinity imbalances that have destroyed the vegetation of this critical habitat. To achieve that goal, Richard is continually working with the South Florida Water Management District, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Lee County, and our local delegation to not only sustain our environment but continue to move the needle back in balance with all stakeholders.
As the Co-chair of the Sanibel-Captiva Renewable Energy Working Group, I have worked with Richard to advocate for clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency to add to our island’s sustainability and reduce energy costs for taxpayers. I have seen how Richard has been a passionate supporter of renewable energy and led by example in his business life. I have also seen him successfully engaged our City Manager to explore options for renewable energy and energy efficiency into city planning efforts.
Richard Johnson’s tenure on the City Council has spanned a number of significant challenges including red tide and massive fish kills on our shores, the Covid-19 pandemic, and most recently Hurricane Ian. Through all of these challenges, he has worked hard to make balanced decisions at a council level that are in the best interest of all of our community. I encourage you to vote for him and give him the opportunity to continue to do so for the next four years.