by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes
photos by SC Assoc. Publisher Chuck Larsen
Numerous community members gathered Saturday, Dec. 4, at the Sanibel Community House to honor retired City Manager Judie Zimomra for her 20 years of service. She began her career with city Sept. 17, 2001 and her last day was Sept. 29.
Zimomra, a native of Newton Falls, Ohio, announced she will be returning to the Buckeye state to teach at her alma mater Ohio State University. She begins her position Jan. 12 with the John Glenn College of Public Affairs, a public policy and management school at OSU.
She was also recently elected to the Friends of the Mahoning River Board of Directors. It’s dedicated to improving the water quality of the river, located primarily in northeastern Ohio. And her hometown is one of two communities for which their water supply is obtained directly from the Mahoning River.
“I still have ties (to Sanibel) and will always love it,” she said. In her speech, Zimomra spoke of the things that makes the island a special community – the people, the organizations, the school and the Sanibel Plan. She said the question to be asked is, as great as we are, how can we be better, more compassionate.
Zimomra was presented a proclamation for her two decades of extraordinary leadership. She served as city manager under seven mayors and 20 city council council members throughout her tenure.
She was responsible for approximately $30 million in bed tax coming back to Sanibel for beach funding and shoreline stabilization, including $20 million for beach facility maintenance and $10 million in capital improvement projects at city and county parks.
Zimomra obtained more than $35.8 million in grants over the past decade to reduce the tax burden on island property owners. And she was responsible for overseeing the completion of the $73 million Donax Sanitary Sewer System and effluent reuse water system.
She was instrumental in guiding the city through post-storm restoration efforts and weathered 20 hurricane seasons with 79 storms aimed at the State of Florida, including Hurricane Charley in 2004, Hurricane Wilma in 2005 and Hurricane Irma in 2017.
Zimomra played an integral role in the continued battle with the economic crisis caused by red tide events, blue-green algae and the long-term effects from COVID-19.
But she gave most of the credit for her success to the city staff. “No city manager can succeed without them,” she said.
Zimomra was awarded several accolades throughout the past 20 years and proud to have established the employee dependent scholarship program – now named in her honor – in 2005. Since its inception, 82 scholarships have been awarded.
FISH of SanCap President & CEO Maggi Fiener, CHR Executive Director Melissa Rice, former Mayor Kevin Ruane and former city intern Dana Congress shared how Zimomra positively impacted their life, the lives of others and the city as a whole.
“All we can say is ‘thank you’ Judie,” said former Mayor and Councilman Marty Harrity, who emceed the evening.
The Friends of Judie Committee, a group of island businesses, organizations and private citizens, planned the evening. And many island restaurants supplied appetizers and refreshment which were served outdoors following the program.
Judie is a gifted executive and an exceptional person. She made each of us feel as though we were her best friend. Those qualities and a host of others distinguish her from all the rest. We all wish her God Speed and and best of success. Thank you, Judie !