Estero Chamber announces people of the year awards

The Estero Chamber of Commerce named Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott as "political person of the year" and Jim Nathan, president of Lee Memorial Health System, as "corporate person of the year" during its annual luncheon June 15.

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The Estero Chamber of Commerce named Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott as "political person of the year" and Jim Nathan, president of Lee Memorial Health System, as "corporate person of the year" during its annual luncheon June 15.

— The Estero Chamber of Commerce named Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott as “political person of the year” and Jim Nathan, president of Lee Memorial Health System, as “corporate person of the year” during its annual luncheon June 15.

“Jim Nathan is an amazing guy, and I don’t think you could say enough good about Sheriff Scott,” said Debi Montenieri, Chamber vice president. She and Chamber President John Garvalia emceed the event in the absence of Chamber Chairman and CEO Meg Judge, who is battling cancer.

“She worked very hard behind the scenes to make this Estero Chamber Luncheon a success, and she will be waiting for a full report,” said Montenieri, who said Judge continues to lead from her home command center. “Meg is a force for Estero, and she gets things done. Meg usually gets what she wants.”

Montenieri credited Judge for starting the Chamber of Commerce in 1997, leading the Estero Civic Association and fighting to defend Estero’s southern boundary when Bonita Springs incorporated. Judge also was instrumental in persuading the Lee Board of County Commissioners to build a $5 million pool at Florida Gulf Coast University and to have Germain Arena serve as a hurricane shelter.

Many Estero leaders say the community might still be without a post office if it weren’t for Judge brokering a deal between the federal agency and Lee County Schools, which sold the land for well below market value.

“The Estero Chamber is known for coming with a solution,” Judge said from her home command center after the luncheon. “The Estero Chamber members have built Estero for two decades. We have the people who are professionals that know what they’re doing and have things happen because we work well with our elected officials, and it’s been a recipe for success that has brought hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure into Estero.”

This year’s “person of the year” honorees are part of the Chamber’s ongoing tradition of recognizing local leaders who continue to make Estero a great place to work and live.

Sheriff Scott, who was elected in 2004 and reelected in 2008, is a lifelong Lee County resident. He is known for his approachability and has received multiple recognitions for his success in crime prevention. Under his leadership, the Lee County Sheriff’s Department has managed to substantially reduce its budget while also lowering the crime rate, Judge noted.

Nathan started at Lee Memorial in 1975, taking the helm as president in 1981. During his tenure the organization went from one hospital to a network of healthcare facilities, including four major acute care hospitals. Nathan was instrumental in planning the opening of HealthPark Medical Center in 1991 and is credited with resurrecting Cape Coral Hospital after its acquisition in 1996.

“Jim Nathan is a true expert in the healthcare field who runs beautifully four hospitals that have saved thousands of lives,” Judge said. “He does it with expertise because he cares about the people.”

Both Scott and Nathan credit their staffs for making them look good. “The focus is how do we work together for the community,” Nathan said.

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