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2012 People of the Year Awards
2012 People of the Year Awards: For the past 25 years, News-Press Media Group has honored community leaders,catalysts and visionaries in southwest Florida. Video by Guy Tubbs
From left, Robert Ball, Matt Pusateri representing Trey Radel, Judith Zimomra, Richard G. Lewis, Gwendolyn Howard and Reinhold Schmieding are The News-Press Media Group's 2012 People of the Year.

2012 finalists

HERO OF THE YEAR

Winner

Gwendolyn Howard: Owner of Gwendolyn’s Cafe.

Runners-up

B. Thomas Golisano: Global philanthropist and founder and chairman of Paychex Inc.

Dudley Goodlette: Founder of Goodlette, Coleman and Johnson and former interim president at Edison State College.

TRAILBLAZER OF THE YEAR

Winner

Richard G. Lewis: Principal engineer for HSA Engineers & Scientists and head of the STEM team of Southwest Florida.

Runners-up

Lydia Black: Executive director, Alliance for the Arts.

Sue Roshon: Director of Adult and Career Education for Lee County schools.

PUBLIC OFFICIAL OF THE YEAR

Winner

Judith Zimomra: City of Sanibel city manager.

Runners-up

Randy Henderson: City of Fort Myers mayor.

Ben Nelson: City of Bonita Springs mayor.

CORPORATE/BUSINESS CITIZEN OF THE YEAR

Winner

Arthrex, Inc.: Naples-based company, which manufactures medical devices.

Runners-up

Fuccillo Kia: Car dealership in Cape Coral.

LeeSar: Fort Myers-based medical supply company.

PERSON OF THE YEAR

Winner

Robert Ball: Executive director, Lee County Port Authority.

Runners-up

Robbie Roepstorff: President of Edison National Bank/Bank of the Islands.

The Heights Foundation: Dedicated to eliminating poverty through education in the low-income area of Harlem Heights.

2013 PERSON/PEOPLE TO WATCH FOR 2013

Winner

Trey Radel: U.S. House of Representatives, FL-19.

Runners-up

Jeff Allbritten: President of Edison State College.

Lee County Leadership: The five county commissioners and yet-to-be-named county manager.

More

Go to our People of the Year page for a look at all of the nominees, videos and photos.

Invariably, The News-Press Media Group’s 2012 People of the Year, honored at Grace Community Center in North Fort Myers on Thursday morning over breakfast, gave all the credit to others.

Among them was Person of the Year Robert Ball, executive director of the Lee County Port Authority. He extended his thanks as a verbal flyover to “everybody in the community.”

“Airports are something ... nobody wants us in their backyard,” he said. “But everybody wants the economic impact. And without community support, airports can’t grow.”

Ball was chosen by The News-Press editorial board as a finalist, a short list that included the Heights Foundation, led by founder Kathryn Kelly, and Robbie Roepstorff, president of Edison National Bank/Bank of the Islands and an active and involved advocate for health and education.

All six honorees in categories that included Hero, Trailblazer, Public Official, Corporate/Business Citizen and 2013 Person to Watch would be called active and involved.

And Thursday morning, grateful.

“In my career, if my choices were to win a Grammy, an Oscar , an Emmy or Public Official of the Year, I’d choose Public Official of the Year,” said Sanibel City Manager Judith Zimomra, who earned that title. “It’s such an honor to be recognized for providing service to the community.”

About 250 people — “some of the most powerful individuals and influencers in Southwest Florida,” said The News-Press President and Publisher Mei-Mei Chan — gathered at 8 a.m. to congratulate honorees and hear keynote speaker Reinhold Schmieding, president and founder of Arthrex, Inc.

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Schmieding’s company was named Corporate/Business Citizen of the Year.

“What a reception in Lee County, we really appreciate this,” said Schmieding, whose Naples-based medical device company this year opened a logistics center in south Fort Myers.

The average age of the 1,500 Arthrex employees in Southwest Florida is about 35, Schmieding said. He said he hopes to continue to provide opportunities for young people to give back to the region. He came to know Southwest Florida well years ago, in part because his mother built and managed the Springs Garden Restaurant on U.S. 41 in Bonita Springs in the ’80s.

Richard G. Lewis, principal engineer of HSA Engineers & Scientists, echoed a concern for youth in his acceptance of the Trailblazer of the Year award.

He has been instrumental in ramping up Lee County Schools students’ interest in science, technology, engineering and math as part of its STEM program. He urged other businesses to become involved. Lewis is a former president of The Chamber of Southwest Florida.

Former radio and TV show host Trey Radel, now a U.S. congressman representing Florida’s 19th House district, was named 2013 Person to Watch.

Radel’s District Director Matt Pusateri accepted the award for Radel, who sent a statement from Washington.

“Recently we in Congress found out that our approval rating hovers below root canals and cockroaches, and I take this as a challenge to work with my colleagues, both Democrats and Republicans, to restore the faith of the American public.”

Hero of the Year Gwendolyn Howard, owner of Gwendolyn’s Cafe in downtown Fort Myers, has built a business on having faith in people.

A recovering alcoholic, Howard employs newly sober people who have come from Southwest Florida Addiction Services and the county drug court system. She said she has been sober since 2008.

“When you give someone who has a sketchy past an opportunity, there’s no one more grateful. And we do have good food!” Howard said in accepting the award.

Then she lowered her voice and launched into a pseudo-commercial: “We’re open seven days a week ...”

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