The dedication in a soon-to-be-published book states: “To Carla Brooks Johnston, Who Turns Words Into Deeds For Better Communities.”
And that’s exactly what she did for the last decade of her life in Sanibel and Southwest Florida. As chair of the Sanibel Planning Board, Council member and two-term Mayor, she not only fought to maintain the Sanibel plan of an environmental paradise, running for Council with the “Keep Sanibel Sanibel” slogan, but took a leading role, including the organizing of other mayors, to stop the Lake Okeechobee overflow from polluting our estuaries and destroying our economy, and in bringing new development to the city such as the world-class recreation center.
As Chair of the Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization, she, with research from Sanibel resident Darla Letourneau, stood up to local and national political pressures to reveal and stop the corrupt Coconut Road earmark and get back the $10 million for Lee County needs. Her frequent columns and op-eds on transportation, housing, the budget and other key issues pushed for accountability to the public rather for special interests.
Orphaned at an early age, she raised herself, many Floridians having read her memoir, "Raising Myself." Following her graduation from the College of Wooster in Ohio, she earned a Master’s degree from the Andover-Newton Theological School and three fellowships at Harvard University. She played a key role in turning a politically corrupt city, Somerville, Massachusetts, into one that received an “All-American City” designation. She was executive director of a 101-city planning council, chief budget analyst for a 78-city transportation consortium, and CEO of her consulting firm, New Century Policies. She has been a leader for world peace, and served as Deputy Director of the Union of Concerned Scientists, was a
university professor, and has lectured on public policy and media throughout the United States and in countries on every continent.
Carla Johnston authored eight books and many encyclopedia and other articles. Included among her books are "Raising Myself," "Screened Out: How the Media Control Us and What We Can Do About It" and the recently completed "Change Makers," stories of how ordinary people politically and socially changed their local and national communities, to be published this spring.
While doing all this, she raised two children, a son, Eric, who is head of a multi- media company in Seattle, Wash., and a daughter, Elise, a nurse-anesthetist in Albuquerque, N.M. Surviving her, along with her children, are Eric’s wife Deborah and Carla’s grandchildren Jesse and Kelsea, and Elise’s partner Keri and Carla’s step-grandson Tenzin. Carla is a sixth-generation Floridian whose fraternal family settled in Union County some 200 years ago.
Those who knew and worked with Carla Brooks Johnston praise her because, unlike too many people in government and politics, she was not a hypocrite or manipulator. She was impeccably honest, candid and forthright, a bridge-builder who brought diverse interests together for the common good. She often spoke about what people should be doing with their lives — instead of enriching themselves, helping other people less fortunate, making the world a better place for everyone. That’s the way she lived.
Carla Lee Brooks Johnston
Fact BoxFriends are invited to attend a Celebration of Life for Carla Brooks Johnston this Saturday, May 7 at St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church, located at 2304 Periwinkle Way on Sanibel. A service will begin at 1 p.m.