Estero Council of Community Leaders Refreshes Its Name To Reflect Mission


By Cheryl Mandell

Engage Estero

Engage Estero


More than a decade before Estero became the incorporated village it is today, a group of committed, driven volunteer citizens were slowly but surely giving voice to this quiet little community. Since the early 2000s, the Estero Council of Community Leaders (ECCL), has worked tirelessly to create one of the most desirable places to live in Southwest Florida. The ECCL has been a consistent force for positive change within the community, and now, after more than 20 years, the organization is changing its name to Engage Estero (EE).

The foundation of the ECCL was built upon community engagement and impact, but many within the organization felt that, despite its longstanding influence in the area, knowledge about the group was still lacking among Estero residents. Civic leaders conducted an internal review of past successes and surveyed residents in September 2022. While the majority of respondents agreed there was a need for a non-partisan group to be the voice for responsible growth and environmental issues to maintain Estero’s quality of life, many people didn’t know much about the very group that existed with that mission for their community.

 According to the survey, 12% of respondents claimed to know a lot about the ECCL, 36% knew a moderate amount, 33% said they had little knowledge, and 19% knew nothing at all about the organization. Thus evoked the ECCL’s blueprint for change.

“Reorganizing strengthens and repositions our public image and improves communications efforts,” said Engage Estero President Jim Gilmartin, who leads a five-member executive management team and provides advice and counsel to the board of directors. “Effective branding makes our organization more easily recognized, affects how people respond to our messaging, and spreads awareness of who we are–our purpose, mission and vision–to all corners of our community.”

After much consultation and deliberation, a new name emerged. Engage Estero concisely reflects the organization’s purpose and eliminates confusion with the Estero Village Council, as research revealed that some residents did not clearly understand the difference between the two entities.

Complementing the new name is a modern, reimagined logo consisting of two uppercase “E’s” facing each other, a visual representation of two people interacting. 

Engage Estero President Jim Gilmartin speaks at reception

Engage Estero President Jim Gilmartin speaks at reception.

Engage Estero also updated its tagline – Inform, Engage, Impact –  to reflect the purpose of the organization to inform residents of community issues and encourage citizen engagement leading to impact on quality of life. 

A Driving Force

The cooperative efforts of these community advocates – from the prevention of a major intersection at I-75 and Coconut Road, to impacting the development and design of Coconut Point Mall and Walmart, and advocating for Lee Health at Coconut Point – have considerably helped Estero maintain its charm and appeal.

Engage Estero has tackled big issues like limiting mining expansion, reducing noise pollution from Southwest Florida International Airport and widening East Corkscrew Road, as well as advocating for smaller but important improvements such as traffic lights, signs and turn lanes throughout the village. Their successful Adopt a Highway program has collected just under eight tons of litter along U.S. 41 since October 2020.

The work of Engage Estero doesn’t end at improving infrastructure. They recently donated $3,000 to the Estero Historical Society to help fund work on historic buildings and provided much-needed help following Hurricane Ian. George Zalucki, a new Estero Village Council member and chair of the Estero Forever Foundation (EFF), recalls his organization’s work with Engage Estero during the devastating weeks after the hurricane.

“Thus far, the collaborative effort that most directly impacted our community was the Estero Hurricane Ian Relief Drive,” Zalucki said. “The EFF and EE worked together with the Chamber, the Village of Estero, Interfaith Charities and the Rotary Club of Estero to provide relief for those in need. It was for a great cause and a hugely successful collaboration.”

Turning action into information, Engage Estero produces reports on wide-ranging topics such as the importance of workforce housing, identifying mental distress in children during Covid-19, and the dangers of cane toads. EE aims to delve deeper into important issues affecting the community.

The committed work of the ECCL during those early years of its existence ultimately led to the incorporation of the Village of Estero in 2014. Joining forces with other organizations, the ECCL prevented portions of Estero from being annexed into Bonita Springs – a vital impetus toward Estero’s incorporation.  

Founding Chairman Don Eslick, who passed on March 16, was a tireless advocate for improving the quality of life in Estero. He was instrumental in bringing a hospital to Estero and was the visionary behind Estero’s “Village with a Vision” motto. Eslick, known as “Mr. Estero,” was an inspiration and mentor to many, from his students at Edison College to those working with him in the ECCL. Whether it was architectural design, preservation of natural resources, access to health care or economic growth, Eslick’s contributions are his legacy to Estero.

Don Eslick (second from right) with other ECCL leaders at a 2018 community event

Don Eslick (second from right) with other ECCL leaders at a 2018 community event

If it weren’t for pioneers like Eslick and members of the ECCL opposing developers at planning meetings and challenging them to meet specific architectural standards, Estero would look discernibly different today. The results of the organization’s myriad efforts didn’t happen overnight, but the benefits of these checks and balances will be valued by residents for years to come.


Looking Ahead

Gilmartin and all of the members of Engage Estero have a vision for the future.

“If we do our job correctly,” said Gilmartin, “citizens will better understand what we are, why we exist, and what we do. They will understand our vision and support our actions and activities. Estero citizens will be more engaged and active in their community.”

Where does Gilmartin see the organization five to 10 years from now? “Citizens will have a louder voice reflecting the concerns and issues of greater Estero with more input and access to the decision-making process,” he said.
            The fabric of this volunteer organization will remain unchanged, with special councils on education, environment, health and safety. Engage Estero will continue using public forums to educate citizens, such as a recent event at Estero High School regarding changes in healthcare. The group sends consistent email and social media communication containing articles, videos and event announcements. 
            Partnerships with other organizations like The Water School at FGCU, Calusa Waterkeeper and Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation help Engage Estero increase awareness and impact on vital environmental issues.
            Robin Serne, director of engagement and advancement for Calusa Waterkeeper, is proud of their cooperative efforts. 
            “The collaboration between Engage Estero and Calusa Waterkeeper is rooted in our organizations’ shared goals for improving and protecting water quality in the Estero watershed,” she said. “We applaud Engage Estero’s outstanding commitment to informing and empowering people in the community, as an engaged public is essential to making headway on water quality issues and solutions. We are looking forward to our continued partnership with Engage Estero as they turn this new page in their organization’s great work.”
Some of the biggest challenges facing Estero today are improving water quality,  managing responsible growth and infrastructure on Corkscrew Road to accommodate the rapidly expanding east corridor, improving community health and safety, supporting Estero’s schools, and fostering local culture and recreation. These are no small tasks, but Engage Estero is poised to face them with the help of the greatest ally of all – you!
            Interested in engaging? Learn more about Engage Estero at

ECCL presenting to Clayton Chauncey for essay contest

ECCL presenting to Clayton Chauncey for essay contest

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