A political party: 100 gather in East Naples for Commissioner Fiala’s 80th

Lance Shearer

“Popular” and “politician” may be close in the dictionary, but the two words seldom are used together. Donna Fiala is an exception.

The Collier County Commissioner, whose District 1 includes Marco Island and much of East Naples, ran unopposed for reelection in 2016, with no candidate bothering to show up to challenge her.

Fiala prepares to cut the cake. Over 100 friends, supporters, and political luminaires gathered Friday evening at Three60 Market in East Naples to wish Collier Commissioner Donna Fiala a happy 80th birthday.

On Friday over 100 friends, colleagues, and supporters did show up at Three60 Market on Bayview Drive, to wish her a happy 80th birthday. The gathering, organized by the Collier County Republican Executive Committee, recognized the woman who has been a bulldog in support and promotion of her East Naples home, as well as keeping her constituents on Marco Island happy.

A “who’s who” of local and area elected Republican office holders – which is somewhat redundant, as there are no elected Democrats – dropped by to honor Fiala and add their voices to the well-wishers. United States Representative Francis Rooney was there, with an announcement he was having a flag flown above the U.S. Capitol that day, which was Fiala’s actual birthday, which would then be delivered to the commissioner.

“Donna Fiala is the consummate public servant for Collier County,” said Rooney. “We’re all so thankful to be here for her birthday.” Rooney was due back in Washington Monday, and said he had been caught unaware with the sudden resignation announcement of Speaker Paul Ryan.

“I was surprised. I think it’s a little unfortunate,” said Rooney. “I’m sure we’ll have an orderly succession.”

State Senator Kathleen Passidomo and State Representative Bob Rommel came by, with Passidomo presenting a proclamation from the Florida Senate honoring Fiala’s service.

“I’m so happy Donna’s decided to devote so many years to Collier County,” said Rooney. The three state and federal officials ducked out early, needing to get to the next event on their busy schedules, and so missed the cutting of the cake.

If it seemed to Fiala as though everyone wanted a piece of her, perhaps that was because the cake bore a picture of her face in icing, and was cut up and passed around. Fellow county commissioners Penny Taylor and Bill McDaniel also dropped by, with McDaniel planting a kiss on Fiala’s head.

Attendees including North Collier Fire Commissioner Chris Lombardo, Republican State Committeeman Mike Lyster, and former Golden Gate Civic Association president Russell Tuff spoke during a gentle open mic “roast,” sharing their reminisces of Fiala. Three60 Market owner Rebecca Maddox served a buffet including sandwiches on hot corn bread filled with beef brisket or chicken and avocado, shrimp and grits, and gourmet pizza, along with a selection of homemade cookies.

Republican State Committeewoman Jan Face Glassman, party organizer of both the local GOP and Fiala’s birthday celebration, presented the commissioner with a bouquet of flowers.

Fiala is up for reelection in 2020, and said she hasn’t made any decisions yet. To give up representing her constituents, she would have to believe her replacement would take their interests to heart as she has.

“If someone is using it as a political stepladder, I wouldn’t’ want to give it up so easily,” she said of her seat on the county commission. “But this was a wonderful event. I felt very loved. I truly did.”