Recently a gathering of 13 former mayors of Sanibel took place at the Community House on the Island, making it the first time such an historic gathering had been assembled. The meeting, which included Frank Bailey, Porter Goss and current mayor Kevin Ruane was coordinated by local filmmaker Rusty Farst.
“A series of events led to me being able to get all of the mayors together,” said Farst. “First, former Lee County Commissioner and Sanibel Mayor Bob Janes passed away, and many of the mayors were in town for his service. Between that and a meeting that I had with Porter Goss, pitching him the idea for the movie, it all came together.
“I assembled a meeting of the former mayors at the Sanibel Community House, and filmed them as they reminisced about their work, their greatest successes and their greatest challenges. All of this great history began with Porter Goss, the Bailey family, and the drive to incorporate Sanibel as its own city.”
Francis Bailey, Porter Goss and others had a vision for how the island should protect itself and to become its own city with its own rules. Because of a new law that would have changed the rules about how a city would become a city, the islanders had to react quickly if they were to incorporate Sanibel.
“I had never really heard the story of how Sanibel became incorporated in 1974,” recalls Farst. “I had attended a meeting last year about the story of the 1973 vote on incorporation and was totally fascinated. Initially, Lee County had plans for a four-lane roadway for the island, and many of the residents were opposed to such a plan. This became the genesis for incorporating Sanibel.
“They would no longer be under Lee County rule, they would have to develop their own police force, prepare public works, prepare a government; all these things had to be done, and yet they were broke! They had no taxes in the rears up to that point, so there was no money to work with. The citizens of Sanibel met at the Community House and gave over $350,000 of their own money to start the city just so they could make payroll.
“People just don’t know this story. I’ve lived here for 30 years and had never heard this. When I did, I got goose bumps and thought that I’ve got to make this into a movie. The United States needs to hear this story.
“These mayors shaped Sanibel, and Sanibel shaped them.”
Hodges University will honor Francis Bailey as its 2011 Luminary of the Year. Mr. Bailey’s deceased brother Sam will also be honored posthumously. The Luminary Award recognizes local citizens who personify society’s most valued human characteristics and thus have moved society in a positive way, serving as distinguished examples of the virtues of perseverance, honesty, moral character and charity.
The award will be presented at a luncheon on February 3, 2011 at 11am at the Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort and Spa, and is sponsored by the Sanibel Captiva Trust Company and Sanibel Captive Community Bank.