ANNA MARIA – Longtime Anna Maria Commissioner Doug Copeland is The Sun’s Person of the Year for 2019.
In December, Copeland finished his final term as a city commissioner and ended his decades of elected, appointed or volunteer service to the city of Anna Maria and Anna Maria Island.
In June 2013, Copeland was appointed to fill the remainder of the commission term being vacated by Commissioner John Quam. Copeland was elected to his first full term in office later that year and was reelected in 2015 and 2017. He did not seek reelection in 2019.
Copeland helped develop and adopt Anna Maria’s vacation rental ordinance in 2015. The ordinance established an eight-person maximum occupancy limit for new vacation rental units and the annual registration fees fund the city’s vacation rental-related code enforcement efforts.
Working with the mayor and city attorney, the commission settled more than 100 Bert Harris claims filed in response to the vacation rental ordinance without subjecting city taxpayers to a single financial settlement.
As a commissioner, Copeland helped transform the vacant ‘Six Lots’ property into City Pier Park. The park features public restrooms and a shade sail structure and hosts several holiday events and special events throughout the year, including a seasonal farmers market.
In September, the commission adopted an amended noise ordinance that has already contributed to one group of rowdy vacation rental guests being evicted by the property management company after receiving three noise citations in less than a week.
At his final regular meeting in November, Copeland secured commission support for a city resolution that stresses the importance of women’s rights and the need for the long-delayed state ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment adopted by the U.S. Congress in the early 1970s.
In 2016, Copeland was appointed to the Manatee County Tourist Development Council (TDC) and he represented the city and the Island in that role until he left office in December.
In June, Copeland helped secure TDC and county commission support for an additional $435,000 in county funds for the City Pier replacement project. This was in addition to the $1.5 million in county funds previously provided for the pier project being guided by the mayor and city commission. In 2018 and 2019, the city commission and others helped secure more than $1 million in state funds for the pier project.
An Island life
In 1974, Copeland and his wife, Pat, moved to Anna Maria Island and bought their home in Anna Maria. He worked as a bartender at Trader Jack’s in Bradenton Beach until the popular beachfront establishment closed in 1985. After working other bartending jobs, Copeland found his current and long-held occupation as a craftsman who makes custom furniture at his home workshop.
The Copelands raised their daughters, Layla Margarita and Anna Maria, in Anna Maria. Their adult daughters and their husbands, Kevin Griffith and Norris Nolan, have now blessed them with two grandsons, George and Lou, and one granddaughter, Lily.
Copeland’s city service began when Mayor Ray Simches urged him to join the city’s development committee. He then played an instrumental role in designing, developing and maintaining the Historical Park on Pine Avenue, which was a city dump at the time.
Copeland secured the donation of 15 palm trees for the city’s beach walkway at Bean Point and later rallied volunteers to landscape the beach area with native trees, plants and grasses. Transforming that scrubby path into a lush beach pathway earned him a Keep Manatee Beautiful award.
In 2003, Copeland resigned from the Planning and Zoning Board after more than 20 years and several stints as chairman. He returned to the board from 2005 to 2009 and led the board’s efforts to revise the city’s land development regulations to bring them into compliance with the city’s comprehensive plan.
In 2011, Mayor Mike Selby asked Copeland to serve on a committee tasked with making additional revisions to the land development regulations.
Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy, The Sun’s 2018 Person of the Year, said of this year’s recipient: “I am very pleased that the Sun has recognized Doug as their Person of the Year. He has contributed so much to our city, making it a better place to live. I have valued his creativity, his judgment and most of all his friendship over the past years,” Murphy said.
“Doug is most deserving of this recognition,” Anna Maria Commissioner Carol Carter said. “His work on our comprehensive plan with the Planning and Zoning Board and as a commissioner constitute an extraordinary gift to Anna Maria and our Island way of life. Personally, I always valued Doug’s insights when we workshopped issues or discussed topics at commission meetings.”
Holmes Beach resident Scott Moore has been Copeland’s friend for decades.
“Doug is a true islander. I met Doug at Trader Jack’s in the 70s, when Trader Jack’s was the place to be. Doug is a very caring person and he really cares about the Island. He made reasonable judgments when it came to city government and he’s done a really good job up there,” Moore said.
“He raised a beautiful family and he’s a great family man and father. I can’t think of a better person to get this award. Doug and I were talking the other day at Publix. We said we’ve seen big changes on the Island, but we still love it and it’s our home,” Moore said.