Why So Much Interest in the MERTF Committee?


Could it be residents on the South end of Fort Myers Beach didn’t appreciate being called “poison” by committee chair Steve Johnson? Eight people have applied for 3 open seats on the town’s Marine and Environmental Resources Task Force Committee.

It’s rare that there are so many applications for a town committee, however, some beach residents feel this committee has just gone too far on things such as turtle glass and amber lights. It has impacted their lives and property rights on the beach. MERTF is an advisory committee to the town council.

In addition to his poison comment several months ago, Johnson has berated the Town Council several times over decisions they’ve made regarding lights and the astro-turf at Bayside Park. He’s also used his committee report to call out councilman John King on several occasions. King returned the verbal sparring with Johnson during council meetings.

The 3 members who’s terms expire have applied for another 2 year term. Those members are Greg Fossum, Mary Rose Spalletta and Wendy DeGaetano.

The other 5 applications come from: Estero Boulevard resident Dave Nusbaum, Bay Beach Lane resident David Patton, Bradenton resident William Althoff, Lagoon Road resident Ed Schoonover and Estero Boulevard resident Eddie Rood.

If chosen by the Town Council, Rood would certainly make an interesting MERTF committee member. For years, the MERTF committee has been fighting to prevent Rood, and Kurt Kroemer, from building a dune walkover behind his property on Estero Boulevard. Johnson has taken particular interest in trying to block the walkover.

Rood’s application says “I have great interest in and concern for the environment and the protection of wildlife.” He says living near the Critical Wildlife area gives him a unique perspective and understanding of the needs of the local environment and the wildlife on the beach.

The Town Council will fill the 3 open seats at its October 2nd meeting by voting on their top choices. If you want to jump into the MERTF scrum you have until 5PM today to submit your application.


  1. I applied to be on the MERTF committee for a few reasons. I was never really interested in local politics until we wanted to build a new pool. Then through the old management of the town, I found out what a hassle it was to try to just improve your property, dealing with the permitting process and ultimately going through a variance procedure. A process that cost us an additional $10,000 dollars in attorney fees and application fees. For the record, I have no problem with Bruce Butcher and consider him and Dianne friends. We are neighbors in Laguna Shores. I feel the MERTF committee has stepped out of its boundaries in what it’s core mission is. We have residents on the south end begging for a dredging plan and we get a non plan and keep getting told staff is working on it. We are concerned about the manatee mating season and the perfect area our Lagoon has naturally held for many years. I did not apply to be on this advisory committee to “blow it up”. I applied to work with current and future members to work with town leaders so that we can look at all aspects of balancing resident and wildlife rights to life on this beautiful island. I grew up in northern Minnesota and am well versed on coexistence with wildlife. I hope the council takes my application seriously and accepts my request to serve on this board.

  2. What a bunch of cry babies. And most of you don’t even live here. Go worry about your own neighborhood and the volunteer groups in your town, if you even have any. And I bet NOT ONE OF YOU ever volunteered for anything in your life. You just like to cry and complain like a little baby.

  3. I sat through a MERTF meeting one night for nearly four hours watching its chair, Mr Johnson direct a one sided meeting with no opposition to his edicts coming from his obedient minions. It seemed like they were all afraid to oppose his whims. If we ALLOW this imbalance in MERTF to remain, we will continue to have uninformed recommendations to the Town Council, similar to the blackout glass rule, which resulted in our lazy mayor (Murphy at the time) signing a crippling regulation into law without ever seeing or examining the oppressive glass. If it were not for Dave Nusbaum bringing a sample of the blackout glass to a Council meeting and embarrassing Mayor Murphy and the bobble head Councilmen who voted blindly with him, Murphys’ record of harm to our community would have gone unbroken. Put some sanity on MERTF, change three seats now, please!

  4. Every resident on this Island cares about the turtles and all wildlife, however, given Hurricane Ian decided to visit us —
    there are MANY MANY more important and pressing matters that desprately need attention at this time.

  5. In the past people have been killed crossing Estero Blvd. Better lighting is needed.also the back bay and canals are full of debris from hurricane Ian.Its just as important to get this cleaned up for the birds turtles dolphins as it is for the beach area.vote new people in.

  6. What happened to the comments that were posted here a little while ago in support of the MERTF? I would hope that there is no manipulation going on. Seems like there’s definitely an agenda at play. I would hope that whomever is buying “coffees” or helping “meet revenue goals” is not influencing the narrative.

    • MERTF does good things too, there’s no doubt. But no offense but the good they do is minimized by the radical nature of their conduct. They have forgotten what their purpose is and how they should operate in conjunction with the town council. They are out of control. They are not morally and intellectually superior to Island residents or council members.

  7. When was the last time we heard ANYTHING from this committee other than turtles and turtle lighting (don’t start on me, I am a turtle lover and nature lover too). It’s like the Back Bay and canals don’t even exist.
    Two choices:
    * Approve 3 of the applicants that possess different perspectives and agenda than the environ-nazi extremists currently on the committee , there are a number of the applicants that are more than qualified.
    * Pull the plug, get the hook and disband the committee. As it stands today they have clearly lost their way.

  8. Sounds like the right time and the right place to refresh the committee with new balance and different perspectives. This aligns with the voters desire for change, which was apparent in the previous Town Council election. When everyone in a committee has the exact same views for mandates and changes, it has the potential to stop an acting as a productive advisory committee and to begin acting more like a mob.

  9. Bravo to those new candidates throwing their offered commitments into consideration for service to our community. New and fresh perspectives are always warranted. A mission of balancing human and wildlife habitat would be refreshing, personally, I respect both immensely.


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