Paquette running for county commissioner

Focus and determination are concepts that Democratic candidate for Collier County District 5 Commissioner Tamara Paquette said she has always lived by. Ms. Paquette combines a very positive outlook with natural energy and many years of experience with people in many different venues.

She was raised on a farm in New Hampshire and came to Naples-Golden Gate City with her family when she was 12 years old. In 1984 she graduated from Barron Collier High School. At an early age it was clear that this young lady was a go-getter whose enthusiasm and hard work would take her many places to do many kinds of things.

Tamara said she was the first and only female high school soccer player in  Collier County in 1979. Although she was welcomed by her own teammates, she was not by the other school teams. She was just14 years old and recalls it as a very bad experience, but it made very clear to her the reality of being bullied.

While in high school she was a candy striper at Naples Community Hospital and in 4-H. Incongruously, she was a Miss Naples Shrine Queen who grew up in the family construction business. Perhaps because of her involvement in the family business doing the dirty jobs like cleaning up construction sites at a young age, she’s never been afraid to get involved in the male dominated arenas and decided she wanted to go to an electronics institute. Her goal was to be a stage manager on Broadway. But college was uncharted ground for her blue collar family and they ended up being scammed. Tamara’s dreams were on hold, but she found a niche for herself as a bridal consultant for seven years then as a graphic designer.

Tamara Paquette

Tamara Paquette

She found she had a knack for sharing her skills with kids and became a volunteer with the Gulf Coast Skimmer Water Ski Show teaching kids; then learned inline skating and wound up coaching for St. John Neumann High School’s hockey team, taking them to a regional championship.

She became a Miss Florida Sports Park ambassador for swamp buggy racing and eventually she found her way into modeling in Tampa, Miami and Fort Lauderdale. She became Toyota’s commercial spokesperson (remember the “Hot, Hot, Hot” Girl?).

In 1998 she made up her mind to try her luck in New York City – a totally new experience for her in a multi-cultural melting pot completely unlike anything she had ever known.

She loved it.

Tamara was there during the 9/11 tragedy, volunteering at a local hospital for three days, then spending a week giving out supplies before FEMA took over.

She earned a C.N.A. certification and started toward an RN degree before realizing that nursing wasn’t really for her. At college she tutored ESOL students and encouraged them to volunteer for community efforts like Hope for Haiti and blood drives.

She earned a USA Today All Academic Team scholarship to FGCU where she earned a BS in Political Science Public Administration. That’s when she decided she wanted to run a nonprofit group.

She worked with Naples Pathway Coalition lobbying for better roads, safety and bike paths. Tamara notes that Florida is #1 in crashes involving pedestrians and bicycles.

She has volunteered with the Cancer Alliance of Naples fundraising for local patients for ten years and has emceed charity events for St. Matthews House.

It seems there’s not much Tamara has missed in life. Believe it or not, Tamara is even a stilt walker.

One of the most useful parts of her background was an internship with the Collier County Board of County Commissioners where she got a close look at the job of commissioner and learned how things work at the county level. The position played a major part in de-mystifying the board of county commissioners.

Tamara further enlarged her understanding of government when, in 2007, she joined the League of Women Voters Environmental Committee and Government Committee. The non partisan organization is the largest advocacy group in the US.

“Feeling your vote doesn’t count is a crime,” Tamara said, and she feels the responsibility of standing up for the most vulnerable citizens.

Tamara is also  a committed anti-fracking believer, saying the practice will destabilize the land.

As a person and a candidate, Tamara’s heart is with children – wanting all youth to have same quality of life.

“Life isn’t fair,” she said, “but it doesn’t mean you quit!”

These days Tamara and her partner Alex Pantoja have a successful construction company, AIP General Contractors. They remodeled 130 kitchens and baths last year.

Her first trip to Immokalee was in 1985 on a photographic shoot of migrant workers and she said she felt a kinship then.

A fluent Spanish speaker, Tamara has a heart for the Hispanic community. She said, “My community has rights and needs not being met. Their voices are not being heard because they don’t understand. I not only understand, I care.” She believes that our minority communities are fundamentally not understood and said she brings a message of compassion and unity.

Tamara has had a fantastic life, full of good and bad as well as amazing experiences. Through it all, she said she has always surrounded herself with smart people – and that has helped her become a better person.

Be who you are, and know your own value so all can live in dignity,” she adds.

She also wants to say that the Coalition of Immokalee Workers  is a strong organized network in the national spotlight and the county needs to recognize its work

If you would like to contact Tamara you can email her at PAQT2@yahoo.com.

The Immokalee Bulletin is published every Thursday.

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