Leading the Happiest Healthiest City
Bill Barnett has been a pubic servant in Naples since 1984 as a city council member and as mayor, the title he currently holds.
Growing up in White Planes New York, Barnett had no desire to leave the northern state, until he visited a friend in Southwest Florida. He remembers, “We (he and his wife) spent one night in Naples, drove around and couldn’t find a piece of paper or anything else on the street, and we said we’re moving down here. There was no hesitation.”
He and his brother-in-law opened a muffler shop and two years later Barnett had what he called “the opportunity of a lifetime;” he bought a Toyota dealership. Eight years later he sold the dealership to the Germain Automotive Group and was set for an early retirement.
But at the age of 44, afternoons on the golf course got old fast. He laughs, “A friend encouraged me to run for city council. I said that sounds like a good idea…what is it?”
A political novice, Barnett became the youngest person ever elected to the Naples City Council. Over the years, he’s bounced back and forth between seats on the council and in the mayor’s office.
Although the job has had its challenges through the decades, Barnett says, “There’s a lot more happiness than sadness in office. (Raising his hands) Naples is the happiest healthiest place.” That designation is from the Gallup-Healthways 2016 Community Well-Being Rankings; an honor also bestowed on Naples in 2015.
Traffic is one of the biggest challenges in the city and the council is working with county and state leaders to synchronize lights. However, the mayor says, “I don’t care how good the lights are if you have 200,000 cars a day in the middle of season.”
Barnett loves to cook and says he makes a mean baked stuffed Maine lobster. A five minute trip to Publix usually takes him 45 as he is the kind of mayor who stops to talk and listen to his constituents; good thing he has a patient wife–Chris.
He gives her much credit for his political success saying, “She has been a great backbone for me. I could definitely not do it without her, I need her support.”
About Naples, Mayor Barnett says with pride, “If you polled the vast majority of people who don’t get into politics and don’t really know what is going on, they are happy to get up in the morning. They can go to the beach, play tennis, go to work, raise family and say ‘Wow! Whoever is making the decisions is doing a good job because we are happy.”