Sanibel Islander Nola Theiss has been distinguished as a finalist for the 2011 Paulette Burton Citizen of the Year Award. A former Mayor as well as member of the Sanibel City Council, Theiss has become more recognized for her role in bringing awareness to issues involves human trafficking. As founder of Human Trafficking Awareness Partnerships, Theiss helped create Lee County's Human Trafficking Task Force and serves as a liaison between the task force and the Southwest Florida Regional Human Trafficking Coalition. She is additionally active with the Sanibel Chapter of Zonta and has provided assistance to Lee Memorial Hospital's "Caring People, Caring for People" program.
Lee County's Citizen of the Year Award is a 21 year-old program named in honor of the late Paulette Burton, another Sanibel Islander well known for efforts to ensure this community's quality of life never be undermined by forces in commercial development or local government. After she died in a car accident in 1991, Lee County sought to memorialize Burton's service in naming the Citizen of the Year Award after her. Lee County Public Resources Office Manager and Award Program Coordinator Georgia Sekulski says the award is designed to recognize those who have made "outstanding civic contributions" to the county.
Robbie Roepstorff, the president of Bank of the Islands & Edison National Bank, is the only Sanibel Islander to have won the award previously, though former finalists have included Darla Letourneau, a former committee chair of the Sanibel Bicycle Club and docent of the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation. This is the second time Theiss has been nominated for the award.
Nola Theiss of Sanibel Island is among four finalists for the 2011 Paulette Burton Citizen of the Year Award. The winner will be named during the February 21 meeting of the Lee County Board of Commissioners.
"It is a honor to be recognized and even be considered for such an award," says Theiss. Though she never knew Paulette Burton, Theiss says she certainly knows-of Paulette Burton, adding that Burton enjoyed a certain reputation for "persistance" in terms of advocating for the community. Theiss says she has attempted to be equally persistent in creating awareness of the victims exploited through human trafficking crimes. While grateful to be distinguished, Theiss says she is more appreciative that the awards program will help bring additional recognition to the human trafficking issue. "Any thing that helps bring recognition to those issues is a good thing," says Theiss.
Beyond Theiss, the other two finalist for this year's award are: Dr. Margaret Banyan who helped design Lee County's Complete Street resolution as well as a Planning Certificate at FGCU to promote increased development of local city planners; Michael Doherty, a former Chair of the American Red Cross "Simply Red Gala" who has volunteered for Lee County Homeless Coalition, Abuse Center for Women, Boys & Girls Club of SWFL and numerous other groups; and Kevin Berry, who as Chair of Lee County ADA has helped people with disabilities overcome issues relating to accessibility.
The winner of the 2011 Paulette Burton Citizen of the Year Award will be named during the Lee County Board of Commissioners Meeting, at 9:30 a.m., on February 21, 2012.