Last week I attended a cross-sector event highlighting the progress made in Southwest Florida this last year on water systems health and water quality. It was led by the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. President & CEO Rob Moher explained it all perfectly: “This isn’t just for the professionals in the room. This was really designed from the get-go to be a communication opportunity to engage the community…“I think you get a sense this morning from all the speakers that it’s translating and talking about personal agency. What can I do? How can I be part of the solution? There’s no one sector or one agency that’s going to lead this by itself. It’s going to be a together thing.”
The Naples Daily News was the media sponsor and likely a big part of the design and success of the event. It was engaging, thoughtful, had videos, well-moderated panels, scientific presentations, and legislative updates. And Governor Ron Desantis (R) came – how awesome is that? Best of all, it was a positive, hopeful event. They’d had successes and setbacks in the previous year but it was clear that all they’d learned from previous setbacks were contributing to a great shared result by year three of this type of concerted, cooperative effort.
My favorite part was the participation of U.S. Army Corps Lt. Col. Jennifer Reynolds who oversees administration at Lake Okeechobee, a big source of water woes and opportunities. She said “the biggest change she’s seen over the past year concerning water issues is movement away from partisan finger pointing and a shift toward stakeholders pooling their resources and working together. ‘If you’ve eaten food you didn’t grow yourself, you’re part of the problem. If you’ve used the bathroom in the last 24 hours, you’re part of the problem, … If you’ve driven on a road or lived anywhere there’s concrete or shopped in a store, you’re part of the problem. So we’re all part of the problem, but if you’ve voted, if you’ve paid your taxes, if you’ve gone to a public meeting, if you‘ve attended a water summit, you’re part of the solution.'”