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Honoring the People’s Commissioner, Donna Fiala

I recently attended the East Naples Civic & Commerce (ENC&C) 2024 Annual Dinner Banquet with more than 80 guests, including various government elected officials, business partners, organizations, and community members. The highlight of the evening was undoubtedly the Lifetime Achievement Award given to former District One County Commissioner, Donna Fiala. As a long-time friend and partner in advocating for improving our citizens’ quality of life, I was honored to have the opportunity to congratulate Donna on this recognition.

Donna Fiala is known as the “People’s Commissioner” for her dedication to representing the people and actively engaging with the East Naples and Marco Island communities. With her 20-year term serving the public, Donna became the longest-serving county commissioner in modern Collier County history. Her consistent re-election proved her commitment and the community’s trust in her leadership capabilities. Donna has rich experience working with various institutions, such as the County Government Productivity Committee, Tourist Development Council, Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council, and more. She was appointed to the Florida Association of Counties (FAC) Board of Directors to help guide the state-wide agency representing all 67 Florida counties in adopting bylaw changes, monitoring finances, and making other decisions to direct the association. Donna was also heavily involved in advocating for children and youth education programs and healthcare accessibility.

Before her bid, Donna was already a community activist. She saw how East Naples was slowly declining and became involved in the East Naples Civic Association, later becoming the President, to help address community issues. From minor neighborhood problems to park and recreation facility improvements, she carefully probed into these issues and took action to revitalize East Naples. Her continuous work and involvement with the civic association boosted her popularity among the residents, which gave her the courage to run for the position. Despite not having any prior experience holding a government position, her evident heart to help the people led to her first of many wins!

I have personally seen Donna’s hands-on and community-first approach to all her work even prior to becoming a County Commissioner.  Donna served as a Sheriff’s Commissioner lending her experiences to Sheriff Don Hunter.  I was fortunate to meet her in the early 1990’s.  As “Ohio girls”, we bonded.  Her deep interest in the community and her level of commitment to change has been inspiring to me throughout my career in Collier County.  Her energy and enthusiasm for all that makes this a great place to live has been something to emulate, she has truly been a mentor, counselor and my very special friend.

To name just a couple of Donna’s initiatives, there is, of course, her determination to create a park including a long fought for pool for the people of East Naples, the appropriately named Donna Fiala Park and the Pickleball Center at the East Naples Community Park. 

Donna embodies the title of a truly outstanding public servant. She has undoubtedly left her marks on Collier County and the hearts of the citizens. I had an incredible time celebrating her productive career and dedication to the Collier County community. Cheers to Donna Fiala, a friend and role model!

Congratulations to all of the honorees of the evening, including Rebecca Maddox, 2023 Business of the Year, and Val Simon, 2023 Citizen of the Year!

Read the full February 2024 Newsletter here.