The Greater Pine Island Civic Association (GPICA) was created more than 40 years ago as a voice for residents and business owners, advocating for the health, safety and quality of life in our community. Our goal is to work for the betterment of the entire community — north to south and east to west — Matlacha, Pine Island Center, St. James City, Pineland and Bokeelia. Over the decades, GPICA has worked to preserve and maintain a desirable, livable community that promotes smart growth and preserves sensitive natural areas by working with Island residents to develop a future land-use plan — the Pine Island Plan — that governs growth rules.
President: Helen Fox (2021-2023)
Helen Fox and her husband Jim Koopman retired to Bokeelia in 2016 after spending many delightful winter breaks in the Matlacha/Pine Island area. On the Island, Helen has become a volunteer docent at the Randall Research Center, where she gives tours of the Smith Burial Mound and assists with the training of new volunteers. She is a volunteer with the archaeology salvage team at the Center and is helping to put together an educational collection of ancient Calusa artifacts. As a member of Pine Island Writers, she is learning to write prose-poetry on topics ranging from encounters with nature, to incarceration, to ancient and not-so-ancient political history. In her former life as a faculty member at the University of Michigan, Helen taught undergraduate courses on human rights, international development, race and racism, nonviolent social movements and argumentative writing. She has written four books on educational topics as well as a training manual for Peace Corps Volunteers. She was Chair of the Ann Arbor Human Rights Commission, a Board member and Clerk of the Friends School in Detroit, and a member of the Midwest Regional Board of the American Friends Service Committee. As a Quaker, Helen continues to be active on issues of social justice with the Fort Myers Monthly Meeting.
Vice President: Nadine Slimak (2020-2022)
Nadine Slimak has lived in Bokeelia since 2000 and joined the GPICA board in 2017 to help protect the coastal-rural lifestyle that drew her to the Island. She spent 15 years as a journalist in Ohio, upstate New York and Florida before joining Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Fl., where she served as Director of Communications for 11 years, directing national, regional and local media activities, handling crisis communications and helping the organization develop direct communications with its members and supporters. In 2015 (tired of the long commute from Pine Island), she left Mote to develop her own communications and public relations consulting business, Vetted Communications, LLC. Her main clients are nonprofit organizations working in the marine environment and include the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System and The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature. (Membership & Communications Chair)
Treasurer: Michael Sweeney (2021-2023)
Michael Sweeney was born in Fort Dix, New Jersey, and spent the first 16 years of his life traveling from Army base to Army base both abroad and in the United States. After his father retired, Michael earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in secondary Science Education from Temple University. After teaching in Philadelphia for a year he moved to the suburban Tredyffrin Easttown school district in Chester county Pennsylvania where he spent 35 years teaching science to both middle school and high school students. He coached both track and field and soccer throughout most of his tenure at the school district. He partnered with the American Lung Association yearly to record the presence of radon gas in student homes within the school district. After retirement in 2012, Michael worked for three years at an alternative school for disadvantaged youth. During that time he obtained his Florida Master Naturalist certification and moved to Florida permanently in 2015. He lives happily with his wife of 35 years in Pineland and looks forward to keeping Pine Island an oasis for nature lovers.
Claudia Bringe (2020-2022)
Claudia Bringe lives in St. James City and moved to the island in 2014 from Marietta, Ga. She became involved in the GPICA to help maintain Pine Island’s beauty and its unique lifestyle.
