Carla Brooks Johnston (1940-2011)

Carla Brooks Johnston - Mayor, Sanibel Island 2005-07; Vice Mayor, Sanibel Island 2007-08

My mother wanted us to understand that politicians are still people. It’s really not the title that’s important or the office they hold…we need to learn how to relate to those people and have conversations about issues and things of concern.”

Eric Johnston, son of Carla Brooks Johnston She lived her life on her own terms and even her dying days were on her own terms. This 71-year-old mother and grandmother learned at the age of 13 how to be self-reliant when she was orphaned. Carla Brooks Johnston earned a bachelor’s degree from The College of Wooster and a master’s degree from Andover Newton Theological School. She was awarded three fellowships to Harvard University. She was a passionate environmentalist, a university professor, a politician, an author and an urban planner.

While Mayor of Sanibel, Brooks Johnston led the effort to stop the overflow from Lake Okeechobee thus lessening pollution of the area’s estuaries. She was instrumental in the adoption of the build-back ordinance, the regulation of fertilizer application on Sanibel, and the adoption of the Revised Sanibel Comprehensive Plan. In addition, she implemented legislation to protect Sanibel beaches by prohibiting horses on the beach, and protect wildlife by increasing fines for feeding raccoons and prohibiting the release of exotic animals on the island.

Brooks Johnson authored eight books including her 2010 memoir Raising Myself. In her last book, Change Makers: Four Stories, finished weeks before her death, Brooks Johnston writes, “Change making is never an activity for people who are happy with the status quo.” Her son Eric Johnston said of his mother, “She wanted us to learn from her experience about how we could really make a substantial change that is sustainable.”

In a letter to her friends explaining her illness and her desire for privacy, Brooks Johnston wrote, “I find value in bringing together the appropriate people to analyze and have the necessary clout to solve complex public policy problems. I find value in spending quality time with loved ones and friends and in traveling. I have been extraordinarily fortunate over the years to have been afforded the experiences and opportunities I have had. I hope that I have used at least some of my skills and opportunities well.”