SAN­ITY IN SOUTH­WEST FLORIDA

Pol­i­tics in par­adise, hard charg­ing ver­sus step­ping away

RSWLiving - - Contents - BY JA­COB OGLES Ja­cob Ogles is a pro­fes­sional jour­nal­ist liv­ing in South­west Florida.

Pol­i­tics in par­adise, hard charg­ing ver­sus step­ping away

In the ma­nia of the mod­ern news cy­cle, out­rage is around every cor­ner. A var­ied so­cial cal­en­dar of town hall meet­ings and marches, even cam­paign cel­e­bra­tions, isn’t nec­es­sar­ily hos­pitable or even re­lax­ing. Nev­er­the­less, South­west Florida’s po­lit­i­cal lead­ers find ways to step away from the 24-hour ca­ble chan­nels, if only to pre­serve their health. Oth­er­wise, what’s the point of liv­ing in par­adise? And so a critic of Com­mon Core stan­dards finds her peace on the golf course. A Demo­cratic leader goes boat­ing on the Caloosa­hatchee. A Trump cam­paign vol­un­teer grabs the Bi­ble to teach Sun­day school.

For Chris Quack­en­bush, last year brought good and bad news, po­lit­i­cally. Yes, Repub­li­cans en­joyed suc­cess in Novem­ber, yet the con­ser­va­tive ac­tivist lost a bid for the Lee County School Board. But pol­i­tics re­mains only one part of life. So she en­joys reg­u­lar doses of wa­ter­ski­ing and golf, for­tu­nate enough to live on the Colo­nial Coun­try Club course. “It’s very help­ful,” she says, “to have a beau­ti­ful sunny sky. You can’t look at the clouds with­out think­ing there is more to each day than we can see.

“We need to keep a sense of hu­mor, and we need to have fel­low­ship with peo­ple on all sides of the aisle.”

For Cathy Michiels, state com­mit­tee­woman for the Demo­cratic Party of Lee County, she may spend free time or­ga­niz­ing Awake The State ral­lies or trav­el­ing for a Women’s March on Wash­ing­ton gath­er­ing in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal, but she also must bal­ance a real es­tate ca­reer and full-on in­volve­ment with her son and hus­band. Mod­ern Amer­ica has af­fected her val­ues, how­ever. "Every day with this [Trump] Ad­min­is­tra­tion, you hear more about what’s hap­pen­ing to the en­vi­ron­ment and the world,” she says. “How is it pos­si­ble peo­ple are not pay­ing at­ten­tion?”

Doris Cortese sees things dif­fer­ently. The Cape Coral woman is pres­i­dent of the Lee Repub­li­can Women Federated, vice chair of the Lee County Repub­li­can Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee. She has worked for Mitt Rom­ney’s pres­i­den­tial run, for Don­ald Trump’s cam­paign, pleased that the can­di­date beat the odds to take the state’s elec­toral votes in a sur­prise vic­tory. She’s also worked for such can­di­dates as Florida Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Sen. Marco Ru­bio. But Cortese re­mains in­volved in more apo­lit­i­cal causes such as the re­cently formed Em­pow­er­ing Women’s Achieve­ments, a group help­ing un­der­priv­i­leged women with job skills and pro­fes­sional as­sis­tance. When she steps away from the fray, a li­brary of books pro­vides her with calm, while her con­gre­ga­tion at Evan­gel­i­cal Presbyteri­an Church keeps her spir­its high, she says. “The most im­por­tant thing is faith,” she says. “What­ever hap­pens with pol­i­tics, God is al­ways in con­trol.”

These women each en­joy time with grand­chil­dren and other com­mon­al­i­ties, de­spite a cadre of po­lit­i­cal dif­fer­ences.

And all prove that even in a tu­mul­tuous and po­lit­i­cally charged at­mos­phere, the good life can con­tinue on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

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