The Lee County Board of County Commissioners presented long-time Cape Coral resident Michel Doherty with one of the county's top honors Tuesday, naming her the recipient of the Paulette Burton Citizen of the Year Award for 2011.
Doherty has been a resident of Cape Coral for the last 28 years, championing many key projects in the area along with belonging to and supporting more organizations than you can name in the name of volunteerism.
The Burton Citizen of the Year award was created in 1991 in honor Paulette Burton, who died tragically in an automobile accident. Burton was a long-time Sanibel resident and government watchdog, who spent many years serving as a voice of the people to the Lee County Board of County Commissioners as well as playing an active role in Sanibel politics.
Cape Coral resident Michel Doherty, who was named the 2012 Paulette Burton Citizen of the Year Award winner Tuesday, at her home.
County Commission Chairman John Manning, like Doherty, is a long-time Cape Coral resident, and said he has known Doherty for many years and was extremely happy with the board's choice.
"I am very pleased as a member of the Cape Coral Community that she won this prestigious award," he said.
"Personally I'm very happy Michel was picked - I voted for her as my first choice because of all of her civic involvement as well as her stellar record of community volunteerism. She has a long history here in the Cape and Lee County and that put her over the top."
All officials and the winner herself agree that all of the four top candidates deserve recognition for their work. The other three finalists were Cape Coral's Kevin Berry, Nola Theiss of Sanibel and Dr. Margaret Banyan of Fort Myers.
"I was really overwhelmed because I think the other people that were also finalists were also winners, very deserving of the award also," said Doherty.
Of her many affiliations, Doherty is a member of the Cape Coral Civic Association, Fort Myers Women's Community Club, Veteran's Clinic of Cape Coral, Four Mile Cove Ecological Park, founding member of Tiger Bay Club of SWFL, chaired the American Red Cross "Simply Red Gala," Voices for Kids, Lee County Homeless Coalition, Giving Heart for Cancer, Abuse Center for Women, Downtown River District Art Walks, Boys and Girls Club of SWFL, Hope Hospice Planning Committee and Pace Center for Girls.
She was also recently named Grande Dame Honoree of 2012 by Pace.
"I've been here - Southwest Florida and in Cape Coral - for 28 years, and if you want to make a difference in your community you have to be involved," she said.
She was nominated by Betty Bireley of Fort Myers and Dodie Booher of North Fort Myers. Booher herself is a past Burton Award honoree.
"I'm friends with Dodie, and she said, 'You are a legitimate volunteer. A volunteer gives of their own time, their own energy and there own financial resources to work with the issues that need attention.'"
Of all of the projects she has worked on, Doherty said two main Cape Coral issues were some of her proudest work, working on them with her late husband, Edward Doherty.
"We worked on getting grants for Four Mile Cove Eco Park and we also worked with Commissioner (Andy) Coy to bring a VA clinic to the Cape Coral area," she said.
When Coy was no longer in office, they still pursed the VA clinic issue, and took it to Congressman Connie Mack and he became involved.
She said they phoned and kept calling, as she felt it was a necessary attribute to Cape Coral, also attending every meeting to bring it to the forefront.
"It has come to fruition and will be coming soon - the opening of the Veterans Clinic, which will be opening shortly," she said.
Another thing she said she strongly believes in mentoring of young girls.
"It is my passion as there are so many single-parent families today and they (teenage girls) need support from someone else, who they can be inspired by or to help with various issues through their teens."
President of the Cape Coral Civic Association Lyndia Bradley praised Doherty. "First of all, I think Michel is a great person and very active in the community. She's also involved with a lot of charity work, and a long-time member of the Cape Coral Civic Association. Personally I've always admired the energy and strength that she has and she participates in so many organizations."