Lynne Matthews loves legwork.
Bring an idea to her and she’ll dig right in. She’ll research it, study it, and find out if it would really work. And then she’ll tell you what she thinks and point you in a direction.
“I was always very good at organizational skills,” Matthews said. “That happens to be one of my strengths. When I’m passionate about something, I dig into it 100 percent.”
Her passion is Punta Gorda. It has been since the early 2000s, when she organized an effort to block a condo development in her Punta Gorda Isles neighborhood. It continued during more than 12 years on the planning, zoning and code boards.
And now it’s there for all to see on the dais in City Hall. Matthews, 65, is in her second two-year term on City Council and is Punta Gorda’s vice mayor.
“If I say I’m going to do something or get you a piece of information, I do that,” Matthews said. “I don’t let things fall through the cracks. My husband will tell you, I have lists everywhere in the house. I have a grocery list. I have a to-do list, short-term, long-term. I’m very organized.”
This is not a discussion of Matthews’ stance on issues facing the city or a report card on the job she has done since first being elected to office. Those are for another time. It is a documentation of what can occur when someone simply puts her mind to something.
Matthews probably started concentrating when she was twirling two batons at once in junior high and high school back in Cleveland, becoming deft enough to perform with fire. It certainly was on hand when she was college age and had to go to work to support herself.
She spent about 18 months in data processing.
“And then I had a calling,” she recalled.
Matthews had always had a love of airplanes and aviation, and there happened to be an opening for a manager/receptionist at the Cuyahoga County Airport.
“I worked there for about 4 ½ years,” Mathews said. “It was so much fun. There were dozens and dozens of corporate aircraft that came in.”
They brought with them a steady parade of celebrities: Bob Hope, Mickey Rooney, Wayne Newton – a “very suave smooth talker, boy, I’ll tell you what.”
Matthews left the airport — it wasn’t Wayne’s fault — and for the next 25 years worked in the hospitality industry. Her last job in that business was as national director of sales for a 500-hotel chain based in Cleveland. Her focus was the group-tour market.
“That was always my forte,” she said. “I literally traveled around the country organizing group-tour packages for all the hotels in the network.”
She was traveling 300 days a year, living out of a suitcase, when she met her first husband, Bruce, at a convention. He had a motor coach and tour charter company in Upstate New York. They got married and she moved with him to Saratoga Springs, N.Y., where they lived until they retired to Punta Gorda in 1998. Bruce passed away in 2004.
In 2011, she married Don Leitch, a retired FedEx pilot.
Even before Bruce died, retirement didn’t suit Matthews.
“I never wanted to be retired,” she declared.
She was, however, a woman who wanted to be involved. She served with the Mariners Boat Club and worked in marketing for the Charlotte Harbor Yacht Club. She tuned to the community and began serving on the volunteer committees such as planning, zoning and code.
She acquainted herself with how things work and who works them. Like always, she put her mind to it. It turned out, with her experience, that the council was the next logical step.
“I was ready for it,” she said. “I won was because I had the experience of being on the planning commission and the board of zoning appeals and the code enforcement board. I knew a lot of things that were going on in the city that ended up being very important. When people asked questions during the campaign, I didn’t have to refer to my notes because it was all stored up here.”
She’d done her homework.