Claudia has an MA in School Administration and Supervision from CW Post College, where she is an adjunct professor, and a BA from Mercer University. During her career, she worked with staff to create the Open Admissions Program for City University of New York and served as Director of Career Counseling. She also taught history and was an Assistant Principal and County Coordinator for discipline in the Fulton County (Ga.) School System. She has volunteered in her sons’ schools and sports programs, on political campaigns, her national sorority, her subdivision board and is a member of DAR. (Bylaws Chair)
Jamie Brush DeLacey (2020-2022)
Pine Island has always been Jamie’s home away from home. She started out as a part-timer, spending summers at her dad’s house in Bokeelia. She loved fishing the gorgeous Gulf and camping under the stars at Cayo Costa. She and her husband (who is fifth generation Pine Island) decided that with two young children, it was important they move back to Pine Island so their children could grow up near their grandparents. They didn’t realize how different Pine Island would look when they returned. While studying at Florida Gulf Coast University, she was part of a select group of students nominated by the biology department to attend a six-day canoeing trip through the Ten Thousand Islands and Everglades National Park. That experience transformed her from a nature lover into a nature advocate. She went on to pursue a career in marketing at a construction business with yearly operating revenues totaling $100 million. Still, Pine Island and its abundant natural beauty called. Now that she’s back in Pine Island, she wants to do everything she can to ensure it is restored to a pristine state.
Leoma Lovegrove (2020-2022)
Leoma Lovegrove is an impressionist-expressionist painter known worldwide for her vivid colorful paintings. Leoma is a graduate of Florida’s prestigious Ringling School of Art and makes her home and international headquarters on Matlacha Island. Every year she greets thousands of visitors where Leoma is inspired to paint with endless creativity. She loves the Matlacha Island and is currently the President of the Matlacha Island Chamber of Commerce and promotes tourism to the Sunshine state. In the United States her works are represented in numerous galleries. More recently, Bealls Florida Department Stores is featuring her as their Florida artist under the designer label Leoma Lovegrove complete with her trademark eye glasses. In Atlanta, Georgia, her portrait of Jimmy Carter hangs in his Presidential Library. Her art is in the private collection of the White House in Washington, DC and in President George W. Bush’s Presidential Library in Dallas, Texas. Lovegrove was honored at an artist’s reception in the White House given by First Lady, Laura Bush. Her artwork has also graced the windows at Rockefeller Center in New York City. Internationally, Lovegrove was commissioned to paint a portrait of Richard Branson for the Virgin Airlines Headquarters in London. Her Beatles Series drew the attention of the city of Liverpool. She was the first American to paint on the replica of Claude Monet’s floating studio in Giverny, France, and she was honored to be the first American artist to exhibit, An American in Giverny in the famous Pierre Bonnard home in Vernon, France.
Deborah Memoli (2021-2023)
Deborah Memoli lives in Saint James City. She moved to Cape Coral in 1977 from Lanesboro Mass, then moved from the Cape to Pine Island in 2006. She runs Uni-Scape Landscape & Design with her husband. This local landscape company has been servicing Pine Island for more than 27 years. Debbie is also Vice President of the Greater Pine Island Chamber of Commerce and is involved in these island groups so she can “help protect our Island and the people of Pine Island.”
Shari Perkins (2020-2022)
Shari first visited family on Pine Island in the 70s, with as many as 20 family members eventually living here. Over the years, she attended community events, meetings and enjoyed nature resources in the area. She finally retired here in 2004 from a faculty position at Ohio University. Shari holds degrees in Parks and Recreation Administration, Environmental Education and Research Methodology in Leisure Behavior from Michigan State University and Indiana University. She held many community board positions including Parks & Recreation Board President for nine years in Stow, Ohio. She has volunteered for multiple community organizations for more than 40 years, most related to community cohesiveness, environmental resources, people’s leisure lifestyles. Shari is a single mother of three and a grandmother of four.
Deborah Swisher-Hicks (appointed 2021, serving through 2022)
Deborah Swisher-Hicks was born and raised in Sacramento and retired from the state of California after 25 years of reviewing, interpreting, and applying complex and ever-changing laws. She moved to Pine Island in 2019, a place she not only calls home, but a community she embraces. While working in California, she saw how natural resources such as soil-rich farmland, and natural preserves disappeared in the name of progress. She raised her children to believe in protecting what is important, which is why her son serves in the U.S. Air Force. With the great community of Pine Island as her home — a place that she holds dear to her heart — she believes that it is important to protect the natural resources from overdevelopment, to provide smart mitigation measures to protect the community, and to provide the heartfelt service to the community that she loves and embraces.