Wanda Burson has lived on Marco Island for nearly three decades and has been an active member of the community throughout that time. Still, she doesn’t feel as though she knows enough about the place she's called home for 28 years, which is why she joined the Leadership Marco program.
Leadership Marco is the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce's 10-week program that gets Marco Islanders together to learn the inner workings of the island and meet their fellow leaders, and that's exactly what Burson is looking forward to doing.
“I’m looking forward to learning all the facts I do not know about Marco, meeting new people and becoming a better community citizen,” she said.
Burson has already excelled as a community citizen, however; she’s been a member of the Marco Island Sunrise Rotary since 2004; she’s secretary of Christmas Island Style and is responsible for decorating the Christmas tree and providing entertainment for the tree lighting event; and she’s volunteered at all Collier County elections since 2006.
She's also an active member of the Marco Island Sail and Power Squadron, and has served as its speaker chair, event coordinator and co-chair of the wine and hors d'oeuvres fundraiser. She spends an extensive amount of time planning and volunteering at the annual Marco Island Seafood Festival, as well.
Burson's husband, Gene, is also an involved member of the community; he recently served as the chair of the Beach Advisory Committee and was a member of Leadership Marco Class of 2016. His involvement in the program inspired Burson to join.
"I don't remember the first time I heard of (Leadership Marco), but my husband recently graduated and I became interested in the program once again," she said. "I think the program is important because it gives you an opportunity to learn how your community works on the inside, as well as its history."
She also said she's looking forward to learning from her fellow leaders.
"Due to the range of age and professions, we should be a great opportunity to learn from everyone's perspective," she said.
Burson was raised in Georgia and the Carolinas, but said she considers Beaufort, S.C. home. She attended the University of South Carolina and currently works as a realtor with Berkshire Hathaway Homeservices Florida Realty, where she enjoys the freedom the job offers.
"I enjoy the flexible hours that give me time to volunteer for Marco organizations," she said.
The Leadership Marco program consists of 10 bi-weekly sessions, and gives its members insight into the following aspects of the island: history/museum; media; education/parks and recreation; hospitality/economics; law enforcement; culture/real estate; health care/fire-rescue; agriculture/environment; and government/transportation/infrastructure.
The group's first educational session was History Day on Aug. 9. The day began with a look at the Calusa exhibit at the Marco Island Historical Museum, and then continued with a historical tour of the island, narrated by local historian Craig Woodward. Tour stops included Captain Horr's house, Old Marco and Snook Inn, where the group stopped for lunch.
A brief overview of the Deltona years, which many consider to be the beginning of modern Marco, wrapped up the day.
Media Day was Leadership Marco Class of 2017's next adventure, and provided an inside look at how journalists in the area do their jobs. While at WINK News, Burson had the opportunity to try her hand at reporting the weather via green screen.
The group's Education Day, which included stops at Lorenzo Walker Institute of Technology, Lely High School, Marco Island Academy, Marco Island Charter Middle School and Tommie Barfield Elementary, was supposed to be Wednesday, Sept. 6, but was canceled in preparation of Hurricane Irma.
The following two sessions, one of which was supposed to Law Enforcement Day with the Marco Island Police Department, were also canceled and will be rescheduled for a later date.
Leadership Marco will resume on Wednesday with its Culture/Real Estate Day, giving Burson the "home field advantage."
The Class of 2017 will meet every other Wednesday through November before its graduation ceremony on Jan. 27 at the Marco Island Yacht Club.