After 10 years as guest speaker at the first chamber business luncheon of the year at Sanibel Rec Center, Mayor Kevin Ruane told gathered members of the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber Of Commerce on Wednesday, Jan. 15, that “this is the last time I’ll be speaking here,” adding that he would be ending his city council term in November to pursue election to the Lee Board of County Commissioners.
The city of Sanibel hosted the January meeting, with a number of employees and council members in attendance. Mayor Ruane spoke about the council’s three-pronged priority plan and the progress being made on issues concerning water quality, city finances, and redevelopment.
On water quality, he spoke both as mayor and as president of the Florida League of Mayors Board of Directors, the latter of which, he said, has elected the issue as its highest priority. Both the city and league work at the local, state, and federal levels to stem the negative impact of sewer systems, fertilizers, and storm-water runoff.
Locally, the forthcoming implementation of a Donax Street water reprocessing facility is one big step the city is taking. He pointed to the project as proof of the city’s financial health, thanks to its rapidly decreasing debt in the past decade. The planned Center 4 Life relocation to the former Sanibel Captiva Community Bank and a renovation of police headquarters stand as more evidence, the mayor said.
“We are able to do all of this without an impact to taxpayers because we are retiring our outstanding debt at $4 million a year,” said Ruane.
The city’s biggest goal in the redevelopment category is aggressively addressing the challenge of short-term rentals such as Airbnbs, where tourists are not contributing to bed taxes and might be staying in non-commercial residential areas. Council members are advocating at the state level to defeat bills that contradict their goal, he said.
“Once again, Mayor Ruane delivered a no-nonsense, business-focused overview of what our city has been accomplishing,” said John Lai, chamber president and chief executive office. “Although we are happy to hear he is taking his financial expertise to the next government level, we will miss his annual ‘state of the city’ addresses.”
Ruane was appointed to the Sanibel City Council to serve an interim position for a vacant seat in February 2007. In May 2007, he successfully ran for a permanent position on Sanibel City Council. He was re-elected in March 2009 and appointed by his peers as vice mayor for 2009-2010. In March 2010, Ruane’s peers appointed him as mayor. He is currently serving his 10th consecutive term as mayor.
Lai also announced upcoming trips to Tallahassee, where he and fellow chamber members will be advocating for water quality and the re-establishment of state tourism agency Visit Florida. “If you can, come along,” he said. “But if you can’t, know that your interests will be well-represented.”
The next Chamber Business Lunch takes place on Wednesday, Feb. 12, at 11:30 p.m. at the Realtors Association on Sanibel Island. “Ding” Darling Supervisory Refuge Ranger Toni Westland will be speaking about 75th anniversary goings-on at J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Note that chamber business lunches changed to the second Wednesday of each month in 2020.
Cost for luncheon attendance is $27 for chamber members. Advanced registration is required to attend; walk-ins are not allowed. Register by 5 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 7, at sanibel-captiva.org or by calling 239-472-1966. Payment is due at time of registration.
ABOUT SANIBEL & CAPTIVA ISLANDS CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
The Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to promoting the prosperity of its members and preserving the quality of life of our community. With over 560 active Chamber members from both islands including businesses from Lee and Collier counties, the Chamber plays a key role in facilitating communication and cooperation between business, residents and government to enhance the economic health of the islands. The Francis P. Bailey, Jr. Chamber Visitor Center is located at the entrance to Sanibel Island and welcomes over 160,000 visitors each year. VISIT FLORIDA named the Visitor Center one of thirteen official Florida Certified Tourism Information Centers. The Visitor Center is open 365 days a year and provides visitors with comprehensive information about things to do, places to visit, where to stay, shop and dine. The Chamber website http://sanibel-captiva.org receives over 1.3 million website visits per year.