Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Florida Weekly 2013 Power Women Recognition of BikeWalkLee

Darla Letourneau

 One of BikeWalkLee's founding steering group members, Darla Letourneau, was among the 15 women named today as Florida Weekly's 2013 Power Women, a distinction that honors the outstanding female leaders of our community.  Darla Letourneau said, "It's an honor to be recognized but truly this should be a BikeWalkLee "Power Team" award.  I view this as recognition of BikeWalkLee's contributions to the community and the constructive influence we've achieved as a team."

"The BikeWalkLee steering group team--Margaret, Ann, Dan, Ken, Kate, Bert, Cindy, Tom, Bruce, Mike, Steve C, Steve R, and Sarah--is honored by this recognition given to Darla for her unerring commitment and outstanding leadership," said steering group member Ann Pierce.

This 2013 Florida Weekly recognition of BikeWalkLee's contributions to the community is yet another "feather in the cap" for our coalition.  Since its launch in 2009, BikeWalkLee's work has been recognized at the local, state, and national levels.  In 2012, BikeWalkLee was honored to receive APA Florida's Outstanding Public Interest Group of the Year Award, a statewide honor.  Also in 2012, BikeWalkLee was awarded the 2012 Injury Prevention Program/Outreach Effort of the Year.  In 2011, BWL was a finalist for the News-Press "People of the Year" award.  Founding members of BikeWalkLee have been recognized by Florida Bicycle Association's Citizen Advocate of the Year in 2010; as finalists in both 2010 and 2011 of Lee County's Paulette Burton Citizen of the Year award; and as Florida Weekly's best advocate of the year in 2011.  BikeWalkLee's work has also received public recognition by national organizations, such as the National Complete Streets Coalition, the League of American Bicyclists, Transportation for America, and the Alliance for Biking and Walking.

Florida Weekly--Fort Myers, Oct. 9, 2013

Darla Letourneau
Steering Group member (and one of the founders)

Closest family: Husband, Joe Letourneau

Hometown: Lafayette, Ind.

Describe yourself in one sentence or phrase: Public policy junkie.

Describe your role in the community: I am part of a “dream team” of advocates, policy wonks and concerned citizens who are passionate and committed to improving the quality of life in our community. We are focused on completing Lee County streets by designing and operating our streets to allow safe access for all its users, promoting the benefits and joys of biking and walking, and inspiring more people to choose alternative transportation (including transit). We are catalysts and coalition builders in support of change.

I am actively engaged in government work in the various planning arenas in Lee County. I do a great deal of research, policy analysis, and report writing to support these planning efforts. Some of the projects I’ve contributed to the most: Lee County’s Complete Streets Policy and Implementation Plan; MPO Countywide Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan; the MPO Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Action Plan; and Lee MPO’s $10 million TIGER grant for complete streets. I also manage BWL communications to a 1,000-strong network; maintain relationships with our 50 supporter organizations, elected bodies, agencies and staff; and build bridges with our state and federal partners.

How do you come up with new ideas? While spinning at the Sanibel Rec Center every morning.

What single issue is most important to you? Citizen engagement in their government and community.

Your most influential role model, and why? Carla Johnston (former Sanibel mayor and MPO board chair, who died in 2011). Her courage, integrity, strength of character, tenacity, generosity, along with her capacity to “enjoy the ride” and keep it in perspective, were an inspiration to me. We both loved strategizing, networking, researching and grappling with public policy questions and challenges. I miss her dearly, but her legacy remains my role model.

Your favorite childhood memory: Living abroad with my family during my dad’s university sabbaticals. These formative experiences broadened my world view and shaped my life’s path.

Your first job: Teaching assistant in summer school program for at-risk children.

If you could chat with anyone in history for 20 minutes, with whom would it be? President Abraham Lincoln. I’d want to know more about the genius of his “team of rivals” approach to governing.

What do you enjoy doing most with your family or friends? Biking, kayaking, hiking.

Tell us something few people know about you: I’m a huge Bruce Springsteen fan.

Name a trait you consider overrated and a trait that’s underrated: Intelligence is overrated and a sense of humor is underrated.

Personal hobbies: Biking, spinning, kayaking, swimming and hiking.

Favorite book: “The Metropolitan Revolution — How Cities and Metros are Fixing Our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy”(2013, Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley, Brookings Institution)

Movie: “Dirty Dancing.”

TV show: “Homeland.”

Most important lesson you’ve learned in life: Find your passion and pursue it (from my dad, who was a scientist and LOVED his life’s work).

What advice would you give another woman relocating here? Be prepared to roll up your sleeves and get involved in your community! There’s an incredible network of fabulous women down here and lots of opportunities for meaningful work. You can take your skill set from your previous life and use it in new and exciting ways.

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