Around the Island year in review

Center of Anna Maria Island
Things are looking up financially for The Center of Anna Maria Island. - File Photo | Sun

ANNA MARIA ISLAND – This past year brought a lot of changes to the three Island cities as well as to some other organizations. Let’s take a look back at what happened in 2018 at The Center of Anna Maria Island and West Manatee Fire Rescue District.

The Center of AMI

  • The Center of Anna Maria Island started 2018 on a positive note as the organization’s flagging finances rebounded and have continued to grow over the year. The Center’s board hopes to end the 2018-19 fiscal year in June 2019 as the second consecutive positive year for the nonprofit.
  • Membership numbers at the Center have also continued to grow over previous years, ending the 2018 calendar year well over 2017 numbers. Board Chair David Zaccagnino said the positive outcome was due in part to the organization’s ongoing partnership with Brenda Canning’s Island Fitness, which moved into the second-floor fitness center in 2017.

    center culhane children
    New Center Executive Director Chris Culhane takes to the field with his family. – Submitted | Center
  • The Center said goodbye to Executive Director Kristen Lessig and hello to new Executive Director Chris Culhane in February. Culhane, a long-time Center attendee and employee, quickly earned the respect of the community and Center employees, guiding the nonprofit to a positive outcome in the first half of its 2018-19 fiscal year.


  • West Manatee Fire Rescue began the year and ended it the same way in its commissioners’ quest to sell the oversized administration building on Third Avenue West in Bradenton for a smaller office setting – without completing the planned sale to The Oasis Middle School. Regulatory hurdles and a slow financing process pushed the closing date back three times, with the date now set for summer 2019.
  • With the imminent sale of the administration building and future retirement of Chief Tom Sousa, Commissioner George Harris broached the subject of merging with two neighboring fire districts in June 2018. The idea of the merger with Cedar Hammock Fire District and Southern Manatee Fire District didn’t garner much interest from Cedar Hammock’s commissioners and none with Southern Manatee’s commissioners. Though the idea is still floating around with WMFR commissioners, no action has been taken.
  • The district launched its long-awaited Advanced Life Support service at its Holmes Beach Station 3 in October followed by Station 2 on Cortez Road. The service allows firefighters to perform all the medical treatments that EMS workers can without transport capabilities. Plans are underway to launch the service at all three WMFR stations.
  • Chief Tom Sousa announced his plans to retire early from his post in October 2019. Previously, Sousa was contracted to remain with the district through 2021. The new year begins the search for a new fire chief.

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