Sanibel City Manager Heads to Retirement

By Santiva Chronicle Reporter Reese Holiday

For Judith Zimomra, her final month as Sanibel’s city manager will be more like a race than a leisurely walk.

The main goal is the finish line in sight, but her focus is on the effort she and the city put forth with every step in order to get there.

“I want to finish with a sprint, not a stroll,” Zimomra said.

The finish line comes on Sept. 24, Zimomra’s last day on the job. However, the beginning of her race as city manager started 20 years prior in 2001, placing her as the longest serving city manager in Southwest Florida.

During that time, Zimomra helped with the recoveries of Hurricanes Charley and Wilma, obtained more than $35.8 million dollars in grants over the past decade to reduce the tax burden on local property owners and oversaw the completion of a $73 million sanitary sewer and effluent reuse system, according to her biography.

Zimomra said the city’s number one priority in serving Sanibel is keeping the people, community and environment of the island safe.

“Safety of a person, their family and their property are almost everybody’s top priority in life,” Zimomra said. “If you can provide a safe community, that’s the number one goal every day.”

This mentality has rewarded the city and Zimomra handsomely as both have received numerous accomplishments for their hard work during the city manager’s tenure.

Zimomra was named the “Public Official of the Year” in 2012 by the Fort Myers News-Press, elected onto the Florida City and County Manager’s Association Board of Directors for a two year term in 2012 as District VI Director and was named among “100 Buckeyes You Should Know” in 2011 by her alma mater Ohio State University.

The city as a whole was also recognized under Zimomra’s management, receiving the title of “Best Managed City” in Southwest Florida by Florida Weekly, as well as receiving two Program Excellence Awards from the FCCMA.

But while Zimomra said it was important to focus on the accomplishments she and the city have received, she also wants to think about ways the island can be better every day.

“I like to focus on how we can continue to improve,” Zimomra said. “Every day when I go home, I try to re-evaluate. What could you have done better today? What could you improve tomorrow? How can we be a better community? It’s good to say what did we do well over 20 years, but I’d rather focus on where we can still improve.”

It’s this constant craving for improvement that has kept Sanibel one of the most well-run cities in the region and Zimomra as a respected city manager by residents and business owners.

Albert Hanser, founder and chairman of the Sanibel Captiva Trust Company, has been on the island for about 25 years, watching and working with Zimomra during her tenure.

It was there that Hanser got to experience Zimomra’s work up close, calling her nothing but a professional, class act.

“Judie is a most remarkable leader,” Hanser said via email. “She managed the City of Sanibel with integrity and wisdom, professional in every respect. It has been a privilege to have worked with her and I am proud to be her friend.”

Looking back at her service to the island, Zimomra was reluctant to say whether her time as city manager has been a success or not. She said that wasn’t for her to decide.

However, she did say one of her favorite parts of the job was serving and providing the people of Sanibel with what they need in order to live a quality life in the island’s paradise.

“It’s the fact that every day you work on the quality of life for the citizens of the community,” Zimomra said.

In terms of finding a successor, Sanibel City Council unanimously chose Colin Baenziger & Associates as the search firm to find the next city manager. The firm was chosen out of two that presented their services to council during a June 15 meeting.

According to his presentation, Baenziger has 23 years of experience in recruiting city managers or administrators and has an email list of over 14,000 professionals. After his presentation, councilmembers were impressed and chose Baenziger even though his firm’s services were the more expensive option.

While the search process for a new city manager proceeds, Zimomra will continue to serve Sanibel until her final day on the job. Her plans after that is concluded are still unknown, saying she’ll figure it out once she gets there.

For now, her focus remains on the final leg of the race ahead.

Comments (2)

  1. Ms. Zimomra
    Thank you for helping Sanibel be Sanibel. You will be miss but very glad you will be able to live another dream in life. Enjoy retirement!

    Bob Fodor

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